(November 10, 2005) — Eli Futerman has met presidents of the United States, prime ministers of Israel and a smattering of U.S. senators. On Wednesday he met Pope Benedict XVI.
As his 17-year-old son said, "That’s really cool."
"My son really said it best," Futerman said via telephone from Rome. "I never imagined as a Jewish boy growing up in Brighton that I would meet the pope."
Futerman, president of the Jewish Community Federation of Greater Rochester, and Rabbi Alan Katz of Temple Sinai had front-row seats for Wednesday’s Mass at the Vatican, and they shook hands with the Holy Father.
Futerman and Katz were there as part of a delegation of Rochester-area Jews and Catholics who are celebrating the 40th anniversary of Nostra Aetate, a Vatican document that urges Catholics not to discriminate against people of other faiths.
"You hear a lot of stories about interfaith relationships, and this was seeing it up close," said Futerman, who thanked the pope for his interfaith work.
The 20-member group is spending the week in Rome, touring sites that are important to both faiths and discussing what can be done locally to strengthen ties between the two religions. Already, Rochester Jews and Catholics have signed an agreement of understanding, a copy of which was taken to Rome with the group.
When Jane Napier saw that the pope was heading over to where the group was sitting, she turned to Isobel Goldman and said, "Hand me the agreement."
"He was coming down the line of people, and I said, ‘Nostra Aetate.’ His eyes shot right at me, and that’s when he grabbed my hand and the document," said Napier, who also had a rosary in her hand. "He understood."
More than 25,000 people — from several continents — joined the Rochester group in the majestic setting of St. Peter’s Square. A small band from Germany played and dancers from Africa performed under a bright, sunny sky.
The sermon was from the Book of Exodus, "which was especially appropriate for our group," said Goldman, director of community relations at the Jewish Federation. "It was an amazing, amazing morning." (Source)