Jerzy Kluger, the childhood Jewish friend of Karol Wojtyla, has died. The friendship between two men, which ripened with adulthood, is often credited with influencing Wojtyla's outreach to Jews and Israel when he became Pope John Paul II.
The Kluger-Wojtyla friendship is really the second famous friendship that paved the way for better relations between Jews and Christians. Edward Jacobson was a close friend of President Harry S. Truman and helped convince Truman, over the objections of the State Department, to recognize the State of Israel as soon as it declared its independence in 1948.
There is a lesson in these twin friendships for all of us: Friendship is the great enemy of bigotry. A great affection will trump a bigoted argument everytime, or almost everytime. This is no bleeding heart sentiment. It is the heart of the Gospel: The human trumps the abstract. Only by being open, truly open, to the other (and the Other) can we imitate and follow Jesus, the Deity who became human.
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