This week Jews and history teachers from all over Romania (and a few from the U.S.) came together at Surduc for a conference commemorating and promoting awareness of the holocaust from a Romanian perspective. I was only able to attend one day of the conference, but it was interesting for me to hear first-hand stories and to see photos and videos of what these people experienced. I've been reading a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and the thing that has struck me the most is not the depravity of the people who led these events, but the ignorance and negligence of the people who allowed the holocaust to become what it did.

As Americans, I think we have a certain naivete that comes from living under a government that has thus far been generally in our favor. But will it always be that way? Let's not make the mistake of thinking that we are immune to suffering or that our leaders are exempt from the sinfulness that all men are born with. With elections coming soon, I challenge everyone to vote with these things in mind: What role is this government trying to take in the lives of Americans? What do I truly believe is right in the eyes of God, and will the government I'm voting into office contradict that standard? Am I fully submitted to God in my personal life, including the decisions I make about the people who will be in positions of authority over me and the rest of my country in the coming years? Am I voting for leaders who would have the government supersede the authority of God in my life?

Say what you will about "separation of church and state," but both the church and the state are made up of people, and our government represents the people, remember? Whatever spiritual life we have will inevitably be reflected in our choices and ultimately the kind of society we become, so let's take that seriously. As Christians, we have a responsibility to know what we believe by studying the whole truth of God's Word (not select verses taken out of context, however nice they may sound) and to base our decisions on those principles. This isn't something to be ashamed of or apologize for; it's our right as citizens of the United States. We want a government that is for us, not against us, and if we elect a government that goes against God's Word, pretty soon we will find ourselves living under a law that goes against God's people.

Getting back to the Jews, my Grandmother came back to Romania for this conference and was able to share the Gospel with Jewish friends who were very eager to listen -- pray that they will recognize the Messiah they've been waiting for! Their people have suffered much injustice, but the Messiah suffered the ultimate sacrifice on their (and our) behalf so that even as our bodies are wasting away, our inner man is being renewed day by day with eyes toward our permanent home in Heaven (2 Corinthians 4). Can you imagine what it will be like to worship God there together with His chosen people? After all, He came for the Jews first, and although His own did not receive Him, praise God that He is still making Himself known to them!

The week ended with a tour of a local synagogue. Directly behind the synagogue is the old Jewish school that is now Grace Christian School, but since the synagogue is no longer in use, I never expected to go inside. It felt a lot like being in a ghost town, with copies of the Torah still stored in pew boxes with names etched on them. Here are a few pictures.

Leader of the Jewish community in Western Romania tells conference participants about the history of the synagogue and the Jewish people in this area.

Some open pew boxes hold copies of the Torah in Romanian and Bulgarian (I think?).

Yarmulkes are placed by the door to be worn by men who enter the synagogue. 
Open pew box, empty except for a folded piece of paper.

Balcony pew box with name engraved.

View of the synagogue interior from the balcony. Notice the large pipe organ, and also the open chamber (center) where the scrolls are kept.

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