28 December 1911 Birth of Bernhard (Herzfeld) Weber, the “Half-Jewish Pastor” #otdimjh

Berhard (Herzfeld) Weber

The Kaufmann family member Bernhard Herzfeld was born in the Berlin Sophiengemeinde district.  Their son Bernhard was baptized here in April 1915 and confirmed in March 1927. After the death of his father in 1924, his mother married the merchant Franz Weber in March 1928. In September 1933, he adopted her two sons. They no longer had to carry the typical Jewish name “Herzfeld”. That did not change the fact that they were considered “half-Jews” by their biological father in the Nazi era.

A difficult time began for Bernhard Weber in 1933, because he began to experience all the evils of Nazi racial hatred/ The German-Christian parish councilor Lietzensee (Charlottenburg) dismissed him as youth leader.  He was “mobbed by many on the street as a “Jew Pig” (Judenschwein).  “The hatred against me was all the more angry because – as long as I still had the opportunity to do so – I vigorously attended public meetings etc. to preserve the ‘Protestant Youth’ and fought to prevent our group from being integrated into the “Hitler  Youth” (Life Story, 1947). 

At university he lost his rights and economic privileges due to his exclusion from the German Student Union.  These disappointments caused his German-national idealism, but also his belief, to go into a crisis.  Then he heard about Luther’s theology of the cross and read Karl Barth’s “Theological Existence Today!”.  So he learned what theology really is.  The Barmen Declaration in 1934 showed him “that I can only belong to the Confessing Church”.  He promoted it wherever he could.  As a “passionate fighter against Nazi ideologies and measures”, he was part of the “Brotherhood of Young Theologians” in Berlin.  Theologians gathered in it, who consistently followed the decisions of the Barman and Dahlemer  confessional synods of 1934, recognizing only their fraternal council as church leaders and rejecting compromises with the German Christians. 

After studying theology in Berlin from 1930 to 1935, he took the first theological exam in November 1935 before being commissioned by the Berlin Fraternal Council.  After the Vicariate from 1935 to 1937 with Pastor Willy Praetorius in Berlin-Lichterfelde, he attended the Preaching Classes of the Confessing Church in Bloestau (East Prussia) at his own request since April 1937.  When its director Hans Joachim Iwand was expelled from East Prussia, all the clergy went with him to Jordan (part of the Prussian province of Brandenburg / Neumark) to complete their training there.  The theology and the experience of the brotherhood of Confessing Christians deeply influenced Weber. 

From September 1937 he was again a Praedicant (official preacher) in Berlin-Lichterfelde, then an assistant preacher.  He built up youth work and was not afraid to fight the Hitler Youth.  He was interrogated by the Gestapo and once appeared before the special court. 

His young disciples later explained: “For us boys he was the model of a passionate fighter for the truth and for the sole authority of the Word of God.”

In June 1938 he passed the Second Theological Examination of the Brotherhood.  In June 1938 he was ordained by Superintendent Martin Albertz in the Jesus Christ Church in Berlin-Dahlem.  Weber rejected requests by the ordination panel to be under German Christian regulation: “I am bound to the path of the Confessing Church.  The brother council will arrange everything that is necessary for me. ”

On April 1, 1940 he was drafted into the army,  but was soon released as a“ first-degree mischling (hybrid)”.  From June 1940 he was an assistant preacher with Pastor Heinrich Grüber in Berlin-Kaulsdorf.  Grüber entrusted him with the care of the “first-degree mixed race (mischling)”. 

During a Bible class in Weber’s at Pastor Grüber‘s office in Berlin, Oranienburger Strasse 20, he met Wilma Seelig (1916-2008), who was also a “half-Jew”.  They married on May 24, 1941.

Bust of Heinrich Grüber (24 June 1891 – 29 November 1975), Reformed theologian, opponent of Nazism and pacifist.

After Grűber’s arrest in December 1940, Weber initially stayed in Berlin-Kaulsdorf.  The German-Christian superintendent Johannes Schleuning denounced him in the consistory, which is why he had to leave the community.  From June 1941 to January 1946 he was an assistant preacher in Proschim (Spremberg district).  Since the Webers kept silent about being “half-Jews,” the risk of discovery was always great.  Again there were conflicts with the NSDAP (National Socialist Workers), the family fled from the Red Army in 1945 to Flensburg, where Weber was a youth pastor.  They returned in February 1946.  Weber became pastor of Sorno (1946-1950) and Cottbus (1950-1956).  From 1947 to 1956 he was also a parish priest.  On July 1, 1956, he became superintendent in Fürstenwalde.  Weber campaigned for persecuted people in the GDR and enjoyed a high reputation in the church  communities. In July 1961 he died not yet 50 years old.

Prayer and Reflection: We cannot but be moved by the faith, passion and perseverance of this godly pastor, his ongoing ministry whilst always in danger of discovery, and his preaching of the Good News of the Messiah to all who would listen. We are filled with compassion and admiration for those like Bernhard and Wilma, themselves Jewish, German and disciples of Yeshua, who lived and served in dark times under genocidal tyranny. May God have mercy on all those who live under persecution, and may God have mercy on us with our comforts and freedoms, if we do not step in to resist evil and make for true peace and reconciliation – witnessing to the love and self-giving of our Messiah Yeshua. Amen.

Summary: Bernhard Weber (until 1933 Bernhard Herzfeld) Born December 28, 1911 in Berlin, died July 27, 1961 in Berlin;  married.   Wilma, née Seelig, three sons. 1930-1935 studied theology in Berlin;  1935 First theological examination;  1935-1940 Vicar, later Predicant and auxiliary preacher in Berlin-Lichterfelde;  1937 preaching seminar in Bloestau;  1938 Second theological examination and ordination;  1940 Wehrmacht;  1940–1941 auxiliary preacher in Berlin-Kaulsdorf;  1941–1946 auxiliary preacher in Proschim;  1946-1950 pastor in Sorno, 1950-1956 in Cottbus; 1956-1961 superintendent in Fürstenwalde. 

Source: Evangelisch Getauft – Als “Juden” Velogt  – Baptised as Protestants, Persecuted as Jews – eds. Hartmut Ludwig, Everhard Röhm, 2014, Calwer Verlag, pp.360-1. (Hartmut Ludwig)

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26 December 1961 Passing of Rev. John Gotthold Forell – German Jewish Refugee, Australian Internee and American Clergyman #otdimjh

John Gottlhold Forell

Gotthold Forell was born in Michelsdorf in 1922 as the youngest son of the pastor Friedrich Forell (see page 102ff, Evangelisch Getauft- als “Juden” verfolgt – Baptisted as Protestants – Persecuted as Jews) and his wife Magdalene. He attended the elementary school in Wroclaw.  After his father moved to Vienna in 1933 because of his Jewish ancestors, he and his brother Wolfgang (see page 106f.) attended the Wasa grammar school there.  After Austria’s “annexation” to the “Third Reich” in March 1938, his father and Wolfgang fled to Stockholm via Prague.  Gotthold stayed with his mother until the end of retirement and the family spent the March 1934 school year in Vienna and also came to Stockholm in August 1938. 

From there Magdalene Forell went to London with both sons. (more information needed here  -through Bell, the IHCA?)  While the mother and Wolfgang continued on to Paris to Friedrich Forell, Gotthold stayed in England until 1940.  His mentors were Bishop George Bell and Canon Greenslade.  In Knutsford, north-west England, he attended the Ordination Test School, a school that prepared young men to study theology. 

After the start of the Second World War, the British government interned him like thousands of other “hostile foreigners” and on July 10, 1940, brought him to Australia from Liverpool on the Dunera transport ship.  The crew of the ship treated the 2,500 men between the ages of 18 and 45 as prisoners of war, although as Jewish emigrants they were not suspected of sympathy for the Nazi state.  On September 6, 1940, the ship reached Sydney.  Gotthold Forell adopted the name “John G. Forell” in Australia.  An alternative to doing nothing in the barbed wire camp was the Australian Army.  From 1942 to 1944 John G. Forell was a soldier in this army.  From 1945 to 1946 he studied theology at Ridley College in Melbourne, one of the leading Protestant universities in Australia, and obtained the ThL (Licentiate in Theology), the minimum qualification for Ordination. 

On February 26, 1947 he was ordained Deacon at St. David’s Cathedral in Hobart, Tasmania, and ordained priest on February 24, 1948.  From 1946 to 1948 he was Assistant Curate at St. John’s in New Town, a suburb of Hobart.  He left Australia and landed in San Francisco on May 5, 1948.  As a minister of the Episcopal Churches in New Jersey, he was traveling minister in Washington from 1948 to 1950 and held services in Belvidere and Hope.  On January 13, 1950, he married Judith Jacklyn in Montreal, Canada.  From 1950 to 1961 he was a clergyman in Essex County in northeastern New Jersey: From 1950 to 1956 at Holy Trinity Church in West Orange and from 1957 to 1961 at Christ Church in Glen Ridge.  He died in New York City on December 26, 1961.  (Hartmut Ludwig)

More on his family is available. His daughter  Caroline has just retired as a Law Professor, and I am researching other details about the family and would be most grateful for any information!

Caroline Forell

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the life, ministry and family of this refugee, internee, wanderer and disciple. His travels, both geographical, emotional and spiritual speak of a life torn by circumstances, tossed around across cultures, but healed by prayer, blessed by family, and watched over by You. Lord, who knows the pattern of our lives- our shape, destiny and achievements? May this day be a day to bless you and be a blessing to others. In our Messiah’s name we pray. Amen

Sources – https://law.uoregon.edu/trailblazing-professor-caroline-forell-retires-after-41-years-teaching

Evangelisch getauft – als »Juden« verfolgt
Theologen jüdischer Herkunft in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus
Ein Gedenkbuch herausgegeben von Hartmut Ludwig und Eberhard Röhm in Verbindung mit Jörg Thierfelder

Publisher: Calwer Verlag GmbH (1 Dec. 2014)
Language: German
ISBN-10: 9783766842992
ISBN-13: 978-3766842992

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/101595423/judith-mainwaring-forell

Home

https://www.facebook.com/In-Memoriam-George-Wolfgang-Forell-1919-2011-157762827620438/ – John’s letter to his brother –

Archive interview of John’s sister – https://archive.org/details/Mutti-01

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24 December 1944 Martin Niemoller’s Christmas Eve Sermon in Dachau #otdimjh

Before ‘Then They Came for Me,’ There Was Christmas Eve 1944. Here’s How a Sermon in a Nazi Camp Signaled a New Moral Voice

German anti-Nazi theologian and Lutheran pastor, Martin Niemoller (center) with members of the congregation at St. Anne's church in Dahlem, Berlin, after he held his first service since his release from imprisonment, following the allied occupation of Germany, Oct. 28, 1945. Niemoller had been imprisoned by the Nazi regime since 1938.

BY MATTHEW D. HOCKENOS in Time, DECEMBER 23, 2018

German anti-Nazi theologian and Lutheran pastor, Martin Niemoller (center) with members of the congregation at St. Anne’s church in Dahlem, Berlin, after he held his first service since his release from imprisonment, following the allied occupation of Germany, Oct. 28, 1945. Niemoller had been imprisoned by the Nazi regime since 1938. George Konig—Getty Images

Arrested by the Nazis in 1937 for his defiance of Hitler, Pastor Martin Niemöller spent three and a half years in solitary confinement in Sachsenhausen concentration camp before being moved to the Dachau camp in 1941, where he was housed with other high-profile non-Jewish prisoners, including foreign dignitaries and Catholic clergy. There, on Christmas Eve 1944, Niemöller preached a sermon to a half dozen fellow Protestant inmates. It was the first religious service the Nazis allowed Niemöller to conduct since his arrest.

At first, Niemöller was hesitant about offering a service, knowing that his country was at war with the nations from which these other political prisoners came. He asked each of them privately if they wanted him, a German and a Lutheran, to conduct the service. Their insistence inspired and moved him. His “congregation” that Christmas Eve was unique in Niemöller’s experience — it was multinational and multidenominational, consisting of a Dutch cabinet minister, two Norwegian shippers, a British major in the Indian army, a Yugoslav diplomat and a Macedonian journalist. The appointed date for the service was the last day of Advent, December 24, the traditional day on which Germans celebrate the birth of the Christ child. For Martin Niemoller in 1944, it was the eighth Christmas he would not celebrate with his own wife and children.

Crowded into cell number 34, which had been consecrated as a chapel by imprisoned Catholic clergy, the pastor acknowledged the fear and uncertainty they all felt as Allied bombs rained down on German cities and Hitler urged his soldiers, old men and boys in some cases, to fight to the last man. Niemoller himself had lost one daughter and one son, ages 16 and 22, in the war. Despite the bleak and lonely circumstances, he counseled his fellow worshippers to rejoice in their common faith that God had built a bridge to the world — even to Dachau — through the birth of his son Jesus Christ.

Priests and pastors the world over have preached similarly on Christmas Eve, although not from behind barbed wire. But in Niemöller’s case the Christmas Eve service in Dachau signaled the beginning of a profound shift in his outlook — a shift from believing in a German national Protestantism to believing in an international world Protestantism.

The acknowledgment that the Gospel, the good news of Christ’s love and mercy, was for all of humankind — not only for Germans — represented a symbolic first step in the moral and political evolution of Martin Niemöller.

Niemöller was not in the habit of celebrating the Lord’s Supper with Anglican, Calvinist and Greek Orthodox Christians, much less Slavs. An ardent nationalist and devout Lutheran much of his life, Niemöller had proudly served as a German naval officer in WWI, fought with right-wing paramilitaries against Communist insurgents in 1920, and voted for the Nazis in 1924 — the same year as his ordination. Forty-one years old in 1933, he was euphoric when Adolf Hitler became chancellor, believing that the marriage of National Socialism and German Protestantism would bring his beloved nation the providential glory it deserved.

In order to win votes and consolidate his power, Hitler promised to work harmoniously with the Lutheran clergy to achieve national and moral renewal. But Hitler’s real intention became clear when Nazi officials began to meddle in church affairs and he supported a faction called the German Christian Movement that wanted to Aryanize the church by abolishing the Old Testament, worshiping an Aryan Jesus and banning Christians with Jewish ancestors.

Despite Niemöller’s deeply ingrained nationalism and anti-Semitism, he could not countenance such heresies in his church. He, along with Dietrich Bonhoeffer and others, founded the Confessing Church, which pledged to adhere to the gospels and defend Protestants with Jewish ancestry. Although Niemöller’s leadership of the Confessing Church put him at odds with the Nazis on church matters, he still considered Hitler to be Germany’s political savior and remained committed to the Nazi party’s program, which included national revival, territorial expansion and fighting so-called “Judeo-Bolshevism.” Unlike Bonhoeffer, whom the Nazis would execute in April 1945 for his resistance to Nazism, the former U-boat commander still displayed little interest in international fellowship or ecumenism.

But Niemöller’s concentration camp experiences changed him. In Dachau, where Niemöller was allowed to socialize with other special prisoners, he developed a camaraderie with Catholic priests, French politicians, British officers and others. They shared something in common now—their persecution at the hands of the Nazis. Outgoing and friendly by nature, Niemöller thrived in this setting after the years in solitary confinement. And the international and multi-denominational fellowship Niemöller experienced in Dachau turned him toward the possibility of a world fellowship in the Holy Communion, not just a German fellowship in national Protestantism. The international contacts he made in Hitler’s camps and in the immediate months following his liberation urged him to lead his country in repenting for the atrocities and crimes committed in their name.

Niemöller came to believe that he and his fellow countrymen who had supported Hitler, even while disagreeing with aspects of his rule, had a moral obligation to acknowledge their guilt, repent and change their ways. He did this by setting an example. He confessed his own guilt to German audiences repeatedly in 1946 in what is now known as the Niemöller Confession: “First they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.”

And his evolution didn’t stop there. The 1950s, ’60s and ’70s would see further changes as he embraced pacifism, marched for left-wing causes and became a vocal critic of racism and bigotry. On his 90th birthday Niemöller joked that he had started his political career as “an ultraconservative” who loyally served the kaiser. Now I’m “a revolutionary,” he said. “If I live to be 100, maybe I’ll be an anarchist.” But anarchism wasn’t in the cards. The journey he began in Dachau came to an end with his death in 1984 at the age of 92, after four decades of preaching the message of world fellowship he articulated for the first time in Dachau.

Matthew Hockenos is Harriet Johnson Toadvine ’56 Professor in Twentieth-Century History at Skidmore College and the author of Then They Came For Me: Martin Niemöller, the Pastor Who Defied the Nazis, available now from Basic Books.

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22 December 1945 Passing of Victor Kuhn, Pastor, Theologian and “Half Jew” #otdimjh

Despite his fierce patriotism and nationalist leanings, Victor Kühn was forced out of ministry and had to take early retirement. An accomplished philosopher, theologian and pastor, his commitment to the spiritual and public life of Germany for some forty years could not be challenged or questioned. But his resistance to the rise of National Socialism, similar to that of Martin Niemöller, Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and his support for non-Aryan (Jewish) Christians quickly put him out of favour. He had to resign early from his high-profile ministry and prestigious pulpits, his engagement in political life and discourse, and for the remaining years of his life in Dresden kept “under the radar”, eventually dying of malnutrition in 1945 in Dresden, the city that suffered most under the Allied bombings.

Prayer and reflection. Apart from his Jewish background (and it is unclear on what basis this assumption was made), Victor Kühn’s life might have been that of a typical and well-respected Lutheran clergyman. His qualifications in philosophy and academic work marked him out as one of the leading churchmen of his day. But popularity turned to disgrace, and he left his position and public role just in time to avoid arrest, deportation and death, at the age of 63. I write these words in my 63rd year, and do not wish to be prevented from writing many more, but Kühn was prevented from such a freedom of expression.

From  Psalm 90:12-17 English Standard Version (ESV)

12 So teach us to number our days
    that we may get a heart of wisdom.
13 Return, O Lord! How long?
    Have pity on your servants!
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
    that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
    and for as many years as we have seen evil.
16 Let your work be shown to your servants,
    and your glorious power to their children.
17 Let the favour[a] of the Lord our God be upon us,
    and establish the work of our hands upon us;
    yes, establish the work of our hands!

Thank you, Lord, for the life and ministry, and also the patience, perseverance and suffering, of your servant Viktor Kühn, whose active and public ministry ended in turbulent times. Help us to learn to see you in all circumstances. As Jewish disciples of Yeshua we are caught in the ebb and flow of history, between the hostility and prejudice of communities that do not show love to you and your people Israel, and yet as servants of the Messiah we wish to be a blessing to our people Israel and to all humanity. For your  grace, mercy, justice and love we pray – in every situation and relationship in which we find ourselves. In Yeshua the Messiah’s name. Amen.

Summary: Viktor Kühn * September 4, 1870 in Crimmitschau, † December 22, 1945 in Dresden-Bühlau, married.  with Lisa Kühn, born  Müller (1878-1963).  1891–1895 studied Protestant Theology in Leipzig and Berlin, 1894 Dr.  phil.  Leipzig, 1895 Vicar at the Realgymnasium in Freiberg;  1895–1897 teacher at the Realgymnasium in Freiberg and Zwickau;  1896 Lic. Theol.  Leipzig;  1897 second theological examination;  1898–1910 deacon at the Martin Luther Church in Dresden, 1910–1921 pastor at the Jakobikirche in Dresden, 1921–1933 superintendent in Auerbach (Vogtland), Oberkirchenrat, 1933–1945 retirement in Dresden. 

Viktor Kühn was the youngest son of a spinning mill owner who died in 1879. He attended grammar school in Chemnitz and Gera until 1891.  He particularly enjoyed teaching Greek, which also aroused his interest in philosophy and ethical problems.  In 1891 he began studying theology in Leipzig and also attended courses in philosophy.  In 1894 his doctoral dissertation was on the philosopher Johann Friedrich Herbart. This was followed in 1896 by a study on Schleiermacher’s ethics. 

After the Second Theological Examination in 1897, Kühn was appointed deacon (pastor) at the Martin Luther Church in Dresden in 1898.  He held this office until 1910.  From 1910 to 1921 he was a pastor at the Dresden Jakobikirche.  In Dresden, Kühn participated in the Evangelical Union and in the Gustav Adolf Association.  He published sermons and thematic small letters, among other things on the question of the historical Jesus and Haeckel’s monism. 

Kuhn’s work on the study of the historical Jesus – Is Christus eine geschichtliche Person (1910)

On Monism -see

In 1917, Kühn expected social tensions to increase in Germany after the end of the First World War.  The church as its “bulwark” would then be identified with the state, because the religious and ecclesial “rebirth” hoped for in 1914 had not come about.  Kühn called for a church reform in the sense of a real people’s church.  In 1921 Kühn was appointed superintendent in Auerbach / Vogtland.  Here he continued to devote himself to building up the congregation through building work, raising money and reviving and supporting a wide range of ecclesiastical work, without hiding his German-national outlook. 

In 1926 Kühn took a critical look at the Saxon Church Exit Act of August 4, 1919.  Kühn, now also a senior church councillor, was considered a “half-Jew” during the Nazi era.  On May 5, 1933, he published a series of theses on “The New Church in the New State” in the “Auerbacher Zeitung”. 

Auerbacher Zeitung Newspaper 1930s

In it he welcomed “that Awakening and becoming new in the German fatherland. «The associated reorganization within the church, however, should be done» with caution «.  In his opinion, the plan pursued by the German Christians to “synchronize” the church with the new form of government contradicted the nature of the church, because Kühn did not want to give up the religious freedoms gained by the end of the sovereign church regiment since 1918.  These thoughts moved in the sense of the Young Reformation movement that emerged almost simultaneously, a root of the Confessing Church, to which personalities such as Friedrich von Bodelschwingh, Dietrich Bonhoeffer or Martin Niemöller belonged.  The only binding foundations of the church were considered to be “the gospel” and “their confession”.  In contrast to the latter, Kühn believed, however, that church proclamation in the new state should take into account “German nature and German blood”, but it should “never forget that the gospel, from its source, brings great joy to all people  “. 

This implied not only the participation of German Protestantism questioned by the German Christians, but also the church membership of Christians of Jewish origin.  With the statement “There is no salvation in anyone else, because it is only in the name of Jesus Christ”, Kühn not only anticipated the Christ-centredness of the Barmen Declaration of May 1934 in his theses, but turned against the leadership cult of Hitler and the call for German nationalism to see itself as a resurgence of the Supreme Man.  Soon afterwards Kühn was asked by the state consistory in Dresden to retire early, officially for health reasons, on October 1, 1933, which was then brought forward.The »Auerbacher Zeitung« announced Kuhn’s farewell sermon on August 27, 1933 and dedicated a detailed article to the heavily attended church service.  Kühn survived the Nazi era in Dresden.  Nothing is known about his life and his ecclesiastical-political attitude after retirement.  In 1945 he died of heart failure due to post-war malnutrition.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Evangelisch-getauft-Theologen-Nationalsozialismus-Gedenkbuch/dp/3766842994

Gerhard Lindemann in Evangelisch getauft – als »Juden« verfolgt: Theologen jüdischer Herkunft in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus. Ein Gedenkbuch, 2014, Calwer Verlag, pp. 186.

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22 December 1942 Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Christmas Letter “After Ten Years” #otdimjh

After Ten Years

Ten years is a long stretch in a man’s life. Time is the most precious gift in our possession, for it is the most irrevocable. This is what makes it so disturbing to look back upon time we have lost. Time lost is time when we have not lived a full human life, time unenriched by experience, creative endeavour, enjoyment and suffering. Time lost is time we have not filled, time left empty.

The past ten years have not been like that. Our losses have been immeasurable, but we have not lost time. True, knowledge and experience, which are realized only in retrospect, are mere abstractions compared with the reality, compared with the life we have actually lived. But just as the capacity to forget is a gift of grace, so memory, the recalling of the lessons we have leamt, is an essential element in responsible living. In the following pages I hope to put on record some of the lessons we have learnt and the experiences we have shared during the past ten years.

These are not just individual experiences; they are not arranged in an orderly way, there is no attempt to discuss them or to theorize about them. All I have done is to jot down as they come some of the discoveries made by a circle of like-minded friends, discoveries about the business of human life. The only connexion between them is that of concrete experience. There is nothing new or startling about them, for they have been known long before. But to us has been granted the privilege of learning them anew by first-hand experience. I cannot write a single word about these things without a deep sense of gratitude for the fellowship of spirit and community of life we have been allowed to enjoy and preserve throughout these years.

Prisoner for God:LETTERS AND PAPERS FROM PRISON by DIETRICH BONHOEFFER, edited by EBERHARD BETHGE, translated by REGINALD H. FULLER, New York, The Macmillan Company, 1959

Article by VICTORIA BARNETT

In December 1942, Dietrich Bonhoeffer sent a Christmas letter (“After Ten Years”) to his closest friends in the resistance. In a bitterly realistic tone, he faced the prospect that they might fail, and that his own life’s work might remain incomplete. He may have wondered, too, whether his decision to return to Germany and to work in military intelligence had been the right one. “Are we still of any use?” he wrote:

We have been silent witnesses of evil deeds: we have been drenched by many storms; we have learnt the arts of equivocation and pretence; experience has made us suspicious of others and kept us from being truthful and open; intolerable conflicts have worn us down and even made us cynical. Are we still of any use? 22

The necessities of subterfuge and compromise had already cost him a great deal. He pondered the different motives for fighting evil, noting that even the finest intentions could prove insufficient. “Who stands firm?” Bonhoeffer asked:

Only the one for whom the final standard is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom, his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all these, when in faith and sole allegiance to God he is called to obedient and responsible action: the responsible person, whose life will be nothing but an answer to God’s question and call. 23

Execution site at Flossenbürg concentration camp. Bonhoeffer’s body was immediately cremated and the ashes scattered. —Christian Kaiser Verlag

In this letter, one of Bonhoeffer’s most moving and powerful writings, the various threads of Bonhoeffer’s life and work came together. He had been one of the few in his church to demand protection for the persecuted as a necessary political step. He had called upon his church, traditionally aligned with the state, to confront the consequences of that alliance. The church struggle, as he wrote Bishop George Bell in 1934, was “not something that occurs just within the church, but it attacks the very roots of National Socialism. The point is freedom. . . .” 24

Bonhoeffer’s focus remained more theological and political. The church debates about the Aryan paragraph had convinced him that the old traditions were bankrupt. Instead, Bonhoeffer called for the practice of “religionless Christianity” in “a world come of age”—a world in which the old certainties and values had been replaced by cynicism and ideology. He tried to determine what kind of Christian faith was viable in this new world—not in order to “extricate himself heroically from the affair,” but to arrive at a new understanding of faith, to pass on to future generations.

It is in this context that his ongoing reflections on the relationship between Judaism and Christianity must be understood. His insights were less about Judaism, more about his own Christianity. His 1941 statement that “The Jew keeps the question of Christ open,” (published in his Ethics) was a final acknowledgment that the persecution of the religion most historically bound to his own had led him to rethink his own faith fundamentally.

For this reason, Bonhoeffer’s greatest influence today is precisely in those critical Christian circles that have sought to reformulate Christian theology after Auschwitz. Nonetheless, we cannot know for sure whether he would have abandoned his early supersessionism, or how he would have dealt with the theological questions raised in the aftermath of the Holocaust. He was unable to complete his theological journey.

Bonhoeffer’s final legacy transcends that of the German resistance circles in which he moved. Their tragedy was not just that they failed, but that their failure revealed the extent to which they were “unfinished.” As the decades since 1945 have passed, we become ever more aware that the scope of Nazi evil demanded a more finished kind of heroism—impelled not only by repugnance against the brutality of a dictatorship, but by a deeper awareness of the costs of antisemitism, compromise, and complicity.

But this is an awareness that we have won only gradually, partly as the result of the growing scope of Holocaust scholarship. Our realization that the pervasive antisemitism and anti-Judaism in Christian circles helped foster the attitudes that culminated in the Holocaust leads us, correctly, to read Bonhoeffer’s theological writings more critically.

This should not blind us to the fact that he leaves a legacy unique among theologians and church activists. As hardly any other Christian thinker in history, Bonhoeffer articulated a theology that truly confronted his times—and he did so not with the benefit of hindsight, but during the Third Reich itself. We are left with many questions about where this life would have led. But, in a very real sense, the questions Bonhoeffer left unresolved are the ones we face today, as we continue to wrestle with the aftermath of the Holocaust.

Prayer and Reflection

Bonhoeffer’s words are reinforced by the price he paid, that of death. His example, and the willingness he demonstrated to oppose evil, whatever it might cost, are a stirring example to us today in the face of growing antisemitism worldwide. How are disciples of Yeshua to respond? How are Jewish disciples especially to respond to misunderstanding and prejudice that they experience, both in the church, the world and even at times amongst our own people. Let us ponder well the life and teaching of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for the stirring message and challenging reflections of your witness, Bonhoeffer. Help us, like him, to have the courage of our convictions, love for those who persecute us, and the wisdom to know and follow after you as your disciples. Help us to walk in the way of suffering, martyrdom if necessary, for your grace and glory to be made know. In Yeshua’s name we pray. Amen.

22 Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. “After Ten Years,” in Letters and Papers from Prison. Enlarged Edition, Eberhard Bethge, ed. (New York: The Macmillan Company), 1971, 16–17. [Back to text]

23 Ibid., 5. [Back to text]

24 Bonhoeffer, Gesammelte Schriften 1, letter dated 15.5.1934 (Munich: Kaiser Verlage, 1958), 194. [Back to text]

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16 December 1911 Birth of Susanne Eycke, Hospital Chaplain and Holocaust survivor

Susanne Eycke * December 16, 1911 in Brieg / Lower Silesia, † November 8, 1996 in Weilheim.  1931-1934 studied philology in Rostock, Munich, Jena and Berlin;  1934/1935 studied theology in Erlangen;   1935-1936 training as a parish helper in the Burckhardthaus Berlin;  1936-1945 parish helper and secretary;  1948/1949 studied Theology at the Kirchliche Hochschule Berlin;  1950-1976 hospital chaplain, partly in a leading position, in Berlin, Lübeck and again Berlin. Susanne Eycke was daughter of Government architect Arthur Eycke and his wife Hedwig, b.  Böhm, born in Lower Silesia. 

Her father, who died in World War I in 1917, was Jewish.  Susanne Eycke’s vocation was to become a high school teacher of English, history, religion and art.  From 1931 to 1934 she studied philology in Rostock, Munich, Jena and Berlin.  In the summer semester of 1934 and the winter semester of 1934/1935, she changed to full theology in Erlangen for two semesters, but had to abandon her studies on March 31, 1935, as a “mixed-breed of the first degree”. 

Deaconesses under the Cross and Swastika – Suzanne was prevented from continuing her studies and had to serve under Pfister Horst Schirmacher who had exluded Jewish Christians from ministry

Instead, she attended from October 1935 to March 1936, the seminar for church women’s ministry in Burckhardthaus Berlin, which she could complete, taking into account their studies on 18 March 1936 with the exam as a parish worker.  From 1936 to 1938 she was ecclesiastical junior minister in the entire parish of Munich, 1938/1939 parish vicar in Berlin-Schlachtensee and from 1939 to 1945 chief secretary of the German Protestant Sailor’s Mission (director Gerhard Füllkrug). 

After a period of illness (TBC) in 1945/1946 and activities as a church helper in Gera in 1946/1947, she resumed her studies in theology at the Kirchliche Hochschule Berlin from April 1948 to August 1949 and on 16 August 1949 with the First Theological Examination  to lock.  She graduated from the Berlin-Buch Hospital in 1949/1950 under Pfister Horst Schirmacher, former NSDAP and DC member. As director of the Central Committee of the Inner Mission during the Nazi period, she was excluded from the ministry by him as a Christians of Jewish.  In November 1950, Susanne Eycke passed the Second Theological Examination and was ordained on 25 February 1951. 

Susaanne Eycke’s book “Prayers for the Sick – 1970

From 1950 to 1954 she was parish vicar at Oskar Helene Hospital, and until 1960 Provincial Vicar for Hospital Chaplaincy in Berlin.  Subsequently, she was appointed as a hospital pastor at the Medical Academy in Lübeck, where she was the chaplain until 1971 of St. Luke’s Hospital congregation.  In the care of children and adolescents with long-term illness, she benefited from her many years of experience in church youth work.  In 1971 she returned to Berlin where, until 31 December 1976, she served as the parish priest at the St. Elisabeth Diakonissen Hospital in Berlin-Schöneberg.  On her retirement in January 1, 1977, she lived in Augustinum-Wohnstift Dießen / Upper Bavaria.  Susanne Eycke died on 8 November 1996 in Weilheim.  Eberhard Rohm / Hartmut Ludwig

“The difficult postwar period” is an unpleasant chapter one for the churches. Surviving Christians of Jewish descent were still isolated, and treated like second class citizens, without the death threats. They had great difficulties coming back into church ministry, whilst many pastors who were former Nazi party members were allowed to continue in their positions.

The case of theologian Susanne Eycke shows how insensitive the Berlin church leadership was with the victims of Nazi racism. In 1949/1950 she had to complete her teaching vicariate with Pastor Horst Schirmacher, who was responsible during the Nazi period for being a member of the NSDAP and the DC for excluding Christians of Jewish descent from the ecclesiastical offices. 

Prayer and Reflection : My heart goes out to this devoted, caring and courageous lady, who trained to serve others but was prevented from exercising her gifts in the fullest way because of her Jewish father and the Nazi policies of exclusion. Her faith, humility and long-suffering shine through the story of her life, and her prayer book for the sick stands as a testimony to her willingness to care for others and not look to her own needs. Her warm smile says it all – a woman who knew she was loved by God through the Messiah, and wanted to show his love to all.

Lord, help us to be ambassadors of your reconciling love. Help us to show the love that you showed on the cross when you prayed “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Please help us to deal with the bitterness, anger and resentment that so often comes upon us when we are badly treated, rejected, persecuted or threatened by others. Thank you for the life of Susanne Eycke, you servant, who served others with your love. Help us to learn from her example and live out your teaching in thought, word and deed. In our Messiah Yeshua’s name we pray. Amen

Main source: Hartmut Ludwig & Eberhard Röhm in Verbindung mit Jörg Thierfelder (Hg.) EVANGELISCH GETAUFT – ALS »JUDEN» VERFOLGT. Theologen jüdischer Herkunft in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus. Ein Gedenkbuch.
Stuttgart: Calwer 2014, 473 sid.

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14 December 1913 Birth of Heinrich Pollack, Holocaust survivor and Hebrew Christian Pioneer in Israel

From the memorial page on facebook

Heinrich Günther Israel Pollack.
Born 13 Dec 1913 in Berlin. Died 01 Sep 2012 in Israel.

Lived through 2 World Wars. Escaped the nazi persecution and came to Sweden 1939. Joined the Salvation Army, married and had children. Made aliyah in 1970, but his wife and children didn’t follow. Remarried in Israel. Lived through the war of 1973. Was tricked by a deceiving “schelm”. Retired. Moved to Ebenezer old age home. Sat at his wife’s side when she was on her deathbed. Wrote a book on his life.

Died at an old age, and satisfied with life. He is happy now. He is Home, where he wanted to be.

The account in Evangelisch getauft – als »Juden« verfolgt: Theologen jüdischer Herkunft in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus. Ein Gedenkbuch (Baptized as Evangelical – Persecuted as “Jews”: Theologians of Jewish Origin in the Nazi Period. A memorial book) – by Hartmut Ludwig (Editor), Eberhard Röhm (Editor) gives more detail:

Heinrich Pollack * December 14, 1913 in Berlin, † September 1, 2012 in Haifa (Israel);  married.  with Gullam, née  Rooth;  three children;  1973 second marriage with Gabriela, b.  Goldberg (1918-2002).  Baptized in 1921;  1933 high school diploma;  various activities;  Member of the Paulusbund;  Mitarbeit in the Confessing Church in Berlin;  1939 emigration via England to Sweden.  1939–1940 studied theology in Lund;  Tutor;  1941-1971 Heilsarmea in Lund, Stockholm and Germany;  1971–1980 collaboration in the Center for Biological Distribution on the Mount of Olives (Israel);  1980 retirement. 

Heinrich’s parents, Walter Pollack and his wife Ida, were assimilated liberal Jews who no longer practiced the Jewish religion.  The father was a lawyer and died in 1915. Heinrich’s upbringing and education was the sole responsibility of his mother.  They had a warm and loving relationship.  Heinrich heard something about Jesus for the first time from their Christian housemaid.  When he started school in 1920, he was allowed to take part in Christian religious education. 

A year later he took baptism classes and was baptized in Potsdam on June 29, 1921.  He had to promise his mother never to hate the Jews and not to tell his grandmother.  But she had noticed and told him to read the New Testament and have great respect for Jesus.  In March 1930 he was confirmed in Berlin-Friedenau.  The economic crisis forced him and his mother to move to Steglitz in 1932.  On March 18, 1933, he graduated from high school.. 

During the political upheaval of 1933, he experienced being rejected as a Jew from the voluntary labor service.  He realized that he would not be able to study theology at university.  Training as a deacon and at the Gossner Mission was also closed to him.  He became a bookshop assistant until this was banned in the summer of 1934.  He worked as an employee in a Jewish liquor factory until the beginning of 1939. As a member of the confessional church community in Berlin-Dahlem, he had regularly participated in Martin Niemöller’s services and “catechism evenings” since September 1934. 

In 1935 he joined the Confessing Church Community of the Markuskirche in Steglitz.  He distributed banned pamphlets, collected donations, and distributed morning papers.  In 1937 he took part in “Church Teaching Courses” in which lay people were trained to serve in the Church.  During the 1929 summer holidays, which he almost always spent with his mother on the Baltic Sea, he met a Swedish girl, Elisabeth.
]

After the pogrom in November 1938, Elisabeth’s friend Margit came to Berlin to help him come to Sweden and study theology.  Pollack wrote to the Swedish king for admission.  By surprise, at Christmas 1938, Rev. C. Griffiths invited him to come to England.  It is not known how his name appeared on the list of “non-Aryan” pastors for whom Bishop George Bell provided the guarantee.  He went to the “Pastor Grüber’s Office” in Berlin, ran from authority to authority and left Berlin on February 28, 1939.  From March to mid-July 1939 Pollack was a guest of the community of St Leonards-on-Sea.  He met Franz Hildebrandt, whom he knew from Dahlem, Fritz Winckelmann and Wilhelm Deutschhausen, other Jewish Christians who had come to England through Bishop Bell’s initiative. 

He studied with Erich Winckelmann for some time at the Methodist Handsworth College in Birmingham.  Surprisingly, Pollack was given permission to come to Sweden to study theology.  He arrived in Lund on August 1, 1939.  The studies here were structured somewhat differently than in Germany.  Without instructions, he was overwhelmed and failed the test in spring 1940.  For financial reasons he had to work as a private tutor, founded a German study group and now mainly listened to lectures. 

His financial situation became more difficult.  In this hopeless situation, an inner voice “directed him to the Salvation Army.  At the end of 1942 he joined her, going through all stages of training from soldier to officer.  In August 1948, he became head of a corps.  From 1952 to 1958 he worked as an editor in the literature department of the headquarters of the Salvation Army in Stockholm.  Although he had vowed never to set foot on German soil again, he accepted the call to rebuild the Salvation Army in Germany.  From 1958 to 1964 he was editor in Herne and Cologne. 

When he returned to Swedish headquarters, he headed the tracing service for missing persons.  From May 1965 he was again in the literature department as editor of the magazine “Light in the dark”.  Even before the time in Germany he came into contact with the “Society of Friends of the Jews”.  Upon his return, he became more and more involved with the history and religion of Israel.  In his memoirs he wrote: “I understood that Israel is my people and that I have an obligation to tell my people about his Messiah” (p. 305).  In 1970 he accompanied a group of Swedes to Israel.  A dream came true when, in January 1971, he began as administrator of the Bible Center on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, informing visitors about the work of the centre.  Pollack was one of the early Messianic Jews and worked for the reconciliation of Jews and Christians.  For many years he was associated with Shalom Ben-Chorin and visited his reform synagogue.  (Hartmut Ludwig 274-275)

Heinz passed away in Ebenezer home in Haifa in 2012 – a much loved and respected figure in the Israeli Messianic community. His family continues to have significant leadership and influence in Israel and around the world.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for this servant of yours – the faith you gave him, the trials he went through, the ministry he exercised, and the legacy he left. May his name and memory continue to be a blessing to Israel, the Messianic community, and all nations. In Yeshua the Messiah’s name we pray. Amen

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13 December 1204 Passing of Moses Maimonides

“From Moses to Moses there was no one like Moses” – Rambam’s tombstone, Tiberias

Moses Maimonides, original name Moses Ben Maimon, also called Rambam, Arabic name Abū ʿImran Mūsā ibn Maymūn ibn ʿUbayd Allāh, (born March 30, 1135, Córdoba [Spain]—died December 13, 1204, Egypt), Jewish philosopher, jurist, and physician, the foremost intellectual figure of medieval Judaism. His first major work, begun at age 23 and completed 10 years later, was a commentary on the Mishna, the collected Jewish oral laws. A monumental code of Jewish law followed in Hebrew, The Guide for the Perplexed in Arabic, and numerous other works, many of major importance. His contributions in religionphilosophy, and medicine have influenced Jewish and non-Jewish scholars alike.

Maimonides, Moses
Maimonides, MosesMoses Maimonides.© Neftali/Shutterstock.com

Life

Maimonides was born into a distinguished family in Córdoba (Cordova), Spain. The young Moses studied with his learned father, Maimon, and other masters and at an early age astonished his teachers by his remarkable depth and versatility. Before Moses reached his 13th birthday, his peaceful world was suddenly disturbed by the ravages of war and persecution.

As part of Islamic Spain, Córdoba had accorded its citizens full religious freedom. But now the Islamic Mediterranean world was shaken by a revolutionary and fanatical Islamic sect, the Almohads (Arabic: al-Muwaḥḥidūn, “the Unitarians”), who captured Córdoba in 1148, leaving the Jewish community faced with the grim alternative of submitting to Islam or leaving the city. The Maimons temporized by practicing their Judaism in the privacy of their homes, while disguising their ways in public as far as possible to appear like Muslims. They remained in Córdoba for some 11 years, and Maimonides continued his education in Judaic studies as well as in the scientific disciplines in vogue at the time.

When the double life proved too irksome to maintain in Córdoba, the Maimon family finally left the city about 1159 to settle in Fez, Morocco. Although it was also under Almohad rule, Fez was presumably more promising than Córdoba because there the Maimons would be strangers, and their disguise would be more likely to go undetected. Moses continued his studies in his favourite subjects, rabbinics and Greek philosophy, and added medicine to them. Fez proved to be no more than a short respite, however. In 1165 Rabbi Judah ibn Shoshan, with whom Moses had studied, was arrested as a practicing Jew and was found guilty and then executed. This was a sign to the Maimon family to move again, this time to Palestine, which was in a depressed economic state and could not offer them the basis of a livelihood. After a few months they moved again, now to Egypt, settling in Fostat, near Cairo. There Jews were free to practice their faith openly, though any Jew who had once submitted to Islam courted death if he relapsed to Judaism. Moses himself was once accused of being a renegade Muslim, but he was able to prove that he had never really adopted the faith of Islam and so was exonerated.Like what you’re reading?Subscribe today for unlimited access to Britannica.

Though Egypt was a haven from harassment and persecution, Moses was soon assailed by personal problems. His father died shortly after the family’s arrival in Egypt. His younger brother, David, a prosperous jewelry merchant on whom Moses leaned for support, died in a shipwreck, taking the entire family fortune with him, and Moses was left as the sole support of his family. He could not turn to the rabbinate because in those days the rabbinate was conceived of as a public service that did not offer its practitioners any remuneration. Pressed by economic necessity, Moses took advantage of his medical studies and became a practicing physician. His fame as a physician spread rapidly, and he soon became the court physician to the sultan Saladin, the famous Muslim military leader, and to his son al-Afḍal. He also continued a private practice and lectured before his fellow physicians at the state hospital. At the same time he became the leading member of the Jewish community, teaching in public and helping his people with various personal and communal problems.

Maimonides married late in life and was the father of a son, Abraham, who was to make his mark in his own right in the world of Jewish scholarship.

Works

The writings of Maimonides were numerous and varied. His earliest work, composed in Arabic at the age of 16, was the Millot ha-Higgayon (“Treatise on Logical Terminology”), a study of various technical terms that were employed in logic and metaphysics. Another of his early works, also in Arabic, was the “Essay on the Calendar” (Hebrew title: Maʾamar haʿibur).

The first of Maimonides’ major works, begun at the age of 23, was his commentary on the MishnaKitāb al-Sirāj, also written in Arabic. The Mishna is a compendium of decisions in Jewish law that dates from earliest times to the 3rd century. Maimonides’ commentary clarified individual words and phrases, frequently citing relevant information in archaeology, theology, or science. Possibly the work’s most striking feature is a series of introductory essays dealing with general philosophic issues touched on in the Mishna. One of these essays summarizes the teachings of Judaism in a creed of Thirteen Articles of Faith.

He completed the commentary on the Mishna at the age of 33, after which he began his magnum opus, the code of Jewish law, on which he also laboured for 10 years. Bearing the name of Mishne Torah (“The Torah Reviewed”) and written in a lucid Hebrew style, the code offers a brilliant systematization of all Jewish law and doctrine. He wrote two other works in Jewish law of lesser scope: the Sefer ha-mitzwot (Book of Precepts), a digest of law for the less sophisticated reader, written in Arabic; and the Hilkhot ha-Yerushalmi (“Laws of Jerusalem”), a digest of the laws in the Palestinian Talmud, written in Hebrew.

His next major work, which he began in 1176 and on which he laboured for 15 years, was his classic in religious philosophy, the Dalālat al-ḥāʾirīn (The Guide for the Perplexed), later known under its Hebrew title as the Moreh nevukhim. A plea for what he called a more rational philosophy of Judaism, it constituted a major contribution to the accommodation between science, philosophy, and religion. It was written in Arabic and sent as a private communication to his favourite disciple, Joseph ibn Aknin. The work was translated into Hebrew in Maimonides’ lifetime and later into Latin and most European languages. It has exerted a marked influence on the history of religious thought.

Maimonides also wrote a number of minor works, occasional essays dealing with current problems that faced the Jewish community, and he maintained an extensive correspondence with scholars, students, and community leaders. Among his minor works those considered to be most important are Iggert Teman (Epistle to Yemen), Iggeret ha-shemad or Maʾamar Qiddush ha-Shem (“Letter on Apostasy”), and Iggeret le-qahal Marsilia (“Letter on Astrology,” or, literally, “Letter to the Community of Marseille”). He also wrote a number of works dealing with medicine, including a popular miscellany of health rules, which he dedicated to the sultan, al-Afḍal. A mid-20th-century historian, Waldemar Schweisheimer, has said of Maimonides’ medical writings: “Maimonides’ medical teachings are not antiquated at all. His writings, in fact, are in some respects astonishingly modern in tone and contents.”

Maimonides complained often that the pressures of his many duties robbed him of peace and undermined his health. He died in 1204 and was buried in Tiberias, in the Holy Land, where his grave continues to be a shrine drawing a constant stream of pious pilgrims.

Significance

Maimonides’ advanced views aroused opposition during his lifetime and after his death. In 1233 one zealot, Rabbi Solomon of Montpellier, in southern France, instigated the church authorities to burn The Guide for the Perplexed as a dangerously heretical book. But the controversy abated after some time, and Maimonides came to be recognized as a pillar of the traditional faith—his creed became part of the orthodox liturgy—as well as the greatest of the Jewish philosophers.

Maimonides’ epoch-making influence on Judaism extended also to the larger world. His philosophic work, translated into Latin, influenced the great medieval Scholastic writers, and even later thinkers, such as Benedict de Spinoza and G.W. Leibniz, found in his work a source for some of their ideas. His medical writings constitute a significant chapter in the history of medical science.Ben Zion Bokser https://www.britannica.com/biography/Moses-Maimonides

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7 December 1965 Second Vatican Council ends – New Relationship between the Jewish People and the Roman Catholic Church begins

Robert A Krieg writes “

The Second Vatican Council endorsed a change in the Catholic Church’s self -understanding and its stance toward the world and other religions. When Pope John XXIII convoked the council on December 25, 1961, he opened the way for both the end of the hegemony of the notion of the Church as a ‘‘perfect society,’’ that is, as a self-sufficient, juridical institution, and also the end of the Church’s negative attitude
toward modernity and non-Christian beliefs. The Council then proceeded in Lumen Gentium, the Constitution on the Church, to declare that the Church is ‘‘a sacrament—a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race.’ It also explained that the Church is the people of God and only secondarily an institution. Moreover, the council took a constructive stance toward the
world, especially as it acknowledged contemporary society’s merits as
well as its dilemmas in Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the
Church in the Modern World. Further, it conveyed respect for other
religions in Nostra Aetate, the Declaration on the Relation of the Church
to Non-Christian Religions. The Council declared: ‘‘Let Christians, while
witnessing to their own faith and way of life, acknowledge, preserve and
encourage the spiritual and moral truths found among non-Christians,
together with their social life and culture.’’ It added that the Church ‘‘deplores all hatreds, persecutions, displays of antisemitism leveled at any time or from any source against the Jews.’’ When Pope Paul VI closed the council on December 7, 1965, he envisioned the Church witnessing to the coming God’s reign and working with other religions for German Catholic Views of Jesus and Judaism ‘‘the progress of peoples.’’ Vatican II was surely an extraordinary turning point in the life of the Catholic Church.”

Robert A Krieg, “German Catholic Views of
Jesus and Judaism” in Antisemitism, Christian Ambivalence, and the Holocaust edited by Kevin P. Spicer, C.S.C., Indiana University Press, 2007

The significance of the Council cannot be underestimated. It heralded the way for all the churches, Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox, to begin a new relationship with Jewish people, one of repentance, reconciliation, love, acceptance and recognition of God’s ongoing election of Israel. It paved the way for the modern Jewish reclamation of Jesus as one of us, and gave Christians encouragement to rediscover the Jewishness of Jesus, his early disciples, and to understand the mysterious unity of the whole Church in solidarity with the Jewish people.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord of Heaven and Earth, that you are not only Lord of Creation, but Lord of Israel and the Church. Thank you for the ongoing work and legacy of the Council. May all your disciples be united in the hope of your soon return, to accomplish your purposes for Israel and all nations, and all creation. In our Messiah Yeshua we pray, Amen

For more information on the Council and its legacy see here and here

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How Did Christmas Become So Un-Jewish? An Ironic Timeline

December 25 is by tradition the day on which the Jewish Messiah Jesus was born. So how did it become what it is today, and why is it so difficult to celebrate it as the birthday of the greatest Jewish who ever lived, Yeshua the Messiah?

Where did Christmas trees and carols come from? What about the mistletoe and mince pies? Whatever traditions you may celebrate today, they don’t seem very Jewish, do they? So how did Christmas become so un-Jewish? Often it’s been a day when Jews have been shamed, tortured, and murdered.  What follows is an ironic timeline.

 

https://www.dropbox.com/s/cggcztwrpre4iec/ironic%20christmas%20timeline%20short%20061219.docx?dl=0

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