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In Search of the Menorah

By Dr. Joseph Frager
8/31/2014, 7:08 PM
In the late 1980's I wrote an article entitled "In Search of the Menorah" which created quite a stir back then.What follows is not a rewrite but an attempt to put things in perspective after the Wall Street Journal published an article by Sophia Hollander "Yeshiva Students Challenge Myths of the Menorah" on August 14, 2014.
 
Professor Steven Fine of Yeshiva University who has spent two decades claiming the Menorah is not in the Vatican spotted an open letter to then President Shimon Peres in May 2014 by Rabbi Yonatan Shtencel urging Mr. Peres to ask the Vatican to return the Menorah depicted on the Arch of Titus. Professor Fine then asked his class to take on the assignment of debunking the myth and they said," they didn't find any eyewitness accounts of Temple Artifacts inside the Vatican".

Obviously they did not read my article. I am one of the few privileged people to have done an exhaustive interview (which I recorded) with the late Oscar Goldman of Blessed Memory who resided in Queens, New York (Eric Greenberg of the Jewish week has written considerably about him as well) who was an eyewitness in 1962 to the Vatican's "treasure trove" of artifacts from the Second Temple. Mr. Goldman was given an invitation to see Pope John XXIII by a Catholic friend who shared business interests. I  saw the invitation with my own eyes. Mr. Goldman was a graduate of Yeshiva University and a devoutly Religious man.

In 1962 the Vatican was beginning its Rapprochement with the Jewish People and Pope John XXIII had convened the Second Vatican Council which was a Landmark in relations between the Vatican and the Jewish People. This was a radical departure of how the Vatican had viewed the Jewish People for 2000 years prior. Pope John XXIII was the main reason all of this took place. With this background in walks Oscar Goldman who had a significant meeting with Pope John XXIII.

The Pope asked Mr. Goldman if he was Jewish because he wanted to show him what the Vatican possessed of Jewish Antiquity. Mr. Goldman was taken about four floors down in the Basilica into a poorly lit room where he was an eyewitness to a "treasure trove" of Second Temple artifacts. He indeed did see a Gold Menorah that had "no base" but Mr. Goldman was not sure if it indeed was the Menorah depicted on the Arch of Titus or not. In other words, he could not ascertain if it was a Menorah from the Second Temple. This is the only eyewitness account of what the Vatican truly possesses. Since that time I have spent many years trying to get to the bottom of this. I spoke a number of years ago with a high Vatican Official who converted to Judaism. The only Rabbi who was willing or able to convert him was Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach of Blessed Memory.

The Vatican Official told me that one of the first questions Rabbi Auerbach asked him was whether the Vatican had the Menorah depicted on the Arch of Titus. The Official said he did not know. This same Official put me in touch with a friend of his at the Vatican who also said he did not know but did not think so. A number of prominent individuals including Rabbi Benjamin Blech have visited the Vatican and been given tours of "off limits to the public" museums.

The Menorah seen by Mr. Goldman has never been seen by these individuals. Yes, the Vatican as Professor Lawrence Schiffman (Director of the Global Institute for Advanced Research in Jewish Studies at New York University)  points out, "there's a whole world of subterranean manuscripts and antiquities' in the Wall Street Journal article but, "there's no historical continuity" to the Menorah Story.The Vatican has revealed more in the past 60 years than in the past 2000 years in relation to the Jewish People.There is still a reluctance on the part of the Vatican for "full disclosure".

Despite all of the progress, the Vatican is a very entrenched entity that still has many Religious, Philosophical and Historical "issues" with the Ascent of the Jewish People and the Establishment of the State of Israel. Despite the Wall Street Journal's attempt at "debunking the myths of the Menorah", I am for one not convinced.We owe it to Mr. Goldman's memory and the Jewish People's 2000 years of Exile to get full disclosure once and for all.