There are a few people who deserve the the award of Honorary Jew. Do you know who this first one is?
Grandson of slaves, a boy was born in a poor neighborhood of New Orleans, known as the “Back of Town”.
His father abandoned the family when the child was an infant. His mother became a prostitute and the boy and his sister had to live with their grandmother. Early in life, he proved to be gifted for music and, with three other kids, he sang in the streets of New Orleans and his first gains were the coins that were thrown to them.
A Jewish family, Karnovsky, who had immigrated from Lithuania to the USA, had pity for the 7-year-old boy and brought him into their home. Initially given ‘work’ in the House, to feed this hungry child. Then he remained and slept in this Jewish family where, for the first time in his life, he was treated with kindness and tenderness. When he went to bed, Mrs. Karnovsky sang him a Russian Lullaby that he would sing with her.
Later, he learned to sing and play several Russian and Jewish songs. Over time, this boy became the adopted son of this family. The Karnovskys gave him money to buy his first trumpet; as was the custom in the Jewish families, they sincerely admired his musical talent. Later, when he became a professional musician and composer, he used these Jewish melodies in compositions, such as St. James Infirmary and Go down, Moses.
The little black boy grew up and wrote a book about this Jewish family who had adopted him in 1907. In memory of this family and until the end of his life, he wore a Star of David and he said that it is in this family that he had learned “how to live real life and determination.”
The Jewish Side of Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong.
And here’s from Connie.
On Being Jewish Japanese
Call me JayJay – Japanese American and just about anything else. Greek, sometimes. Italian. Mexican. But, mostly Jewish. I am the perpetual Elijah at Passover time. I once showed off to an Israeli by reciting a boruha (prayer). She went into shock and shouted, “That’s a whole lot of seders!”
When my friend David heard I had a Jewish boyfriend, he decided to teach me to be even MORE Jewish by practicing “New?” until I could sound like a nice Jewish mother with perfect, guilt-tripping intonation saying, “So…nu?”
David also taught me about Jewish sword fighting which goes on at every Jewish table: “Here, taste this.” “Give me a bite of that.” “Try it. You’ll like it.” (Nudge-nudge.)
I even got use to our evening “J-watch” which is watching for anything Jewish (or in my case, Japanese) that, like an arrow in your eyeball, pops out at you from the newspaper.
Well, America is really much more of a melding pot than a melting pot anyway– where we take on each other’s cultures and keep the parts we like.
I must be part of the lost tribe – one that got REALLY lost.
So, do I not know who I am? No, there is no confusion in my mind. I am a Jay-Jay.
Jewish-Japanese…with a sometimes Skokie accent.
And one final person to highlight. This seemed like a fanciful tale, though satisfying. Connie did more research, and she too is satisfied that it’s a true story. His 2007 obituary in the NY Times corroborates it.
Aaron Lustiger was born on Sept. 17, 1926, in Paris, the first of two children of Charles, who ran a hosiery shop, and Gisèle Lustiger; his parents had met in Paris after moving to France from Poland around World War I. After the German occupation of France in 1940, Aaron was sent with his sister, Arlette, to live with a Catholic woman in Orléans, where the children were exposed to Catholicism and where Aaron, at 13, against the wishes of his parents, decided to convert. He was baptized in August 1940, adding the name Jean-Marie to Aaron. His sister was baptized later. In September 1942, their mother was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where she died in 1943; the father survived the war, returning to Paris, where he died in 1982.
After France was liberated, the future Cardinal studied literature at the Sorbonne before entering the seminary of the Carmelite fathers in Paris in 1946 and later the Institut Catholique de Paris, a training school for the clergy. He was ordained in 1954. His father watched the ceremony from a seat far in the back.
Cardinal Lustiger appeared to have undergone a spiritual crisis in the late 1970s, when he considered leaving France for Israel. “I had started to learn Hebrew, by myself, with cassettes,” he told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in 1981. “Does that seem absurd, making your aliyah?” he said, referring to a Jew’s return to Israel. “I thought then that I had finished what I had to do here, that I was at a crossroads.” Then, in a surprise appointment, he was made bishop of Orléans, the city where he had been baptized. There, he called attention to the plight of immigrant workers in the region. The pope appointed him archbishop of Paris in January 1981, and if the French clergy were surprised, the appointee felt burdened. “For me,” he told an interviewer, “this nomination was as if, all of a sudden, the crucifix began to wear a yellow star.”
In an early interview as archbishop, he said: “I was born Jewish, and so I remain, even if that is unacceptable for many. For me, the vocation of Israel is bringing light to the goyim. That is my hope, and I believe that Christianity is the means for achieving it.” Reactions to his appointment were sharp. A former chief rabbi of Paris, Meyer Jays, told an interviewer that “a Jew becoming a Christian does not take up authentic Judaism, but turns his back to it.”
In 1995, while he was visiting Israel, Yisrael Meir Lau, the Ashkenazic chief rabbi and a concentration camp survivor, said Cardinal Lustiger had “betrayed his people and his faith during the most difficult and darkest of periods” in the 1940s. The rabbi dismissed the assertion that the Cardinal had remained a Jew.
In response, the Cardinal said: “To say that I am no longer a Jew is like denying my father and mother, my grandfathers and grandmothers. I am as Jewish as all the other members of my family who were butchered in Auschwitz or in the other camps.” He stepped down as archbishop in 2005, but with the pope’s death that year, the Cardinal was frequently mentioned as a potential successor. He countered such speculation with characteristic humor.
Asked by a Jewish friend over dinner whether he thought he might become pope, the Cardinal responded in French-accented Yiddish, “From your mouth to God’s ear.”