Susanna Kokkonen
Speaker on Jewish-Christian relations; anti-Semitism; the Holocaust and persecution

A Cross and a Star of David

Over the years so many things in my life have become connected to the Holocaust. It is not just study or work but an understanding about the role the Holocaust still has in influencing the world around us. It is then extremely moving that a few days ago I received a very meaningful jewel – a work of art really- that will forever link me to two remarkable women. Their lives are connected with the Holocaust.

Sister Rose Thering, born 1920, was a nun of the Dominican Order. In attempting to build bridges between Jews and Christians, she researched Catholic traditions and understanding of Judaism. Her thoughts were connected with the 1965 Vatican Document Nostra Aetate, which to many was a revolutionary document, revolutionizing the Jewish-Catholic relationship. Sister Rose’s life was devoted to developing an understanding between the two brothers, the older and the younger.

Luna Kaufman was born in Poland in 1926. Alongside her mother she survived the concentrations camps, in summary the Holocaust, and after some twists and turns came to the United States. She had a wonderful professional career but also, just as importantly, she met Sister Rose. It could well be argued that Luna became her Jewish counterpart in building bridges. They did much work together until Sister Rose’s passing.

And myself, I entered this story in 2009 when Luna’s life-story in a book by the name Luna’s Life came out. I was the interviewer in related book launches and we became close friends. It was at that time that I was told about Sister Rose’s special necklace, a golden Star of David with a Cross inside. Luna wore -and still does- the same necklace.

I was recently in New York and with my friend Luna when she handed me a small gift box. As I opened it, a gasp escaped my lips. Inside the box was a golden brooch, a golden Star of David with a Cross inside. It was not just that it is purely beautiful. No. This symbol (these two elements together) presents the sum total of my whole Christian belief system, the Star of David and the Cross.

And it was not even just that. It is so much more because the jewel in fact represents a task; something to be accomplished in this world; something to be believed in and something to be shared with others. We, Jews and Christians, are to stand together in this age and time, where we need each other. The act of giving me this brooch -by a Holocaust survivor- represents trust. One special jeweler in NY makes these jewels and now I have it. It really is a special brooch because to wear it is such a big responsibility.

Am I worthy? Is our generation worthy? How are we going to talk about things we never witnessed? What is the meaning of witnessing when we have not see the things we talk about?

And, in prayer, I have a question but a different one: Am I worthy to wear this symbol, as a Christian? Will I be able to share the understanding communicated in silence by the brooch: where do I; where do we, as Christians come from?

About the Author
Dr. Susanna Kokkonen, originally from Finland, has lived in Israel for the past twenty years. She has a doctorate in Holocaust Studies and has pioneered Jewish-Christian relations including at Yad Vashem, as the Director of the Christian Friends of Yad Vashem. She travels around the world speaking about Israel; the Holocaust, anti-Semitism and current issues.
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