Bill Berman has lofty goals
for the Jewish community
and its federation structure.
Religious News Service
The Jackson Gap
JAMES DAVID BESSER
Can Jewish voters bridge
the Jesse Jackson gulf?
A sculpture at the Dachau concentration camp memorializes the victims of the Holocaust.
Responses To The Holocaust:
Reject Or Embrace Judaism
RABBI SHLOMO RISKIN
fter all is said and done, responses
of survivors to the Holocaust divide
into two categories: those who
possessed enough faith to want to keep
their Jewishness alive, and those who
believed it would be better to part company
with the Jewish people for good.
In those first years after World War II,
the Upper West Side of Manhattan was a
neighborhood where many Holocaust sur-
vivors had chosen to live. Upon arriving in
America, they were put up by BIAS in the
hotels which dotted the crowded streets of
the West Side, and later, when they started
settling down as new Americans, many of
them found apartments in that part of the
As a rabbi in the neighborhood, it
wasn't unusual for me to meet survivors.
And our synagogue, although modern and
English speaking, attracted some of this
population. Once I was asked to officiate at
the wedding of two survivors. It was a very
strange wedding. The man had been living
with two women, one on weekends and the
other during the week, and his little bub-
ble exploded one day when the two women
met each other in the man's apartment
while he was away on a business trip.
The women came to my office; they
simply didn't know what to do. And since
the man had attended our synagogue on
various occasions, I felt that I wasn't
overstepping my bounds when I called him
in for a meeting, eventually suggesting
that he make up his mind and choose one.
He did. Whether the choice was difficult or
not, I don't know, but a wedding was plann-
ed. On the day of the ceremony, I was
presented with a New York State marriage
license and was shocked to discover that
the bride-to-be had been married and was
divorced a number of years ago. When I had
interviewed her previously about any
earlier marriages or divorces, she hadn't
Shlomo Riskin is a rabbi in Efrat, Israel.
mentioned a word. When asked about the
discrepancy, she explained that the man
she had been married to, although born a
Jew like herself (he too had lived through
the Holocaust), had decided to convert to
Christianity, which was the reason for the
divorce,-and that she simply did not think
she was required to receive a Jewish
divorce from someone who had become a
I explained to her that a Jew can never
"resign" from his Judaism, or his Jewish
obligations, and without a halachic divorce
(Get), the hundred or so people who were
waiting for the ceremony to begin would
have to wait a lot longer. The woman was
unconsolable and the man grew very upset.
There seemed to be nothing we could do to
avoid calling off the wedding and sending
everyone home. But then, more out of
desperation than expectation, I inquired
where her ex-husband lived, and she told
me that he worked at a government agen-
cy not far from the synagogue.
I got on the phone and started dialing.
Fortunately, it didn't take long before I
located him. I explained the dilemma and
asked if he'd mind giving his former wife
a religious divorce — immediately. I
- described the procedure, and without hesi-
tation he agreed. First, I called a renown-
ed halachic authority who ruled that in
this particular case, where the man and
woman had not lived together for 15 years,
it wouldn't be necessary to wait the three
months ordinarily required to get married
after a divorce. Then a scribe was called,
the Get was written, witnesses took part,
and within two hours the woman was
divorced and ready to step under the wed-
Walking to where the ceremony would
be performed, I couldn't resist asking the
former husband how a man who had been
through all the terrible atrocities commit-
ted against the Jews could have turned
around and embraced the religion that had
helped create the climate for so much anti-
Continued on Page 10
Challenging their motives
riles Justice Department's OSI.
Envelope Please . • •
Three sports greats are named
to Michigan Jewish Hall of Fame.
A Sunday television special sees
Anne Frank through different eyes.
LISA JACKNOW ELLIAS
hurdle for singles.
Life In Israel
The Jewish News special salute
to Israel's 40th anniversary.
April 15, 1988
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS