Mort, at Octogenarian, wrote an interesting and well-documented post about the death of Cardinal Lustiger, The Catholic Church’s Jewish cardinal, and I started writing a reply on his blog but soon decided that it was too long to fit in there. So there it goes:
To me, a complete atheist, or worse, someone who just isn’t interested in religion at all, Lustiger‘s attitude makes sense.
I was born and bred in a Jewish family where no one was religious. Our Jewishness consisted of a Passover and a Rosh Hashana dinner a year, for which my mother cooked stuff that she remembered from home.
I never attended any synagogue, as the few times I went, for weddings or bar mitzvahs, I resented the fact that women or girls were treated like sub humans 😉 That’s how I felt when I was young. Now, I don’t even care!
My parents’ most Jewish traits, were what they told us about life in their respective native countries, being set apart as Jews.
Also, they wanted us, my brother and me, to marry Jews, something I didn’t do.
I don’t feel I belong to Judaism as a religion, but I am definitely Jewish. I would resent my daughter marrying in a church, Catholic or whatever. However, I couldn’t care less whether she marries a Jew or a non Jew.
I don’t feel that I belong to a community, but to a people, certainly.
Cardinal Lustiger was born Jewish and chose to convert to Catholicism, against his parents’ will. But he always insisted on his Jewishness.
As a non believer Jew, I was touched by the fact that he wanted the Kaddish, the prayer for the dead at his burial. I told my daughter that I would like to be buried as a Jew, a long time ago.
Maybe none of this makes sense to anyone else but to me it does.
Cardinal Lustiger said:
To say that I am no longer a Jew is like denying my father and mother, my grandfathers and grandmothers. I am as Jewish as all the other members of my family who were butchered in Auschwitz or in the other camps.
I think he had a strong point there and I share his views.
So while France’s late Cardinal Lustiger still considered himself a Jew, the Jewish community at large did not. Nevertheless, had he been discovered in his boyhood shelter, even as a Catholic convert, he would clearly have been a candidate for the German death camps because of the dictates of Nazi racial theories.
I quite agree with the second part of the statement, but what is the Jewish community at large?
France’s rabbis and traditional Orthodox Jews? Well, then, I am Jewish, but I certainly don’t belong to that community.