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September 22, 1967 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1967-09-22

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8—Friday, September 22, 1967

-- Drama About Conversions
by Force, Children Who Are Under Catholic Rule civilians

In 1953, America n, Israeli,
French and other Jewish com-
munities were involved in a case
that became known as "L'Affaire
Finaly." It was the struggle to
regain the children of Dr. and Mrs.
Fritz Finaly for whom the parents
claimed Jewishness after they had
been protected, in the Hitler era,
in Catholic institutions.
Fearing death after they had
escaped from Austria to France,
when the Vichy government
adopted the Nazi codes, the
Finalys fled, left their children in
the hands of Mlle. Antoinette
Brun, director of the municipal
nursery of Grenoble, and Mlle.
Brun had the children baptised and
assumed control of them.
Dr. Finaly's sister, a Mrs. Fis-
chel of New Zealand, commenced
a search for the Finalys. In the
course of the event, political and
church issues were stirred, there
were arrests and law suits until the
c h i Id r e n finally were released.
Baron de Rothschild was among
those who then argued that French
Jews would never accept forced
conversion or violation of family

The story told by Robert Lewis
in the new and most sensational
novel, "Michel, Michel," pub-
lished by Simon and Schuster,
is almost identical to the Finaly
case. Here, too, the family of
Dr. and Mrs. Kurt Benedek un-
dertakes a battle to take back
their son, Michel, who was left
behind when his parents were
murdered by the Nazis, and who
was claimed by :Ville. Rose who
wanted him for her own and who
had him baptized.

A friend of the Benedek family
Louis Konrad, undertook the battle
which went through courts and
experienced church obstructions.
Konrad protested against the
forced conversion, he lost in lower
courts and won a verdict in the
higher court, but Michel mean-
while was hidden in various Catho-
lic schools. Mlle. Rose, whom
Michel learned affectionately to
call "Haman Rose," was embit-
tered, she resorted to many tricks,
she had support of the clericals,
and the struggle emerges between
the Jewish searchers for Michel
and the church.
At one point, in fact, as the juri-
dical maze is discussed, the
thought occurs to Konrad:

"A Catholic conspiracy in the
court system! How temptitg it
was to accept the explanation on
the face of it! Too tempting, in
fact. Like the Communist con-
spiracy, which existed, as he
knew from his own youthful er-
rors, but which was blamed for
a good many things that would
have surprised Stalin himself to
hear of. Or like the Elders of
Zion, that myth perpetuated by
the Nazi cynics to explain the
so-called Jewish stranglehold on
the world."

All these elemen ts, Konrad's
Zionist affiliations, the request of
Michel's aunt in Israel that he
should be returned to her, Mlle.
Rose' insistence upon speaking of
Palestine rather than Israel, the
confrontations with municipal and
church officials—there are many
combinations of entanglements that
create dramatic episodes and hold
the reader intensely glued to •a
very long novel—as long as the
complicated Finaly case that
lasted for years until there finally
was the yielding to the Jewish
While Lewis' novel is too long,
a study of the Finaly case, the fact
that in it, as in the Michel case,
there was the "family council,"
that the rabbinical court was in-
volved in the Finaly case and
Jewish theological arguments were
advanced in the Michel case, make
the two akin and cause the length
of the Lewis story almost to be
Indeed, theology is vital to the
story. Michel's teachings were in
the Christian schools. He learned
to worship Jesus. To him Jews
were murderers of Christ and his
father was in hell as a guilty party.
He craved to see his father and at
the outset had hoped to a reunion.
But there was a poisoning of the

But Konrad appears to have a
chip on his shoulder. He is not
apologetic. After Hitlerism he is
determined to labor for a re-
deemed Israel and to battle
against any and all evidences of
anti-Semitism, and he senses and
often meets with genuine hatred.
His attorney, himself a Catholic,

helps carry on the battle. The
forced conversion antagonised the
Jewish community.
Nevertheless, the estrangenient

of Michel presents a problem. His
return to his Jewish relatives
forces the additional difficulty of
re-educating him when the time
comes. There is a dilemma border-
ing on a personal tragedy.
"Michel, Michel" is a dramatic
story. It parallels numerous
struggles to regain Jewish children
who had been saved and trained
by Catholics. There were similar
instances in Poland and elsewhere.
Lewis not mit , reconstructs his-
tory: he relates a great personal
drama, an episode in the history
of the post-Hitler era, the battle
against fanaticisms. His novel, as
predicted, already is a best seller
and may remain in the best-selling
list for a very long time.

Will Settle at 3 Border Outposts

ganization, together with volunteers
from abrnad, has moved in to build
a cooperative village.
Modiim is no longer barred by
the frontier. Situated in northern
Judea, the farmers there belong to
the Orthodox Poalei Agudat IsraeL
Mei Ami, in the Irron Hills in
northern Samaria, is settled by
members of the Noar Zioni youth
In the near future, three more
the Six-Day War, permanent civ - outposts will become permanent
e settlements — Biranit, on the Leb-
ran settlers have taken over
anese border of Upper Galilee,
Tsur Nathan lies on the western Maaleh Ha-Gilboa on Mt. Gilboa
rim of the Samarian Hills where in northeastern Samaria and Hat-
. the distance between Israel's for- seva in the Arava desert valley,
mer border and the sea was nine facing the Jordanian region of
miles. A group of the Bethar Or- Edom.

! JERUSALEM—During the month
of August, three border out-
, posts have been turned over to ci-
vilian settlers. These villages were
set up in the last six years by Na-
hal (the Pioneer Settler Corps of
the Israel Army) and the Jewish
National Fund which reclaimed the
land for farming, built access roads
and erected the buildings needed
initial per iod. N ow, with the
t i
; security situation changed afte

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.Jackson, Miss., Synagogue
Bombed; FBI Investigates

(Direct JTA Teletype Wire
Cong. Beth Israel in 1954. His first
to The Jewish News)
major sermon, delivered on Rosh
JACKSON, Miss. — The only Hashana of that year, dealt with
synagogue in Jackson was bombed the traditional responsibility of the
Monday nig ht and its administra- Jews to correct injustice—in this
live offices virtually destroyed in instance injustice directed against
an attack by _unidentified "bigots," the Negro:
Rabbi Perry E. Nussbaum, its
In the years since, he has been
spiritual leader, told the Jewish a civil rights leader in Mississippi
Telegraphic Agency Tuesday.
and most prominent in his efforts

Agents of the Federal Bureau of
Investigation are making an "inch-
by-inch" investigation of the dam-
aged premises— the rabbi's study,
his secretary's off ice and the
synagogue library — but have not
yet been able to determine whether
the bomb had been "planted" in
an adjoining bathroom or thrown
into the offices from the synagogue
corridors, the rabbi said.
He added that he was on his way,
to his study to write a sermon;
shortly before the bombing, but "I
went back home instead; I can't
explain way," he said.
Anti-Semitic campaign materials,
used extensively in the recent
Democratic gubernatorial primary
in Mississippi, may have in
spired the attack, Rabbi Nuss-
baum indicated. There has been a
flare-up of anti-Semitism among
white residents of Jackson, he said,
but he emphasized that he has
numerous contacts among Negro
civil rights workers in the state.
"Black anti-Semitism will not oc-
cur here," the rabbi added.
Rabbi Nussbaum has been one
of the most active white supporters
of Negro rights in the state, since

his assumption of the pulpit at

to raise funds to rebuild Negro
churches destroyed by arson or
bomb attacks. "I have always
preached phophetic Judaism and
social justice during my 13 years
here: and I hope there will be no
curtailment, of my activity now."
In spite of the extensive dam-
ages to the synagogue, activities
will continue there as usual, the
rabbi said.
Cong. Beth Israel, with 150 mem-
ber families, was founded 108
years ago. Rabbi Nussbaum is a
native of Toronto and a graduate
of the Hebrew Union College in

U.S. Will Take Part
in Tel Aviv Levant tai

(Direct JTA Teletype W
to The Jewish News

TEL AVIV — The Am ican Em-
bassy announced here, Wednesday
that the United St g will partici-
pate in the • t Fair at the Tel
Aviv exhibition rounds in 1968.
The embassy reserved an area of
1,000 square meters for the Amer-
ican exhibits. The fair is scheduled
to open June 4, 1968 and will run
until June 22.

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