Jiri Brady - my first introduction to religious education

05-11-2003

In the Czech countryside there is a tradition that each family slaughters a pig once or twice a year, and lives on the meat for much of the time in between. Although they were Jewish, the Brady family, who ran the general stores in the little town of Nove Mesto na Morave, were no exception. Until the arrival of Hitler, they never felt any different from their neighbours and had never shown much interest in religion. Nothing in their lives prepared them for the horror of what was to come with the occupation. The entire family was murdered in the camps, and Jiri Brady, who was thirteen when he was sent to the Terezin ghetto, was the only one to survive the Holocaust. Here he remembers back to the days before the Germans arrived, and with humour recalls his first introduction to religious education.

My mother had nothing to do, so she stayed in the last row of the synagogue to listen. And once the Rabbi asked us: 'Children, what kind of meat do Jews eat?' And everyone was saying chicken and geese and beef and so on, and I thought - nobody thought of pork - and I couldn't think of anything else.My hand went up and finally my turn came and I said: 'pork'. And the Rabbi said: 'Oh no, that's not clean.' And I said: 'Mr Rabbi, we slaughter twice a year. Ask my mother whether it's clean.' And that was the end of my Jewish religious education."

You can read about the moving story of Jiri Brady's family in the book "Hana's Suitcase", by Karen Levine.

05-11-2003