Chabad Mitzvah Campaign Rouses Priest To His Jewish Roots After Over 80 Years

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NEW YORK (VINnews) — A mitzvah campaign by Chabad chasidim in Manhattan this week succeeded in arousing a priest to his Jewish roots after more than 80 years, according to a report by Matzav.

During a regular trip to Manhattan, Rabbi Yosef Kratz, caretaker of 770, and Rabbi Yehuda Pevzner who coordinates the Crown Heights Mitzva Tank parked the tank near Union Square and started asking passersby if they were Jewish and would like to perform a Mitzvah.

Seeing an elderly priest approaching, the two decided to ask him as a joke if he was Jewish.

“The truth is that when we asked him if he was Jewish, we were sort of joking. Why would we ask a priest, dressed in long flowing white robes, with a huge cross dangling across his chest, if he was Jewish?” Rabbi Kratz told Anash.org.

However the priest stunned them by replying in the affirmative.

“What do you mean? Was your mother Jewish?”

He answered, “Both my parents were Jews.”

It transpired that as a child the priest had been placed in a church to survive the Nazi onslaught and although his parents had perished, he survived in the church. Following the war, he began studying to be a priest, but despite affirming Christianity he suffered antisemitism from his peers. A teacher told him that a Jew will always be persecute until he becomes a successful pastor, a goal he eventually accomplished.

After a long career abroad, the priest moved to New York 15 years ago.

“Why don’t you come to synagogue?” Rabbi Kratz asked the man.

He wasn’t sure, “Is a priest allowed to come?”

“I work for the Lubavitcher central synagogue in Crown Heights, and I invite you to come.”

The priest asked for a business card, and said he would keep in touch. The two Lubavitch chasidim continued to speak with him about his past.

“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.

Before leaving, the elderly man, who until recently had no visible connection to Yiddishkeit, said he would stay in touch, and try to visit 770. “Make sure to prepare some gefilte fish and kugel for me,” he told them. “Or at least some chopped liver.” Apparently he had not forgotten the taste of Jewish food from his youth, but his soul also yearned for some connection to his Jewish roots.

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