NEWS FEATURE: RNS Religion Calendar

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Here is the RNS calendar of religious holidays, events and meetings for August and September. It is updated monthly. July 28-Aug. 3 African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church: general conference, Greensboro, N.C. Contact: The Rev. George McKain at 843-276-3411; e-mail: zionpagem2(at) July 28-Aug 6 World Council of Churches: “Receive One Another as Christ Has Received You to the Glory of God,” Faith and Order Plenary Commission, Kuala Lampur, Malaysia.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service Call to Renewal Urges Retention of Faith-based Office (RNS) Call to Renewal, a religiously rooted anti-poverty group, has urged President Bush and Sen. John Kerry to keep the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives in the next presidential administration. “We believe an Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives in the White House can help address poverty in this country,” wrote Jim Wallis, convener of the Washington-based organization, in letters sent Thursday (July 29) to Bush and Kerry. “Shutting the door on efforts to find the right mix of partnership between the government and churches _ that respects the separation of church and state _ is akin to saying the faith community is not willing to be creative when it comes to serving `the least of these.”’ The letters were prompted by calls from other faith-based community leaders to eliminate the office. The Interfaith Alliance sent letters in mid-July to Kerry and Bush seeking the dismantling of the office and its related Cabinet-level centers.

NEWS FEATURE: Amish `Reality’ TV Show Debuts to Mixed Reviews

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) If you were among the 5.4 million viewers who made the premiere of “Amish in the City” a smashing success, supporters of the widely misunderstood Christian group want you to know you did not watch educational programming. “This is entertainment and not a PBS documentary,” said Amish scholar David Weaver-Zercher. “Amish in the City,” UPN’s latest reality TV entry, first aired on Wednesday (July 28) and was the evening’s second-highest-rated show nationally and the top show in major markets such as New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. The show follows five people in their late teens or early 20s who grew up in Amish homes but have been set up in a Hollywood house with six non-Amish young people.

COMMENTARY: The Sounds of Sorrow

c. 2004 Religion News Service (Eugene Cullen Kennedy, a longtime observer of the Roman Catholic Church, is professor emeritus of psychology at Loyola University in Chicago and author of “Cardinal Bernardin’s Stations of the Cross,” published by St. Martin’s Press.) (UNDATED) It is a Saturday evening Mass in the summertime, as ordinary as Ordinary Time itself. Except for the strange sound. It is not that of a great wind, as reported at the first Pentecost, or even that of a small wind.

NEWS STORY: Jews Warn Kerry Campaign: Don’t Take Us for Granted

c. 2004 Religion News Service BOSTON _ The message to the Kerry campaign from Jews is clear: Don’t take us for granted. Jewish voters may not be flocking from the traditionally Democratic stronghold to the Bush-Cheney ticket in large numbers, but Jewish Democrats gathered here for their presidential nominating convention are working to remind the party that Jews are a key constituency and may be somewhat “in play” in November. The National Jewish Democratic Council convened a panel of experts here to discuss the question, “Are Jews trending Republican?” and strategize how the Jewish community might combat GOP efforts to recruit from their ranks. Particularly in swing states like Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan, the relatively high concentration of Jews could tip the balance in the very close presidential race.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service Interfaith Luncheon, Rally Show Faith Presence at Democratic Convention BOSTON (RNS) Democrats are showing that they take faith seriously, hosting both a faith-based luncheon and an interfaith social justice rally at the Democratic National Convention. The “People of Faith” luncheon Wednesday (July 28) featured a diverse group of speakers and guests representing various branches of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. “This is the first time in the history of the Democratic Party that we’ve made space and time to come together as people of faith,” said the Rev. Leah D. Daughtry, who in addition to being a minister is the chief of staff for the Democratic National Committee. Luncheon speakers emphasized the connection between religious values of equality and justice and Democratic political action.

NEWS STORY: Documentary Revisits Nun Who Refused to Be Silenced

c. 2004 Religion News Service PHILADELPHIA _ With her shy nun’s smile and gentle demeanor, Sister Jeannine Gramick seems the most unlikely of gadflies. But, as a new documentary about her ministry to gay and lesbian Catholics shows, she is fearless in fighting anyone who tries to silence her. The film, “In Good Conscience: Sister Jeannine Gramick’s Journey of Faith,” has made the rounds at film festivals from Milan, Italy, to Kansas City. It recently won the “audience favorite” award at the Philadelphia International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in Gramick’s hometown.

COMMENTARY: My Brother and Anne Frank

c. 2004 Religion News Service (Rabbi Rudin, the American Jewish Committee’s senior interreligious adviser, is Distinguished Visiting Professor at Saint Leo University.) (UNDATED) My brother Bert and Anne Frank, the author of the world-famous diary, were both born 75 years ago in the summer of 1929, exactly seven weeks apart. However, their places of birth _ Pittsburgh, Pa., and Frankfurt, Germany _ decisively shaped their lives and speak volumes about 20th century history. One child grew up in the safety and freedom of the United States. The other was born into the anti-Semitic cauldron of a Europe racing toward World War II and the Holocaust.

NEWS STORY: Kerry Can’t Take Muslim Vote for Granted

c. 2004 Religion News Service BOSTON _ Muslim voters appear less inclined to support President Bush in November than they did in 2000, but that doesn’t mean they automatically back Democrat John Kerry. Several of the roughly 40 Muslim delegates attending this week’s Democratic National Convention said they are waiting for the Kerry campaign to show its concern for Muslim voters and acknowledge they can make a difference at the polls, especially in such key states as Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. “My sense is that 75 percent of the Muslim leadership is behind Kerry; however, the public is not,” said Asad Zaman, a school principal and convention delegate from Inver Grove, Minn., whose family is from Bangladesh. “They have to do their homework.

NEWS FEATURE: A Post-Denominational Judaism?

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) In what he calls “Common Judaism,” Michael Steinhardt is trying to foster a unifying loyalty among Jews that transcends the denominations of Reform, Conservative and Orthodox. The undertaking, part of Steinhardt’s Jewish Life Network (JLN), may be the most controversial yet for a philanthropist who has a history of challenging the status quo. It’s an effort, said Steinhardt, to “ideally create a Judaism that will spiritually resonate for 21st century Jews.” The project, which the JLN is working on with the Shalem Institute in Israel, is in early stages of planning, but Steinhardt hopes it will be a “crowning achievement” in his efforts to instill genuine spirituality in the American Jewish community. Achieving this goal might be “a year away, a decade away or a century away,” said Rabbi Irving Greenberg, president of the JLN.

NEWS FEATURE: Jewish Philanthropist Believes in Values, not God

c. 2004 Religion News Service BEDFORD, N.Y. _ The books on the coffee table of Michael Steinhardt reveal why the former hedge fund manager is devoting more of his time to Jewish philanthropy. “American Judaism,” a history, sits next to “Who Hops?” and “Who Hoots?” _ children’s books for three grandkids who share the property of his 51-acre country estate. The titles reflect Steinhardt’s twin passions: his family and the Jewish community. His entrepreneurial approach to giving, bypassing traditional charities, illustrates a trend in Jewish philanthropy.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service World Relief Develops Network to Aid Trafficking Victims (RNS) World Relief, an evangelical humanitarian agency, announced Wednesday (July 28) that it plans to launch a network to aid U.S. victims of human trafficking. The agency, which is the relief arm of the National Association of Evangelicals, said it has received a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice that it will use to aid victims of human trafficking who are brought across international borders and subjected to sexual exploitation or forced labor. World Relief will begin its work in the southeastern United States by establishing the Network of Emergency Trafficking Services. The network will foster collaboration among social service providers, religious communities and representatives of the criminal justice system to address the needs of trafficking victims. It will help provide shelter, legal aid, medical care, job skills training and translation services.

NEWS STORY: Poll: Battleground States Leaning Democratic Among Arab-Americans

c. 2004 Religion News Service BOSTON _ Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry enjoys a comfortable lead over President Bush among Arab-American voters in four “battleground states,” according to a new poll. The poll, conducted by Zogby International for the Arab American Institute, showed Kerry leading in Michigan, Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania while Bush’s numbers continue to sink. The poll, which interviewed 500 Arab-Americans between July 9 and 11, is the third in a series of six polls that will track the political preferences of the estimated 510,000 Arab-Americans who will vote in the November election in the battleground states. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

NEWS FEATURE: Faith Takes Root and Grows at Biblical Garden

c. 2004 Religion News Service PITTSBURGH _ Tucked behind hedges and an iron gate on a corner of this city’s busy Fifth Avenue lies a natural resource that combines age-old Scriptures and plants whose histories are just as ancient. The Rodef Shalom Biblical Botanical Garden has attracted gardeners and the faithful from across the country and the globe since it opened almost 20 years ago. Under the watchful eye of co-director Irene Jacob, the one-third acre site designed in the shape of Israel is one of the country’s largest biblical gardens _ outdoor collections of plants with links to the Scriptures. Jacob, 76, said her drive to maintain the garden is split between her interests in faith and flowers.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service Poll: Most Americans Support Public Displays of Religion (RNS) The vast majority of Americans oppose the removal of the Ten Commandments from public buildings and “In God We Trust” from U.S. currency. But most also oppose the idea of making Christianity the country’s official religion, a survey shows. Sixty-six percent of Americans oppose “a constitutional amendment to establish Christianity as the official religion of the United States” while 32 percent are in favor of the idea, according to a poll by the Barna Group, a Ventura, Calif., consulting firm. In other findings, researchers learned that 79 percent reject the idea of “removing signs that list the Ten Commandments from government buildings” while 18 percent would approve of such a policy.