Norwood Synagogue Memorial Services for Eli Wittstein, their Member who was 1st Marine Killed in WWI
From The Jewish Post, Indianapolis, Marion County, 28 August 1942.
AL SEGAL - Our Town
THERE WAS a going away party for the 85 boys of our neighborhood who were leaving for the Army this month. It was given in the club room of the neighborhood’s American Legion Post. It is called the Eli Wittstein Post. Eli Wittstein was the first of our town to fall in the last war. I remember the news of his death coming into our newspaper office that day. Until then the war had seemed only a matter of grand parades and buying Liberty bonds in our town. Eli Wittstein falling in battle was the first intimation of stark reality. He is now in one of the Jewish cemeteries up on the hill.
A Catholic priest was the master of ceremonies of the party which was nearly all Jewish. Tall, lean Father Sherry seemed to glow with a sense of the high and holy implications of the occasion. He had always carried brave banners of brotherhood in our Jewish neighborhood. On account of his happy association with Jews some people humorously call him Rabbi Sherry. He likes that.
This party was a living symbol of the essential brotherhood. Yes, it looked like it: The priest, the two rabbis, the Protestant chaplain and the Negro minister—all together on the platform, like servants tending one altar. These 85 boys—a sprinkling of Catholics and Protestants mixed in with the Jewish boys; and several Negro lads, besides. Nobody would have been surprised to hear the happy priest suddenly let out his voice in a chant of Te Deum. . . . “We Praise Thee, O Lord.”
It all had to do with the decent way things go in this neighborhood of our town. It is about 85 percent Jewish with about ten synagogues shading all the way from ultra-Orthodoxy to Reform, with two Catholic churches, a Greek church, two protestant congregations sprinkled in between. We get along very well with our neighbors. Every Monday evening Jews go to the social by which Father Sherry’s church raises its funds. One time one of our synagogues thought to have a social like Father Sherry’s. Several of Father Sherry’s people came over to show them how to run it. You walk up the main street of our community and come to the Presbyterian Church which is next door to Mr. Bilker’s grocery and a step or two from Mr. Horwitz's drug store. The Presbyterian Church and Adath Israel Synagogue face each other across the street. The Presbyterians always invite the venerable Alfred M. Cohen (he is the one who used to be the national president of B’nai B’rith) to their annual congregational dinner. He lives close by their church. They call on him to say grace after the dinner and he always ends up with a prayer for brotherhood. At Christmas time Father Sherry builds a manger on the lawn of his church which stands right among the Jews. Mr. Bernstein, the harness maker, donates an antique saddle which Father Sherry hangs up in the manger. Mr. Bernstein has heard it reported that this saddle was the one on which Jesus rode into Jerusalem but then, maybe, it was one of the saddles on which the three wise men rode to Bethlehem that night. Anyway, it’s an old, old saddle. On Thanksgiving Day there is a union religious service in our neighborhood. On chat
day Jews and Protestants worship together gratefully to acknowledge the unity of God and man. They visit around and one Thanksgiving the Christians go to one of the synagogues to worship and the next the Jews go to one of the churches. Father Sherry’s church bulletins frequently contain admonitions to his parishioners not to be led astray by the sin of anti-Semitism. There was the time, too, when the rector, Mr. Souders, of the Episcopal Church in our neighborhood made a radio speech against Coughlin and put him in his place; so that Coughlin didn’t look much like a man of God. The Episcopal Church stands far back on a spacious, shaded lawn in our community. Some nights, like Christmas, the Christly image in the stained glass window is lighted up and glows softly amid the shadows of the lawn. We don’t feel ourselves to be strangers to this light but friendly kinsmen. Around the corner from the main street stands a Christian mission (almost across the way from Mrs. Golfman’s bakery and kosher butcher shop) with the purpose of converting us all. We regard it with friendly tolerance as we pass by and go to our synagogues which are all around. Religion is a matter of opinion, anyway, and if Mr. Reid, who is the missionary, thinks his religion would be better for us than our own, that’s his way of looking at it and we are not going to stop to quarrel with him. We’ve got to get to the synagogue in time for the minyan. Yes, that’s the way it is in this neighborhood in our town. It is called Avondale. On Sunday morning people who like to discover visions of brotherhood feel gloating satisfaction to see Jewish men and Catholics marching on the main street in a sort of religious pageant on the way to speak to God—the Jews to the synagogues for the service of the morning, the Catholics to early mass. Old Mr. Goldberg twinkles when he sees this. He wonders if God can detect the difference between Jewish voices and Catholic voices speaking to Him on opposite sides of the street. He guesses they get all mixed up and are like one voice by the time they have ascended through the firmament and arrived in heaven. So it was all in line with the news of our community: The Priest, the rabbis and the Protestant minister on the one altar, you might say, to give their benediction to the Jewish, Catholic and Protestant boys getting ready to go away on their sacred dedication. Their speeches had to do with brotherhood and with the more just and lovely world that must come out of all this. They thought it couldn’t be the same dreadful world all over again after all that men have suffered to win something finer. The Protestant chaplain asked the boys to take their religion along wherever they were going. He didn’t mention any particular religion-just religion, just the almighty power of people who have God in their hearts and are not afraid. If you had shut your eyes and tried to guess whose voice was whose—which was the rabbi’s, the priest’s and the Protestant minister’s—you never could have told. They were like one voice for brotherhood. (c) 1942 by Seven Arts Feature Syndicate