Posts Tagged ‘christianity’

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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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The incredible rise and fall of a German rabbi

March 23, 2008

Netanel Teitelbaum served eight years as the rabbi of Cologne’s Jewish community before he stepped down last week among mysterious circumstances.

Teitelbaum, of Haifa, Israel, was almost like a superstar among Germany’s rabbis. His resume included historic visits by the pope (read Teitelbaum’s speech here), both Israeli chief rabbis and many other dignitaries from all areas of society. He was one of the higher-ups in the ORD, the German equivalent of the Orthodox Union, and even had plans to build a bigger mikveh for Cologne.

Then, all of a sudden, a few days before Purim, rumors started spreading among Cologne’s Jews that Rabbi Teitelbaum would leave the community. Some were skeptic: how can somebody leave such a dream job behind? (Rabbis make a lot of money in Germany. While there are no official numbers, it is estimated that the monthly salary is about €10,000, which is more than $15,000).

Within days, the rumors were substantiated and community officials confirmed that Rabbi Teitelbaum would leave the community for good to return to Israel.

One of reasons for this completely surprising development had to do with the rabbi’s health, the officials declared, without further explaining. Secondly, they said, the rabbi’s oldest daughter had reached high school age and therefore needs to return to Israel immediately for the lack of Jewish schools in Cologne. Of course hardly anybody believed the official version – why would a rabbi with such a stellar career throw everything away? Neither the quoted “health reasons” nor his daughter’s education seem to be plausible explanations for a successful and popular rabbi to abandon his community in the middle of the school year and days before Purim and weeks before Passover. (While usually the rabbi’s job, Megillat Esther was this year read by somebody who came especially for this task from Frankfurt.)

There are, of course, countless rumors about the real reasons for Rabbi Teitelbaum’s mysterious harum-scarum departure, ranging from the naive to the slanderous. Ashkenews will not propagate any rumors, but we are indeed wondering what really happened. One thing is certain: this past week saw the abrupt end of a promising career and proves once again that German Jewry’s often quoted renaissance needs to be regarded with a healthy dose of skepticism.