Jewish Man Makes Inter-Faith Connection With Brooklyn Bishop

Tags: Currents Brooklyn, NY, Faith, Inspiration, Pope Francis

By Emily Drooby

Michael Bobrow is all about community and making connections. A long time journalist, long retired, the Bronx native now spends his days chatting with residents in a modest assisted living facility in Canarsie, nourishing his mind and his faith with books, music, and the long-lost art of letter writing.

“I’ve been writing to His Excellency Bishop DiMarzio for roughly two years,” Bobrow said, “the Bishop has always been kind to respond to my letters very kindly.”

Mr. Bobrow’s letters, written long-hand and sent to Bishop DiMarzio via snail mail, are filled with historical references and talk of modern-day controversies. He was initially inspired to reach out because of a letter he wrote to the Editor of The Tablet.

In it, he agreed with the Church’s stance on abortion even though he isn’t Catholic. “I am not a Christian, I am Jewish,” he explained.

After the letter to the Editor was published, he decided it was time to make an inter-faith connection.

“My Jewish faith motivates most of my thinking. I believe in God and this is paramount in my life.

The non-Jewish people are the vast majority of people in America. I feel I should address non-Jewish leaders with my concerns,” he said.

Those concerns include the rights of the unborn and the importance of being a student of history, something Bishop DiMarzio greatly enjoys about their correspondence.

“They’re fascinating letters because he’s basically a historian. He knows the history of the Jewish people, he knows his own personal history. He’s very much up on current state of affairs, political around the world,” Bishop DiMarzio said.

“It’s a letter you want to read, because you’re always learning something,” he said, “like learning about Mr. Bobrow’s family roots that go all the way back to Tsarist Russia.”

And at 80 plus, Mr. Bobrow is still going strong, using his words to make a difference and cherishing special moments, like when Bishop DiMarzio made a surprise visit.

“I didn’t know it was the Bishop at first,” said Bobrow.

“So I said ‘oh hello Father, may I ask who I’m speaking with?’ And His Excellency said, ‘I’m Bishop DiMarzio,’ and I said, ‘wow,’ it was a totally pleasant, very pleasant surprise.”

The visit gave both men a chance to continue to build a bridge of understanding and mutual respect.

“I think it’s most important,” said Bobrow, “people have contacts with different religions. though America is not officially a Christian country, there is no state religion, America is culturally and informally an essentially a Christian country which respects other religions.”

“This is important to us,” agreed Bishop DiMarzio. “Our faith, certainly since the second Vatican Council, taught us about inter-religious and ecumenical dialogue. He understands it, he lives it.”

Even Pope Francis agreed on the idea just a short time ago, reaffirming once again that we should not be afraid of our differences because that’s just how God wants it.

“There are many religions that are born from culture, but they always look to heaven, they look to God,” he said.

“We should not be afraid of difference, God has allowed it. However, we should be afraid if we do not work together with our brothers and sisters because we live together.”

Two different are faiths intertwined and forever connected by a shared history of traditions and common values, and when it comes to friendship, where they diverge is besides the point.

“The mind is very keen, one of the persons I would say he’s a friend, a pen pal,” said Bishop DiMarzio of Bobrow.

“I feel he’s not just the Bishop, but I  also consider him a good friend,” Bobrow added.

Perhaps that is exactly the point.