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April 01, 1983 - Image 64

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1983-04-01

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64 Friday, April 1, 1983


Rabbi Says Christians and Jews Have Much to Learn from Easter


Director, National
Jewish Resource Center

Most Christians, and
Jews also, would be stunned
at the thought that Easter
celebrates one of the bol-
dest, central affirmations of
Judaism, that life will to-
tally overcome death.
Classic Judaism claims that
existence is grounded in
God, who is an infinite
source of life, energy and
goodness. Since life is nur-
tured by infinity, it will ex-
pand and continue to de-
velop until every possible
perfection of life will take
The ultimate logic is that
life will vanquish death; in
the words of Isaiah (25:8),
"He will destroy death
forever." The rabbis went
one step further. They made
it a fundamental principle
of Jewish faith that death
will be retroactively un-
done. All who died will come
to life again. This is the
classic Jewish teaching of
Despite its dreams,
Judaism is realistic. Of
course, the world as we
know it now is full of evil,
suffering and death. Only
when all of existence —
political, economic, social,
physical — is perfected, can

the total triumph of life be
accomplished. Therefore,
resurrection will take place
in the Messianic moment
when total perfection is
Jews were alerted to
look for resurrection as
the signal that the mo-
ment of final redemption
is at hand. Therefore,
only a group of Jews who
were anticipating the
Messiah could have con-
cluded that Jesus' empty
tomb was not the ulti-
mate degradation — i.e.,
that their spiritual mas-
ter was not even worthy
of final rest and burial in
a Jewish grave — but the
beginning of the ultimate
triumph — resurrection
for humanity.
It was the report of resur-
rection that confirmed
Paul's hope that Jesus was
the Messiah. Christianity
could only have been born
among Jews. Paradoxically
enough, Easter is a funda-
mentally Jewish day.
Christians owe it to us.
Why, then, did the Jews
not accept Easter and
Christianity? It is not be-
cause Jews were blind or
spiritually dead or any of
the other cruel distortions
which Christians inflicted
on Judaism to justify their
own religion. On the con-

trary, Jews were desper- holiday,
brought the assurance of
ately looking for a new Mes- Exodus/Passover idea of
God's love and hope to bil-
siah to bring relief from the simultaneous freedom and
lions of people, which had to
oppression and hardship of spiritual liberation is
happen if Judaism is to be
Roman rule.
turned into a celebration of
truly realized. If, from the
But Jews understood that spiritual resurrection
Jewish perception, Easter is
such a total triumph over which makes the body/
too one-sidedly spiritual,
death could only come
earthly existence secon-
Easter nevertheless
when the whole world was dary, ultimately irrelevant.
brought surcease of sorrow
transformed. What kind of
But is not the very es-
and pain for billions, an ac-
Messiah would only save sence of resurrection the
complishment Jews can
himself, leaving the rest of point that not only the soul
celebrate with gratitude. In
humanity subject to slav- but the body of human be-
fact, in millions of other
ery, disease, poverty and ings is infinitely precious
humans, Easter's spiritual
spiritual torment? - Jews and worthy of dignity, free-
models unleashed the very
were too honest, too faithful dom and eternal life? Is not
hopes or demands for politi-
to reality to let their great our existence as humans an
cal liberation that Judaism
hopes for perfection over- amalgam of body/soul in
whelm their commitment one concrete person? We are
If only Christians would
that it would happen in the not just sparks of God,
putting down or hurt-
real world.
grains of infinity whose par-
Christians saw the con- ticular existence is an acci- religion to be turned into an ing Jews, then Jews, too,
"opiate of the masses" can appreciate this day, not
tradiction in the fact that dent.
whose spiritual promises as the day of fulfillment of
the world was still unre-
Judaism teaches that
deemed after Jesus' every human being — and joys narcotized people the total Messianic hope for
career. To resolve the you, me, living in a into passivity, to exploita- all humanity but as the an-
tion and deprivation. More ticipation of the final per-
clash between ideal and specific body, in a
reality, Christians cut re- specific time and space — and more, Christians have fection.
demption loose from is the image of God, come to see that, far from
As Shabat is the
earthly existence. "The endowed with infinite superceding Judaism, foretaste of the world to
Christianity must recover come which is totally
Kingdom of God is within value, worthy of dignity
Passover and the stubborn Shabat — total peace,
you" they taught.
and freedom. So redemp-
Those who believe in tion must come for my Jewish insistence on total joy — so is the dream
Christianity are spiritually body and my soul; the earthly redemption in order celebrated by Christians
free and all conflicts are re- world's political, eco- to complete Christian pur- on this day the foretaste
solved even if they are still nomic and physical poses and achieve the true of the sweet totality of life
actually enslaved. The soul
wounds must be healed, goals of perfection. That is which all humans will
exactly what the idea of the someday enjoy.
is given eternal life even if also.
the body is still flawed with
Indeed, the Christian Second Coming tacitly ad-
"On that day the Lord will
cancer, physical rot and ex- spiritualization of redemp- mits.
be One and the Lord's name
tion led to neglect of social For their part, Jews can will be One." (Zechariah
In Easter, the Christian justice and too often allowed recognize that Easter 14:9.)

The Landsberg DP Camp Inspired a Jewish U.S. Major

The American Jewish
Archives, supplementary to
its role of gathering factual
Jewish historical material,
is now the publisher of an
important documentary
that adds invaluably to the
study of post-Nazi era con-
ditions in the displaced per-
sons camps.
"Among the Survivors of
the Holocaust, 1945" is a
diary in the form of letters
written from Sept. 19
through Dec. 6, 1945, by
Major Irving Heymont, who
was placed in charge of the
Landsberg DP Camp.
The sympathetic account
of experiences with the sur-

vivors who found haven in ready accumulated about
this camp, which continued the displaced persons and
to function until 1951 before their camps.
its disbanding, is unusual in
Major Heymont intro-
many respects. It portrays duces the story with the ex-
life in the camp, the atti- planation that he had
tudes of the survivors, their known little and was not
religious devotions. much interested in Jewish
They published a life and in Jews until then.
newspaper and for lack The DPs moved him into
of Hebrew type the Yid- this declaration in a post-
dish text had to be trans- script to his accumulated
literated into the Latin letters:
characters. Thus, the
"Landsberg made me a
name of the paper ap- conscious Jew again — not a
peared as Landsberger religious Jew, seeking the
ways of the Lord — but an
The many functions pro- affirmed member of the
vide an interesting Jewish people. In the years
addendum to the facts al- preceding, I had drifted
away from Judaism. In fact,
few, if any, of my Army col-
leagues knew that I was
Jewish. Some probably sus-
pected it because my wife
and I were from New York
City and never attended
any church services.
"During the period at
Landsberg no one at the
camp knew I was Jewish.
Intuitively, I knew that
my efforts at the camp
would be handicapped if
it were known that I was
Jewish. On the Army
side, my actions could be
subject to criticism —
Displaced persons in the Landsberg camp staged fairly or not — on, the
a strike and this rally in the Landsberg town square to grounds that I was prej-
protest Great Britain's restrictive immigration udiced. On the other sinter
policies for Palestine.
there would be percep-


tions that I should take
certain actions because I
was a fellow Jew. -
"Although my stay at
Landsberg lasted only a few
months, there are many
reasons why the DP camp
affected me so deeply. Up-
permost in my mind was the
thought that had my father
not fled Russia to avoid
service in the Czarist army,
my family might have been
inhabitants of the camp —
had we been fortunate
enough to survive.
"I also sensed it would be
a sardonic success for Hitler
if the Jews disappeared by
assimilation, either intent
or indifference. Studies,
after the war, gave me a de-
eper appreciation of the
wonder of the survival of the
Jewish people and of our
contributions to mankind."
This paperback has an-
other important aspect, its
having been edited by Ab-
raham Peck, associate di-
rector of American Jewish
Archives. In his preface to
this book, Peck recalls his
own childhood. He was born
in the Landsberg DP Camp,
located near Munich. •
Peck relates that his
parents, who were mar-
ried in the Lodz Ghetto,
were separated by the
Nazis shortly after their
marriage. He was born
there in May 1946, after
Heymont had already
left. Peck makes this
comment in his pre-
"The publication of these
letters marks the appear-
ance of a most important set
of historical documents. It is
our hope that this encounter
between Irving Heymont
and the Holocaust survivors

of Landsberg will have an
impact upon those who read
about it.
"It is a most extraordi.
nary encounter, that of a
young American soldier to
whom Judaism is of little
importance with a group of
European Jews robbed not
only of their Jewishness but
of their basic humanity. The
story ends in December of
1945 as the young Ameri-
can regains his sense of
Jewish identity and the
Holocaust victims continue
to reaffirm their Jewish-
ness and to reclaim their
"I am convinced that in
this story there lies an im-
portant clue about what it
means today to be a Jew, to

be a human being and to
live in the shadow of the
Holocaust, an event whose
consequences continue to
affect us all."
In all of these ex-
pressions, in the por-
trayal of the DPs' dedica-
tion to Israel and their
settlement there and the
other aspects of the life of
the survivors, "Among
the Survivors of the
Holocaust, 1945," is a re-
markable book.
A score of illustrations, of
the DP camp and the sur-
vivors, adds to the interest
created by the involvement
of an author who gave so
much concern to an historic

UN Anti-Semitism Litany


(Editor's note: This ar-
ticle by Forster, who is
associated with the
Anti-Defamation League
of Bnai Brith, is excerp-
ted from the current issue
of Penthouse magazine.)
Not surprisingly, the
senseless but evil UN for-
mula that Zionism is racism
has become a standard tool
in the hands of Israel's UN
enemies. More than a dozen
resolutions have since re-
ferred approvingly to the
definition, and it has been
used unceasingly by Arab,
Soviet, and Chinese prop-
agandists to justify anti-
Semitism and hatred of Is-
But this canard is only
the most successful of a long
list of anti-Semitic asser-
tions in the United Nations.
Some others are that the

Jews are an imaginary
people who never existed in
fact, do not now exist, never
experienced the Holocaust,
and — since they are a
non-people — are not
entitled to the rights ac-
corded genuine nations.
This undisguised hatred
is easy to find in the publi-
cations of the UN special
uni4- that services the Pales-
tinian Committee. It is also
to be found in documents of
the UN Commission for
Western Asia, which ac-
cepts the PLO as a member
state while rejecting Israel.
And it can be found in the
once hallowed halls of the
Security Council, where the
late Saudi Arabian ambas-
sador, Jamil Baroody, once
declared that the Nazi
Holocaust was simply fic-
tion and Anne Frank's diary
a transparent forgery.

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