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Bishop's Message

RSS By: Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo

The Rev. Dr. Robert Rimbo shares regular thoughts and reflections about our life together.

Yom Hashoah

May 02, 2011

Dear Sisters and Brothers, especially dear Rabbi Peter, Pastor Amandus, members of this congregation gathered to mark Yom Hashoah: I greet you on behalf of the Metropolitan New York Synod

and the entire Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and our Presiding Bishop, Mark Hanson. The last time I was in Central Synagogue was on October 12, 2008. This house of God was the setting for my installation as the bishop of our synod. Thank you again for your most gracious hospitality. What grand memories!


I bring other memories, as do all of you, as we gather here this evening to mark Yom Hashoah, twenty five years of memories and they remain demanding, harsh in the pitiless light they cast.


I remember Marc Tanenbaum confronting Christians with a searing question: How was it possible “in a country which, when it vaunted its great values and its great moral traditions, spoke of itself as a country of ancient Christian culture,” how was it possible “for millions of Christians to sit by as spectators while millions of human beings, who were their brothers and sisters…were carted out to their death in the most brutal, inhuman, uncivilized ways.” I remember those words tonight.


I remember ancient prayers for Good Friday which now, thank God, have been changed to warm thanksgiving for you, our Jewish sisters and brothers, the first to hear the word of God.  


I remember ghettos structured by Christians, forced baptisms, Crusades to liberate holy places, Good Friday pogroms, exiles, Dachau and Auschwitz.  


I remember the turned backs of my Christian sisters or brothers, the shoulders shrugged, the sneers and slaps and curses.  


I remember that there is a generation of Christians who have grown up for whom “Holocaust” is a word and little more – as vague and transient as the War of 1812 or the Battle of San Juan Hill.


I remember a letter I once read in the newspaper of a Christian college in which the student writer claimed that the Holocaust never took place; it was a fiction, pure and simple.


And tonight I remember Elie Wiesel’s warning: To forget is to become the executioner’s accomplice.   


I remember these things tonight with you. I repent of these great tragedies. I rejoice in our Lutheran church’s desire to redress the terrible teachings of our ancestors and come to our Jewish sisters and brothers ever seeking reconciliation.


So this is what I pray as we gather: If our sin-scarred, tear-drenched, blood-stained earth is ever to enjoy a measure of peace, I pray that justice will be joined to reconciliation, to unity. I thank you, the people of Central Synagogue and Saint Peter’s Church, for teaching us to look at a more distant horizon where hands that have locked in hate are linked in love, where enemies are transformed into friends, and our dearest, deepest yearning is for unity, the unity of all God’s children.


Then our memories will reap their richest reward, we will show that we are faithful to the covenant God made with us, and we will hope again.


Thank you for your witness to all of us.  


Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo

Metropolitan New York Synod

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

2 May 2011





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