Father Gregor: A new book
Father Gregor Pawlowski, priest in the kehilla in Jaffa since 1970, has published a new and original book in Polish, “Shoah survivor, at the Service of Christ”, written entirely in verse. The book was presented in Poland in March 2012.
“Shoah survivor, at the Service of Christ” has been recently published in Poland. Its author is Father Gregor Pawlowski, whose original name was Jakub Zvi Hersz Griner. In this new volume, written entirely in verse, Father Gregor tells about his life, his work, the people he has met and the Hebrew speaking community in Israel, which he has faithfully served for the past 42 years. The introduction to the book is written by His Excellency Bishop Miecyslaw Cislo and the book is presented by Polish exegete, Father Miroslaw Wrobel.
At the beginning of the book, Father Gregor expresses gratitude to all those he has met, who helped him along his way, from his Jewish family in Poland before the war, through the years of flight and fear during the Shoah, afterwards in Poland as seminarian and young priest and finally in Israel.
A few chapters are consecrated to life in Poland. The book focuses on the period after the Second World War, when, as a boy, he lost his entire family in the Shoah. One chapter honors the Sisters in whose convent he grew up as an orphan. Poland is an important reference point throughout the book and Father Gregor refers to many of the great figures of the Catholic Church there including Pope John Paul II and the beloved Archbishop of Lublin Joseph Zycinski.
However, the book focuses primarily on Father Gregor’s life in Israel. Many chapters describe his pastoral work, the preparation of children for the sacraments, confessions, funerals, the chaplaincy in religious houses and among the Polish foreign workers and the ongoing search for the lost sheep. Father Gregor’s great love of the poor, the marginalized and the disabled is evident throughout the book as he retells different stories about the people he has met, he has served and he has loved. Likewise, the book focuses on different aspects of the Jewish-Christian dialogue and the search for paths of reconciliation.
Various chapters are consecrated to the Hebrew speaking Catholic community in Israel. There are chapters on a number of the pioneers of the community: Fathers Bruno Hussar, Alfred Delmée, Yohanan Elihai but also on younger, contemporary figures in the community like Fathers David Neuhaus, Roman Kaminski and the Franciscans Father Gregor has worked with in Jaffa, particularly Fathers Narcyz and Apolinary. There are also chapters on Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger and Father Romuald Yakub Weksler-Waskinel.
The book is also illustrated with many photographs.
Mazal tov, Father Gregor! Now you must translate the book into Hebrew for us!
From the Epilogue of the book:
“In 1970, I left Poland with tears in my eyes. When will I see my country again? When will I see its spiritual capital which is Czestochowa? I was going to Israel with peace in my heart, leaving everything to the will of God.
I was sure I had a task to do in the Church. In the “travel document” that served as an identity card, it was written “Jew”. I was not considered a Polish citizen anymore since I was going to stay permanently in Israel. I arrived in Tel Aviv, wearing a priest collar and that looked enigmatic. The Israeli authorities wrote “Polish” in the paragraph “nationality”, because a Jewish priest was something strange. Latter I would fight against it, because baptism did not make me Polish and circumcision is a sign of Jewish identity for a lifetime. Finally, to avoid legal difficulties, they wrote a simple “dash”, which means “no nationality”. It is an indication of a certain callousness among people – a mother would never disown her child. In fact, I am connected to both the Jewish and Polish peoples. I survived the Holocaust, by a miracle, thanks to the Poles. For a long time I have been a Catholic priest. Just like before, in Poland, so also now, in Israel I live the life of a priest.
Despite the disappointment I felt, I do not harbor a grudge against my people. I do not disassociate myself from my family, I do not cut my roots – this would not change the truth: I am Jewish, because I was born of a Jewish mother, and that for religious Jews remains a sacred mystery. I am not split, but rather enriched. I am truly Jewish and truly Polish, even if marked with a Jewish sign. Poland and Israel are my two homelands, which have a lot in common. Poland believes in Christ the Savior, which is a part of a history of the Holy Land and the Jews.
One thing comforts me. I have the blessing of Christ, Elijah and Moses. Their relationship was confirmed on Mount Tabor. Jesus is a Jew – nobody questions his Jewish identity. As for me, the Israeli legislation system may have doubts. I am not more Christian than Christ himself, so put aside the doubts. A Jew and a Pole in the same person – I have this richness in myself.”