Abigail Auer is a Hero

Last week, I spoke at Hadassah’s annual conference. Hundreds of women assembled to listen to three people: Michael Rukin (community activist and leader); Abi Auer (a Christian woman who raises her children as Jews and an alumna of The Mothers Circle program) and me. While large crowds can be intimidating for anyone, Michael and I are used to speaking to groups of Jewish people. And although our message might be somewhat controversial (though these women were very supportive), it is not an unfamiliar context for us.

As Abi spoke, and mesmerized the audience with her every word, I wondered what it was like for her to speak before such an audience. And based on the number of people who rushed to the microphone to ask her questions or tried to get close to her following our presentations, I imagine that the women assembled in the audience seldom get a chance to ask honest, penetrating questions of women who have married Jewish men and have decided to raise their children as Jews. And here she was, a Catholic woman from Minnesota, now living in Atlanta, teaching 1,000 Hadassah women about some of the ins and outs of raising Jewish children.

I couldn’t help but wish she could be so well-received in the many different communities represented by the assembled women. If only she and women like her were made to feel so welcome by the other institutions with which these women are affiliated, perhaps we could actually become the inclusive Jewish community we are working towards. Abi Auer is a hero. And the Hadassah women who came to listen knew it—that is why they gave her a standing ovation.


  1. Thank you for the wonderful comments about my daughter. She has always been a hero in my eyes.
    MaryGwen Auer

    Comment by Mary Auer — August 2, 2006 @ 1:52 pm

  2. An anecdote who speaks and is applauded is still an anecdote.

    And Hadassah has vitually no haredi/chassidic women in it-the women who are really producing next generations Jews

    Comment by Dave — August 4, 2006 @ 11:43 am

  3. Say what you will. Hadassah is the largest and most powerful Jewish women’s organization in the world. During the convention they raisied $1,000,000 for emergency Israel relief and committed $25,000,000 of new money for a new tower at the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. These women are indeed worried about and planning for the present AND the future.

    Comment by Kerry Olitzky — August 4, 2006 @ 12:48 pm

  4. Abi is not an anecdote: she is a person.

    Yes, it’s worth knowing how any individual experience fits into a larger statistical picture–but the Talmud itself engages in some fuzzy math when it comes to human value:

    “Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.” (Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin 4:1 [22a])

    One life–one entire world–lost this past week was that of Pam Waechter, killed in the shooting at the Jewish Federation of Seattle.

    She was not born a Jew, but she died as one.

    Pam knew that people like Abi do count. As chairwoman of the outreach commission for the Union of Reform Judaism, she
    “encouraged synagogues to better support … those who marry Jews but choose not to convert”–as Abi and others in the Mothers’ Circle have done–and those who convert to Judaism, as she herself did.*

    Now one more voice speaking for welcome has been stilled, and we are all the poorer for it.

    * from news article at

    The same article also tells us that “Bill Waechter did not ask his wife to convert to Judaism. She did anyway, a few years into their marriage.”

    She came in when she was ready, and made the Jewish community much richer by her presence. And she wanted to value everyone in that community–born Jewish or not, Jew by choice or non-Jewish spouse, gay or straight.

    The children she raised thought of her as “Super Jew.”** She was.


    Comment by Becca — August 7, 2006 @ 12:00 am

  5. It is sad when anyone is murdered, but once again, most Jews who have been killed because they are Jewish were born Jewish. Roamn Catholics when speaking of the Shoah like to focus on Sr.Edith Stein, the nun who was murdered at Auschwitz. Her story is very important to them but it doesn’t change the fact that the vast majority of jewish women murdered there were not nuns.

    That this thread keeps on focusing on exceptions to rules may make for more drama and poignancy but it still doesn’t affect my argument one bit.

    PS What does the good work the women of Hadassah does do change the fact that they are not the ones creating the nest generation of Jews

    Comment by Dave — August 11, 2006 @ 10:15 pm

  6. I dont follow your comments. We believe that women who are committed to raising their children as Jews should be celebrated, irrespective of their religious background. The women of Hadassah and other women too are securing the future of the Jewish people in many ways. There are many ways to get to the same place.

    Comment by Kerry Olitzky — August 12, 2006 @ 8:18 pm

  7. Nice Comment Dave, what are you other than one who waits in wings ready to throw stones at other’s sincere efforts. Are you so willing to abandon those children that don’t have a pure Jewish heritage for cultural/doctirnal purity?

    Abi may not be a practicing Jew but what ever she commits herself to is accomplished well beyond standards of measure. The training of her chlidren I’m sure will exceed any standard you choose to measure her by.

    1 Corinthians 10:31
    Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

    Abi lives this verse out in all she does, the results of her efforts will be a testament to her Love and commitment to her children and her husband as well as the Jewish community.

    Comment by Blane Cesnik — August 14, 2006 @ 7:38 am

  8. Regarding comment 6

    This website consistently focuses on the exceptions to the rule. One person here. Another there. Pretty soon you ight have a minyan or 2 of these people while thousands are being lost.

    As to comment 7, I am sure that what I am saying and doing is in contravention to the Christian religion, but hey unlike many of the people here, I’m Jewish.

    Instead of Corinthians or Timothy, or even Acts perhaps all 4 gospels themselves should be recited to the delegates from Hadassah. Should get a standing ovation apparently.

    Comment by Dave — August 18, 2006 @ 6:59 pm

  9. How about we use some Jewish texts–though I doubt unfortunately that you will ever be persuaded. Let’s start with the holiness code where it tells us to welcome the stranger in our midst, and this text is repeated more than 30 times in the Torah. The Talmud teaches us that those who save one life, it is as if that person saved the entire world. Well we work one person, one family, one community at a time. Current events teach us many things. We have enough hate in the world–perhaps it is time for some love.
    Rabbi Kerry Olitzky

    Comment by Kerry Olitzky — August 19, 2006 @ 9:45 pm

  10. You’re right Dave I am a Christian and the only thing that seperates me and you is Jesus. The circumstances that surrounded his birth life, and death were well documented in Isaiah, the Psalms, etc. you don’t have to read the Gospels or Acts when he is spoken of so clearly in the Old Testement (Torah). No scarcasm intended…

    My point is the fact “Christian” women are no less honorable to follow through on their commitments than Jewish women. After all they claim the same heritage as you. Abi and many others like her are faithful to thier commitments and of course not everyone will have an article written about them but that does not make thier efforts any less significant.

    Thanks Rabbi for the wisdom in your comments. I am beginning to see that there are many things that our faiths have in common. Take care… we will continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

    Comment by Blane Cesnik — August 22, 2006 @ 2:57 pm

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