Q: My name is N . . . and a friend recently gave me a copy of your May 7 column about guide dogs. I am a puppy walker for the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind and I was the starting home for a puppy named Gellman in the summer of 2014. I knew he had a sponsor, but never knew the origin of his name. In August 2014, he went to a puppy walker at the University of Georgia named Kaitlyn. I was wondering if this is the puppy your congregants sponsored. Kaitlyn and I have a lot of pictures of this sweet boy if you are interested.
A: When I retired from my synagogue in 2014, my dear congregants sponsored a guide dog puppy in my honor and gave him the name “Gellman.” Although at first I was a little confused to know that in our world there is now a Gellman the rabbi, as well as a Gellman the dog, I was also a bit embarrassed to know that somewhere someone was shouting, ”Gellman! Don’t pee on the rug!” Nevertheless, I was happy and proud to continue my support for this terrific and holy organization. I lost track of Gellman the dog and I am sure that your kind note was a message from God (and Gellman). Please send pictures. I think the odds of there being two guide dogs with the name “Gellman” are in the zero range, and the timeline matches. I hope Gellman is helping someone see. That is all I have ever tried to do in my own way. Thank you and God bless you!
Q: I was raised Catholic. Everything I read in the Bible (teaches) that everyone was Jewish. How did I become Catholic? Where did (Catholicism) come from? I asked several people, including a priest and haven’t gotten an answer. I think it would make a great article.
J on Long Island
A: Well dear J, let’s begin by correcting your misapprehension that everyone in the Bible is Jewish. In addition to the big empire guys (Assyrians, Babylonians, Egyptians and Philistines) there were also a lot of smaller non-Jewish tribes in biblical times like the Jebusites, Hittites, Amalekites, and a variety of other and assorted “ites”). However, on the line you are concerned about, the Jewish people began around 1,800 years before zero in the time of Abraham. They left Egypt in the Exodus with Moses around 1200 BC and the kingdoms of Saul, David and Solomon occurred around the year 1000 BC. Jesus comes into the picture obviously around the year zero.
It is true that Jesus and all his disciples were Jewish. In fact whenever people try to convert me to Christianity I ask them, “Was Jesus Jewish?” They answer, “Yes,” and so I say, ”Well, if it was good enough for Jesus it’s good enough for me!” The split between Judaism and Christianity occurred after Jesus’ death with the Apostle Paul in the first century. Paul found that the Jewish laws concerning circumcision and not eating pork had severely limited his work in converting gentiles to Christianity and he began to preach that keeping such ritual provisions of Jewish law were no longer necessary for new Christians. This violation of Jewish law plus of course the claim that Jesus was the Messiah caused a final split between Paul and the Jerusalem Church led by James the Just, and with it a final split between Judaism and Christianity. This is the period of what is called the Apostolic Church and it lasted until 325 AD when the Emperor Constantine — under the influence of his mother, Helena — declared Christianity to be the religion of the Roman Empire.
The whole Roman Empire was transformed from an empire that fed Christians to lions to an empire that worshipped Jesus as God. This gigantic empire caused Christianity to split into five sees or districts by the mid-sixth century called the Pentarchy: Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria. With the rise of the Islamic Empire in the seventh century the Eastern sees that were within the Islamic empire were cut off from Rome, which became the center of the Roman Catholic Church. In the 16th century the Christian world split into Catholicism and Protestantism and that is how the Christian world looks today.
In the meantime, the Jewish world slowly grew on its own and eventually became the target of anti-Semitism, which was condemned by Pope John XXIII in the 1960s as a sin that was rejected from all Catholic teachings. All of this made possible the God Squad and my friendship with Father Tom Hartman, and all this enabled us to write a column where I could explain to you where all the Christians came from and where all the Jews went.