I discovered that I was Majestic last week when I finally decided to publish my book, Teaching Curious Christians about Judaism, as an e-book on Amazon’s Kindle. I’d resisted creating a kindle version of the paperback for years. Originally published by the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago in the mid 1990s as Teaching Christian Children about Judaism, the book was long out of print when I updated it in 2013. Much to my surprise, I discovered that it had been used for the past twenty years by Monsignor Al Humbrecht at his church in Soddy Daisy, Tennessee. We sat down and mapped out the update to replace his few remaining copies.
When asked to writing stories about the holidays, Thanksgivings or Chanukahs past, I thought, “Oh sure, that would be great. I can whip something up in no time.” So, with a deadline of about eight days, I sat down to gather my thoughts and begin. Initially, I thought I’d do Chanukah.
One Christmas morning, I remember the soft-needled pine towering, as if through the spackled ceiling, its angel brushing the clouds.
My daughter came home from Middle School where they were studying the Holocaust and asked me “Mommy, was grandpa a Nazi?” How do you answer such a question? Easy! I said “No”, because all of my life I had heard my parents rail against the Hitler regime. They sent my father to the Russian front and my mother to the basement for shelter from the Allied bombers attacking Berlin. But thirty years later, a fifth-grader in my French class, who was also learning about the Holocaust, asked me, “Why are the German people so awful?” Now the answer was not so easy, because the student unwittingly used a stereotype painting all present-day German people as Nazi criminals. Without going into the history of WWII, I briefly explained that not all Germans are awful, just like not all Americans are awful. Still, seeing an opportunity for a lesson, I taught the French words for “war and peace” (la guerre et la paix) and went on with class.
The traffic was fierce on Martin Luther King Boulevard as people flocked to the community-wide interfaith service at Mount Olivet Baptist Church. Olivet, had grown from humble beginning in the 1920s to one of the city’s largest African-American churches. Yet, the church was packed, overflowing with elected officials, police officers and FBI, military veterans, and media among the diverse crowd of Black & White, Christians, Jews, and Muslim. Together, we prayed over the loss of four marines and a wounded sailor, who would die just hours later. We prayed over the trauma to our entire community inflicted by lone gunman, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez.
The first time that I agreed to serve on the local Holocaust Remembrance Day Committee was painful, even after almost seventy years since the end of World War II. I agreed to assist in promoting the event beyond our Jewish community and I agreed to participate in the reading of the names of the victims. And I resigned myself to being an usher at the event, not my favorite thing. What I didn’t bargain for was a seat on the stage when I offhandedly shared that I was helping in memory of my father who was a U. S. military intelligence officer during World War II. Aaron Levine was an army translator of German and French. And by the way, he was a liberator of a labor camp.
The academic study of ethics, in light of the experience of the Holocaust, has witnessed rapid development in the last decade. In addition to research into ethical decision making during the Holocaust itself in such volumes as Rab Bennett’s Under the Shadow of the Swastika: The Moral Dilemmas of Resistance and Collaboration in Hitler’s Europe, more general reflections on the significance of the Holocaust for contemporary ethics have come to the fore from Jewish and Christian scholars alike. There have also been voices such as Herbert Hirsch who have questioned whether we can learn anything from the Holocaust in terms of the moral challenge facing us today given the sui generis nature of that event as well as the immense complexity of a modern, global society.
In 2008, Rachel Osikoya responded from the United Kingdom (UK) to the question, “Will Religious Diversity increase as a focus for diversity professionals?” She followed up with a 2015 perspective. Read both responses side-by-side…
2008 RESPONSE: I would say that multifaith diversity is already just as important as other elements of diversity. When looking at diversity and inclusion in the UK religion and belief are always a factor. Most large corporates in the UK have multifaith rooms or quiet rooms for prayer and contemplation. There are also a number of independent organisations that are available to help companies understand best practice on how to deal with workplace multifaith issues.
It has been fifteen Christmases since my mother passed. But, I can’t help remembering all the lessons she taught me – especially one regarding what Christmas is all about. It was Christmas Eve, 1987. I was a young naval officer and I had been at sea nearly 100 days straight escorting U.S.-flagged tankers through the Persian Gulf in the largest convoy operation since WWII. On this particular Christmas, my ship, the aircraft carrier, USS Midway, was just outside the Strait of Hormuz, off the coast of Iran, while Iran and Iraq were approaching their sixth year of war with each other.
(The Bermuda Jews History Series was originally published in The Bermudian Magazine)
I sat in a restaurant overlooking Hamilton harbor pondering my morning researching Bermuda Jews in the island’s Archives. I’d spent many hours reviewing Bermuda’s Jewish tourism prior to World War II. Yes, my family had mentioned ‘restricted’ places where no Jews were allowed. But mostly I remembered their stories of Bermuda’s war-time kindness to Jews. Dr. Hollis Hallett, the Archives founder, directed me to documents from the 1930s showing the impact of an increasingly global anti-Semitism on Bermuda tourism. What should I write about this ugly period?