The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Michael Curry, was the first person I ever heard use the term ‘Mother Judaism.’ His meaning being that the Christian tradition was born from Judaism and that Jesus, and his followers were Jews. Judaism is the mother of Christianity.
With this understanding, Bishop Curry is also a staunch opponent of antisemitism and calls on us to be the same and believes it important that every church and congregation recognize its Jewish roots and fight the forces of hate. I am proud to be the Pastoral Leader in a church led by Bishop Michael Curry. I am proud to join him, and many others, in the fight against anti-Jewish hate.
I have two things in my past that have made me sensitive to the threat of antisemitism. My grandfather, a German-American baker, was accused of being a Nazi sympathizer in the 1930s in New York. I have never been able to confirm whether he was or not, though I have hanging on the wall of our home a faded newspaper story entitled Thank God I Am An American, an advertisement paid for by the mayor and council of our town, to support my grandfather. My grandfather died when I was too young to ask him about it. The family, of course, denies it. In my experience he was a good man so I choose to believe them, but this accusation has haunted me since I first learned of it. Especially after I found a copy of “Mein Kampf” in my grandmother’s possessions after she died.
The second experience was that while serving as Youth Minister at an Episcopal Church in New Jersey many years ago, I once planned and conducted a service commemorating Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass, and the traditional date acknowledged as the beginning of the Holocaust. I wrote and planned this service in order to educate the kids of the parish of the horror of the Shoah and to show them what people can do to others if given the chance. And to remind them, it can happen again.
Just before that service began, an elderly couple came through the door and asked if they could attend the service. I said, of course, and then asked them how they heard about it and why they were there. They responded, “Someone told us and we are survivors of Auschwitz. We came to say thank you.” (I am crying as I write this.) After the service the Schwarzes spent two hours talking to the kids about the Holocaust. Did those kids get the message? Way better than they could ever have gotten from me.
I believe that God sent the Schwarzes to that little church on that evening because for weeks before it I fretted that I would never be able to explain the horror of the Holocaust to a group of fairly affluent, completely safe, teenagers in suburban New Jersey. To this day I believe the Schwarzes coming to our church was answer to prayer. Oh, how I had agonized over how I was going to get the horror of that period in history across to kids! The Schwarzes did my work for me.
One of my prized possessions is Fred Schwarz’s Nazi passport stamped with a large J for Juden/Jew, issued the first month that kind of passport was issued by the Nazis, January, 1939. Fred and Lea Schwarz gave me the passport in thanks for doing the service. Of course, it should have been me thanking them.
Why do I write this now? Because it can happen again. Incidents of antisemitic behavior and outright Nazi behavior are increasing in the world, not decreasing. Just recently antisemitic writing was found in two high schools right here in Loudoun County. And the Nazi rally in Charlottesville was not that long ago; a rally during which white supremacists chanted “the Jews will not replace us.”
If we believe the persecution of the Jews can’t happen again then we aren’t reading history. It has happened over and over throughout history. What makes us think it can’t happen now?
As a faith leader in Loudoun, I call on all faith traditions to double down in opposition to antisemitism by educating our congregations, especially our young people, to the fact that anti-Jewish hate is alive and well and must be countered at every turn.
On November 9, 2023, the traditional date for Kristallnacht, my congregation, Christ Church, Lucketts, will hold a Kristallnacht Service. During that service we will pray together, weep together and commit – together – to continue the fight against anti-Jewish hate with all we have.
And we will gaze on the Nazi passport of the Jew Fred Schwarz dated January, 1939 who, with his wife Lea, escaped the hell of Auschwitz. And the passport will be for us a physical reminder that it can happen again.
Kurt Aschermann is the Pastoral Leader of Christ Episcopal Church in Lucketts, Virginia. He is the author or co-author of several books and his new novel That Was You Wasn’t It – a spiritual coming-of-age story has just been released. He lives in Leesburg, Virginia
It's a nice sentiment and always a good idea to try and prevent such things but let's not make a mountain out of a mole hill. So two crazy kids wrote something in a bathroom and your other example is from five years ago? I wish people would stop telling everyone want a racist and bigoted and evil country America is -- because it's not.
Glad you shed some light on this issue I thought it was about ending illegal immigration and the removal of a statue depicting one of our founding fathers!
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