Rabbi Yehuda Levinwill be the keynote speaker Jan. 22 at the annual March for Life in Washington D.C.
A father of nine, he is a special envoy to the Holy Land on pro-life issues and a member of the Rabbinical Alliance of America, representing 850 Orthodox Rabbis. The theology may be vastly different, but when it comes to pro-life issues, Orthodox Judaism and the Catholic Church could not be closer.
He spoke Jan. 2 to the Register correspondent Edward Pentin about how the two faiths can work together to build a civilization of life.
It’s not often you hear members of the Jewish faith speaking about pro-life issues as you do. Why is that?
First of all, we have to understand that the Orthodox Jews are like the Pennsylvania Dutch — the Amish — they’re in a kind of ghetto without walls and nothing’s going to change them. We have to devote all our efforts to helping preserve our own way of life.
Why are you trying to involve more Orthodox Jews in these issues now?
Recently in the vanguard of orthodoxy, people like me are realizing and preaching to others that the world is now such a small global village that every piece of anti-family immoral legislation and media is having a trickle-down effect on our people.
So people are starting to wake up to the fact we have to join ranks with those of other faiths who are much more powerful than us, like the Catholic Church, and to stand shoulder to shoulder with them — not to discuss the Holocaust or apologize for things that were done or not, God forbid, or get involved in who the Catholic Church should beatify. That’s a trespass and it’s none of our business to say anything about that.
Rather, we talk about what is our common business: to preserve God’s family values against abortion, homosexuality, Internet pornography and merry-go-round, no-fault divorce. These are the things we need to unite around and take to the streets on — to bring out the faithful.
What is the biggest priority?
We’ve got to take back the leadership of the pro-family movement, which should not be a lay leadership; it should be priests and rabbis, preaching every Sabbath and Sunday about legislation and things that impact on the family and saying: “Come onto the streets and join me on the streets to exercise our democratic right and our obligations to cry out against Sodom in the center of the city.”
Do you represent a majority in Judaism or are there large groups in your religion that would oppose these pro-life positions?
There are broken branches of Judaism such as the Orwellians — named “conservative Judaism” — who in the last few weeks embraced homosexual clergy or homosexual marriage. But they’re like Catholics for a Free Choice. That’s just paganism and apostasy, and the outrage of it all is that it’s in the name of a religion. So it has become very clear to many people that it is a pagan agenda.
People are looking to the Orthodox because we’re reproducing at the rate of 7, 8, 9, 10 or more children in each of our families, so in the next 30-40 years we will become the outright majority of the Jewish people. We will live out the life of the prophets — we never lost it. Those are our standards.
Do you depend on the Catholic Church taking a leading role in this?
The Catholic Church has traditionally been the leader. It’s the largest denomination in the world, certainly of the Judeo-Christian ethic. I say that when the Catholic Church sneezes, the Jews get a cold, meaning that if the Catholic Church decides to look away or de-emphasize a family value — on any level whether on the parish or bishopric level — then our families are affected, as well. We look with respect and appreciation to Pope John Paul and his right-hand man, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who is now Pope Benedict.
He has been speaking strongly and forcefully through Church teaching on the objective disorders of homosexuality and the problems of the abortion mentality. We need that to trickle down to every parish, and I promise you that when it does there will be close to a million Orthodox Jews applauding and joining Catholics on the streets in demonstrations, taking back the naked public square from corrupt politicians.
Tell us more about how you have collaborated also with the Church at the United Nations.
This goes back a few years, but Catholics for a Free Choice was attempting to de-legitimize the Catholic Church by taking away their non-governmental status. I was proud to join with Mrs. Robert Bork and prominent evangelicals and others at a press conference at the U.N., and over the years, going back as far as when Cardinal John O’Connor came to New York and made a Holocaust/abortion analogy that was jumped on by The New York Times, which accused him of anti-Semitism. I worked with the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights to defend him, and this led to a strong relationship with Cardinal O’Connor.
So I try not to bite the hand that feeds me, but to appreciate the tremendous progress the Church has made since Vatican II.
It’s been unbelievable.
The visits to the concentration camps by two popes, the visit to Jerusalem, the Western Wall, the pleas for forgiveness, the visit to the synagogues and the numerous teachings of the Church on the issues of the Jews.
We owe them bigtime for that.
And we see that the activism now should be an activism-dialogue on the street level rather than a high intellectual level. Let’s bring it to the masses of the faithful that need to see religious leaders on the streets that leads to the glory of God.
I am hopeful that if the message of Benedict, the fruition of 25 years of Cardinal Ratzinger, is communicated and adapted by bishops worldwide and local parish priests, and activists, I’m very confident we can turn things back, but only if that happens. It’s a do-or-die situation.
What will be your theme at the March for Life in Washington on Jan. 22?
One thing I’m going to talk about is the problem of Conservative Judaism, which is vis-à-vis reform, in other words, it’s ultra-liberal. People don’t know that. It’s terrible because we’re giving Jews a black eye, so that’s one thing.
Then I want to tell people what they might want to hear or might not: the reason that, thank God, we lost both houses of Congress. We had a president and head of both houses of Congress and all that did on family values issues in the past six years was lip service.
So we thank you, God, for losing it so at least we’re not responsible now.
We want to reinvigorate our efforts, so God will give back to us in two years the presidency and Congress. It’s up to us what we’re going to do, to take to the streets. So that’s what I’ll say.
Edward Pentin writes