(photo credit: REUTERS/Handout )
Sir, – Your fascinating profile of Shlomo and Ruth Brunell
(“Under His wings,” Veterans, January 4), who were once Lutheran ministers in
Brisbane, Australia, reminded me not only of the difficult relationship between
Lutherans and Jews (what terrible things Martin Luther said!), but of an
incident in peaceful Australia in which I was involved in the
1980s.After addressing the centenary service of the synagogue in
Brisbane I went with a busload of members of the Brisbane Jewish community to
the provincial city of Toowoomba for the reconsecration of the Jewish
The former Toowoomba Synagogue was now a Lutheran church, and
we were refused permission to visit the site.
(Although the erstwhile
Toowoomba Jewish community had been an honored sector of the city, we were Jews
after all!) So we stopped the bus in the street, got out and said Tehillim
[Psalms] on the sidewalk, and went on our way.
The writer is emeritus rabbi of the Great Synagogue in Sydney.
and Jews Sir, – The pathetic yet quaint need of assimilated Jews to partake of
Christmas trees and celebratory dinners is hardly what connects Jews and
Christmas nowadays (“Sufganiyot and Santa,” Books, December 28). Indeed, the
importance of Christmas to Jews has become one of huge economic consequence as
this holiday has evolved into a major orgy of over-the-top spending, with most
of the billions wasted on gifts, greeting cards and decorations migrating into
Consider that the toy, fashion, jewelry and department
store industries are virtually 100 percent Jewish. The liquor industry is
largely Jewish as well. And the greeting card industry is significantly
Oh yes, the Christmas decoration industry is 100%
Indeed the only commercial aspect of Christmas from which Jews
are conspicuously absent is the business of killing trees and camping out
curbside in the bitter cold to sell them.
Hence, the impact of Christmas
for Jews cannot be underestimated.
Nor can the charitable yields to
(hopefully) Jewish causes that result from this annual frenzy of material
profligacy, beneath which is buried what was once, for Christians, a profoundly
meaningful holy day.
Sir, – Even “Theodor Herzl
himself had a Christmas tree in his Vienna home,” it says in “Sufganiyot and
Santa.” Even? Especially! Although Herzl may be the most revered father of
Zionism, his views were anything but Jewish. He adamantly refused to circumcise
his only son, Hans. After Herzl’s death, Hans converted to various denominations
He committed suicide at the age of 39 on the day of the
funeral of his sister Pauline, who died of a heroin overdose.
the following suicide note: “A Jew remains a Jew, no matter how eagerly he may
submit himself to the disciplines of his new religion, how humbly he may place
the redeeming cross upon his shoulders for the sake of his former
coreligionists, to save them from eternal damnation: A Jew remains a Jew.... I
can’t go on living. I have lost all trust in God. All my life I’ve tried to
strive for the truth, and must admit today at the end of the road that there is
nothing but disappointment.
Tonight I have said Kaddish for my parents –
and for myself, the last descendant of the family.
There is nobody who
will say Kaddish for me, who went out to find peace – and who may find peace
soon.... My instinct has latterly gone all wrong, and I have made one of those
irreparable mistakes, which stamp a whole life with failure. Then it is best to
Herzl’s third and youngest child, Trude, actually died the
death of a true Jew in the Germany of the 1940s. She and her husband were both
deported to Theresienstadt, where they perished and were subsequently
Amos Elon wrote a very powerful and poignant history of German
Jews from 1743 to 1933, so aptly titled The Pity of it All. Of the 500,000 Jews
who lived in Germany before World War II, 70 percent had either converted to
Christianity or were completely acculturated into German society. Needless to
say, it got them nowhere good. Kosher and Christmas do not go
In the words of the famous philosopher George Santayana, “Those
who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Post Magazine would have done well to promote a book other than this, with all
its dangerously misguided messages to contemporary Jewry.
Waiting for ‘emet’ Sir, – In response to “For the sake of Heaven”
(Rethinking Jewish Life, December 28), Rabbi Rachel Sabath Beit- Halachmi
suggests that the way to end the strife of the Women at the Wall, and all the
discord between the different sects of Judaism in Israel, is by compromise. She
is petitioning for peace among the Jews.
Which Jew doesn’t want peace
among his brethren? Which father doesn’t yearn to see the day that all his
family members will be at peace? Yes, God is waiting for His children to make
The Gemara states that the reason for the downfall of the Second
Temple was sinat hinam, baseless hatred among the Jews.
Our job, in these
days awaiting the Messiah, is to make peace among our brothers.
question is, at what cost? Yes, there is more than one way to live a Jewish
life, but this does not mean that all ways of Jewish life are emet, truth. The
foundation of a Jewish life must be the Torah, and a life inconsistent with the
Torah is not emet, which must be defined by God, not man. True peace, the peace
that God wants from us, cannot come without emet. Peace must truly be for the
sake of Heaven.
I am writing this letter because I, too, am yearning for
peace among my Jewish brothers.
Compromise can only be an option when the
two sides are working with emet. I want there to be understanding between us. I
am waiting for peace. I am waiting for emet.
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