Last month, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Kratz, the shamash of 770, and Rabbi Yehuda Pevzner, the director of Mitzvah Tank NYC, parked their tank at a busy street corner in Lower Manhattan for the day, Chabad.info reported.
When an elderly priest approached them, they relaxed from their misson of kiruv for a moment and began joking around with him.
“The truth is that when we asked him if he was Jewish, it was a joke. Why would we ask a priest, dressed in long flowing white robes, with a huge cross dangling across his chest, if he was Jewish?” said Rabbi Kratz.
The priest’s answer was shocking. “Yes, I’m Jewish.”
“What do you mean? Was your mother Jewish?”
He answered: “My parents were both Jews.”
The priest explained that his parents has entrusted him to the church during the Holocaust. He was badly bullied by the other boys and when he complained to his teacher (who himself was a Jewish-born priest!), he told him that as a Jew he’ll always be persecuted…until he becomes a priest. He began studying to be a priest and served in a church in Europe until he moved to New York 15 years ago.
“Why don’t you come to synagogue?” Rabbi Kratz asked the man.
“Is a priest allowed to come?” he asked.
“I work for the Lubavitcher central synagogue in Crown Heights, and I invite you to come.”
“I talked to him about speaking to people about the Holocaust. He demurred, saying that we have to pray that it will never happen again. I encouraged him to speak to the young people about it, thus ensuring that it won’t happen again,” Rabbi Kratz said.
The elderly Jew promised to stay in touch before leaving and said he would try to visit 770. “Make sure to prepare some gefilte fish and kugel for me,” he told them. “Or at least some chopped liver.”
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)