Jewish news getting drowned out?

Does news about Judaism get shortchanged in the media mix?

Yeah, it probably does. There are are just so many more Christians.

This point came up at a recent fellowship program for journalists at Brandeis University. The Jewish Week’s Gary Rosenblatt was there and “writes”: that news about popes, the role of evangelicals in the public square, and the Catholic Church’s sex-abuse scandal has taken up much of the religion news space in recent years.

He writes:

All the more reason for the importance of the Jewish press, whose top stories of the last decade included the overlap of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism; scandals of rabbinic abuse; the rise of influence of family foundations in setting and subsidizing the Jewish communal agenda; and the weakening of the Conservative movement as it strives to balance fealty to Jewish law with acceptance of American cultural values, especially in accepting gays and lesbians as rabbis.

And what’s coming up?

Looking ahead, the panel cited as stories that were missed — or deserve closer attention — the growing attempt to develop a robust secular Judaism and culture, especially among younger people; the increasing phenomenon of “half Jews,� seeking to find their role in Jewish life; and similarly, the role of non-Jews living in Jewish households.

A papal visit = media throngs

So Pope Benedict is coming to NY in the spring.

The media hordes will await.

I will likely be among them. At this point, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, it will be a great opportunity to cover Pope Benedict’s first visit to the U.S. (as pope). I’m already curious to see how NYers will respond to him. First guess: Lovingly, but not as lovingly as they did JPII.

On the other hand, I hate pack journalism. There are few things worse in the business than being stuck for hours behind police tape, packed together with burly cameramen, all waiting to crane our necks for a glimpse of something.

Anyway, I pulled out a 1999 study of religion coverage by the media that was done by the Garrett-Medill Center for Religion and the News Media at Northwestern U.

The study, in part, looked at media coverage of JPII’s January 1999 visit to St. Louis, his last trip to the U.S.

The study found that most coverage broke down into four themes:

1. The pope’s visit as a dramatic and visually spectacular celebrity event.

2. The pope’s age and health.

3. Social and political controversies connected to the pope.

4. The people’s response to the pope, or the mysterious nature of faith.

Sounds about right. What you would expect.

The academics who wrote the report, though, weren’t satisfied. They wrote that the coverage was characterized by “predictable journalistic norms.”

They concluded:

While much of the press coverage of the Pope could be interpreted as critical or vaguely condescending, journalists also took care to treat the Pope with a certain degree of respect and reverence. (ME: That’s the gamut, huh?) However, at the same time, the news about the papal visit also reflected many of the defining characteristics of the modern American mass media, most noticeably, the journalistic tendency to focus on conflict and dram, and a view of religion colored by a secular mindset.

A grant for good work to Sparkill sisters

In 1989, the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill founded the “Thorpe Family Residence”: in the Bronx.

It is a temporary shelter for homeless mothers and their children — a place where they can learn about parenting, budgeting, the basics. The idea is to help these mothers finish school and get a decent job.

The residence has just won Catholic Charities USA’s “2007 Family Strengthening Award.”: It comes with $25,000, not a fortune but money that can be used to make a difference.

Sister Barbara Lenniger, executive director of Thorpe Family Residence, said:

Since our opening in 1989, we have assisted more than 500 homeless mothers with children to obtain job training and education and successfully secure and maintain their own homes. Many of our families have moved off public assistance and remained in the workforce. One mother got her GED and will start City University in the spring, and her children are doing well in school.

Congrats to the “Dominican Sisters of Sparkill”:…

The European Jew in the 20th century

An exhibit of photographs and art — “An Historic Chronicle of the Life of the European Jew in the 20th Century: Shtetl…Shoah…Land of Israel” — is underway at the Krasdale Gallery in White Plains.

The “gallery”: is at 65 West Red Oak Lane. The exhibit goes through Sept. 18.

The exhibit features the work of Roman Vishniak, a Russian-American photographer known for his pictures of Eastern European Jews in the years leading up to the Holocaust. He died in 1990.

I’m no critic, but his photos of Jews in Poland and Slovakia — two boys comparing Shevuoth gifts, storeowners minding their shops — put you right in the 1930s. Another world.

You can get a taste for his work “here.”:

Also featured are the multi-media depictions of the Holocaust by “Aaron Morgan,”: a native New Yorker.

Many are chilling.

The map of faith

If you want to get a general sense of where in the US the most — and least — people belong to religious congregations, check out this map. You can click on it to make it larger.


It’s a little hard to understand. The map is based on a national survey done several years ago by the “Glenmary Research Center”: of membership in 149 religious bodies (the vast majority Christian — and, yes, the Catholic Church took part).

The map shows overall “affiliation” in all 149 bodies. Where the map is reddest, you have the highest percentages of adherents within all 149 bodies.

For each state, you pretty much have to know what the most populous religious groups are.

New York looks to have more religiously connected people in the Hudson Valley than in various parts of central NY.

It tastes just like swine

Check this out: Jewish vegetarian groups are planning to protest an Orthodox Union luncheon that will feature exotic foods.

The OU is having a Three-Day Los Angeles Halachic Adventure in California, starting Sunday (Halacha being Jewish law). There will be several seminars on Kosher food and preparation, such as a session on “Kosher birds and animals.”

Then, the “OU says:”:

This session will be followed by what Rabbi Grossman terms “an extraordinary Torah and gastronomic event,� The Halachic Seudah (meal) at the Prime Grill Restaurant on North Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, at which such treats as quail, red deer, fleishig (meat) eggs, shibuta (a fish that according to the Talmud tastes like pork), bison, tambaqui (an exotic tropical fish whose flesh tastes like swine), and udder, among other rarities will be served. As each food sample is consumed, in this “show and taste� program, OU experts will provide fascinating discussions, videos and PowerPoint presentations.

But several Jewish vegetarian and animals rights groups are planning to protest Sunday at the Prime Grill Restaurant.

According to a statement from Richard H. Schwartz, president of the “Jewish Vegetarians of North America”: (and professor emeritus at the College of Staten Island):

We are holding this demonstration because we believe that it is essential to educate Jews and others of the importance of shifting away from animal-based diets which threaten human health and the sustainability of the planet.
As Jews who are to be “rachmanim b’nei rachmanimâ€? (compassionate children of compassionate ancestors), we do not want the “Halachic Seudahâ€? to be a way that Judaism is represented today.
At a time when there is an epidemic of diseases that have been scientifically linked to the eating of meat in the Jewish and other communities and animal-based agriculture is contributing to global climate change and other environmental treats, and billions of farmed animals are very cruelly treated on factory farms, we oppose celebrating and encouraging the eating of meat.

Latin Mass renewal no biggie, historian says

What’s the fuss about the Latin Mass?

Pope Benedict’s call for greater availability of the old liturgy “was not an event of historic significance,” Father Joseph Komonchak writes in the next issue of Commonweal.

Komonchak, who grew up attending St. Mary’s in Haverstraw, is considered one of the foremost historians on Vatican II. He’s a NY priest, but has long served at Catholic University in D.C. (UPDATE: Father Komonchak was baptized at St. Mary’s, but grew up attending St. Anthony’s in Nanuet.)

He writes that the Latin Mass will not be widely used and discounts the notion that any increased usage will lead to disunity in the Catholic world.

In fact, he thinks the old Mass should never have been relegated to the liturgical sideline after Vatican II.

He writes:

At the time — the early 1970s — I did not think that the unreformed rite should be forbidden. It seemed unjust to preclude a ritual that had nourished the spiritual and communal life of Catholics for centuries when all around us all sorts of ultra-relevant bizarre liturgical experiments were being tolerated. The result was that reverence for the ancient usage was tempted to go underground and to mingle there with movements that called into question the entire work of Vatican II or even the validity of the reformed usage. It was thus inevitable that, thirty-five years later, the decision to permit easier access to the unreformed usage would be thought of as compromising the council’s work.

I can’t link to it. Subscribers only.

Bishop Bouman on ‘the breach’

Bishop Stephen Bouman, the NY leader of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, has a new book out: Grace All Around Us: Embracing God’s Promise in Tragedy and Loss.

Bouman, who lives in New City, leads the mainline denomination in New York City, the Lower Hudson Valley and Long Island.

tjndc5-5b4cljb2s3t1g4dfpeo0_layout.jpgHe’s a good guy who’s allowed me to interview him on many occasions. He has one year left in his second term as bishop.

You can read about the book or hear him talk about it “here.”:

And “here”: you can hear a podcast of a recent Brian Lehrer interview with him on WNYC.

Bouman talks about the transformation of Lutheranism in NY from a tradition that served people with Scandinavian roots to a church that serves folks from many ethnic communities.

He said that many people feel comfortable in churches that are friendly, serious about Scripture and have a liturgy that reminds people of the Catholic Mass.

He also talks — as he always does — about the need for churches to get involved in the lives of communities and become Repairers of the Breach (Isaiah 58:12).

Bouman likes that passage because “it connects faith to turf. The quality of your faith will somehow be seen in the streets, in the way people live.”

Lehrer also asks him to define grace, a concept so important to Lutheran tradition.

Bouman says:

Life is a gift, that my life doesn’t need any other justification, that somehow God is in all of it…

Will Pittsburgh Episcopalians bolt church?

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh is nearing decision time.

The conservative diocese and its leader, Bishop Robert W. Duncan Jr., are considering leaving the Episcopal Church because of the church’s consecration of an openly gay bishop and its allowance of same-sex union ceremonies.

Parishes are meeting to discuss what’s at stake — and the diocese has set up a “website”: to help them.

A decision could come at the annual diocesan meeting in November.

As the “Pittsburgh Post-Gazette”: explained:

At a May retreat, diocesan leadership and Bishop Robert W. Duncan Jr. outlined four options for the diocese: maintaining the status quo, “submitting” to the will of the national church, “dissolving” the diocese or attempting, as a diocese, to leave the church.

Bishop Duncan said at the time he would not remain bishop under the first two alternatives, and would eventually leave his position if the diocese were dissolved.