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Pope Gets Interfaith Gift from New York

On Oct. 30, revered New York art dealer and donor Sandra Gering (left) and representatives from Pave the Way Foundation, including board member and DeSales Media Director of Government Affairs and External Relations Vincent LeVien, presented Pope Francis with a replica of the English translation of the Tikkunei Zohar, an ancient sacred text of the Jewish Kabbalah. (Photo: Vatican Media, courtesy of Matthew McKeon-Slattery)

Late last month, Pope Francis received a local gift from New York that served as a goodwill gesture to promote greater understanding among people of different faiths.

Pave the Way Foundation — a Wantagh, L.I.-based organization whose mission is to “end the malevolent use of religion” — organized a trip to Rome to present the pope with a copy of a Jewish sacred text for use in the Vatican Library.

The document was a replica of the English translation of the “Tikkunei Zohar,” an ancient sacred text of the Jewish Kabbalah, a mystical movement that interprets the Bible. The Tikkunei Zohar is a collection of 70 commentaries written in Aramaic on the opening of the Torah, the Hebrew Bible.

“It was a special opportunity to be able to present the texts in the presence of the Holy See, and it opens the doors of religious and cultural exchange,” said Gary L. Krupp, co-founder of Pave the Way.

Pope Francis and Sandra Gering. (Photos: Vatican Media)

“We do these interreligious gestures as a way to try and unify the faiths together, redirect the thinking of the world, and to fight the common enemy [anti-religion]. It proves that God exists,” he said.

Krupp and his wife, Meredith, who are Jewish, are themselves examples of interfaith cooperation. They were knighted by the Vatican state last year for their work.

Founded in 2002, Pave the Way Foundation aims to foster cooperation among different faith through gestures of goodwill, such as its gift to Pope Francis.

The Tikkunei Zohar book replica was donated by Sandra Gering, a Jewish philanthropist who owns several art galleries in Manhattan. Another copy of the translated Tikkunei Zohar is in the Morgan Library in Manhattan.

“The sacred text is a manifestation of a longtime dream of mine — to bring all peoples of faith together. The inside I also dedicated to women around the world of every race and religion,” Gering said.

Describing meeting the pope, she said, “He embraced it (the text), and we hugged. There was a very strong connection. It was a longtime dream of mine to be able to gift this.”

The replica gift of the Tikkunei Zohar, an ancient sacred text of the Jewish Kabbalah. (Photo: courtesy of Gary Krupp)

Also making the trip to Rome was Vincent LeVien, director of media external affairs for DeSales Media Group, The Tablet’s parent company, and a member of Pave the Way’s board.

“The gift joins other texts — ancient, old and new — that are significant to the world’s religions and overall wealth of knowledge,” LeVien said. “The Tikkunei Zohar is a main text of the Kabbalah, the basis for the study of Jewish mysticism. Obviously the Kabbalah is not required reading for Catholics, but Catholics and Jews worship the same God, and they do so in different ways.”

Being in the presence of the Holy Father was an “exhilarating, yet humbling” experience, LeVien said. “Bringing such an object to the Vatican aligns with the mission of the Pave the Way Foundation.”

The Tikkunei Zohar replica was inside a silver encasement that was designed by Ghiora Aharoni, a contemporary artist and designer. A “tree of lights” LED display created by Leo Villareal, another artist, is on the cover of the book, and inside are illustrations of the Mother and Child, drawn by New York artist Ryan McGinness.

On Nov. 4, the group from Pave the Way was given a formal tour of the Vatican Library, where the sacred texts will be kept on public display.