It is known as a bris, the religious ritual circumcision performed on Jewish males on the their eighth day of life. It is this ceremony that comedian Stephen Colbert decided would be used to restore balance to the religious communities that had come to find themselves at odds -- the Mormons and the Jews. Colbert reported on recent developments where Eli Weisel, the famed Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor, called on presidential candidate Mitt Romney to intercede on the behalf of Jews to get the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to discontinue their practice of baptizing dead Jews.
It is a matter that has been ongoing for several years. Although the Mormon Church had agreed to stop baptizing Holocaust Jews in 2010, they still were baptizing -- by proxy, of course -- dead Jews. Among those baptized was Anne Frank, the Dutch teen whose diary and story have become the synonymous with "Holocaust." In fact, Helen Radkey, a former Mormon, reported (via Huffington Post) that Frank was again baptized this past weekend.
It could be at least the tenth time Anne Frank has suffered a proxy baptism, according to Radkey, who says that the Mormon Church has never stopped baptizing dead Jews, even though they agreed with Jewish leaders to stop the practice.
Wiesel is one of the group of Jewish leaders who petitioned the Mormons to stop the practice. Oddly enough, as was reported in Huffington Post, his name was submitted recently for baptism as well, although the ceremony is reserved for the dead and he is yet very much alive.
This comes in the wake of an apology issued just last week from the LDS leadership for submitting the names of famed Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal's parents for baptism. CNN reported that the Church also admitted that three of Wiesel's relatives were among those submitted.
What the followers of Judaism find objectionable about the practice is that it appears disrespectful to the memories and the lives of the dead, none of whom were Mormons. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints took it upon themselves to ensure that the dead still be accorded a spot in heaven, that their religious convictions at the times of their deaths not be held against them. Their solution was posthumous proxy baptisms, the religious ritual of conversion for those who follow the Christian faith.
Stephen Colbert couldn't pass up making a mockery of this religious throw-down. So he didn't.
Colbert noted that baptisms should be done the Catholic way -- "with an Inquisition."
He also tongue-in-cheekily explained that Mormons were simply trying to get Jews into heaven and that his research indicated that Jews could do nothing about the process, because those 600,000-plus Jews that have been proxy baptized over the years were now all Mormons.
But since the followers of Judaism were annoyed, Colbert felt he should do something to restore balance. Noting that the Mormons were baptizing and symbolically converting dead Jews without approval, Colbert figured the same could be done with regard to dead Mormons.
So with the help of his intern, Jay, standing in as the proxy for all the dead Mormons, Colbert took a symbolic penis -- a wiener sausage -- and performed the time-honored brit milah (or bris miloh), which means "covenant of circumcision," by snipping off the end of the hot dog.
Just before the snip, he intoned that "with the power invested in me by renting 'Yentl,' I hereby circumcise every dead Mormon. In the name of the father -- and that's it."
"Mormon tov!" he said, promptly tossing the wiener tip into his mouth. Around chews and scandalized laughter from his audience, he concluded, "Congratulations, dead Mormons! You're now dead Jews. I just pray that no one baptizes you without your permission."
For those worrying about the traditional timing of the bris miloh, "The Colbert Report" is filmed during daylight hours.
However, it is unknown if Colbert used a kosher wiener. Given Colbert's sense of humor, it was most likely a Hebrew National hot dog, but that has yet to be confirmed.
But as for Mormons worrying about their dead relatives being converted to Judaism, they can breathe a sigh of relief. Colbert's a Catholic and unless he's become a trained mohel, the procedure would not be valid.
Still, we are talking about symbolic ceremonies...
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|Posthumous Mormon Baptism|
(photo credit: David Shankbone, Creative Commons).