by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
Picture this scene if you will. It actually happened last week in Germany. Mr. Andreas Yaffe was on his death bed. He was born shortly before the holocaust began in Germany. In order to save her life, his mother baptized both Andreas and herself into the Catholic Church.
As it turned out, his mother did not have to convert him, because she was able to send him on the Kindertransport to England. Kindertransport (Children's Transport) was the informal name of a series of rescue efforts which brought thousands of refugee Jewish children to Great Britain from Nazi Germany between 1938 and 1940. These children never saw their parents again. As cruel as it is to permanently separate a young child from his parents, it saved his life.
He grew up in England in the church as a believing catholic. He went to church on Sundays and maintained all of the catholic beliefs and rituals. As an adult, he moved back to Germany and married a German, catholic woman. They have two children, a son and a daughter.
Andreas’ son, Ludwig, married and had two children. A few years ago, he began to wonder about his father’s family name. His father told him that he had a Jewish mother and that they are descendants of a famous Rabbi called “The Levush.”
When Ludwig heard this, he began to study Judaism. He grew a beard and started to wear a head covering. His father became very upset, since he did not want to believe that he was a Jew.
When a Chabad sheliach (messenger) met the father, he gave him some Jewish books and helped him to put on tefillin. Andreas agreed only because he did not want to be nasty to the rabbi, but whenever they spoke, he always insisted that he was catholic and that he believed in that god.
About a year ago, the rabbi visited them again, and as he was leaving, the wife stood by the door. She told him very strongly that her husband was a catholic and that he did not want to “convert” and become a Jew. The rabbi told her that her husband did not have to convert to become a Jew because he already was one. At first, she was totally shocked. Can you imagine a German woman hearing that all those years she was married to a Jew! Then her shock turned to anger.
Meanwhile, their son, Ludwig, began to convert to Judaism. He is bringing his wife and their children with him. The wife seems to be going along with his conversion plans.
Last week, the father was in the hospital, and the doctors told the family that he would die any hour. Hearing this, his son tried his best to do what needed to be done in order to give his father a proper Jewish burial, but his mother fought desperately to prevent this. Obviously, she wanted to maintain her and her husband’s idolatrous beliefs. A priest was called to say the “last rites.”
Ludwig tried to put tefillin on his father just before he died, but his mother would not allow it. She insisted on nothing Jewish. He did manage to get the head tefillin on his father’s head before his mother pushed him away. He also slipped a small pair of tzitzits (fringes) into his father’s coffin.
Andreas died and was buried in a catholic cemetery, with a priest performing the burial. There is a cross on his coffin. Although his wife was sad that her husband had died, she was satisfied that she was able to prevent him from doing anything Jewish.
Now the son is trying to bring his wife and children to Israel, to complete their conversion.
So where do our emotions lie? Do we say that the man wanted to be buried as a catholic so we should not interfere? It is correct to say that since he completely rejected Judaism, we should have just left him alone and let him do what he wanted? Should we respect the rights of his wife? After all, like her, her husband was a catholic his entire life. She does not want anyone to even know that her husband was a Jew!
Or, do we side with the son, who for some reason, realized what it means to be a Jew, and desperately tried to give his father the best that he deserved?
If you believe, as I am sure quite of few of you do, that the rabbi and the son should have respected Andreas and his wife’s wishes and allowed them to do what they wanted, then there is not much left to the story.
But, if you believe it is wrong that there is a cross on a Jew’s coffin, and that he should have had a decent Jewish burial instead… (Remember, Andreas was torn away from his Jewish roots by an unbelievably cruel despot, and that none of this was his fault) then the only question is: Do you know anyother Jews in a similar situation? If so, what can you do to help them before it is too late?