Star of David
German original ‘Das Kreuz im Davidstern’ published in Vienna,
I N R I
The Jewish-Christian church is the will of all Jews who believe in Christ
In July 1935 my article "Jewish Christians in the Holy Land" was printed by European Publishers in Vienna/Leipzig. In January-February 1937 I myself published "The Jewish Christian Church" and "The Cross in the Star of David". The publication presented here is the second, combined and shortened edition of these 3 articles.
My first article, "Jewish Christians in the Holy Land", was written to draw the world's attention to the predicament of the Jewish Christians and to establish a Jewish Christian colony in Palestina - the sole possibility for constructive aid. In this context, the article had to serve as the major part of a discussion with Sir Leon Levison, president of the International Jewish Christian Alliance. Sir Leon Levison passed away recently. Thus all the chapters of the present work which refer to him have been deleted from the new edition.
My publications and lectures serve a growing international circle of friends which will create the Jewish Christian colony in Palestine.
I wish to thank all the friends who have supported this work in manifold ways!
Vienna , Easter 1937 the author
This text is the beginning of a work dedicated to the Jewish-Christian church of the future.
In my younger years I already began studying Jewish and Christian mysticism, as well as the intellectual trends of the time. I came to the conclusion that Jesus of Nazareth is an incarnation of the Godhead, the "son of God". This Christian faith did not lead me away from Judaism, but only deeper into it. It opened to me the unique meaning of the Jewish people for mankind's salvation history. Jesus, the Messiah of the world - the National King of the Jews!
I traveled many paths of life and faith, of politics and spirit. They were necessary in order to gain experience and to teach me to recognize what was questionable. Much vanished as irrelevant appearances and many things seemed important, but only one thing totally fascinated me: Jewish Christianity.
If the Bible is based on truth and if Jesus is the Messiah and king of the Jews, then the Jewish-Christian movement is the most important phenomenon of our time - the distinguishing feature indicating that the world has come to a turning point.
That, I do believe.
The Jews are a people. The Jews are Jews not because they believe Jewish things but because they descend from Jews. Their belief, their Weltanschauung (T.N. "the comprehensive framework of one's basic beliefs about things") does not change the fact of their being part of the Jewish people. A Jew can be "Mosaic", but he can just as well be a Christian, Buddhist, Moslem or Marxist, atheist and ‘godless.’ No matter what faith or lack of faith he confesses, he does not cease to be a Jew. A Jew can change his faith, his Weltanschauung and also his citizenship, but not his people. I am and remain a Jew because I was born a Jew – inalterably, whether I like it or not.
I dedicate this paper to my people. I want to tell them that we Jewish Christians neither desert nor betray this people. We stand by them faithfully in all distress and danger.
We love the Jewish people and will never tire of wooing their trust. With this paper I want to tell the Jews that we identify ourselves with them and ask them to identify themselves with us as well.
I saw Jews being baptized - in order to marry a Christian, to receive a position, to further their career, to enter noble society, to rid themselves of the "shame" of being a Jew.
Jewish Christians? No, only Jews who can play with what is most holy.
Jewish Christians are persons with an honest faith. Children of the nation of confessors, the prophets and apostles. Homeless for the sake of their faith.
Consistent Jewish Christianity is often rejected by both sides - Jews as well as Christians. But that doesn’t mean anything, for Jewish Christianity is the future Jewish faith. Today, however, Jewish Christians are homeless.
Home for the Homeless, may that be what the Jewish Christian Church is in reality.
Unfortunately, polemic books and confessions can be written only in the most personal form. One may not adopt a pseudonym nor write "he" instead of "I". The reader wants to know who the author is, where he comes from and where he is going.
Therefore one must write about one's own life, even if it is as insignificant as mine.
I can remember back to my fourth year of life, in Jekaterinoslav in the Ukraine. I know that our maid took me to the Russian church and that I could not make the sign of the cross enough. I loved the church greatly, but the synagogue no less. Once when I went missing from home, my father searched for me in the nearby synagogue and the maid in the church.
My affinity for the church was put to an end by the pogroms in 1905. I remember, as if it had been yesterday, that we left our house and hid in a cellar. I was five years old at the time. Through some hole I could see onto the street. The flashes from pistol shots buried themselves deep in my soul.
A short time later I fell ill. When a Russian military physician, a Jew, came to my bed I noticed a cross on his uniform. This sign, which I had passionately loved previously, threw me into a rage. I tried to beat the doctor and screamed until he left the room.
Several weeks after the pogrom my parents left Russia and immigrated to Germany. During my first years at school I had much to suffer from anti-semitic teachers, whom I despised. I placed them on the same level as the Russian hooligans.
My aversion to Christians, which received constant nourishment from these events, was alleviated one day when the works of Leo Tolstoy fell into my hands. Tolstoy showed me a Christianity I had not held possible. I had thought that Christians learned from Jesus to murder Jews and torment Jewish children at school. But in Tolstoy's books I read that Jesus taught boundless love. In order to learn the true teaching of Christ I bought a New Testament and began reading the Gospel of Matthew. I did not understand the first chapters and looked gloomily at the Bible's tiny letters. But hardly had I begun reading the fifth chapter, the Sermon on the Mount, when my heart opened and gave itself unconditionally to the master of Nazareth.
From that hour I allowed no one to say a word against Jesus. I constantly carried the New Testament with me and proved with its words that Jesus was no enemy of the Jews, but had preached only love.
Once I asked a rabbi to whom I was very devoted, why the Jews were against Jesus. He replied, "We actually have nothing against Jesus. He said and did some things which he should not have. He is not the Messiah, but basically he was a good Jew. The confusion only came with Paul. It was he who caused the whole trouble. "
This information quieted my conscience. Under these circumstances I could continue to be an Orthodox Jew, participate in all the Jewish customs, and still love Jesus. In my heart was only the Sermon on the Mount; I was a disciple of Tolstoy. I did not comprehend the messianity of Jesus, nor did this interest me. And I wanted nothing to do with Paul, who brought such confusion.
Until my 19th year I lived only for music. After a grave illness I changed my mind. I put away my violin, left the conservatory and turned to the study of philosophy and of religious and national Jewish problems. My parents now hoped I would become a rabbi and were thus very content with my change. I joined Jewish organizations, where I quickly advanced and became part of the leadership.
Until the year 1924 I was active in Jewish politics. My marriage to an Arian Christian woman put my career in Judaism to an end. The problems this marriage brought me in my parental home and in Jewish society caused me to resign completely .
With a heavy heart I left Jewish circles and took over the editorship of a small German daily newspaper, whose unpolitical supervision was promised me. Six years later I was editing the paper to the satisfaction of everyone except the National Socialists, whose articles I regularly threw in the waste basket. But by the end of 1930 the Nazis were stronger than I and forced my dismission.
This brought to a close the quietest period of my life. I entered "high politics" - in storm and horror .
I had always been a religious socialist. Shortly after becoming a free-lance author I received an invitation to speak at a meeting of the "Reichsbanner" (T.N. the semi-military organization of the Social-Democrats) . The auditorium was overflowing. The opposition - Nazis and Communists - were present in large numbers. When I came to the podium - before I had said a word - some people in the audience began a loud discussion . The intention was plain and soon beer glasses were flying, chairs were crashing, tables banging and window panes rattling. The presiding committee disappeared behind the stage and I remained alone, looking down on the chaotic activity in the auditorium. After a few minutes the battle was decided, the Nazis fled, Social Democrats and Communists shook hands, celebrated the united front, brought new chairs and sat down at the tables to listen to my speech. Less because of my lecture than because of the victorious auditorium battle, at which I was perfectly innocent , the press gave extensive coverage to the event. I became famous the very next day and the most sought-after speaker in the region.
Thus my career as a political speaker began. Almost every evening I addressed small and big meetings often before thousands of people.
The German Republic was moving in giant strides toward the abyss. On one side was the might of the state and a proletariat determined to battle for the Republic, on the other side the stormy power of the young National Socialist movement and the unshakable faith of its leader. I compared Hitler with the other party leaders …it was not difficult to see who would ultimately come out on the short end. Faith is the victory, whether it is a matter of religious, political or economic questions, whether in a good cause or a bad one . Faith moves mountains - in whatever sphere. And now there was only one party leader in Germany - Hitler, who had a fanatic faith. He was consciously and openly rooted in mysticism and counted on the supernatural. Such powers always attain their goal.
In the whole wide German Reich I knew only one politician with a great, deep faith and an utmost kindly heart: Pastor Erwin Eckert in Mannheim, leader of the Union of Religious Socialists. He was one of those Christian clergymen who cannot preach if they see people who are hungry, but first seek ways and means to feed them. His life was a battle. He was a thorn in the eyes of the church administration. One church disciplinary process after another was brought against him, but he never allowed himself to be intimidated. He repeatedly put position, dignity and salary at stake until he actually lost everything.
During the turmoil just preceding the final collapse of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), leading to the split in the party and the founding of the Socialist Workers Party (SAP), all the religious socialists and I kept looking to Eckert for guidance . We could no longer remain in the SDP, but where should we go? To the SAP?
Then came the decision of Eckert which hit us like a clap of thunder: He joined the Communist Party! The KPD which had always demanded from its members enmity toward the church had capitulated before Eckert and accepted him not only as a committed Christian, but also as a minister of the Evangelical church! (Eckert was removed from office only after he joined the KPD.)
For some time following this I walked around stunned. Could this step of Eckert's be right and God's will? Then it occurred to me that perhaps through Eckert, this pioneer of the intellect, a channel of faith would be opened to the godless world of Communism. This would be one of the greatest intellectual deeds which one could imagine. After the deepest inner conflict I - along with thousands of other religious socialists - followed the leader.
Several weeks later I was in Moscow, then in August 1932 in Amsterdam for the peace conference under Henri Barbuss. In Amsterdam I saw Erwin Eckert again. We spoke together briefly. I told him that I could create a union of religious Communists in the Rhine Valley and asked him to be its leader . He refused.
My work seemed increasingly difficult. I longed for release. Then Hitler became Chancellor of the Reich .
Once again I plunged into the political battle. Then, following the Reichstag fire, parties and assemblies were forbidden and the Nazis began taking revenge on their enemies.
The functionaries of the losing parties fled or hid. I remained in my apartment, dedicating myself to the study of intellectual questions and waiting for my possible arrest. I had experienced so many miracles, perhaps God would protect me this time as well...One week after another passed and I began a major literary work...
On Holy Saturday 1933 I was arrested.
Does life continue after death? Apparently I pestered my parents with this question even as a child. Also later on it constantly came back into my mind and made me look for people who pondered about problems of this kind. The rabbis had no answer, i.e. they answered but in a way which could not satisfy me. When I was 18 I met a Hungarian cabbalist. He was happy to have found a believing pupil. He read to me from cabbalistic writings, translated and explained and finally recommended that I fast until an angel appeared and revealed everything to me.
During that period I also read Martin Buber and Christian mystics. One day I found myself in a select Christian group. Two well educated and deeply believing persons, an author and a ministerial director influenced me decisively. They believed that Jesus is God's son. We conversed on the intellectual basis of mysticism. I could not resist long:
Jesus was not only a prophet, a good person, the best. He was spirit of God's spirit, he was God's son. His conception was supernatural and his death at Golgatha was no normal death, but the ransom for the world's Satanic bonds , the salvation of mankind from spiritual ruin. And the bread and the wine of Communion isChrist's blood and Christ's body...
Inconceivable for the mind bound to this world, clear and logical for those open to the spiritual, the hereafter.
However, I did not give in immediately. I didn't want to admit that the Jews, the most astute of all peoples, were wrong at this point. But in the depths of my soul I was overcome from the beginning and happy to be overcome. I loved Jesus too much that I could have long resisted recognizing him as the Messiah. The Jewish will inside me was the last barricade. It broke down when my friends called to me, "Who do we proclaim to you? A Teuton? No! Jesus, the king of the Jews is who we proclaim to you, the Jew. We Germans bend our knees before a Jew!"
Jesus, or king of the Jews? The Jews his people? That was actually new to me. Neither the rabbi's words that Jesus was a good Jew nor the New Testament reports from Jerusalem had been able to completely lift the veil. My Christianity had thus far been a tolstoian experience, now it became a Jewish one... The perspective of the millenia had caused me to overlook what was right at hand. Scales fell from my eyes. Now I saw Jesus inwardly and outwardly - the master of love, the lord of grace, the Redeemer of he world, the son of God and --- the king of the Jews!
The one in everything and everything in the one: the king of the Jews.
JESUS NAZARENUS REX JUDAEORUM.
The inscription on the cross!
With this faith, I could surely have become a good son of the church. That I did not was due to the fact that I met some pastors who were enthusiastic about the war. I often asked them how one could reconcile the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount with the blessing of canons? Finally I differentiated between Jewish and non-Jewish Christianity and began hoping for a Jewish church that would come into existence . The Jewish people is a people of peace. It is no coincidence that Jews participated so actively in all the movements which serve peace and social justice in the world. This characteristic of the Jews will contribute to the foundation of the true church.
I preached Jesus wherever I could. The Jewish Jesus, the lord of peace, of grace, of mercy. In my political speeches I also quoted the Bible and was soon nicknamed "pastor".
In the storms of political life I often sank in a spiritual chaos. But faith in Jesus always brought me out again and the words of the Gospel strengthened my mild soul. I knew I was borne and protected by the powers of that world. I was unshakeably convinced that God would not allow me to be sacrificed, but would carry out his will with me.
With this faith I entered prison.
Under the circumstances, I had to reckon with death after my arrest. This idea could not especially upset me, since I believed that life continues after death. I was only sorry for my family. I looked at the prison door and thought, it was impossible to open it, but God can open it if he wants to...
After 8 days it was opened. I was led to a higher prison administrator. On his desk were my documents and some of my writings .
The clerk asked, "Can you promise to give up all political activity?"
I had long distanced myself inwardly from politics and the parties.
"Yes," I replied.
My life is full of miracles but this was the greatest. I believe it was also the greatest miracle in the history of the Hitler revolution. I had asked myself why God allowed me to be imprisoned. Now I knew. I had to recognize the greatness of his mercy and his wonders. It would also have been grace and a miracle if the police had never even found me - but the greatest miracle and the greatest mercy was to have been imprisoned and saved, died and resurrected.
I had heard the Easter bells in prison...
Several days later I was in Paris. My political friends soon found me and showed me the path to work and bread. I had been expected... But in my spirit I saw my signature under the promise to give up political activity... And I knew that this was an agreement with God and the end of a path in my life . And I said, "No!"
The destruction of all fortresses, the loss of all bridges, being suspended between heaven and earth open one’s eyes and transform one’s heart. One becomes a new person. One comprehends what life is...
But in all the misery and despair one gains a certain height and looks down on people in secure positions . What do they know about life? And then a strange question comes to mind: Should I, the one who has been uprooted, envy or pity the secure? An ultimate test...And here faith alone decides. If I believe in the meaning of life, in guidance, in the all-loving and all-wise God, then I know that there can be nothing more wonderful than the Israelites marching into the dividing sea; nothing more wonderful than Peter's walk on the water, than Elijah's wait ing for the ravens, than counting solely on miracles, on daily contemplation of God's countenance, on the path of faith.
Whoever has once taken this path has experienced the blessedness of heaven's kingdom. He would not exchange it for those earthly goods which may allow for a quiet life but which hinder the spirit's development. It is mercy when we are uprooted and thrown onto the back roads of life. That is where the battle with fate's powers begins, the battle with the angel of the Lord. And no one leaves that place without having received the blessing...
But the path of faith is not only the most glorious , it is also the most bitter. For in this world two rule: light and darkness, the savior's love and Satan's hatred. And even if we seek only the one, we will be found by both.
What were the outward storms of my old life compared with the inner storms of the new one? What was the limelight of the political stage against the floodlight of hell?
It was not easy to take the path of faith in the old world. Every step on its thorny road bore my thoughts quickly over the sea to the land "where the slender cedar kisses the cloud..."; to the people which is my people and remained so even in the furthest reaches of an alien spirit ; to the language my heart speaks, to the songs my soul sings, to the blood whose circulation I feel, to the understanding which is my understanding, to my fatherland for whom I - the homeless one - long: Palestine, the holy land!
Palestine was the star whose light poured into the nights of my path of faith, Palestine was the thought which never lost its clarity during doubts and discouragements. Faith in Jesus - Jewish Christianity - Palestine. This triad was the basic accord of my soul and only in this triad was I able to think.
. I knew I would come to Palestine. The only thing I didn't know was how. But why did I need to know that? Wasn't God guiding me? When in His wisdom and will the time would have come....
And when the time had come, it was on December 31, 1934, I received as a New Year's gift the - trip to Palestine.
Another miracle - a signpost in the faith.
I obtained a visa and booked a place on the next ship to Palestine. On January 9, 1935, I boarded the steamer " Jerusalem" in Triest.
WHAT IS JEWISH CHRISTIANITY?
Europe disappeared behind the mountains of the last islands. Every moment brought the promised land closer. On the ship the spirit of Palestine was already noticeable. Many were speaking Hebrew and telling about Palestine.
Several times I conversed with an architect of German origin who was living in Haifa. Since I bear the marks of the Jewish people more in my heart than in my countenance, he took me for an Aryan and asked whether I was a Christian.
"A Jewish Christian," I replied.
"A Jewish Christian? What's that?"
"A Jew who believes in Jesus."
"Then you're a Christian."
"A Jewish Christian."
"First of all because there are English, German and Russian Christians and second because I assume from your question that you make a difference between Jews and Christians. If you had asked me whether I'm a German, I would have said simply 'no', because I'm not a German but a Jew. Here there is actually a national difference. But if you make a difference between Jews and Christians, the way I understand things I cannot accept a radical division and must answer as my conscience demands."
"Do you see no religious difference?"
"I see a difference in confession but not in spirit. Judaism is today clear in a positive way only in one point, which is the national. Here the eternal truth has been perfectly preserved. This knowledge leads me to the specific Jewish duty: to remain true to the Jewish people, striving toward it and helping it attain its godly appointed goals. What are these goals? I see them revealed through the movement which broke forth from the depths of the Jewish people's soul: Zionism. Theodor Herzl was the great signpost of the Jewish people, sent by God in this phase of our national destiny. This phase is the return of the Jewish people to the land of its fathers, building up the holy land; the return of Jews to nature; and recuperation of body and soul of the Jewish people, which was crippled and ill due to the physical and psychological blows during millenia of exile. To be a Zionist in this sense is the Jewish duty, which I acknowledge joyfully and happily . That is my Judaism."
"My Christianity is also a Jewish duty. For the New Testament belongs to the Old, it is one. Jesus is a Jew, our spiritual king, the fulfillment of the Jewish law of destiny, the salvation of the Jewish spirit. The revelation of world history begins with Moses' words, "In the beginning God created" and ends with the "Amen" of John's Revelation, "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all!" These words end the Jewish Bible, God's gift of grace to his chosen people, the gift of our people to mankind. Let us not tear the first and the second apart, for thus we separate the soul from the body and we need both..."
"Then that is the Jewish Christianity..."
"I don't want to say the Jewish Christianity (although there is far more to say on the topic) but only my Jewish Christianity. Perhaps the thoughts of eternity and truth are reflected in the souls of other Jewish Christians in a different way. If one day the whole Jewish people, or a large part of it, has received these thoughts and given them certain forms in the Jewish-national life, we will know what the Jewish Christianity is. Until then, individual Jewish Christians can speak only in their own names. I am certain that God will soon send us new prophets and apostles, the spirit of truth who will lead us into all truth."
"Are there many who think in this way?"
"I don't know but I think so, for what I say flows from my Jewish thinking. And what is Jewish in me I share with my people. If I think in this way, there are certainly many Jews like this. A Jew is never alone..."
I looked at the waves... Should I disembark early tomorrow in Jaffa or continue to Haifa? To whom should I turn? I was looking for Jewish Christians...but where were they?
It was not the first time in my life that I couldn't see the path. But I had always looked up and always found it. So this time I also looked up to the starry sky...
I was slowly descending the stairs to the cabins when I saw a Christian sister in a habit. She had Bibles in her hand and was speaking to a Jew. I stopped and waited.
I knew that I would now receive directions.
The sister turned, saw me and approached me. "Do you want a Bible?" she asked in a friendly way. "Thank you, sister, I already have one."
"I'm a Jewish Christian."
She was so happy!
"Where are you disembarking?" Sister Esther from Finland asked during the course of the conversation we continued on the deck.
"Where are you going when you're there?"
"I don't know. I am looking for Jewish Christians."
"Well, then you must come to Haifa with me. The center is there!"
I had my directions!
The morning after my arrival in Haifa, the first person who gave me his hand in greeting was Ben Meier, secretary of the Jewish Christian Alliance of Palestine!