Saturday, June 30, 2012


Two weeks later. (Note: This is where I return to the story)
Heinrich was returning from work and had just passed Parish Church when he heard a scream spilling into the street ahead. When he got to the alley entrance, he looked down its shadowed length and saw two men accosting someone at the other end and immediately headed in that direction. One of the men was holding the coat lapels of the victim and the other one was restraining the person’s arms as they dodged the kicks. Half-way down the alley Heinrich yelled, “Stop it!” and picked up the pace. As he reached the melee, the two men faced off with Heinrich, their fists ready for confrontation. “We’re just having some fun, they rebuffed.” Heinrich raised his voice, as he saw out of the corner of his eye a woman sprawled on the cobblestones, “What are you doing harassing this woman?” The larger man said, “She’s a Jewess! She’s not supposed to be here!” In response, Heinrich yelled, “Get out of here!” “Says who?”, the smaller man asked, finding some bravery in the fact that Heinrich was outnumbered. Heinrich reached to his right side, pulled out a knife with a hefty blade, brandished it in front of their faces, and said, “I say! and you’ll have to fight me first; I know how to use this!” The two trouble makers backed off and retreated down the street, flinging their final sneering insult: “Judensau!” as they ran.
Heinrich turned his attention to the woman as he sheathed his knife and said, “Are you alright?” As he sized up her situation, he knew he had never seen her before. He held out his hand to help; but she refused it and stood up by herself. As she straightened out her clothes, Heinrich noticed that her dress was torn and her coat was dirty. In response to the attack she said angrily, “Evil men!; why can’t we be left alone?” Heinrich said, in a defensive tone, “I’m not evil.” Heinrich noted that she was pretty, probably in her mid 20’s, and, though he didn’t think the implications through, wanted to stay involved in this fortuitous affair. Her tone softened as she said, “Thank you; I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t come by.” 
Heinrich asked, “Why did he yell ‘Judensau’?; and what's your name?” She knew well enough why, “Oh, it’s the same old story; Jews are fair game in the world.”  Taking a more regal stance, she said, “I am Rebekah bat Koenigsberg and I’ll show you what they meant.” She took off in the direction Heinrich came from and he had to run to keep up with her. At the end of the alley, Rebekah paused for a second, and took a left turn when Heinrich reached her side. 
With a purpose that guided her every step, Rebekah maneuvered through the street until she came to the Southwestern wall of the town church. She pointed at a sculpture protruding from the wall, and said derisively, “If that’s what Christians are taught about us, it’s no wonder they behave the way they do!” Heinrich had known about the sculpture called Judensau; but never had gazed at its details closely; he peered closer now. It portrayed a large pig with teats hanging down. Sucking from its udders were three Jewish youths. At the pig’s backside, a Jewish rabbi was holding up one of the pig’s legs as he gazed into its rear end. Written over the top in Golden flourishes were the words: “Rabini - Schem Hamphoras”.
As Heinrich read the letters, Rebekah translated, “What it means is that mystical Jews get their secret knowledge from a pig’s rear end. It’s disgusting!” As if he was a thief caught with stolen goods in his hands, Heinrich could not think of anything worthy to say in reply, so he responded, “You’re right, it is disgusting! and you shouldn’t receive such treatment. And here it is on the corner of a church for all to see!” They both just stood there as injustice settled like a cold fog around them.
Heinrich was thinking of her condition and the approaching evening when he said, “Why don’t you come to my house?” He immediately thought how that sounded and quickly added, “My mother and sister are there. My sister could sew your dress and, well, I know you probably wouldn’t want to eat there - but we might have something you’d like. It’ll be dark soon and you can’t stay here.” Heinrich wanted to say that his Mother was Jewish, but he thought better of it. Rebekah thought of her options, considered the purpose of her visit and then asked, “What is your name and how do I know that I can trust you?” Heinrich paused to formulate his reply. “My name is Heinrich, the son of Hans Berkmeier, though my father died several years ago.” At this, Rebekah interjected, “Did you say Berkmeier?” As Heinrich nodded, she pondered her plan, and then he added,  “I’ve just rescued you from harm and I give you my word that I only want to help you, though I admit you’ll have to trust me. We live about 5 streets away; what do you say?” 
After another pause, she answered, “As Rebekah of old had to entrust her life to Abraham’s servant Eliezer, so I will follow you to your home.” Heinrich flirted with the thought that he was Isaac in the Genesis story before he said, “Great, let’s go.” He headed off with Rebekah by his side. As they passed other people, many of whom Heinrich recognized, Heinrich was aware that their eyes were following them. In this small town, where most people knew each other, she was an outsider and Heinrich imagined that was enough to set their tongues wagging. As they approached his home in the deepening shadows of twilight, Heinrich took comfort in the cheery glow of lamps through the windows. 
He knocked on the door and his mother soon appeared. Her expectant smile turned to a questioning wonder when she beheld the two of them. In response to her silence, Heinrich said, “Mother, I’d like you to meet RebekahRebekah, my Mother, Freyda. Rebekah ran into a little trouble in town and I stepped in to help. I hope it’s alright to bring her here.” Heinrich’s mother looked Rebekah over with a reassuring smile, and said, “Why of course, come right in dear.” They both entered the comfortable cottage and Heinrich shut the door.
Rebekah looked at the three rooms she could see from the entryway and the impression that came to her was: clean and cozy. At this point Heinrich’s sister walked in, saw the female guest and was somewhat puzzled; she wasn’t aware that Heinrich was seeing anyone... Heinrich quickly said, “Sarah, I’d like to introduce you to RebekahRebekah, this is my younger sister Sarah.” Rebekah stood up and said, “Hello; I’m happy to meet you. Your brother was a hero tonight.”  Heinrich felt a bit awkward, so he said, “I just chased away a couple of ruffians who were harassing her.” Freyda was about to ask a question when she remembered the soup, and said, “I’ve been cooking some vegetable soup most of the afternoon and there’s some fresh bread. Why don’t we discuss this over dinner? Heinrich, wanting to inform his mother and assure Rebekah, said rather hesitantly, “ Rebekah is Jewish.” This was an unexpected disclosure which caused everyone to look at Heinrich, so he quickly inserted, “I mean, she might need reassurance of the food.”
To this, Freyda responded with an understanding of Heinrich’s intent, but with a greater awareness of Rebekah’s embarrassment, “Hmm, I see. Rebekah I understand that you may have some concern about our food; but I assure you that it is wholesome and clean.” She continued, “I learned from my mother how to prepare meals that would satisfy Kashrut. You see, I’m Jewish too.” Heinrich, knowing that his words were ill-timed and less than tactful, breathed a sigh of relief. He felt the plot starting to thicken and was excited to think where it might lead.
Rebekah, knowing that her response would set the tone for the whole evening, said boldly, “I would love to eat with you and I thank you for your concern and your hospitality.” 

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