Pope Francis’s appeal to Americans to welcome immigrants, which he issued Sept. 24 to a joint meeting of Congress, resonated with Rabbi Greg Litcofsky.
“The American-Jewish story is one of immigration, and I think we owe much to that history and think the pope’s message is one of acceptance that we can act on,” said Litcofsky, religious leader of Temple Emanu-El in Livingston.
Litcofsky — representing the Community Relations Committee of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ — appeared Sept. 25 on an interfaith panel on the web-based radio station NJ1015.com. The live chat came on the third day of the pope’s visit to the United States, which included a meeting in Washington with President Barack Obama, a multi-faith service at the 9/11 memorial in Manhattan, and an address at the UN General Assembly. He was to travel to Philadelphia over the weekend.
Francis did not plan on visiting any synagogues, although rabbis were taking part in various interfaith events, including an interfaith rally and prayer service in midtown Manhattan calling for action on climate change.
Litcofsky joined his fellow panelists in praising the example set by the pope, who has impressed observers with his humility, outreach to the world’s poor, and willingness to confront climate change.
“How we act in the world is a direct reflection of our faith and our commitment to bringing the Divine Presence into the world in which we live and our commitment to tikun olam — repair of the world,” said Litcofsky. “I think that his message of love, compassion, and justice is one from which we can all learn.”
Joining Litcofsky for the chat were the Rev. G. Scott Shaffer, pastor of St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Toms River; Abdul Mubarak-Rowe, communications director of the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations; and Father Bob McLaughlin, director of campus ministry for Seton Hall University in South Orange.
“I think the pope’s responsibility to speak to issues” that some people may not necessarily hold with “is in keeping with the prophetic tradition…. Prophets didn’t always say what people ‘wanted to hear,’” wrote Mubarak-Rowe.
“Throughout the pope’s address to the Congress, he stressed his openness to dialogue and encouraged all (especially Congress) to be open to true dialogue — even when we disagree,” wrote Shaffer.