Lustiger’s grand-nephew, Jonas Moses Lustiger, read a psalm in Hebrew and French, and placed a bowl of earth gathered from Jewish and Christian sites in the Holy Land.
A Jewish Cardinal? Oy Vey!
Joan Z. Shore
Yesterday, I attended the funeral service held for Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger at Notre-Dame in Paris.
It was unlike any funeral I've ever attended, and surely unlike any service ever held at this cathedral in its 700 years of existence. I suppose it came as close to ecumenism as one can expect in a Catholic country ...
... the extraordinary break from tradition was the presence of several dozen prominent members of France's Jewish community, seated outside the cathedral to hear the Kaddish -- the Jewish prayer for the dead -- that was intoned before the service began. Lustiger's cousin and young grand-nephew from Israel brought soil from two holy sites to be placed in the coffin -- a specific wish of the Cardinal's.
Inside the cathedral a special area was reserved in the front rows for "the Jewish Community." France's leading Reform rabbi, Daniel Fahri, was there with his wife, but no Conservative or Orthodox rabbi attended. "They wouldn't step foot in here," a friend confided to me ...
Thanks in large part to Lustiger's insistence, the Carmelite convent that was rather indecently built at Auschwitz in 1984 was removed.
"I was born Jewish, and so I remain," Lustiger once proclaimed in an interview, "even if that is unacceptable to many." While Catholics seem to accept this with a certain ironic pride, Jews are divided. A former chief rabbi of Paris once remarked that "a Jew becoming a Christian....is turning his back on it" ...
He was known to chat in Yiddish to close Jewish friends.
And once, after hearing him speak at a press luncheon, I went up to thank him and boldly said, You know, you would have made a good rabbi, too!
And he laughed. ("A Jewish Cardinal? Oy Vey!", Joan Z. Shore, August 11, 2007)