Taking Edith Stein’s Jewishness seriously in her example to Catholics

Oil Portrait of Edith Stein by Jolanta Kornecka in the Chapel of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross in St. Michael the Archangel Church in Wroclaw, Poland – August 2016

Edith Stein was a German Jewish philosopher who became a Catholic martyr, saint, and patroness of Europe. The Nazis murdered her in Auschwitz on August 9, 1942. Following her death, there has been an ongoing debate about whether she was a Jewish martyr, a Catholic martyr, both, or neither. To grapple with this question, we must first grasp the distinct understandings of martyrdom for Jews and Christians. And, as it is important to situate martyrdom within the broader religious tradition, it is equally important to situate a particular martyrdom within the broader context of the martyr’s life. According to Max Scheler, “The highest, purest and most spiritual form that the effectiveness of exemplars can assume is the faith, or the lack of faith, in a whole person whom we learned to understand from out of the spiritual center of his life by way of placing ourselves into him and by co-executing that person’s moral tenor and acts.”[1] What makes Edith Stein such an existentially rich exemplar for us is precisely that the spiritual centre of her life is so nuanced. Jewish martyrs are principally relevant to other Jews; Christian martyrs are principally witnesses to other Christians. Can Catholics learn anything meaningful from the Jewish view of martyrdom, and from seeing how distinct the Jewish and Catholic views are from one another? First, I sketch martyrdom in Jewish tradition, followed by an overview of martyrdom within the Catholic faith. As a result of this exploration, I propose there are at least three ways to understand the martyrdom of Edith Stein, engaging: the ordinary significance of a Catholic martyr; the special significance of the martyrdom of a Jewish convert to Christianity; and thirdly, the need for empathy toward Jewish self-understanding insofar as the occasion for this need can deepen and nurture the extent to which Edith Stein is a personal exemplar for Catholics.

Swapping stories of Jewish-to-Catholic and Catholic-to-Jewish converts with a Calgary rabbi – September 2016

Martyrdom in Jewish Tradition:

“They tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat!” So goes the quip that Jewish history in general and Jewish holidays in particular can be summed up by this sentence. For Jews, the fact of God’s fidelity is shown precisely in and through the survival of His people. “Behold, I have set before you today life and good, and death and evil, inasmuch as I command you this day to love the Lord, your God, to walk in His ways, and to observe His commandments, His statutes, and His ordinances, so that you will live and increase, and the Lord, your God, will bless you in the land to which you are coming to take possession of it.”[2] God’s promises are “for the sake of your life.”[3] Leon Kass tells an anecdote about a prominent Jewish professor at a rabbinical seminary who epitomized the reasons for divergence between Jews and Christians by saying, “for Jews, God is Life, rather than Love.”[4] And, a well-known line from the Talmud says, “Therefore the man was created singly, to teach that he who destroys one soul of a human being, the Scripture considers him as if he should destroy a whole world, and him who saves one soul of Israel, the Scripture considers him as if he should save a whole world.”[5] Given the primacy of life, Jews are divided over the interpretation of the Binding of Isaac. Rabbi Louis Jacobs explains, “Some biblical scholars, Jews included, have read the story as a protest against human sacrifice, the significant point being that the angel intervenes to prevent the murder as an obscene act that God, unlike the pagan deities, hates and could never really have intended. But in traditional Jewish thought, Akedah [the Binding] is used as a paradigm for Jewish martyrdom; the Jewish people are ready at all times to give up life itself for the sake of the sanctification of the divine name (Kiddush Ha-Shem).”[6]

Kedoshim [holy ones] is the first distinctive word in the 30th weekly parashah [portion] in the annual cycle of Torah reading: “Speak to the entire congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them, You shall be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.”[7] In the second century, teaching concerning holy ones was expounded and clarified. “At the famous rabbinical council in Lydda the laws of martyrdom were formulated. Kiddush ha-Shem was declared obligatory in the case of three commandments and a person had to suffer death rather than violate them: idolatry, unchastity (gillui arayot: including incest, adultery, and, under certain circumstances, any infraction of the code of sexual morality), and murder (Sanh. 74a). One should violate all other commandments rather than suffer death. Should a Jew, however, in the presence of ten other Jews, be coerced into transgressing these other laws in order to demonstrate his apostasy, he must sanctify God’s Name and choose death. If ten Jews are not present, he should transgress rather than be killed.”[8] So there is an aspect of example–the model that one’s own conduct gives to the community, to other Jews. Persecution puts Jews in a position of tension between dying for the sanctification of God’s name and living the Commandments, which, of course, implies being alive. “Since the second century, ‘to die for the sanctification of the Name’ has been the accepted idiom for dying a martyr’s death.”[9]

This understanding of Kiddush Ha-Shem is applied to the biblical and historical examples of Jews who chose to die rather than commit idolatry. In the Book of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to worship the king’s idol: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “Nebuchadnezzar, we do not care to answer you about this matter. Behold there is our God whom we worship; He can save us. From the burning, fiery furnace and from your hands, O king, He will save [us]. And if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we will not worship your god, neither will we prostrate ourselves to the golden image that you have set up.”[10]

On Tisha B’Av [the Ninth of Av] and Yom Kippur [the Day of Atonement], Jews recall the story of the Ten Martyrs. Rabbi Sarason explains: “One of those liturgical poems is Eileh Ezkerah (‘These do I recall’), which recounts the legend of the Ten Martyrs (aseret harugei malchut) – ten Rabbis (including Rabbi Akiva) who, according to rabbinic tradition, were executed at the time of the Jewish revolt against Rome during the reign of Hadrian (the ‘Bar-Kochba Revolt’ in 132-135 C.E.) for the crime of actively propagating Jewish tradition: teaching Torah and practicing circumcision and other forbidden Jewish rites.”[11] Tisha B’Av is a day for mourning all of the catastrophes throughout Jewish history, including the destruction of both Temples and the tragic fate of all Jews who were massacred.

In the article, “The Spanish Inquisition and Me”, Venezuelan Reyna Simnegar recounts discovering a converso family in her genealogy and returning to Judaism: “But I choose to focus on the positive things my ancestors did accomplish. I feel the very reason I am today a Jew must be because ultimately they did something right. I have no doubt that it was because of the merit of my ancestors dying ‘al Kiddush Hashem,’ sanctifying God’s name, that I have the privilege to become a full-fledged Jew. […] I feel proud that even though many of my family members died ‘al Kiddush Hashem,’ today my children are living ‘al Kiddush Hashem.’”[12]

Returning to the story of the Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, “They disobeyed the king’s command and yielded up [or delivered] their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God.”[13] This verse is significant because “by a consensus among Jews, the six million victims of the Holocaust are given the accolade of martyrdom and are known as kedoshim (‘holy ones’), the name otherwise reserved for martyrs; they were, after all, murdered because they were Jews.”[14] This is true even for those who did not hold Jewish beliefs: “In time, this honorific was extended and applied as well to those who died solely because they were Jewish even without their consciously offering up their lives for religious purposes.”[15] The justification is that “when a Jew is killed or suffers simply because he is Jewish, the uniqueness of the nation is thus underscored, and as it is deemed that he is dying for a Godly cause, God’s Name is sanctified. Even if one did not do the will of his Master during his lifetime, when killed for just being Jewish, he is classified as a ‘servant’ and his entire life is sanctified.”[16] As a Jewish woman told me during the drive on my first trip to Jerusalem, “Hitler didn’t hate the Jews; he hated God. And the Jews reminded him of God, even when they failed to be good representatives of Him. God is inscribed on their very souls and this is what Hitler hated.” This is coherent with the decision of the State of Israel to enact the “Martyrs’ and Heroes Remembrance (Yad Vashem) Law 5713-1953” which included the establishment a Memorial Authority to commemorate: “the six million members of the Jewish people who died a martyrs’ death at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators.”[17]

Pages of Testimony documenting the biographical details of more than 4 million of the Jews who perished in the Shoah displayed in the Hall of Names of Yad Vashem – The World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem, Israel – November 2016

Therefore, Jews understand martyrdom as an example of sanctifying God’s name or, at least, refusing to desecrate it. Life is so highly valued that only in the event of being coerced to violate the most important commandments should a Jew suffer death rather than violate the Law. Jews are a people and while Judaism is not creedal, Shloshah Asar Ikkarim, the “Thirteen Fundamental Principles”, derived from the Torah and compiled by Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon [Maimonides], may serve as the minimum requirement for Jewish belief. [18] The Mishnah also indicates beliefs that are heretical. What is required of Jews is more demanding than what is required of non-Jews. Being a Jewish soul is an indelible fact of one’s existence. A person who converts remains a Jew, although a heretic. The Jewish people hope that this person will return. For Jews, it is more tragic when a Jew converts to another religion than when a Jew becomes an atheist; idolatry is worse than nonbelief. Finally, Jews who were killed in the Holocaust are considered martyrs since their bodies were “delivered up” and it sanctifies God’s name that they suffered rather than break God’s commandments.

Martyrdom in Catholic Religion:

“The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.” This familiar statement of Tertullian is from the second century, a time by which Christians had already established the “custom of consecrating altars by enclosing in them the relics of martyrs.”[19] From the beginning, Christians celebrated martyrs and the anniversaries of their deaths became feasts. Jesus is, of course, the archetypal martyr. His passion and resurrection completely transformed the meaning of suffering and death. By their deaths, martyrs give witness to the faith that Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection is salvific. In his homily on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Pope Francis said, “Jesus Christ is the first martyr, the first One Who gives his life for us. And from this mystery of Christ, begins the whole history of Christian martyrdom, from the early centuries until today.”[20]

While Jesus is considered the first martyr, the Catechism also discusses that “Jesus recalls the martyrdom of the prophets who had been put to death in Jerusalem. Nevertheless he persists in calling Jerusalem to gather around him: ‘How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!’ When Jerusalem comes into view he weeps over her and expresses once again his heart’s desire: ‘Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes.’”[21]

Similarly, St. Stephen, who is honoured as the first Christian martyr, recalled the history of Israel in his speech before the Sanhedrin. Stephen was arrested for “speak[ing] blasphemous words against Moses and God.”[22] In his defense, he reviews the history of Israel, highlighting the constant opposition to God’s plan by his people. This speech reaches its climax when Stephen uses Moses’s own words against his persecutors, “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”[23] Like Christ, Stephen was accused of blasphemy. Like Christ, he was steadfast in confessing his faith. And, like Christ he was obedient unto death. Publicly undergoing such a death so evidently according to the pattern of Jesus’s own was immediately considered a victory and a triumph, a death that gives witness to hope in Christ who tramples over death by death.

The Christmas feasts underscore that martyrdom is understood somewhat broadly in Christian tradition. December 26th is the Feast of St. Stephen who was a martyr in both will and deed; December 27th is the Feast of St. John who was a martyr in will, but not in deed; and December 28th is the Feast of the Holy Innocents who were martyrs in deed, but not in will. Furthermore, Christians understand Old Testament fathers in faith and martyrs who died before the Incarnation as having died for Christ. “Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that would be spoken later.”[24] Saints Paul and Thomas Aquinas are especially interested in making this case. The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Holy Children became important within the Church. And, the Holy Maccabean Martyrs are included in the Roman Martyrology.

Cardinal Gibbons explains, “The Roman Martyrology is an official and accredited record, on the pages of which are set forth in simple and brief, but impressive words, the glorious deeds of the Soldiers of Christ in all ages of the Church; of the illustrious Heroes and Heroines of the Cross, whom her solemn verdict has beatified or canonized. […] Their example still appeals to our minds and to our hearts, more eloquently even than did their words to the men of their own generation, while they were in the tabernacle of the flesh.” The Martyrology may be read in its daily portions and the reading of it always concludes with the reader saying, “All you Holy Martyrs, pray for us” with the others replying, “Thanks be to God.”[25] And, during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the priest prays that we may be granted “some share and fellowship with your holy Apostles and Martyrs.”

In a 2006 Letter, Pope Benedict XVI affirmed the teaching of Pope Benedict XIV on martyrdom:

It is of course necessary to find irrefutable proof of readiness for martyrdom, such as the outpouring of blood and of its acceptance by the victim. It is likewise necessary, directly or indirectly but always in a morally certain way, to ascertain the “odium Fidei” [hatred of the faith] of the persecutor. If this element is lacking there would be no true martyrdom according to the perennial theological and juridical doctrine of the Church. The concept of “martyrdom” as applied to the Saints and Blessed martyrs should be understood, in conformity with Benedict XIV’s teaching, as “voluntaria mortis perpessio sive tolerantia propter Fidem Christi, vel alium virtutis actum in Deum relatum“. This is the constant teaching of the Church.[26]

During the Tertio Millennio Seminar, at Mass in the Chapel of the Carmelite Convent near Auschwtiz-Birkenau, Fr. Raymond de Souza spoke about how Christ is the sine qua non for understanding every Christian martyrdom: “Indeed, the joys and sorrows, griefs and anxieties of every generation can only be fully understood by the Christian student of history in light of that one death and resurrection. In his homily in Warsaw’s Victory Square a few days before he came here to Auschwitz, John Paul applied that general truth to the history of this land, his homeland, his home diocese: ‘It is impossible to understand the history of Poland from Stanislaus in Skałka to Maximilian Kolbe at Oswięcim unless we apply to them that same single fundamental criterion that is called Jesus Christ.’[27] John Paul interpreted the entire history of this land as one of faithful witness, of martyrdom, from Stanislaus to Maximilian.”[28] Similarly, Bishop Barron often speaks about how the cross taunts torturers: “And [the ISIS terrorists] were furthermore right in sending their message to ‘the Nation of the Cross.’ But they should know that the cross taunts them.”[29] The cross is a taunt because Christians are singing, “Where, O, death is victory? Where, O, Death is your sting?”

Sisters of Life kneel and pray before the Wall of Death in the former Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz – July 2016 

Therefore, Christians understand martyrdom as giving witness to faith in Jesus Christ, in Love – the Love that lays down one’s life for one’s friends, the Love that is obedient even unto death, the Love that finally conquers death. To die like a “lamb to the slaughter” is to die like Christ and such deaths are instances of “heroic faith, the holy deeds, the exemplary lives, and in many cases the glorious deaths of these Milites Christi, or Soldiers of Christ, who gave every fiber of their being to God for His glory, for the sanctification of His Holy Catholic Church, for the conversion of sinners both at home and in partibus infidelium.[30] Important to the assessment is determining that there was hatred of the faith on the part of the persecutors. The death of martyrs shows how the cross taunts persecutors since Christians are not ultimately sad about it, but rather they rejoice.

Twenty-thousand pilgrims sing, “Christ is risen from the dead/Trampling over death by death/Come awake, Come awake/Come and rise up from the grave” during the World Youth Day activities in Krakow – July 2016


In light of these considerations, it has become clear to me that Edith Stein is not a Jewish martyr. Stein’s niece who attended the beatification Mass said, “She died because she was a Jew and she died because she believed in her own (Catholic) faith, but if she hadn’t been of Jewish background she wouldn’t have been killed. That is still my belief. I believe she was a Jewish martyr—one of 6 million.”[31] But even though the six million Jews who perished in the Shoah are collectively referred to as martyrs, religiously speaking, an apostate Jew cannot be a Jewish martyr, i.e., cannot be considered a martyr by Jews. The “rival truth claims,”[32] as David Novak puts it, preclude a person from being both a Jewish and a Catholic martyr.

Is she a Catholic martyr? Initially there was controversy over declaring Stein a martyr since it was unclear whether she was murdered out of hatred of her faith or her Jewishness. It was testified that Stein’s deportation and death were a result of the audacious July 20, 1942 Pastoral Letter of the Dutch Bishops that provoked the Nazis to round up Catholics of Jewish descent. The Nazi’s retaliatory act was extended exclusively to Catholics and “Jews who had joined the Lutheran, the Calvinist, or other Christian Churches were not deported in August 1942.”[33] While this rationalization seems to have been important for the promotion of her cause, in his canonization address, John Paul II did not hesitate to say: “Because she was Jewish, Edith Stein was taken with her sister Rosa and many other Catholic Jews from the Netherlands to the concentration camp in Auschwitz, where she died with them in the gas chambers.”[34] For Catholics, the canonization of Edith Stein as a saint and martyr definitively settles the question for the whole Church.

With all of this in mind, how can St. Edith Stein be appreciated more holistically by Catholics as a personal exemplar? Max Scheler suggests, “Exemplars can be effective in such mysterious and powerful ways.”[35] I think that Catholics can benefit from Stein’s witness with a three-fold appreciation of her as a Catholic martyr, as a Catholic martyr who was born Jewish, and as someone who is considered an apostate by the Jews.

For Christians, the death of Christ is the measure of martyrdom. Edith Stein died a Christ-like death. As John Paul II puts it in his Apostolic Letter: “In her witness as an innocent victim, we recognize an imitation of the Sacrificial Lamb and a protest against every violation of the fundamental rights of the person.”[36] While we do not know her exact disposition moments before her death, she had already accepted the Cross of Christ through her vocation and prayer. To cite only one instance of radical self-abandonment, we can consider her reflection during Holy Week in 1933: “I told our Lord that I knew it was His cross that was now being placed upon the Jewish people; that most of them did not understand this, but that those who did would have to take it up willingly in the name of all. I would do that. At the end of the service, I was certain that I had been heard. But what this carrying of the cross was to consist in, that I did not yet know.”[37] First and foremost, St. Edith Stein is a witness of taking up one’s cross and following Christ faithfully until the end.

Edith Stein Sculpture, Cologne, Germany – February 2016

There is a special significance of Edith Stein’s conversion to her martyrdom. As explained above, her conversion was decisive for her being a Catholic martyr rather than a Jewish one. There is an obvious correspondence to St. Paul here. In his Letter to the Romans, St. Paul says, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh.”[38] The Navarre Bible offers this interpretation that “God’s love moves us to love others so intensely that we are ready to suffer anything if it means the conversion of others to God. Paul is not referring to permanent separation from God, that is, eternal damnation, but to being ready to renounce any material or spiritual favour God might grant us.”[39] But rather than seeing Stein as a model for Jewish conversion to Christianity, she is to be understood as a model for Catholics to ever greater conversion to the truth. The majority of Stein’s intellectual formation took place in her Jewish phrase of life. Her wrestling with God, her intellectual freedom, and her personal virtues of discipline and discretion give a good example to Catholics. This reminds me of the efforts of Polish priests in Wroclaw during the Homily Mass on Stein’s feast day. The homilist stressed the lesson of her quest for truth and urged us to not let her martyrdom overshadow the witness of her wrestling seeking after the truth, which is a particular inheritance of the sort of relationship Jews have with God.


Edith Stein Sculpture, Cologne, Germany – February 2016

Lastly, I think that Catholics can deepen their appreciation for Stein by admitting some degree of Jewish self-understanding into their perspective. When a Jew converts, the Jewish people consider it a tragedy and a betrayal. Edith Stein suffered because she loved her family very much and they did not understand her decision. Her conversion was already a sort of death to her family and community. Her baptism and her particular vocation as a nun involved dying to self. Jesus warned that He would bring division and that His followers would be hated because of His name. Not every Christian experiences this, but many do—especially converts. As Jean-Marie Elie Setbon testifies about his Jewish-to-Catholic conversion: “I knew I would be misunderstood and violently rejected. This has been the case. I have received threatening letters, even blackmail. My best friends, friends for thirty years, rejected me from one day to the next. I no longer exist for them. I am dead.”[40]

Edith Stein Sculpture, Cologne, Germany – February 2016
Jean-Marie Elie Setbon and me during our visit in Villejuif, south of Paris – January 2017

Meanwhile, Edith never wavered in her love for her family and for the Jewish people. She is an example of great solidarity, compassion, and respect for freedom of conscience. She wrote a letter to the pope advocating for the Jews, she did not proselytize, and she reportedly said as she was being deported, “Come, let us die for our people.” She is a model for Catholics to avoid triumphalism and to heed the instruction of St. Paul: “So do not become proud, but stand in awe. For if God did not spare the natural branches, perhaps he will not spare you.”[41] Taking seriously Stein’s Jewishness invites us to entertain within our spiritual imagination the challenge of living out Christian charity while being hated, like Christ.


Max Scheler’s personalistic insights about exemplars are helpful for reflecting on Edith Stein. He affirms, “What has a forming and grafting effect on our souls is not an abstract, universal moral rule but always, and only, a clear and intuitive grasp of the exemplarity of the person.”[42] How clearly we see this in our considerations of Edith Stein who, in the drama of her particularity defies categorization and invites us to encounter her as a person. A personal and existential approach to her life and death is most difficult. It is also best. For Catholics, not only our life of the world to come, but also the intelligibility of this life and our suffering in it, really depends on the science of the cross. And so, Edith Stein exclaimed, “Hail Cross, our only Hope!”

“Ave Crux, Spes Unica” ~ “Hail Cross, our only Hope!” Chapel of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, dedicated to all who seek the truth, in St. Michael the Archangel Church, Wroclaw, Poland – August 2016
Thanks to Edith Stein for being a great historical roommate during the month of August 2016 when I lived in her former house!


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Barron, Bishop Robert. “A Message in Blood: ISIS and the Meaning of the Cross.” Word on Fire, February 26, 2015 https://www.wordonfire.org/resources/article/a-message-in-blood-isis-and-the-meaning-of-the-cross/4677/.

Benedict XVI, Pope. “Letter of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the Participants of the Plenary Session of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.” Libreria Editrice Vaticana, April 24, 2006, https://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/letters/2006/documents/hf_ben-xvi_let_20060424_cause-santi.html.

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Chabad.org. “The Thirteen Principles of Jewish Faith.” http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/332555/jewish/Maimonides-13-Principles-of-Faith.htm.

de Souza, Fr. Raymond. “Choosing Both Crowns: Red and White, Votive Mass of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, July 8, 2016.” Unpublished.

Francis, Pope. “Pope’s Homily at Morning Mass in Fr Hamel’s Memory ‘To kill in the name of God is satanic’,” Translation by Deborah C. Lubov, Zenit.org, September 14, 2016, https://zenit.org/articles/popes-homily-at-morning-mass-in-fr-hamels-memory/.

Garcia, Laura L. “Edith Stein—Convert, Nun, Martyr.” Crisis Magazine, June 1, 1997 http://www.crisismagazine.com/1997/edith-stein-convert-nun-martyr.

Gibbons, James Cardinal. “Introduction to the Roman Martyrology .” Boston Catholic Journal. http://www.boston-catholic-journal.com/roman-martyrology-complete-in-english-for-daily-reflection.htm.

Gumpel, S.J., Father Peter quoted in the article “70th Anniversary of the Pastoral Letter of Bishops of the Netherlands on the deportation of the Jewish population.” Rorate Caeli, 1999. http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2012/07/70th-anniversary-of-pastoral-letter-of.html.

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John Paul II, Pope. “Homily of John Paul II for the Canonization of Edith Stein, Sunday, 11 October 1998.” Libreria Editrice Vaticana. http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/homilies/1998/documents/hf_jp-ii_hom_11101998_stein.html.

John Paul II, Pope, “Pope John Paul II Apostolic Letter Issued Motu Proprio Proclaiming Saint Bridget of Sweden, Saint Catherine of Siena, and Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross Co-Patronesses of Europe,” Libreria Editrice Vaticana. http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/motu_proprio/documents/hf_jp-ii_motu-proprio_01101999_co-patronesses-europe.html.

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Scheler, Max. “Exemplars of Person and Leaders” in Person and Self-Value: Three Essays, Translated by M.S. Frings. Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1987.

Setbon, Jean-Marie Élie. From the Kippah to the Cross: A Jew’s Conversion to Catholicism. Translated by C.A. Thompson-Briggs. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2015.

Simnegar, Reyna. “The Spanish Inquisition and Me: Becoming a Jew was my greatest act of defiance.” Aish.com, July 26, 2009. http://www.aish.com/sp/so/51733547.html.

YadVashem.org. “Martyrs’ and Heroes Remembrance (Yad Vashem) Law 5713-1953.” http://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/about/pdf/YV_law.pdf.

[1] Max Scheler, “Exemplars of Person and Leaders,” in Person and Self-Value: Three Essays, Translated by M.S. Frings, (Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1987), 147.

[2] The Jewish Bible juxtaposes “life and good” with “death and evil” whereas, in the New Revised Standard Version, the same line contrasts “life and prosperity” with “death and adversity.” Devarim [Deuteronomy] 30:15-16. The Complete Tanach with Rashi’s Commentary, Edited by Rabbi A.J. Rosenberg.

[3] Ibid, Devarim [Deuteronomy], 30:6.

[4] Leon R. Kass, “L’Chaim and its Limits: Why not immortality?” First Things, May 2001.

[5] Jewish Virtual Library. Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin: Chapter 4.

[6] Rabbi Louis Jacobs. “The Binding of Isaac,” MyJewishLearning.com.

[7] Vayikra [Leviticus] 19:2.

[8] Jewish Virtual Library, “Kiddush Ha-shem and Hillul Ha-shem.”

[9] Ibid.

[10] Daniel 3:16-18. The Jewish Bible says: “we do not care to answer” and the NRSV says: “we have no need to present a defense”. There are countless nuances and controversies in the translation of the Hebrew Bible. The Complete Tanach with Rashi’s Commentary, Edited by Rabbi A.J. Rosenberg. For this reasons, Jews argue: “[There are] many verses that the missionaries twist and mistranslate to suit their purposes. Judaism has a response and an explanation for each such instance. The rule of thumb is to always ask: ‘Are these verses being read in context and with an accurate translation?’ Sadly, most ‘Hebrew Christians’ blindly accept the Christian interpretation without ever having heard or fully understood the Jewish view.” Rabbi Bentzion, The Jewish Response to Missionaries: Counter-Missionary Handbook, (Los Angeles: Jews for Judaism International Inc., 2001),

[11] Rabbi Richard Sarason, “Eileh Ezkerah: Memorializing Jewish Martyrs on Yom Kippur,” RJ.org, November 21, 2013.

[12] Reyna Simnegar, “The Spanish Inquisition and Me: Becoming a Jew was my greatest act of defiance,” Aish.com, July 26, 2009.

[13] Daniel 3:28, The Complete Tanach with Rashi’s Commentary, Edited by Rabbi A.J. Rosenberg.

[14] Rabbi Louis Jacobs, “Martyrdom: Judaism has a complex relationship with the ideal of martyrdom,” MyJewishLearning.com.

[15]Jewish Virtual Library, “Kiddush Ha-Shem and Hillul Ha-Shem,”

[16] Aish.com, “Martyrdom & Sanctifying God’s Name.”

[17] YadVashem.org, “Martyrs’ and Heroes Remembrance (Yad Vashem) Law 5713-1953.”

[18] The third principle is: “The belief in G‑d’s non-corporeality, nor that He will be affected by any physical occurrences, such as movement, or rest, or dwelling.” This is the most divisive principle for Jews and Christians because of Christian belief in the Incarnation. Chabad.org, “The Thirteen Principles of Jewish Faith.”

[19] Maurice Hassett, “Martyr” in The Catholic Encyclopedia: Volume 9, (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910).

[20] Pope Francis, “Pope’s Homily at Morning Mass in Fr. Hamel’s Memory: ‘To kill in the name of God is satanic’,” Translation by Deborah C. Lubov, Zenit.org, September 14, 2016.

[21]“Part One: The Profession of Faith” in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Article 558, (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1993).

[22] Acts 6:11, NRSV.

[23] Acts 7:51-53, NRSV.

[24] Hebrews 3:5, NRSV.

[25] James Cardinal Gibbons, “Introduction to the Roman Martyrology,” Boston Catholic Journal.

[26] [The voluntary endurance of death or its acceptance because of Faith in Christ, or another act of virtue related to God.] Pope Benedict XVI, “Letter of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the Participants of the Plenary Session of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints,” Libreria Editrice Vaticana, April 24, 2006.

[27] Pope John Paul II, “Homily of His Holiness John Paul II: Victory Square, Warsaw, 2 June 1979,” Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

[28] Fr. Raymond de Souza, “Choosing Both Crowns: Red and White – Votive Mass of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, July 8, 2016,” Unpublished.

[29] Bishop Robert Barron, “A Message in Blood: ISIS and the Meaning of the Cross,” Word on Fire, February 26, 2015.

[30] James Cardinal Gibbons, “Introduction to the Roman Martyrology,” Boston Catholic Journal.

[31] Don A Schanche, “Pope Beatifies Jewish-Born Nun Killed by Nazis,” Los Angeles Times, May 2, 1987.

[32] David Novak, “Edith Stein: Apostate Saint,” First Things, October 1999.

[33] Father Peter Gumpel, S.J. quoted in the article “70th Anniversary of the Pastoral Letter of Bishops of the Netherlands on the deportation of the Jewish population.” Rorate Caeli. 1999.

[34] Pope John Paul II, “Homily of John Paul II for the Canonization of Edith Stein,” Libreria Editrice Vaticana, October 11, 1998.

[35] Max Scheler, “Exemplars of Person and Leaders,” in Person and Self-Value: Three Essays, 140.

[36] Pope John Paul II, “Pope John Paul II Apostolic Letter Issued Motu Proprio Proclaiming Saint Bridget of Sweden, Saint Catherine of Siena, and Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross Co-Patronesses of Europe,” Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

[37] Laura L. Garcia, “Edith Stein—Convert, Nun, Martyr,” Crisis Magazine, June 1, 1997.

[38] Romans 9:3, NRSV.

[39] Commentary on Romans 9 found in The Navarre Bible: St Paul’s Letters to the Romans and Galatians in the Revised Standard version and New Vulgate / with a commentary by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, (New York: Four Courts Press, 2003).

[40] Jean-Marie Élie Setbon, From the Kippah to the Cross: A Jew’s Conversion to Catholicism, Translated by C.A. Thompson-Briggs, (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2015),132.

[41] Romans 11:21, NRSV.

[42] Max Scheler, “Exemplars of Person and Leaders,” in Person and Self-Value: Three Essays, 134.



One thought on “Taking Edith Stein’s Jewishness seriously in her example to Catholics

  1. Really well written and researched! A great insight into the martyrdom of Edith Stein and her search for truth which is a good example for all of us. Now I really want to read more about her and her writings as well.


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