Brother Daniel, Jew-Turned-Christian-Turned-Monk

Crossposted from Haaretz

Daniel Stein, Interpreter: A Novel in Documents, by Ludmila Ulitskaya (translated from Russian by Arch Tait ) Overlook Duckworth, 416 pages, $27.95

In the struggle over definitions of Israeli and Jewish identity, Oswald Rufeisen, better known as Brother Daniel, was a pivotal figure. The case that Rufeisen (1922-1998 ) took to Israel’s High Court of Justice in 1962 brought the question of “Who is a Jew?” to public attention in a new and startling manner. And the decision in that case, which historian Michael Stanislawski has called “a fundamental episode in the history of the Jewish State,” has influenced Israeli law and public opinion to this day. In it, the court was asked to decide whether Rufeisen, a Polish Jew who had converted to Catholicism during World War II, and had served for many years as a Catholic priest, should be granted citizenship under the Law of Return. In a four to one decision, the High Court ruled against Rufeisen, on the grounds that by joining another religion, he had forfeited his right to fast-tracked citizenship in the Jewish state.

In “Daniel Stein, Interpreter,” Russian novelist Ludmila Ulitskaya has fictionalized Rufeisen’s life and presented his remarkable story in what she dubs “documentary” form. Published in Russian in 2006, her novel has now been translated into English.


Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Brother Daniel, Jew-Turned-Christian-Turned-Monk

Thank you!

This article has been sent!