Seekers of Meaning 11/26/2021: Rabbi W. Jack Romberg, author of “Doorway to Heroism”

Rabbi Address interviews Rabbi W. Jack Romberg, author of a book about his great-uncle’s experiences as a German solider in World War I and an American solder in World War II.

On this week’s episode of the Seekers of Meaning TV Show and Podcast, Rabbi W. Jack Romberg discusses his book, A Doorway to Heroism: A decorated German-Jewish Soldier who became an American Hero, an account of his great-uncle’s life as a decorated German soldier in World War I, a resister in Cologne at the start of Hitler’s reign of terror, and a Silver Star decorated U.S. Army soldier.

Imagine a German Jew who was a decorated German soldier in World War I, a resistant in Cologne at the start of Hitler’s reign of terror, and a Silver Star decorated U.S. Army soldier.  Three heroic actions, at three different times, in three different places.  This is the story of Richard Stern, whose photograph of his protest hangs in multiple German museums, showing a rare Jewish protest in Nazi Germany.  He was Rabbi Romberg’s great uncle.

We have just passed the 75th anniversary of World War II.  Most of those veterans are gone, and their stories should be preserved, especially those as unique as Richard Stern’s.  How many American soldiers served the opposing army in World War I, let alone as decorated German soldiers?  How many German war veterans actively opposed the Nazis in the 1930s?  How many Jews, after making it safely out of Germany decided they had to get into the American army despite their age exemption to fight Nazi Germany?  His actions that earned him the Silver Star got a burst of publicity in New York City.  Richard Stern’s history connected to the Holocaust is unique. There have been articles published about him by CNN and a newspaper in Israel.  This book tells his full story along with how the Shoah impacted his family.

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About the Guest

Rabbi W. Jack Romberg

W. Jack Romberg retired as the rabbi of Temple Israel in Tallahassee, FL in the summer of 2019.  It was his second career.  He intended to enter rabbinic school after graduating from University of Pittsburgh in 1976 with a BA in history focusing on Germany, but his father asked him to help in the family’s furniture manufacturing business.  In 1995 he decided to pursue the lifelong dream to be a rabbi, entering Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1996, earning a master’s degree in 1999 and ordained in 2001.  Before retiring, Rabbi Romberg decided to write the book on his great uncle Richard Stern, perhaps forming a third career.

As a rabbi Romberg was deeply involved in the general community, interfaith programs as well as non-partisan community issues.  He did frequent opening blessings at the state legislature, the governor’s cabinet meetings, and county commission meetings.  He wrote many editorials for the Tallahassee Democrat, the local newspaper.  In 2008, he served on the paper’s editorial board as the chosen community person.  He led these organizations: The Interfaith Clergy Association, The Village Square, and the Tallahassee Equality Action Ministry, and was on the board of the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra for 15 years.  For a special concert in 2017, that told the story of music performed by prisoners in the Theresienstadt ghetto during the Holocaust, he wrote the narrative, selected the music, and was a narrator in the concert.  He was a frequent guest speaker on local TV discussion shows and a local NPR radio show.  At the retirement gala celebrating his role in the city, the mayor presented him a key to the city.

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