Rabbi Skorka Commemorates Kristallnacht at SHU

The SHU choir sings a selection; Rabbi Abraham Skorka speaks during the service.

News Story: November 13, 2014

Community members, students, faculty and clergy gathered together on November 10 in Sacred Heart University’s Chapel of the Holy Spirit to commemorate Kristallnacht, an event that shocked the world 76 years ago. The program’s featured speaker was Rabbi Abraham Skorka, who has received international recognition for his academic achievements and close relationship and collaboration with Pope Francis. The event was also attended by representatives from neighboring synagogues, the Islamic community, local Christian churches and the Catholic community from neighboring parishes.

Also referred to as the “Night of Broken Glass,” Kristallnacht was a pogrom against Jews in Nazi Germany and Austria on November 9-10, 1938, carried out by Sturmabteilung paramilitary forces and non-Jewish civilians. Thousands of Jewish-owned stores, buildings and synagogues were destroyed as windows were smashed and fires set, and hundreds of Jews were murdered. Some 30,000 more were arrested and incarcerated in concentration camps.

After SHU President John J. Petillo welcomed guests, Margaret Vogel, a Jewish student at the University, assumed the dais. “I used to feel immense sadness about that time…now I have hope,” she remarked. “If we can come together now in love and peace, think of all we can do. We must push forward and heal the scars of hate with love. I challenge young people to find someone whose beliefs are fundamentally different from your own and find common ground.”

Skorka, who with the Pope co-authored On Heaven and Earth, a book on interfaith dialogue, was introduced by SHU’s Father Anthony Ciorra, assistant vice president for Mission & Catholic Identity. He referred to the Rabbi as “a messenger of peace to build bridges, a friend and cherished colleague.”

Skorka asked aloud how it was possible that people who rose up in culture could have participated in the murder of their neighbors, and he proposed that there is a constant battle between good and evil within us all and that the challenge is for human beings to exercise dominion over their impulses. “Remember and do not forget. Be aware that evil can affect us and be conscious of the evil that affects our neighbors. We cannot be ruled by evil,” Skorka cautioned.

Musical selections, including Shalom Secunda, Hanna Sanesh and Ani Ma-amin, were performed by SHU’s Concert Choir, members of which were attired in tuxedos and muted long black dresses. There were also readings from Rabbi Suri Krieger of Shema by Primo Levi and Leslie Roggen of Silence by Elie Wiesel, a memorial prayer offered by Rabbi Krieger and Professor Robin Cautin and the lighting of six symbolic candles. A reception followed in the foyer of the Chapel, where dramatic photos of Kristallnacht events were displayed.

The commemoration, which began with Skorka giving the homily at Mass in the Chapel on Sunday evening, concluded with a dinner for 60 invited guests representing all of the major religions. Music selections were provided at the dinner by the SHU choir, and guests had the opportunity to engage in conversation with and ask questions of Skorka.

To view photos from these events, visit the links below.

Kristallnacht Mass 11/09

Kristallnacht Commemoration 11/10