David Bruce: 250 Anecdotes About Religion — Movies, Nazis, Peace, Peace with Handicaps, Perspective

Movies

• At the end of the movie Schindler’s List, many Jews saved by Oskar Schindler are shown placing stones on his burial marker. This is a Jewish tradition — the stones symbolize that the wind will not blow away the memory of this man.

Nazis

• One form of resistance against the Nazis was the telling of jokes. (The powerful never like to be mocked.) In one story, Nazi propagandist Paul Joseph Goebbels toured a school where he asked the children for patriotic slogans. One student shouted, “Heil Hitler!” Goebbels was pleased and said, “Very good.” Another student shouted, “Deutschland über alles.” Goebbels was again pleased, but asked, “How about a stronger slogan than these?” A small boy raised his hand, then declared, “Our people shall live forever.” “Excellent,” Goebbels said. “That is indeed a stronger slogan than the others. What’s your name, little boy?” The boy replied, “Israel Goldberg.”

• Billy Wilder, the Jewish-American film director, served with the United States Army Psychological Warfare Division during World War II. After the war, some Germans wrote him for permission to put on a play depicting the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. After investigating the Germans, Mr. Wilder discovered that they had been either storm troopers or members of the Gestapo. Therefore, Mr. Wilder said that he would give them permission to put on the play — as long as they used real nails.

• Josef Müller was a Catholic priest in Grossdungen who was sentenced to death for telling an anti-Nazi joke. Father Müller told about a dying German soldier who asked to have a photograph of Adolf Hitler placed on one side of him and a photograph of Gestapo head Hermann Goering placed on the other. When he was asked why, he replied, “That way I can die like Jesus — between two thieves.”

Peace

• Betty Williams was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and in general she was in favor of the activities of the Irish Republican Army until the day she saw a young British soldier get shot and die. As he lay dying, she knelt beside him and they prayed together. In 1976, she and Mairead Corrigan won the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to stop the violence in Northern Ireland.

• John Roberts, a Quaker in New Jersey, was going by the market place, when he stooped to tie his shoe. As he did so, a man hit him in the back and said, “Take that for Jesus’ sake!” Mr. Roberts didn’t look back at the man; instead, he merely straightened up and said, “So I do,” then continued on his way. A couple of days later, the man who had hit him begged to be forgiven.

People with Handicaps

• As a person with cerebral palsy, which affects his motor skills, Cordell Brown learned to put other people at ease. At a church camp, Mr. Brown knew that the other campers were uneasy with his cerebral palsy. After unsuccessfully trying several times to plug in his electric razor, he turned to the other campers and said, “Just call me speed and coordination.” The other campers laughed; after that, Mr. Brown became friends with them.

• People with mental retardation can be religious, too. To prepare for her Bat Mitzvah, Leslie Fish, who became mentally retarded after suffering from meningitis as a baby, studied Hebrew for five years — which she says was “hard.” She wrote her own speech for the ceremony; in her speech, she talked about being responsible for her actions.

Perspective

• Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach took his message to everyone, including the very poor and even the mentally disturbed. He delivered a talk to Manhattan’s Diamond Dealers’ Club, where a man asked, “Shlomo, we love your music and your Hasidic tales are also very nice, but there’s one thing that bothers some of us and which we just can’t understand: Why are you always so busy with low-lifes and crazies?” Rabbi Shlomo replied that he knew he was among diamond experts, and he asked if any of them had ever thrown away a million-dollar diamond because it was a diamond in the rough. The diamond dealers laughed and said that none of them would ever do that. Rabbi Shlomo then said, “My sweetest friends, please try to remember this because it’s the most important thing to know in life. Everyone — everyone — is a diamond in the rough.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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