Wednesday, 21 March 2007

For God’s sake!

Did you know that you don’t have to be a Christian to say a prayer talking about ‘crosses’ and ‘churches’? No, neither did I. And did you know that suggesting that Jews might not be comfortable saying such a prayer is being as intolerant as the worst fundamentalist? No, neither did I.

‘Crosses’ and ‘churches’ are Christian symbols – exclusively. They have no place in Jewish religious rituals (I can only speak as Jew in this instance). Many Jews would find mentioning those words in a prayer abhorrent. How could they forget that thousands of other Jews were murdered in the name of the Church, by hordes of devout Christian brandishing crosses? The Christian religion is not universal (it might have wanted to be, once upon a time, but it didn’t manage it, quite). There are prayers that mention god without being so specific; those are fine.

During the war, trying to escape from the Gestapo in la France profonde, my mother was hired as a companion by an old woman, who had portraits of Hitler and Pétain above her bed (could there be a safer place to take refuge in?). Every night, on her knee, the woman prayed God for them. My mother was trying to ‘pass’ as a Christian: she had dyed her hair blonde; she wore a cross and went to church. She was forced to: her life was at stake. She played that difficult role for a few months, until the woman, who was very kind to her and completely unaware of her real identity, gave her away – unwittingly – to a member of the French milice. Luckily, my mother had heard them talking and she left at the earliest opportunity.

I am not a religious Jew, but I would only consider wearing a cross if my life depended on it. As for churches, I like visiting them, for their beauty, their architecture, their art, and I have attended the odd wedding/funeral in them, but I would not worship there.

I don’t care what you believe; just don’t impose your beliefs or your religious symbols on me. And don’t accuse me of intolerance when I object to your trying to do so.


  1. J, everytime you write about your family I find myself fascinated and wanting to know more. These verbal snapshots of them through your blog posts give glimpses to very rich personalities and interesting stories, even during the worst period of our era. Not that you have time (ha, I know right?) but they seem eminently worthy of a book about them. They sound like such resourceful, strong people, and it's hard not to wish to get to know them better through your words. Have you ever considered writing up a memoir about your family? (This is a silly question is n't it - I somehow can hear you laughing about the inordinante amount of time that would involve from across the ocean and through my computer screen.)

  2. Thanks, K. my parents did have 'interesting' lives ('interesting' as in the Chinese curse, 'May you live in interesting times') but so did their friends and an awful lot of other people. My father always intended to record his memories of his youth in Russia,etc., but he never got around to doing it, unfortunately. It's not the lack of time that would stop me: he and my mother told me lots of stories (it used to drive me nuts when I was younger - obviously, LOL!) but I never looked into the chronology very carefully so I'm a bit vague about what happened when - and there's no one left to confirm anything now.

    As for their personalities, they were certainly resourceful, but also difficult because damaged by those terrible experiences.

  3. Absolutely right, Bela!

    We're having issues at work with the "you do this" and "we do that" attitude from certain influential members of staff. Assuming every child is muslim (which they're not even) and behaves in an identical fashion and all the staff are christian, and are likewise the same.

    Hello?!! Such horrible assumptions and the reinforcing of dangerous stereotypes, is what I see. What I find is that the average christian type doesn't come close to noticing how their viewpoint is enforced as the norm. I, however, do. And then moan about it to no end under my breath.

    Changing the world, that's me, one whinge at a time.


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