Pawel in the Warsaw synagogue. A former truck driver and neo-Nazi skinhead, Pawel, 33, has since become an Orthodox Jew, covering his shaved head with a yarmulke and shedding his fascist ideology for the Torah.
No less than half-a-dozen readers forwarded this wonderful story.
When Pawel looks into the mirror, he can still sometimes see a neo-Nazi skinhead staring back, the man he was before he covered his shaved head with a skullcap, traded his fascist ideology for the Torah and renounced violence and hatred in favor of God.
“I still struggle every day to discard my past ideas,” said Pawel, a 33-year-old ultra-Orthodox Jew and former truck driver, noting with little irony that he had to stop hating Jews in order to become one. “When I look at an old picture of myself as a skinhead, I feel ashamed. Every day I try and do teshuvah,” he said, using the Hebrew word for repentance. “Every minute of every day. There is a lot to make up for.”
Pawel, who also uses his Hebrew name Pinchas, asked that his last name not be used for fear that his old neo-Nazi friends could harm him or his family.
Twenty years after the fall of Communism, Pawel is perhaps the most unlikely example of the Jewish revival under way in Poland, of a moment in which Jewish leaders here say the country is finally showing solid signs of shedding the rabid anti-Semitism of the past.
Full story here.
Last night Karen and I attended a Purim meal where we met a young Japanese man, a political science Ph.D candidate in here in California. He was wearing a yarmulke and explained that he was in the process of converting to Judaism. “All my life, ” he said, ”I felt like I didn’t quite fit in to Japanese culture.”
I told him how happy I was that he was converting and what a relief it must be that he has discovered his true social and religious community.
Too often, converts to Judaism are discouraged by other Jews—usually ignoramuses—who tell the potential convert how hard it is to be Jewish, that it’s a burden.
This is nonsense.
Judaism is a blessing and a gift. We should encourage Orthodox conversions.