Published online by Cambridge University Press: 23 November 2019
This is an unusual book—perhaps as unusual as the fate of its author. A child, or as he himself put it, ‘an infant’ of the Holocaust, born in the ghetto, is offered to a Christian woman with the words: ‘You are a believing person, a Christian … and he [Jesus] was a Jew. So save this Jewish infant on behalf of that Jew, in whom you believe. When this baby is grown up, you will see, he will become a priest; he will teach people …’. The child, surrounded by the enormous love of his Polish foster parents, grows up unaware of his origin, his conscience pricked by momentary doubts about overheard antisemitic remarks. During his teenage years he is asked what he may eventually become, and a surprising answer escapes his lips: ‘A priest!’ He has no idea at the time why he has said it. Upon graduation, he enters a theological seminary, and, as he observes, in some way ends up keeping his word. After six years of study he is ordained to the priesthood. While still in the seminary, he experiences a divine prodding to deepen his faith, and begins to dream about being a Jew in order to come even closer to Christ. Finally, in the thirty-fifth year of his life, he hears from the woman he believed was his mother that his real parents were Jewish. Eleven years later, in 1989, he learns of the existence of an uncle and an aunt, the brother and sister of his Jewish father. In 1992 he takes a double name to honour his parents as well as his foster parents. From then on, as prophesied, he ‘teaches people’, from the perspective of his own life experience, about Christ's love for the Jews and about the need for Christians also to love the Jews. A prophecy, possibly made to enhance the mother's persuasiveness, is fulfilled.
The book itself, Weksler-Waszkinel's first, is a collection of texts published from 1992, the year he achieved ‘full integration’ of his past with his new-found Jewish heritage. The texts differ in character according to the aims for which they were written: there are cultural essays and short treatises on post-Auschwitz theology, reports from historical-theological conferences, transcripts of radio and university interviews, and the response to a questionnaire from a religious magazine as well as personal memoirs.
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