By Benjamin Schuman-Stoler
Just when we thought the diverse Jewish spectrum of beliefs could prepare us for anything, the Mormons have out-weirded us.
The Church of Latter Day Saints has a ritual that baptizes dead ancestors so families can meet in the afterlife. The problem is that an independent researcher discovered that the database of names the Mormons use includes names of Italian, Polish, Dutch, and Greek Jews who died in the Holocaust.
“Hey,” you might think, “what’s the big deal? Let them do what they do.” Well, it’s not that simple.
Jews aren’t exactly thrilled with the idea of afterlife baptisms. AP (via CNN) says, “In 1995, Mormons and Jews inked an agreement to limit the circumstances that allow for the proxy baptisms of Holocaust victims.” And at least one organization cries foul:
Ernest Michel, honorary chairman of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors, said that is not enough. At a news conference in New York City on Monday, he said the church also must “implement a mechanism to undo what you have done.”
“Baptism of a Jewish Holocaust victim and then merely removing that name from the database is just not acceptable,” said Michel, whose parents died at Auschwitz. He spoke on the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Nazi-incited riots against Jews.
“We ask you to respect us and our Judaism just as we respect your religion,” Michel said in a statement released ahead of the news conference. “We ask you to leave our six million Jews, all victims of the Holocaust, alone, they suffered enough.
Michel said talks with Mormon leaders, held as recently as last week, have ended. He said his group will not sue, and that “the only thing left, therefore, is to turn to the court of public opinion.”
“They tell me, that my parents’ Jewishness has not been altered but … 100 years from now, how will they be able to guarantee that my mother and father of blessed memory who lived as Jews and were slaughtered by Hitler for no other reason than they were Jews, will someday not be identified as Mormon victims of the Holocaust?” Michel said Monday.
“We don’t think any faith group has the right to ask another to change its doctrines,” Wickman said. “If our work for the dead is properly understood … it should not be a source of friction to anyone. It’s merely a freewill offering.” …
Wickman said the practice in no way impinges upon a person’s “Jewishness, or their ethnicity, or their background.”
Photo by paprutzi.