Jews return to the ring

It’s hard to believe that boxing was once one of America’s favorite sports, right up there with baseball.

It’s also hard to believe that there was an era of great Jewish fighters, like Benny Leonard and Barney Ross.

AP081018025197_t651So it’s noteable that an Orthodox Jewish Israeli middleweight named Yuri Foreman will fight for the WBA World Championship tomorrow night on the undercard of the big Manny Pacquiao/Miguel Cotto showdown (well, it’s a big fight for the few boxing fans left).

Foreman, who grew up in Belarus, settled in Israel and now lives in Brooklyn, is training to be a rabbi. The Rockin’ Rabbi, anyone?

He’s taking on the current champ, Daniel Santos.

Oddly, another Jewish fighter, Dmitry Salita, a Ukrainian-born junior welterweight now fighting out of Brooklyn, is also Orthodox and also fighting for a world title soon.

On Dec. 5, he’ll fight for the title in Newcastle, England, against champion Amir Khan, who happens to be a British Muslim.

They have not played up the religious angle during pre-fight publicity.

A movie was even made about Salita called Orthodox Stance.

(AP photo)

Be compassionate

I blogged this morning for USA TODAY’S Faith & Reason blog about a new statement calling for — are you ready for this — compassion.

It’s true.

TED Prize ArmstrongAuthor Karen Armstrong, who has written several popular books about religion, and a bunch of religious leaders and celebrities have produced a “Charter for Compassion,” calling for people to be compassionate toward other people.

That’s Armstrong on the right and Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, Director of the Department of Religion at the Chautauqua Institution, at today’s unveiling in Washington.

It’s a start, right? I mean, the whole compassion thing.

Who can disagree with the need to be compassionate?

Take a look at what I wrote over there.

(Kevin Wolf, AP Images for TED Prize)

Muslims in the military

In light of this being Veteran’s Day and the continuing grief over Fort Hood, I wanted to cite a Washington Post article about Muslims in the military.

The Post’s Michelle Boorstein reports that “3,557 members of the 1.4 million-member U.S. armed forces describe themselves as Muslim.”

She summarizes:


Active and retired Muslim service members recalled difficulties concerning their religion but said they cannot relate to the extreme isolation and harassment described by Maj. Nidal M. Hasan, the suspect in last week’s Fort Hood slayings. They also said they hope the killings do not roll back the progress they have seen.




Interviews with Muslims revealed a range of experiences. Some choose to keep their faith private; others seek out superiors and chaplains who can help them worship even on duty. Some blamed other Muslims for not working to fit into military culture.


Sgt. Fahad Kamal, 26, who served as a combat medic in Afghanistan, described what happened when another solider called him a “terrorist” during basic training: “I knew he was just kidding, but the drill sergeant overheard him. He made him apologize in front of the entire company…I felt guilty, because I knew he was just joking. But I was also happy to see how seriously they took it.”

Looking for a ‘miracle in Manhattan’

In this economy, you don’t see many institutions expanding.

But Nyack College, which is run by the evangelical Christian & Missionary Alliance, is looking for a new property in Manhattan. Nyack College — one of only 2 Christian colleges with a presence in NYC — is currently using two rented spaces in the city.

tjndc5-5b59pq62qs73qpjx7p4_layoutTomorrow (Nov. 11), Nyack College will hold a global hour of prayer from 5 to 6 p.m. at its various locations — including its main Nyack campus and its affiliated Alliance Theological Seminary in Nyack.

Students, alumni and staff, across the country and around the world, will seek divine support for their real estate search.

The college explains:


If you’re familiar with the breadth and the depth of what we’re trying to accomplish through “The Miracle in Manhattan,” you know this project bears the perfect name. The dictionary defines a miracle as “an event that appears to be contrary to the laws of nature and is regarded as an act of God.” Indeed raising the funds necessary to establish a permanent home for our Manhattan campus today is beyond the pale of anything we could hope to achieve on our own.

We need divine intervention.

The truth is Nyack’s history unfolds like a tapestry of divine intervention. Since 1882, God has worked in mighty ways through thousands of men and women—Nyack alumni and students—committed to the legacy of service to others and Kingdom-building—all to glorify Him.

With every great accomplishment we’ve realized, prayer has been the key to open doors. Our best efforts have always begun on bended knee.

A more literary Bible

A couple of weeks ago, I received a copy of “A Literary Bible,” an original translation by Bible scholar David Rosenberg.

59519944_aEvery few days, someone walking past my desk will see the fat book and say something along the lines of “Isn’t the regular, old Bible literary?”

That is the book’s reputation.

According to some promotional material, “In A Literary Bible, all the old cliches about the Old Testament and its emphasis on Law are shattered.”

It goes on: “Today, when we have difficulty even in clarifying the boundary between church and state, the problem is often rooted in conventional Bible translations and their homogeneous language, which fails to sufficiently distinguish human life from supernatural. That boundary between secular and religious is now opened to view in the audacious translation of A Literary Bible.”

Judge for yourself. Here is the opening of Rosenberg’s Genesis:


Before a plant of the field was in earth, before a grain of the field sprouted — Yahweh had not spilled rain on the earth, nor was there man to work the land — yet from the day Yahweh made earth and sky, a mist from within would rise to moisten the surface. Yahweh shaped an earthling from clay of this earth, blew into its nostrils the wind of life. Now look: man becomes a creature of flesh.

Now Yahweh planed a garden in Eden, eastward, settled there the man he formed. From the land Yahweh grew all trees lovely to look upon, good to eat from; the tree of life was there in the garden, and the tree of knowing good and bad.


Rosenberg is a poet whose book, The Book of J (written with Harold Bloom), was a bestseller.

The anti-Catholicism debate continues

The Catholic blogosphere is rallying around Archbishop Dolan’s recent attack on what he calls “anti-Catholicism” in the NYTimes, which I blogged about early in the week.

Many bloggers have been particularly buoyed by Dolan’s criticisms of columnist Maureen Dowd, who often writes about her (liberal) unhappiness with the state of her church.

tjndc5-5p3nx301dfb4zxlsj0a_layoutOn his blog, Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Fla., wrote: “All I can say, is right on, Archbishop Tim.”

Another blogger wrote that Dolan’s criticism means more because he’s a nice guy: “Harsh criticism from Dolan sounds like harsh criticism from Mother Teresa. When it occurs, you oughtta listen. If a cur accuses me of being a cur, I shrug. If the kindly older fellow at my church takes me aside and tells me I’m behaving poorly, I blush and want to crawl under a rock.

Maybe it’s time for Dowd to crawl under a rock.”

Yet another blogger focused on the Times’ unwillingness to run Dolan’s piece as an Op-ed: “New York Times readers will not see the Archbishop’s response, it was rejected for publication. His Grace should take solace, however, knowing that at least 98 percent of Times readers, when seeing his byline, would have skipped over it anyway.”

And another: “Like President Obama and other leftists, the Old Gray Lady cannot handle constructive criticism.”

Interestingly, Laurie Goodstein, the national religion correspondent for the NYT, who is mentioned by name in Dolan’s blog, wrote a lengthy response to Dolan as a comment following his blog. It is now about 20 comments down and was posted on Nov. 4 at 2:42 p.m.

Goodstein, who is a highly regarded reporter in the journalism world, sounds exasperated by Dolan’s blog: “You write as though the Catholic Church is some sort of special target, when in fact any institution that is accused of wrongdoing receives critical coverage and commentary. As you know, the Catholic Church is the largest religious institution in the world, and a quarter of Americans are adherents. The Catholic Church is a hierarchical church with a clear chain of accountability. It is only natural that it receives such scrutiny. As you acknowledged in your blog, there are recent developments in the Church that are “well-worth discussing and hardly exempt from legitimate questioning.” So when a newspaper undertakes this kind of coverage, it should not be seen as anti-Catholic.”

She also writes more personally: “Archbishop Dolan, you and I have known one another since we first met in Rome in 1998 when you were rector at the North American College. We met again years later when I was doing a story about you and several others whom I dubbed “Healer Bishops” who were trying to help the church recover from the scandal over sexual abuse by priests. I am pained that your blog selectively overlooked all the articles in the Times that you and other bishops in the church have praised over the years because you found them fair, and there are many (including some about your appointment to the Archdiocese of New York). This is why I cannot accept your characterization of the Times as “anti-Catholic.” ”

I was part of a show yesterday on The Catholic Channel on satellite radio about this debate. I offered that anti-Catholicism is a complicated charge that means very different things to different people. I know this because I have been accused of anti-Catholicism many times for simply writing about things Catholic.

I think that it is extremely tricky to make a case that anti-Catholicism runs through the “media” or even just the NYT — as some sort of philosophy that seeks to smear Catholic belief or tradition.

As I said on the Catholic Channel yesterday, we all know that the Catholic Church takes many positions that are odds with the direction in which American culture is heading. This fact produces tensions, conflicts and bad feelings.

It also raises the question: If someone takes public positions that oppose the beliefs of the Catholic Church — or reports those positions — at what point does it become anti-Catholic. I think people have very different interpretations of where this line should be drawn.

I addressed the question of anti-Catholicism in the media when I spoke at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers a couple of months back. I remember reminding seminarians that the Catholic Church, which represents 1 in 4 Americans, is a very big target. And a very big target will get hit more than smaller ones, sometimes accurately and sometimes not.

This is is a debate that is not going away. It also shows the sway that the Archbishop of NY continues to have with Catholics outside this archdiocese.

UPDATE: Today, Sunday, the Times’ public editor, Clark Hoyt, weighed in on Dolan’s blog.

He addresses Dolan’s complaints in a rather flat way that I doubt will satisfy the paper’s critics. He concludes that the paper has not been guilty of anti-Catholicism and doesn’t really give Dolan any points.

Hoyt doesn’t even see why conservative Catholics might have a problem with Maureen Dowd’s recent column that not only attacks the Vatican’s investigation of female religious orders in the U.S., but goes after the pope in the broadest, most cliched terms: “Nuns need to be even more sepia-toned for the über-conservative pope, who was christened “God’s Rottweiler” for his enforcement of orthodoxy. Once a conscripted member of the Hitler Youth, Benedict pardoned a schismatic bishop who claimed that there was no Nazi gas chamber. He also argued on a trip to Africa that distributing condoms could make the AIDS crisis worse.”

Hoyt concludes that Dowd was “well within a columnist’s bounds.” True, but anything is within a columnist’s bounds.

If you’re going to explore Dowd’s column and quote her, at least acknowledge that Catholics might be pained by this.

Yankee manager Girardi finds the time to be a good guy

This is not a religion story, but on a morning when many New Yorkers are thinking about the Yankees, it’s worth noting:

Hoa Nguyen

EASTCHESTER – On his way home from winning the World Series, Yankees Manager Joe Girardi stopped to help a woman who had lost control of her car on the Cross County Parkway and crashed into a wall.

“The guy wins the World Series, what does he do? He stops to help,” said Westchester County police officer Kathleen Cristiano, who was among the first to arrive at the accident scene. “It was totally surreal.”

tjndc5-5rps9begwgkdy75qg2m_layoutThe driver was stunned by the accident, but otherwise uninjured, police said.

The crash happened at 2:25 a.m. today on the eastbound lanes along a long blind curve where the Cross County meets the Hutchinson River Parkway prior to the New Rochelle Road exit, police said.

Police were in the area conducting a driving while intoxicated checkpoint on the parkway. In fact, about 15 minutes earlier, Girardi had passed through a driving while intoxicated checkpoint on the parkway. Cristiano, who was working the checkpoint, congratulated him on his first win as a manager and waved him through. He hadn’t been the only Yankees member to pass by the checkpoint. Pitcher Andy Pettitte also passed through earlier.

“He came through with a smile,” Cristiano said.

Cristiano, a self-described huge Yankees fan, said she hadn’t expect to see either one of then again. But then a 911 call came through about a car accident a short distance away, and so officers suspended the checkpoint and responded to the crash. As she came upon the accident scene, in an area where the parkway’s two lanes turn into three and cars speed by the curve that takes them to the Hutchinson Parkway, Cristiano spotted Girardi.

“He was jumping up and down, trying to flag me down,” she said. “You don’t expect him standing by a car accident trying to help.”

Cristiano said by the time she arrived, the driver, Marie Henry, 27, of Stratford, Conn., was able to get out of the crashed vehicle and declined to be taken to the hospital.

Girardi, who was dressed in a casual T-shirt and jeans, then told them he “had to get going.”

Cristiano and Henry both thanked him and watched as he ran across traffic again to reach his car.

“The driver didn’t know it was him until after I told her,” Cristiano said.

The area is notorious for its blind spots, and Girardi, who had parked his car along the right side of the parkway, and then run across the traffic to get to the injured motorist, put his life at risk, police said.

“He could have gotten killed,” county Sgt. Thomas McGurn said, adding that responding police units take extra precaution in that area because of the blind curve and speeding cars. “Traffic goes by at 80 mph.”

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

From interviewing the pope to running Westchester

Last night’s victory for Rob Astorino in the race for Westchester County Executive is a loss for the Catholic Channel on SIRIUS and XM Satellite Radio.

tjndc5-5rp90b09wpw14hpf8el0_layoutAstorino has served as program director since the channel kicked off in December 2006, with its programming run by the Archdiocese of New York.

He’s been on leave since Labor Day while campaigning and will briefly return to the channel to wrap things up before beginning his new job.

Since the start, the Catholic Channel has aimed to be entertaining and educational, a modern alternative to EWTN.

“We tell the hosts: ‘Don’t talk shop,'” Astorino told me when I profiled the Channel in 2007. “‘Don’t assume people know what you’re talking about on the faith. Educate and re-educate.'”

In his role with the Catholic Channel, Astorino has had a rare level of access to the leaders of the Catholic Church.

He hosted a weekly show with Cardinal Egan and then Archbishop Dolan. He also traveled the country to interview bishops, archbishops and cardinals (since the Channel is national).

He even got to interview Pope Benedict XVI when the pontiff was in New York.

Astorino told me at the time: “I think he realized the importance of this trip, that people are getting to know him on a personal level. The throngs on Fifth Avenue and at the seminary were so vibrant, it was amazing. When I met him, he was very gentle, very happy.”

Now Astorino gets to try using his communication skills in a very different capacity.

In a completely unrelated Catholic Channel note…When I profiled the channel, I focused on a Westchester couple — Dave and Susan Konig — who hosted a very funny show on the Channel. Dave is a comedian and Susan a writer, and their show was smart and energetic.

At some point, maybe late last year, I read that the Konigs had decided to do other things and were leaving the Channel.

I was a tad surprised, but didn’t think anything of it.

tjndc5-5eb3jlrm5fn1nbjf2hux_layoutBut I recently got a mass email from Dave Konig promoting a show he’s doing. It said: “Jewboy or: How I Converted from Judaism to Catholicism and Back to Judaism AND Lost Those Stubborn Last 10 Pounds!”

Then I checked out the comedy club where he was performing and found this description of his show: “Three-time Emmy Award winning comedian Dave Konig goes fom being a Hebrew School dropout to a national spokesman for the Catholic Church and back again, with celebrity appearances by Marisa Tomei, Richard Simmons, and the entire Seacaucas Fire Department along the way.”

So I guess I now know why the Konigs left the Catholic Channel.


1. Dave Konig let me know that he and Susan did not leave the Catholic Channel because he left the Catholic faith. “Leaving the Catholic Channel precipitated my (reconversion) back to Judaism, not the other way around!” he writes.

2. I should have noted that Susan Konig just ran for a seat on the Westchester County Board of Legislators, but came up a bit short.

3. Archbishop Dolan is now offering congratulations to Astorino on his blog:


Rob has served the Catholic Channel well, and I’ve very much enjoyed working with him.  A few years ago, he came to Milwaukee to interview me for The Catholic Channel, and back in February, on the day my appointment to New York was announced, Rob interviewed me and Cardinal Egan.  In April, we began our weekly program, Conversation with the Archbishop which I have immensely enjoyed.

Just a few weeks ago, Rob and his lovely wife, Sheila had their third child, a beautiful young girl named Ashlin who joins big brother Sean and big sister Kiley.  My prayers and best wishes are with Rob as he undertakes his new responsibilities as a father and County Executive.

Have questions about priestly celibacy?

If you read this blog, you’re probably aware that the question of priestly celibacy in the Catholic Church remains a hotly debated one.

I’ve heard people offer vastly different accounts of the history of celibacy and its meaning for today.

Well, tomorrow (Wed. Nov. 4), Father Joseph T. Lienhard, a Jesuit and professor of theology at Fordham University — and adjunct professor of dogmatic theology at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie — will present a lecture at the seminary about “Celibacy in the Early Church.”

It’s at 7:30 p.m. and is open to the public.

The seminary is offering several lectures this year related to the “Year for Priests.”

Lienhard is the author, editor or translator of 12 books and author of more than 50 scholarly articles. Since 1997, he has been the managing editor of TRADITION, a journalism of ancient an medieval thought, history and religion published by Fordham.

He is currently translating two works by St. Augustine into English for the first time.

Much enthusiasm will be curbed

My friend, Cathy Lynn Grossman, the religion writer at USA TODAY, is off for a few weeks. So I’m part of a small group that will be contributing to her blog, Faith & Reason, while she’s taking a breather.

tjndc5-5r7joso8cf4jk4u6bw9_layoutI wrote up my first offering today, about a (typically) offensive storyline on HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” last week.

It has to do with Jesus…and urine. And the very idea of the show will offend many who did not see it.

In fact, people who do not watch Curb will likely be far more offended than those who understand that Larry David goes after anyone and anything on his show, which is basically an R-rated, meaner Seinfeld.

Make that much meaner. Especially this season.

I think the show very much misses the regular presence of Cheryl Hines, who played Larry’s (now ex-) wife. She humanized David’s character, sort of.

(AP Photo/HBO, Doug Hyun)