Category Archives: jewish

If You are Anti-Semitic, You are Anti-Catholic/Christian

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME 

By Larry Peterson

I have come to realize that I have changed. I am no longer the same cradle Catholic that espoused the brotherhood of Judaism. I am not the same because the words I was using then were never really heartfelt. I did believe them but I did not understand. Nor did I truly ‘feel” them. How could I?  That all changed five years ago when I discovered my Jewish heritage.
I am a Catholic man. I love my faith and use it frequently as my steadfast companion, always ready to lean on it. Today I find myself actually sickened by the wave of anti-Semitism sweeping our nation and other parts of the world. My own people are being defiled by those consumed by a hatred towards people they do not know. 
Our maternal Grandmother was an immigrant from Austria who arrived here as a teenager in 1908. We kids grew up with Grandma living with us and we took her for granted. We gave it no thought as to “where did she come from?” She was just always there.
Those questions would have come after we grew up a bit. But she died first and the questions were never asked. Mom and dad had passed on too so we could not ask them either (you can see that story here  http://amzn.to/1T2soNh ). 
The thing is this. There was never any “grandpa”. There was never a mention of him at all.  As we grew older and wiser and became very smart teenagers, we began to question the story behind the missing grandpa. Years went by with no information and the search became virtually non-existent.
But you never know how things will go. Lo and behold, about five years ago I received a message on Facebook (kudos to Facebook) from none other than my long lost cousin, Vicki. She had been on a “quest” and located me. Like dominoes perfectly colliding, my sister and brothers and cousins all reconnected. Now, to the point of this essay.
Vicki had been wondering about our missing Grandpa too. She also had a tenaciousness that none of her siblings or cousins possessed. She had plunged into the murky waters of genealogy and found our long, lost grandfather. His name was Isidore Schul and he was a Hebrew man from Krakow. Our maternal grandfather was Jewish. The immigration and naturalization papers all confirm this. He made it to America in 1907.
Star of David  US Holocaust Museum

 I have written a number of times how the very first Catholic/Christians were Jewish. Jesus was a Jewish man.  His mom, our sweet Blessed Mother, was Jewish. His step-dad, St. Joseph was Jewish, his apostles were Jewish and many of His followers were Jewish. Many of the first Jewish/Christians were killed for following and proclaiming Jesus Christ. They were martyrs for their new faith.

Understanding my heritage caused my transformation. I now embrace in my own heart the concept of my Jewish connection. The fact is, my maternal grandfather was a Hebrew man from Krakow. He was the only one on his side of OUR family who made it to America.  What we have discovered is that the rest of OUR relatives from his side died in the Holocaust. We have no way of knowing about the fate of our great grandparents, Simon and Regina Schul. Either they died before the death camps began or in one of them.  
 During the Holocaust supposedly civilized people, both men and women, willingly went about participating in the systematic annihilation of close to 12 million people, including six million Jews. Their leaders wanted to eliminate Judaism from the face of the earth. And the ‘”good” non-Jewish, Aryan citizens did as they were told. They followed “orders”. They almost succeeded in their quest.
I do not understand this hate. I know the anti-Semitism will continue unabated. I know the elimination of Christianity through torture and mass murder in the Middle-East will continue because of hatred. Thomas Merton once said, “If you want to study the social and political history of modern nations, study hell.” 
I believe that is true. Satan rules hell. Satan put himself there and his followers plunged right in with him.  When I bring Holy Communion to someone the first prayer I say is, “We come to know and believe that God is Love. And he who abides in love abides in God and God in him.”
We must never forget that Satan is hate. Anyone who chooses to embrace “hate” embraces Satan and Satan him. This war between Good and Evil will continue until the God of Love decides to end it. In the meantime we must fight for the God of Love, no matter what the cost. 
SHALOM

                           ©Copyright Larry Peterson 2017 All Rights Reserved

Krakow: The Pope and the Holocaust; I Am Proudly & Humbly Connected to Both*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

Mom died from leukemia way back in 1961. She had just turned 40 and, at the time, there were no cures, no chemo and no bone-marrow transplants. She was dead within six months of diagnosis.

We lived in the Bronx in a five floor walk-up. Grandma lived up on the fifth floor and we were down on the third.  Grandma gave up her apartment and moved in with us downstairs. I guess it was to help take care of the “little ones”; I was 15, Carolyn was 13, Danny was 11, Bobby was six and Johnny was two). But, it was not a good thing. Grandma hated dad because, for some bizarre reason, she decided he had killed her daughter and let him know it every chance she had.
I have no explanation for this nor will I ever. None of us do. Hey, we were kids, what did we know. Grandma’s grief was so intense that Dad could not handle it. It was just the way it was. Dad solved the problem by avoiding Grandma as much as possible. He just began hanging out in the local saloons which actually gave Grandma a real reason to yell at him.

On March 8, 1963, Grandma had a massive stroke. I saw her standing seemingly twisted in a body spasm and managed to drag her to the bed. I held her in my arms as she summoned the strength to say an Act of Contrition.  Looking me dead in the eye, she slowly slurred each word. Then we said an “Our Father” together. I was crying like a baby and so were my sister and brother, Danny. Dad was in the other room with Bobby and Johnny, waiting for the priest to show up. He was not crying.

When we finished praying she closed her eyes and became comatose. Father Quirk arrived and administered Last Rites. She died a few hours later in the hospital. That moment is etched forever in my brain’s “like it just happened” memory section.

What does Krakow and World Youth day have to do with all of that? Well, the first question that must be asked is, who was Grandma’s husband, our Grandpa? We were kids and had never asked. We never thought about it. That’s what kids do—take things for granted.

But then Mom was gone and Grandma was gone and Dad was drinking heavily. He died two years later. We had never gotten to the point of asking, “Hey, where is Grandpa?” Just like that it was too late. As adults we never found out—until four years ago. And now, with the Pope going to Krakow, Grandpa is in the forefront of my mind.  Krakow was Grandpa’s hometown.

Forced deportation from the Krakow ghetto, 1942   wikipediacommons
Our Mom had a brother, my namesake, Uncle Larry. He had been in the 8th Army Air-Force during World War II and his plane had been shot down on a bombing mission. He survived the war as a POW in the infamous Stalag 17. One time I asked him about his dad. He told me, “He died.” He never said another word.  That was that. Then we grew up, our folks were gone, and we lost contact as we began our own individual lives.

About four years ago I received a message on Facebook (kudos to Facebook) by none other than my long lost cousin, Vicki, Uncle Larry’s oldest. She had been on a “quest” and located me. Like dominoes perfectly colliding, my sister and brothers and cousins all reconnected. Now, to the point of this essay.

What follows may seem implausible but it is true and we have the documentation to confirm it. Vicki had been wondering about the missing Grandpa too. Her dad told her the same thing he had told me. Now he was gone. But she never stopped wondering and began a journey into the world of genealogy.  Lo and behold, she unraveled the mystery of the missing Grandpa.

Our grandma was an immigrant from Austria. A devout Catholic who never missed Mass, she married a man by the name of Isidore Schul. This was our grandfather. He was a Hebrew man from Krakow. Our maternal grandfather was Jewish. Shocker of shockers, the immigration papers and naturalization papers all confirm this. He made it to America in 1907.

We cannot understa
nd how these two unlikely people connected, got married and had two children, one of them our own mother. But it was so and that mystery will never be unraveled. We dubbed our long, lost, mysterious grandfather, Grandpa Irv. He and grandma split up when Mom and Uncle Larry were young children. Grandpa Irv died in the Bronx in 1965. We will never know more than I revealed here.

But here is the thing. Cradle Catholics, we are also 25% Jewish. Grandpa Irv was the only one of his family to get to America. His parent’s names were Simon and Regina Schul. Simon and Regina are our great-grandparents. We do not know if they died in the Holocaust or before it began but apparently, from what Vicki discovered, Grandpa Irv’s siblings did. Probably in Ravensbruck but it might have been Auschwitz.

For me, personally, I am humbled by this connection. Jesus, the Blessed Mother, St. Joseph, their  relatives, St. Ann, St. Joachim, and the apostles etc. were all Jewish. They were also the first Catholics. And today, as I write this, Pope Francis is in Krakow, Grandpa Irv’s hometown. I feel connected to it all and the Holocaust has a whole new meaning for me. It is all part of my heritage. My “own people” were killed there.  SHALOM

*This article also appeared in Aleteia. org on July 28,2016

                                     ©Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights Reserved

We Christians and Jews are Bound Together by Spiritual DNA

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

When I was growing up in the Bronx we lived on the third floor  in a five story walk-up on Sherman Ave. There were eight of us in a four room apartment. In the apartment below lived  Leo and Sophie Rabinowitz.  Quite often, in the middle of the night,  blood-curdling screams filled the back alley  and our apartment and the hallways outside. The screams were coming from the Rabinowitz’s. It was Sophie. She was having recurring nightmares. But Leo was the landlord and no one dared complain about the eery  howls that constantly reached the ears of so many. There was one man,  however,  who could not leave this alone. That man was my father.

I remember that Friday night long ago very well. The screaming started about midnight. It was September and the windows  were still open because it was hot and the screaming seemed exceptionally chilling. Dad got up and my brother, Danny, whispered from his bed, “I think he’s going down there.”

We got up and followed him and, without hesitating, Dad walked up to Leo’s  apartment door and began banging on it with his fist. We watched from the stairs as the door slowly opened. Leo poked his head out and just like that my father was embracing this little Jewish man who had buried his head in Dad’s chest  crying unashamedly. My brother and I crouched down, and peeking from the landing above,  were stunned.  Then Dad disappeared into that apartment with Leo Rabinowitz and did not leave for several hours.

Sophie Rabinowitz was having nightmares all right, recurring nightmares of her two boys, ages 12 and 9, being clubbed to death by the Nazis as they made her and Leo watch. Try as I may, I cannot  imagine what those moments in their lives were like. They were loving parents and were helpless, unable to save their very own children as godless people clubbed them to death simply because they were Jewish. The Nazis tortured the parents  further by allowing them to live. Such evil can only come into people and be accepted by them if coming from the very bowels of “Hell” itself.

My father has been dead for many years but he is still teaching me about being Catholic today. How? Through the gospel reading  from Matthew 5:1-12—aka The Sermon on the Mount. This is when Jesus, a Jewish man, gave  the world The Beatitudes. The one that always grabs me is #2, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

I remember that Friday night long ago. I remember how a Catholic man reached out to his Jewish neighbor and how they became friends. My father became their  ‘comforter’ who initiated the mourning process for Leo and Sophie. They had never mourned their boys. They had “stuffed the nightmare” and tried to go on living. This was the first time they had ever confronted what had happened.  Reliving  the sadness and horror also released a sense of beauty that shone through it for it united them in a renewed marital bond that had been missing for close to twenty years. They now became each other’s strength.

 We Catholics read and hear during the Mass what is called the Roman Canon  (aka First Eucharistic Prayer). The following words are said by the priest prior to the words of consecration: “In communion with those whose memory we venerate, especially the glorious ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ, and blessed Joseph, her Spouse, —–and all your saints.”  I ask you, were not all of those mentioned, Jewish? Yes..they were, ABSOLUTELY. There is no denying this fact. They are all canonized saints and their Judaism was always part of who they were and it all extrapolated into who we Catholic/Christians are today. We Jews and Christians are joined forever by Spiritual DNA.

Finally, let me mention our Holy Father, Pope Francis.  The Pope is very good friends with one of the primary Jewish leaders in Argentina, Rabbi Abraham Skorka.  In October of 2012, he presented to Rabbi Skorka an honorary doctorate degree from the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina. It was the first time such an honor had been bestowed on any Jewish man in all of Latin America. Upon presenting the award to Rabbi Skorka, the Pope (then Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio) said, “You cannot imagine how long I have waited for this moment.” We all should learn from this for it was a genuinely profound moment in history.

It is now 2015 and Judaism and Christianity are under attack all over the world including in the United States of America. It is in our face. We have had the the absolute luxury of practicing our religions and worshiping as we so chose for as long as any of us can remember. There have always been those who hated someone for being Jewish or Catholic or a Jehovah Witness or a Quaker for that matter. No matter, we had the law on our side and it was called the First Amendment to the Constitution.  All of us, Jews and Christians alike, need to pray and work together that it remains just that.

                                      ©2015 Larry Peterson All Rights Resereved

From Persecution.org—The story of "Yohan" by Troy Augustine

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

I usually do not re-post other columns but on this Sunday, June 14, 2015, as we in America celebrate “Flag Day” honoring “Old-Glory”  and all the freedoms she represents, I thought I would share this post from Persecution.Org. It was written by Troy Augustine, Regional Manager for the Africa Edition. 

It tells the story of a man named Yohan who, because he is Christian has been imprisoned, beaten and tortured since 2003 in Eritrea, a small nation in the Horn of Africa bordering the Red Sea. As a Catholic/Christian I know that Yohan is my brother in faith and we are connected through Jesus Christ. If you are Catholic/Christian/Jewish, you too, are connected to Yohan. 

On Flag Day in America we must always reflect on how blessed we are to have religious freedom. This freedom must always be protected and defended no matter what the cost.

___________________________________________

 One Eritrean Christian’s Story of Torture and Triumph by Faith Imprisoned for Christ
Troy Augustine, Regional Manager for Africa
6/12/15 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – For three days, “Yohan’s” joints throbbed as the muscles in his arms and legs had stretched in directions human limbs are not intended to bend. His stomach was empty, except for the scraps that fell from the table of his captors after they had eaten their fill.
Yohan had been tied up like an animal, imprisoned, tortured, and starved for his faith in Christ in Eritrea. He was forced to eat trash mixed with dirty rain water that collected during the three days when prison guards bound him and left him outside, exposed to torrential rains, burning desert sun, and bitter cold nights.
“They take you outside in the hot sun with nothing to make you suffer and leave you out in the cold at night … I was praying and God told me, ‘Don’t be afraid. It will pass. Stand in your faith,'”Yohan told International Christian Concern (ICC).
Yohan had been thrown in jail in 2003 because he was a zealous evangelist. In Eritrea, preaching the gospel is illegal, but that didn’t stop Yohan from constantly testifying about Jesus Christ in the military after he was forcibly conscripted at age 18.
Eritrea’s Atrocious Human Rights Record
Yohan’s story of abuse and survival in Eritrea is not unique. The government rules its country with an iron fist, perpetuating a climate of fear and arbitrarily detaining, imprisoning, torturing, and often executing its opponents. Among the people, the state considers its enemies to be Christians who practice their faith outside of the three legal denominations: Catholic, Lutheran, and Orthodox.
Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia in 1993 and President Isaias Afwerki remains the country’s only head-of-state since then. His administration is paranoid that Ethiopia will recapture Eritrea, so the state suppresses any groups which they feel could become a rebel movement.
“They don’t allow preaching and they don’t al
low religious movements,”
 Yohan said. “They are afraid always if people get together in groups … They know if they gather to make fellowship, they think it will turn into a movement to end their power. They don’t allow very large groups of people to gather for any reason,” he added.
The United Nations (UN) released a scathing report on June 8, detailing the kinds of abuse that Yohan experienced that exist in Eritrea at a scale the document called “systematic, widespread, and gross.” The report suggest that the Eritrean state may be guilty of “crimes against humanity.”
“The religious gatherings of non-authorized denominations are prohibited. Religious materials are confiscated. Adherents are arbitrarily arrested, ill-treated or subjected to torture during their detention, and prisoners are coerced to recant their faith. Many religious followers have been killed or have disappeared,” the report said.
The study compiled more than 700 testimonies from Eritreans who have similar stories to Yohan. Other prisoners like him testified about, “extreme forms of restraint, beatings or rape … intended to inflict severe physical and psychological pain.”
The United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) also designatedEritrea as a “Country of Particular Concern,” in its 2015 Annual Report, corroborating the kinds of systematic abuses mentioned in the UN report and in Yohan’s story.
The Dreadful Choice Facing Eritrean Christians
In the face of such terror perpetrated by their own government, scores of Eritrean Christians are fleeing the country, headed for Europe or the United States. On June 3, Islamic State (ISIS) militants kidnapped 88 Eritrean Christians in Libya, headed for Tripoli. According to reports, ISIS separated Christians and Muslims and let the Muslims go free.
On June 4, unknown gunmen, suspected to be from the Sudanese Islamist Rashaida tribe,reportedly opened fire on a convoy of between 49 and 70 Eritrean refugees traveling from Wadi Sharifey near Kassala to Shagarab refugee camp, kidnapping 14 Christians. In Sudan, Shagarab refugee camp is commonly known to be a favorite target of Rashaida, who is regularly involved in illegal human trafficking.
This unimaginable choice that Eritrean Christians face highlights the pervasive and understandable terror that permeates the country. The horrifying reality is that many Christians find it more hopeful to risk death by leaving for countries filled with Muslim extremists bent on their extinction, than to remain in their homeland.
“Faced with a seemingly hopeless situation [that] they feel powerless to change, hundreds of thousands of Eritreans are fleeing their country. In desperation, they resort to deadly escape routes through deserts and neighboring war-torn countries and across dangerous seas in search of safety. They risk capture, torture and death at the hands of ruthless human traffickers,” the UN report concluded.
Suffering under the fiercest persecution in Eritrea, Yohan decided the same.
Yohan’s Perseverance and Escape
In jail, Yohan became acquainted with suffering, just like his Savior was. Yohan pointed to God’s grace, which sustained him through the torture and intimidation. He faced regular interrogations where officials tried to coerce him to recant his faith, even at gunpoint. Through all of it, Yohan’s faith was strengthened. Like the Apostle Paul, Yohan was confident, and he was ready to die.
“If we believe in Jesus, and we live for Him, we die for Him. We are ready to die in every situation, in every moment. This is the story of our life. It is daily life,” he said.
Despite continuous beatings and torture, Yohan refused to deny Christ. “I am nothing, but God is Alpha and Omega. I am not afraid of you because someday you are going to die, so I’m not afraid to die from you,” he told his captors.
In 2004, after nearly a year in prison experiencing unspeakable persecution, Yohan made the same decision scores of his fellow Eritrean brothers and sisters are making today. He was determined to escape the country through Sudan. Yohan was provided a military uniform from a friend outside of the prison and disguised himself to escape.
Once he made it outside the gates, he sprinted for the Sudanese border, running for four days. Finally, he reached Sudan where officials interrogated him regarding his identity and then jailed for three days before releasing him. Ironically, Yohan found in Sudan a go
vernment that was more sympathetic to him as a refugee than the way his own government had treated him, even though Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for “crimes against humanity” for perpetrating genocide in Darfur.
From Sudan, Yohan traversed his way through different parts of Africa from Zimbabwe to South Africa, to Egypt, before finally reaching the United States where he lives under asylum. Yohan’s story is one that accentuates the grace of God to persevere His people through the worst of suffering in this world.
Through it all, whether they survive like Yohan, or give their lives standing for Christ, Eritrean brothers and sisters have been counted worthy to suffer the way Jesus did. “We believe in Christ. The way of Christ is to suffer,” Yohan said.
Footnote: Ou

All Saint's Day: Never Forget that Our Christian Roots are Embedded in Judaism

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

by Larry Peterson

My father has been dead for many years but he is still teaching me how to be  Catholic. He is doing this by living in my mind via memories of his personal Christianity in action.  The Feast of All Saint’s Day flips a switch that turns on one of these memories. That is also when I began to embrace the fact that the vast majority of the first Catholics were born and raised Jewish .

I remember that Friday night long ago. We lived in the south Bronx in a five story walk-up on Sherman Ave. There were eight of us in a four room apartment and we never even considered that it was small and cramped. The neighborhood was the same for all families except for those living up on the upscale Grand Concourse. That’s where the “money” people lived in buildings with courtyards and sometimes the courtyards even had fish ponds in the middle.

It was still September and  summer had not yet left. Back then no-one had air-conditioning and everyone kept their windows open praying for a breeze. The screaming started a little past midnight. It filled the back alleyway and floated unmercifully upward and into the open windows. Our apartment was directly above the window from where the screams were coming and on this night they seemed exceptionally close and  blood-curdling. Pop got up and my brother, Danny, whispered from his bed, “I think he’s going down there.”

We watched as Pop left our apartment and headed down the stairs. We followed and quietly sat on the upper landing stretching our necks so our heads would make a right-angle turn to see down and around the landing below. We watched our father, who without hesitation, walked over to the apartment door and began banging on it with his fist. This was the apartment of Leo and Sophie Rabinowitz. Leo was the landlord and he owned the building. No one dared complain to the landlord about noise coming from his apartment even if it was about midnight screams that curled the hairs on your neck. But Pop was not going down to complain. He was going to see if he could help. He had this way about him and sometimes he was uncommonly instinctive.

The door opened and Leo poked his head out. Pop started talking to him and, incredibly, Leo just stood there listening. The man was short, maybe 5’2″, he had a droopy mustache that needed tending and his sagging shoulders said he was obviously worn out. He held a pipe off to the side of his head and his face seemed to be saying, “Please help me.” Pop continued talking for a minute or so and suddenly Leo Rabinowitz, the “feared” Jewish landlord, buried his head in my father’s chest and began crying unashamedly. Danny and I were stunned. Then Pop, his arm around Leo’s shoulder, disappeared into Leo’s apartment.

We both went back into our apartment and lay there conjecturing away at all the possibilities that may have caused this unexpected union between a landlord and tenant, a Jewish man and a Catholic man, between two people who were neighbors but were not really except for location and who had nothing in common. Within fifteen minutes Bobby, Johnny and Carolyn had joined Danny and myself in the conversation and by the time our  five imaginations extrapolated each other’s ideas, we “knew”  that Leo Rabinowitz was a communist spy and he had somehow killed our father and disposed of his dismembered body in the coal furnace down in the basement.

As we plotted our course of action Pop came back into our apartment. It had been a few hours, or at least it seemed that way. Pop just walked through our bedroom and headed to the back room moving ever so slowly. When he paused by his workbench he sat on the stool, lowered his head into his upraised fingers, took in a deep breath and sighed. Then, ever so quietly, he pulled his beads from his pocket and started praying the  rosary. None of us interrupted and I think we all just fell asleep.

We found out about those screams the next morning. Sophie was having nightmares all right, nightmares of her two boys, ages 12 and 9, being clubbed to death with rifle butts by the Nazis, who also  insisted that the boy’s mom and dad watch as they killed their sons. To this day I cannot imagine what those moments in their lives were like. They were loving parents and were rendered helpless as godless people murdered their children, enjoying inflicting their heinous butchery on innocents. The ultimate torture distributed by the Nazis was allowing Leo and Sophie to watch. Sophie’s screams told that story night after night, year after year after year. How ghastly and cruel those memories had to be.

All Saint’s Day is celebrated on November 1. The gospel reading for the day is from Matthew 5:1-12, The Beatitudes. When the priest reads them the switch will flip and I will go back to that Friday once again. It always happens. I hear #2,  “Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted”; then #5, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy”; and #7, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”

Pop lived all three of those Beatitudes that Friday night long ago. He mourned with his Jewish neighbors, he was merciful to them and he brought a sense of peace into their lives. My gift was being able to remember how a Catholic man reached out to his Jewish neighbors and how they became friends. I also remember that because of that friendship Leo and Sophie Rabinowitz became friends with other folks in the building and in the neighborhood.

My final lesson in all of this was when Pop told me to get out my missal and read the Roman Canon. I did and began reading., silently. “Out loud”, he said. I paused for a moment and looked at him. He said, “Just do it.”

I did until I got to the part that read, “whose memory we venerate, especially the glorious ever-Virgin Mary—,and blessed Joseph, her spouse—“, etc. “Okay, stop,” he said. “Tell me about all those people.”

“What about them?” I don’t understand.”

“Never ever forget that most all of them were Jewish, including Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Our roots are deeply embedded in Judaism. We Catholic/Christians and Jews are joined at the spiritual hip “in perpetuity. Leo and Sophie Rabinowitz are our brother and sister too. Never forget that.”

I never forgot.

Happy Birthday, Irving Schul–I'm Sorry We Never Met

by Larry Peterson

Isidore (Irving) Schul was born on December 18, 1889.  He died in 1965 in New York City, alone and without family. That is so sad because he had family. Today is his birthday.

I have written many times  about the fact that all of the first Christians were Jewish people. Jesus was a Jew and preached in the temple. His dad, Joseph, was a Jewish man faithful to the law of Moses. His mom, Mary, was a Jewish woman who lived true to the law of Moses. This coming Christmas celebration was made possible by Jews. The apostles were Jewish and the first pope was Jewish.  The words Judeo-Christian are forever linked. They cannot be separated. The Old testament was written by Hebrews. The New Testament was written by Christians who were former Hebrews. So, I write this for a man named Isidore (Irving) Schul, a Hebrew man from Krakow, Austria (today Poland)  who  arrived in America on August 17, 1907. I always knew this man existed but I never knew a thing about him until September of 2012. That is when I learned that Irving Schul was my grandfather. Truly, I am a Judeo-Christian man.

I am a “cradle-Catholic”.  I was baptized Catholic as a baby, I received First Communion as a first grader, Confirmation as a third grader (which made me a ‘spiritual adult’ qualified to be a good little soldier and defend the faith) and spent a total of 12 years in Catholic school. Here is the thing with me. I have been blessed. It all “stuck”. I love my faith.  Today, as a senior citizen, I have come to understand the simplicity of this faith. I have sifted  through the pile of confusing theology and have come to the realization that if you follow Jesus and truly try to  “Love your neighbor” as He taught, everything else will fall in place. We won’t be lying to each other, killing each other, stealing from each other, having ‘affairs’, or even stealing stuff. If you “love your neighbor” you won’t be doing any of that.  And you won’t be passing judgment on others because of their race, creed, politics, or whatever else you might pompously deem offensive to your worldview.(Just think about the possibilities.) This applies to a group that Catholic/Christians have had a hard time accepting over the centuries. I am talking about the Jewish people.

When you are a child your world consists of your home and the people in it. My brothers, sister and I had Mom, Dad and Grandma. We were one big ‘happy’ family living in an apartment in the Bronx. None of us ever thought to ask about a Grandpa. Why would we?  We were young kids and our world  view did not extend very far outside of our apartment building.  Our parents and Grandma died over a period of a few years when we were young. That was when we started asking questions about our family.  One of them was, “What happened to Grandma’s husband, our grandfather?” It was too late. There was no one who could answer the question.

My cousin, Vicki, doing an intense genealogy investigation, finally discovered our grandfather. It is all documented and factual. We have the “paper work”. Her dad, (my uncle) had passed away ten years earlier and never talked about his father.  My mom or dad never mentioned him either. My dad’s parents had passed away. We all knew that. But it was like Mom’s dad had never existed…but he had. Why we never knew of him, why he and my devout catholic grandmother married in 1919, how any of that transpired, none of us will ever know. The ones who knew those answers are all gone and have taken their stories with them. Thank you, Vicki, for doing the work. You found our ‘missing link’. God bless you for that.

 So…I just want to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my Grandpa Irving and tell him I am sorry we never met. Hopefully, one day we will. Oh yeah, from your Catholic grandson to you, my Jewish grandfather,  Merry Christmas and belated Happy Hanukkah.

We Catholics Have an Undeniably Jewish DNA

by Larry Peterson

When I was growing up in the Bronx we lived on the third floor  in a five story walk-up on Sherman Ave. There were eight of us in a four room apartment. In the apartment below lived  Leo and Sophie Rabinowitz.  Quite often, in the middle of the night,  blood-curdling screams filled the back alley  and our apartment and the hallways outside. The screams were coming from the Rabinowitz’s. It was Sophie. She was having recurring nightmares. But Leo was the landlord and no one dared complain about the eery  howls that constantly reached the ears of so many. There was one man,  however,  who could not leave this alone. That man was my father.
I remember that Friday night long ago very well. The screaming started about midnight. It was September and the windows  were still open because it was hot and the screaming seemed exceptionally chilling. Dad got up and my brother whispered from his bed, “I think he’s going down there.”  We got up and followed him and, without hesitating, Dad walked up to Leo’s  apartment door and began banging on it with his fist. We watched from the stairs as the door slowly opened. Leo poked his head out and just like that my father was embracing this little Jewish man who had buried his head in Dad’s chest  crying unashamedly. My brother and I, crouched down and peeking from the landing above,  were stunned.  Then Dad disappeared into that apartment with Leo Rabinowitz and did not leave for several hours. Sophie was having nightmares all right, recurring nightmares of her two boys, ages 12 and 9, being clubbed to death by the Nazis as they made her and Leo watch. Try as I may, I cannot  imagine what those moments in their lives were like. They were loving parents and were helpless, unable to save their very own children as godless people clubbed them to death. The Nazis tortured the parents  further by allowing them to live.
My father has been dead for many years but he is still teaching me about being Catholic today. How? The gospel reading for All Saints Day is from Matthew 5:1-12. The Beatitudes. When the priest read #7, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”,  I remembered that Friday night long ago. I remember how a Catholic man reached out to his Jewish neighbor and how they became friends. I also remember that because of that friendship Leo and Sophie Rabinowitz became friends with the other folks in the building. My father was the ‘peacemaker’ who initiated the peacemaking process. He did ‘GOOD’.
We Catholics have just celebrated All Saints Day and All Souls Day. During the reading of the Roman Canon at Mass, (First Eucharistic Prayer) the following words are read prior to the words of consecration: “In communion with those whose memory we venerate, especially the glorious ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ, and blessed Joseph, her Spouse, —–and all your saints.”  Were not all of them Jewish? Yeah..I think they were. There is no denying this fact. They are all canonized saints and their Judaism was always part of who they were.
Finally, let me mention our Holy Father, Pope Francis.  The Pope is very good friends with one of the primary Jewish leaders in Argentina, Rabbi Abraham Skorka.  In October of 2012, he presented to Rabbi Skorka an honorary doctorate degree from the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina. It was the first time such an honor had been bestowed on any Jewish man in all of Latin America. Upon presenting the award to Rabbi Skorka, the Pope (then Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio) said, “You cannot imagine how long I have waited for this moment.”