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Letters

EDITH STEIN REMEMBERED

I read with great interest Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer’s article on Edith Stein, the German Jewish woman who became a nun [Winter 1991]. Border crossers are frequently treated with interest and curiosity, and it may be important to realize that people cross the border in both directions. I was a Catholic nun for ten years and am now working hard in preparation for my conversion.

Also, it may be helpful for Rabbi Fuchs-Kreimer to know some of the history of the Carmelite order. Their foundation was shrouded in mystery, and they see themselves somehow connected with Elias and the Mt. Carmel of Israel. Their second founder and greatest of their mystics, Theresa of Avila, came from a family of conversos in Spain, and her mysticism is regarded by some scholars as pure Kaballah. Her confessor, John of the Cross, was also from a family of conversos. There are many other instances of strange connections between the Carmelites and the House of Israel. At this time there are Carmelite nuns who are seeking to learn Hebrew so that they can pray the Psalms in the language of David.

I applaud Rabbi Fuchs-Kreimer for wishing to learn from Edith Stein rather than dismissing her out of hand. Rabbi Fuchs-Kreimer’s perspective is one of great breadth, and I wish that I had the opportunity to study with her. However, when she says that Stein “found her bread elsewhere’,’ perhaps it was only the outer wrapping and perhaps it was indeed the influence of Kaballah in the life of the Carmelites that made Stein such a profound mystic.

by Ellen Saxby Monterey CA

I am one of the nieces of Sister Edith Stein — the youngest child of her brother Arno — and I want to thank Rabbi Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer for her article, “Sister Edith Stein: A Rabbi Reacts!’ It clarified the picture of my Aunt Edith and gave a new dimension on her life. I would also like to add some [details] which may help in the understanding of this brilliant woman.

I was one of the relatives who attended the beatification in Cologne on May 1, 1987 and had ambivalent feelings about the ceremony itself and what it means to the family, us as Jews. Most of us have struggled with the question of why Edith did not find the satisfaction in Judaism that she found as a Catholic.

Some of us believe that she really knew very little about Jewish philosophy and theology. When she was a child in the 1890’s it was not customary for girls to study Judaism as boys did. The girls received their Jewish education at home: how to celebrate the holidays and keep a Jewish home. Additionally, it was Edith’s misfortune that her father died while she was less than two years old. This meant that her mother spent long days at their lumberyard in order to support her large family; this probably gave Edith even less chance of learning about Judaism. She was raised primarily by older siblings.

by Charlotte Stein Sachs Atlanta GA

MY GRANDMOTHER’S DEATH

Toby Fluek’s beautiful artwork [“Memories of My Life in a Polish Village;’ Winter 1991] made me think of my grandmother. During an ordinary phone call from my mother last night, I said something like, “It’s not as if you know what really happened to your mother” and she said, simply, “Well, I actually do!’

Thus, my 30-year fantasy about my grandmother escaping was destroyed. I had always imagined her slipping into the countryside and being hidden by sympathetic peasants until the end of the war. My grandmother would have tried for years to locate my mother until she eventually had lost hope. Or, perhaps she had found her way to Israel and had started a new life. As a teenager traveling in Israel, I would often find myself staring at the faces of passersby hoping to see someone who looked like my mother.

If someone made a casual remark (“Your mother resembles so and so”), I imagined that had to be family who by some amazing coincidence had been living in a neighboring town for the past 50 years and we had just never known!

Because last night my mother told me that she knew what had happened to her mother. This past year — 50 years after the Holocaust — two cousins had again tried to research the fate of my grandmother. This time they were “lucky”; this time they had found her name. It was listed along with her youngest daughter, Dina, among those murdered at Auschwitz. My grandmother was 22 years old, my “aunt” barely two.

I have always dreamt of reuniting my mother with her family and healing whatever had been broken in her heart. I will need a new dream. For although I have known she was dead my whole life … my grandmother died last night

by Debra Feldman  Louisville KY

ABORTION: NOT A POLITICAL ISSUE

Seems to me, the anti-abortion crusade is a religious and not a secular issue. [See “The Anti-Choice Movement: Bad News For Jews|’ Summer 1990.] It’s been thrust into the political arena, but doesn’t belong there.

Ours is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious society with many different views on abortion. For anti-abortionists to resort to violence, bombings, arson, threats and political intrigue to force their ideas on the opposition is a disgrace. If they feel so self-righteous, why not come out in the open, in the public forum, and debate the issues on the merits.

by Nathan P. Baker Lauderdale Lakes FL