January 27, 2015 — A delegation of 50 Friends of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem from across Europe held a private audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican. The delegation was led by the Chairman of The Hebrew University’s Board of Governors Mr. Michael Federmann, and President of The Hebrew University Professor Menahem Ben-Sasson.
The Friends of The Hebrew University, Jews and Christians alike, met with the Pope as the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz was being commemorated, to share a message of hope and fraternity.
Below is a video of the on Monday, January 26 private audience.
Hebrew University’s President, Professor Menahem Ben Sasson, presented Pope Francis with a special Hebrew University edition of the Hebrew Bible. “The gift we bring is the Hebrew University bible, identical to the one we gave to Pope John Paul II during his visit to Jerusalem 15 years ago. Based on extensive Hebrew University scholarship and the Aleppo Codex, this is the most accurate version of the Bible in existence,” said Prof. Ben-Sasson.
“We emphasize on this day that science should be the language of human creativity and the language of international discourse. Science does not know the boundaries of religion, nationality, race or gender. Scientific cooperation is fundamental to human activity, and on a day such as this we expect the world to be wary of all discrimination while creating an infrastructure for the foundations of research and collaboration. From this place and on this day, we call for the prevention of boycotts and exclusion in science,” said Prof. Ben-Sasson.
In May 2014, Prof. Ben-Sasson was one on the first people to greet Pope Francis during his historic visit to Israel, when he visited Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus.
Mr. Michael Federmann, Chairman of The Hebrew University’s Board of Governors, remarked that this encounter represents a second-generation meeting with the Vatican. Federmann’s father had previously donated a statue commemorating Jewish-Christian relations to the Vatican, and an identical statue to the monastery at Tantur between Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
The delegation marked Holocaust Memorial Day with a special Remembrance Day concert, “The Sound of Survival: The Miracle of the Music Composed in the Concentration Camps.” The concert took place in Rome before an audience of 2,500 people, including the President of the Italian Republic. The performers included prominent figures such as cabaret singer Uta Lemper of Germany, violinists Francesca Dego and Roby Latakos, and renowned klezmer singer Myriam Fuks. The concert concluded with the song Betzet Israel, sung by the Italian Jewish community’s children’s choir.
The delegation included such prominent Europeans as President of the French Friends of The Hebrew University Martine Dassault and her husband, Laurent Dassault; President of the Swiss Friends Gultin Ephrati; and Co-Chair of The Hebrew University’s Brain Circle UK, Muriel Salem and her husband Freddy Salem.
Notably present at the gathering with the Pope was Viviana Kassam, President of Brain Circle Italia and organizer of the first-ever concert of music composed in the concentration camps, led by Francesco Lotoro, an Italian composer and musician, who dedicated the past 30 years to locate over 12,000 such compositions in quests around the European Continent.