A glimpse of light between

In the spirit of the approaching new year I am desperately searching for a spark of light between past and future.  For that purpose I am dedicating this post to the righteous among the gentiles of all ages.  There have been many, regretfully not enough, and I would like to focus on just a few.

In the depth of the Second World War as Hitler’s armies threatened all of Europe, the Bulgarian government placed its relationship with Nazi Germany above all other concerns and implemented anti-Semitic legislation in the winter of 1941.  Metropolitan Cyril of Plovdiv was one of many clerics, professionals and politicians who stood up and campaigned vigorously against the proposed legislation. He was a bright spot in the darkest of times. [1]

In the same timeframe, Dr. Mohammed Helmy, an Egyptian-born doctor living in Berlin, hid several Jewish friends and evaded the questions of the Nazis despite the fact that he himself was forced to give up his own practice in 1938 because he was not Aryan. The family of four that he helped at great peril to himself survived, emigrated to the US, and in the 1950’s wrote of their experiences to the German Senate. Those letters were recently discovered in the German archives, prompting Yad Vashem to recognize Dr. Helmy as one of the Righteous Among the Nations, its highest honor. The fact that Helmy’s family chose not to accept the award on his behalf does not diminish the brilliance of the light he shined into the darkness.

And in a hopeful sign for our own times, a Yemeni columnist recently denounced the custom of calling Jews “the descendants of apes and pigs.” In his column for Yemeni paper ‘Aden Al-Ghad’, Dr. Youssuf Al-Hadhiri explained that he was troubled to discover that this metaphor that many believe came from the lips of Mohammed himself, never appears in the Koran. “Whoever investigates the Prophet’s biography and the hadiths he uttered will not find a single mention of [the Jews] being the descendants of apes and pigs. We never heard these sayings [until] religion was mixed with politics and clerics became immersed in politics from head to toe.”

I hope that in the window between tomorrow and yesterday we can take the time to notice these sparks of light, and that there will be many more of them in the years to come.

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One thought on “A glimpse of light between

  1. Thank you Moshe, for this bittersweet post.

    My first time going through the Holocaust museum in D.C. was a roller coaster of emotions. One the one hand, I was astonished at the exhibits showing the abject cruelty of the supposedly “civilized,” mostly Lutheran, German’s. On the other hand, I was distraught at the film shown that traces antisemitism. I remember saying: “Oh no! There’re saying it’s the Christians fault?” Hadn’t they ever heard of Corrie Ten Boom? (A personal hero of mine).

    I thought they were crazy!

    I had no idea at the time. As a lifelong Protestant, I think we’re sort of hanging in mid-air. We know we’re not Catholic, and reject much of their doctrines, with many Protestants even claiming Catholics aren’t Christians! But we also don’t come straight out of the Apostolic teachings either. Protestant fuzziness on our origins, mixed with our “independence” from all things European, has created an American Protstant Christian populace totally devoid and detached of [almost] any knowledge of our religious history, and any sense of responsibility regarding past Christian anti-Semitism, or the Holocaust in general.

    Another set of emotions surfaced at the museum while viewing the testimony of Germans who said they only carried out their orders to starve, disfigure, torture, and annihilate Jews because if they didn’t, they would be killed. Some said they did it for their children. I realized that would never be my story, because I’d never be able to face my children and tell them that “we” survived because I’d been willing to torture and murder one, much less hundreds or thousands of innocent people.

    At the end of the museum tour I went to the bottom floor and looked up names of those who selflessly saved Jewish people. I found Corrie Ten Boom and family and was glad to see so many other –righteous Gentiles– listed too. It wasn’t until I cosidered the sheer number of Christian Gentiles to Jews that I realized how utterly pitiful the list is. 😦

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