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Chutzpah 2.0: Catholic-turned-rabbi speaks out about Jewish-Christians relations

April 3, 2008

There has been, once again, some brouhaha about the pope changing some words in a prayer concerning the conversion of Jews to Christianity. A prominent German “rabbi,” Dr. Walter Homolka, took this opportunity to give a fiery interview to SPIEGEL ONLINE, in which he sharply criticizes the church. Some excerpts:

It is insulting to Jews that the Catholic Church, in the context of Good Friday of all things, is once again praying for the illumination of the Jews, so that we can acknowledge Jesus as the savior. Such statements are made in a historical context which is closely connected with discrimination, persecution and death. Given the weight of responsibility that the Catholic Church has acquired in its history with Judaism, most recently during the Third Reich, this is completely inappropriate and must be rejected to the utmost degree

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Christianity is a missionary religion. Isn’t it logical that it would also seek to convert Jews?

Homolka: No, because the controversial Good Friday Prayer completely ignores the unique status of the Jews as God’s chosen people. God called us Jews to be a “light for the nations,” so we certainly do not require illumination by the Catholic Church. The younger sister has clearly struck the wrong chord here.

So far, so radical. I, for my part, happen to belong to those people who think Jews shouldn’t tell others what to believe. I agree with Dr. David Berger, who also wrote about this issue. Here are the words of a smart man:

… I do not find fault with Catholics who believe that Jews will recognize the truth of Christianity at the end of days. I have argued on a number of occasions that there is nothing unethical about such a position, any more than it is unethical for Jews to recite the High Holiday prayers for the universal recognition of the God of Israel by nations who will forsake their current beliefs… In the final analysis, Jewish objections should be carefully formulated and should not indicate that the Christian belief that Jews will convert at the end of days is itself objectionable or tinged with anti-Semitism.

Anyway, let’s get back to “Rabbi” Homolka, who allows himself to speak in the name of all German Jews. To be sure, Homolka is quite a prominent man: he is a member of the exectutive board of the World Union for Progressive Judaism and the executive director and co-founder of the Abraham Geiger Kolleg in Potsdam, Germany’s only rabbinical seminary. The Reform Kolleg made headlines in September 2004 when, for the first time since 1942, three rabbis were ordained in Germany.

homolka.jpgHowever, neither his entry on Wikipedia nor his own Web site dwell to much upon the fact that Homolka has quite a bit of history. In fact, it isn’t even mentioned that Homolka wasn’t Jewish before he became Germany’s Next Top Rabbi. But the people talk. And they say that his planned career as a priest was destroyed when the church threw him out because of his homosexuality. So instead, he decided to become a Jew, then a rabbi, then a rabbi who ordains other rabbis, and finally the voice of German Jewry when it comes to Jewish-Christian relations. Oh boy.

By the way, rumor has it his conversion to Judaism is questionable, as is his rabbinic ordination. I usually don’t spread rumors, but his inflammatory interview with Germany’s most read news site was just too much. I have nothing against Christians, I have nothing against homosexuals and I have nothing against converts to Judaism. But I think it is a shame for German Jewry when a man like Walter Homolka speaks in its name. Have some decency, man, and shut up.

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7 comments

  1. Look at his face. It looks as much Polish as his name:) And, frankly it’s beyond my understanding why should we care if Catholics say this prayer or some other? Only Reform with no agenda will go for it. Get a life! Jewish communities are flooded with new immigrants who cannot tell Kidush from Kadish and he cares about some Tridentine Missals, my foot!
    ער איז פשות גארנישט מיט נישט!


  2. That rabbi has also missed the notion that even when Ratzinger was still head of the Congregation of Faith, he (and John Paul II. for that matter) officially exempted Jews from missionary attempts. A religion that does not consider itself the right one would be somewhat pointless, wouldn’t it? Alas, while Catholic priestal seminaries and faculties usually offer classes on Judaism (in co-laboration with Jewish scholars), rabbinical seminaries seem to be lacking interdisciplinary education.

    Homolka rings me as a Silesian last name, but I’d have to look that up.

    Happy Pessach, Raphael!


  3. Homolka is a bavarian, who converted through the Reform movement. There he also got his smikha. NOw he is educating other converts to become rabbis. Orthodox jews will not accept him anyway. Reform judaism in Germany is very political and that is also the problem. Apart from that of course anybody in Germany tries to gain territory (Chabad, Lauder, American and British Reform, even Masorti, but their lobby is way to small) the main problem with Reform in Germany is that it is mainly political. The main goal is to found as many Reform communities as possible and therefor you have to deal with the support of the non-jews all the time. That’s why reformers in Germany are much more often invited to TV shows than orthodox rabbis, which just have to work with the people. The end of the sipur – we don’t know. My thesis is that Reform will die anyway because in one or two generations in the Reform no jewish content and no jewish consiousness will be left.


  4. Actually, Catholics ARE making efforts to convert Jews. All you need do is read some of the Jewish oriented posts on this site’s forum to see:
    http://www.catholic.com

    Do not be deceived…the Catholic church never said they did not want to convert Jews…they said Jews should not be SINGLED OUT APART FROM OTHER GROUPS for conversion (as the evangelicals do, when they form “missions to the Jews”, “missions to the Haitians” and so on.)

    Do not think Catholic groups are not trying to win Jews. They most certainly are, and they are usually run by Jews who went shmad to Catholicism.


  5. Just find this website, very insulting what I read here of Rabbi Homolka (the name is Czech, I believe). I grew up with him in the Straubing Jewish community, his father was also a business relation of my late father. As far as I know his mother is of Jewish origin and he was only nominally Catholic – baptized as a baby, hey this was Bavaria. He did not convert through the reform movement either. When he was a kid the procedure was done in the Berlin “Einheitsgemeinde”. I am certain about that because there was a kiddush in the community for the occasion when Dr. Stefan Schwarz was still chairman. I remember Walter in synagogue since we were teenagers and totally integrated, also as a contributor for the Jewish Students magazine “Cheshbon” and the Neue Jüdische Nachrichten in the late 70s, both magazines no longer exist. Later we met again in the Munich Jewish congregation time and again where he definitely was a member during his studies at Munich university in the early eighties. Very active in the Youth and Cultural Center, e.g.with a chavurah. Just ask Ellen Presser. He was very engaged in the U.S. Army chaplaincy congregation as a lay leader, I remember, and we had common friends, there, working at Radio Free Europe at the time. After his Bachelor he went to rabbinical school in London and stayed there for his doctorate. We lost contact then and that is 25 years ago. But for all I know he never ever wanted to become a Catholic priest. This is simply laschon hara. So what is all this crap about?
    And to the topic: it is about time that someone like him spoke out against the scandalous prayer of Catholics that Jews should recognize Jesus as their saviour ON GOOD FRIDAY? Are you not aware how often Jews were mistreated and even killed on Good Friday because they were the murderers of Christ? And what I know he also wasn’t the only one. Micha Brumlik of Frankfurt, Nathan Kalmanowicz of Munich, Rabbi Sievers of Braunschweig, Rabbi Brandt of Augsburg and many others really made the same point in public. So please, be realistic. And stop spreading lies. Okay?


  6. Just as I guessed: Bumbling figure affiliated with Reform = opportunity to bash Reform. Classy, guys.


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