No, dear readers. This is not about our Benjamin, our disgraced prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
It is about another Benjamin, a magnificent Benjamin, a German non-Jewish Benjamin named Benjamin Strasser. His name is not familiar to most Israelis but it is a name to be honored and admired.
Benjamin Strasser, at age 32, is the youngest member of the German parliament, the Bundestag, in Berlin. In body he is a religious German Catholic but in spirit and soul he is a Jew. His life is remarkable for his achievements, his courage and his devotion to Israel and the Jewish people.
He and I have never met. He has never heard of my name. But when I first read about him I immediately wrote his name and sealed it in my book of friendships… a new friendship about to be born.
Herr Strasser has been a long-time friend of Israel and the Jewish people. He has visited in Israel several times and is amazed at the nature , the achievements and the conflicts within our country.
In one of his statements he remarked about the differences from one neighborhood to another in Jerusalem, describing the differences he saw one day between the ultra zealous orthodox Jews in Mea Sha’arim and a few streets away, the annual Gay Pride parade. Two completely different worlds in one city.
Recently he proposed a bill in the Bundestag to pass a law declaring the Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. His proposition was widely accepted by his fellow parliamentarians and was passed into German law. He is renowned for his dedication to and love for the State of Israel… der Judenstaat.
I read with amazement about his young life. Born in Berg and educated at the University of Konstanz, he became a freelance lawyer, entered German politics, moved to Berlin, and was elected to the Bundestag.
In Berlin, he lives on a street close to a Jewish synagogue and he describes his immense joy at seeing many Jews walking to their synagogue. For Benjamin Strasser, it is a symbol of pride.
On the internet I saw several photos of a well-dressed very handsome young man. I saw him as a little boy sitting behind the steering wheel of his father’s automobile and juxtaposed to it, a photo of the same beautiful little boy now changed into a very handsome young man. Both with the same smile.
Over many years I have traveled in 45 countries visiting Jewish communities and religious and cultural institutions. But for emotional reasons, I have never put my feet on German soil.
During the Shoa, several members of my mother’s family who both of us had never met went to their deaths during the Nazi occupation of Poland. They were only names to us, people we had never known but who were blood of our blood. It would have been painful for me to visit in the land of their murderers.
But several years ago I attended a meeting in New York of a large group of German Christians who had dedicated their lives to promoting strong relationships between German Christians and German Jews. I was fascinated by their dedication. Possibly it was because their parents and/or grandparents had been supporters of Hitler’s Nazi party and this new generation of Germans was seeking to repent for the crimes of their families.
Impressed by their sincerity I became a mitglied. A member of the Gesellschaft fur Christlich-Judische Zusammenarbeit in the city of Marburg. The organization for Christian-Jewish Togetherness has branches throughout German cities and I have been in frequent contact with one dedicated member of the Marburg group.
Many of them have visited Israel several times and have prayed at the Kotel Ha-Maaravi, the Western Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.
When I was a university student I read a newspaper article about a renowned German pastor who served a large church in Heidelberg during the Nazi years. His name was Pfarrer Hermann Maas.
Touched by the story of his life, I wrote a letter to him at his home on 64 Beethovenstasse in Heidelberg. It is not possible to convey in words my immense joy when I received his reply written in beautiful literary Hebrew script. We continued to be pen-pals for a few years.
He had visited Jewish friends in Palestine on several occasions prior to the war and on his visit in 1938, his devoted friend Dr. Yellin urged him to remain in Palestine. He was offered a teaching position at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
But Pfarrer Maas, head of the Evangelical church in Heidelberg, insisted that he had to return to Germany in order to do whatever possible to help, protect and save German Jews.
He was frequently visited by members of the Gestapo, several who attended his church on Sundays, who suspected him of preaching anti-Nazi party sermons. Often he had been arrested and brought to the Gestapo for questioning.
Hermann Maas remains in my heart as a great German humanitarian, as an enemy of fascism, and a life-long friend to the Jewish people. May his memory ever be for a blessing.
Now I must add the respected name of Benjamin Strasser to the names of very decent Germans in the new Germany. His devotion to Jews and his support of Israel have touched my heart and I bless him.
Perhaps one day I will have the great honor of meeting him on one of his visits to Israel or to New York. He will be my loving guest at one of our cafes to sit together as new friends sharing a good cup of strong black kaffee mit schlagsahne accompanied with a large slice of warm apfelstrudel.
The sins of the fathers must not be transmitted to the sons.
In 1933 there were too many Adolfs in Germany but regrettably not enough Benjamins.
Now Germany has the brilliant Benjamin Strasser in whom Germany’s Jews can take immense pride.
He is the magnificent young Benjamin, a life devoted to Jews, Judaism and Israel, May God bless him..
(Mein Deutsch ist Schlecht, aber Gott wird es verstehen. Moge Er Benjamin Strasser mit gutter Gesundheit, langem Leben, Gluck, Erfolg und viel Liebe segnen).
(with thanks to Google translations)
Respectfully dedicated to the very honorable Benjamin Strasser, Member of the German Parliament (Bundestag) in Berlin.