Posted by: smstrouse | April 28, 2011

May 1: Holocaust Remembrance Day

Back in the day, when I worked for B. Dalton Bookseller in Philadelphia, somehow the subject of religion came up.  A woman, a new employee, asked me what church I went to. When I said Lutheran, she vehemently came back with, “I hate Lutherans!” It turned out that she, herself a Quaker, was married to a Jew, and she hated Lutherans for their part in the Holocaust.

That was the beginning of my understanding of the dark side of my religious tradition. Martin Luther, so brilliant in other aspects of theological thinking, spewed forth anti-Semitic rage in such treatises as  The Jews and Their Lies. His writings were then used by Nazi propagandists to justify exterminating those who had ‘killed Christ.’

This Sunday, May 1, is Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yom Hashoah – designated by Israel’s parliament in 1951 to remember the genocide of 6 million Jews by the Nazis. It is incumbent on everyone to honor those who died and those who suffered during this horrific period of human history.

But I believe that as Christians we also still have much for which to atone. Thankfully, there have been strides. In 1994, in a Declaration to the Jewish Community, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America “publicly repudiated the anti-Jewish views of Martin Luther, expressed repentance for Christian complicity in hatred and violence against the Jews through the centuries, and committed itself to building a relationship with the Jewish people based on love and respect.”1

It’s a good start, and there are good suggestions about how to build relationships. But we can do more. John Shelby Spong has written extensively about the need for Christians to “read the Bible with Jewish eyes” and contends that Jesus’ Jewishness is key to understanding Jesus’ life and work. It’s also important to recognize that in the years after Jesus’ death, there was no Christianity; there were Jews who were followers of Jesus. When it became clear that the new faith could not exist within the confines of the old tradition, there was a split that naturally was difficult and disruptive. Hence, in John’s gospel, negative references to ‘the Jews.’  We should be mindful of how we translate, teach, and preach on these texts – as well as remind our Christian sisters and brothers of our roots in Judaism.

On Holocaust Remembrance Day, we should recommit ourselves to building good Christian-Jewish relationships. Here in San Francisco, we are fortunate to have the Contemporary Jewish Museum.  On May 1, admission and special programming in honor of Yom Hashoah will be free. It’s a good place to start.

1 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: Guidelines for Lutheran-Jewish Relations, 1998


don’t say ‘the Jews’ in john, but ‘temple authorities’

Advertisements

Responses

  1. One thing we can do is gently correct those who conflate Jews with the State of Israel (which state, itself, is not religiously, politically, or ideologically homogeneous).

    The unfortunate policies of this state have, in recent years, cost it the support of many, many ordinary people worldwide, including Jewish and non-Jewish Americans. It is entirely possible and commendable to love, honor, and support Jewish people (and, for that matter, the people of Israel) without supporting those of the State of Israel’s policies and practices that deprive others of their liberty, their property, their homes, and their lives.

    These are most emphatically NOT the policies and practices of Jewish people worldwide.

    Like

  2. The unfortunate policies of this state have, in recent years, cost it the support of many, many ordinary people worldwide, including Jewish and non-Jewish Americans. It is entirely possible and commendable to love, honor, and support Jewish people (and, for that matter, the people of Israel) without supporting those of the State of Israel’s policies and practices that deprive others of their liberty, their property, their homes, and their lives.
    +1

    Like


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: