02 My Jewish mom? “I Am David”

A couple years back I wrote the following post, now slightly revised:

I read I Am David it seems decades ago. I think my mom, a voracious reader, slipped it to me one day under the title North to Freedom. I didn’t know it’s now a movie starring Ben Tibber, Jim Caviezel and Joan Plowright. It’s about a boy who escapes a concentration camp and makes his way to freedom in Denmark. The book follows his adventures of his travels throughout Europe.

My mom wanted to call me David, my middle name now as my dad won out with George for a first name. Mom came up with yet another Jewish name, a nickname, which I had until well into the seminary: “Jordan.” She was going to get me a Jewish name one way or the other! David means “beloved” in Hebrew: I Am Beloved. Yikes!

A reader mentioned I Am David in an email this morning. The memories flood back. How many times the words “I am David” came to mind and were repeated by me throughout my life whenever the going got tough. This would be my defiant and proud battle song: “I AM DAVID!” An example:

Some of my ordination cards, all hand made, asked for prayers from Saint David, as had the litany of saints in the Ordination Rite, for which someone roundly condemned me, criticizing both King David and the Hebrew Scriptures and even the work I had put into making the cards. That made me sad, but at the same time I entrenched all the more in my ever more lively secret now ardent in my heart: “I AM DAVID!”

Saying such a thing now, well, it makes me instantly and sheepishly turn to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, for he is the Son of David and Jesus is very much beloved. He knows what it is to have a secret, the Father’s love, which he reveals to us in himself. Whatever the flurry and fury on the outside, we dwell with him and he with us. And if I should say to him, “I AM DAVID!” he says in response…

Anyway, none of this means that mom was Jewish. I know. But that’s like the only book that mom ever gave to me, ever. Just another hint. I’ve been looking up her side of the family in various databases that have much to do with “I Am David.” But those matters are for future posts.

If you’ve never read North to Freedom or now I Am David, it’s well worth the read. It’s very short for a novel. It gives some insight to how things were like back in the day. This was a very gentle introduction to the fact of the concentration camps. It’s a story of hope, of success in escape, of life. Thanks, mom.

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