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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘faith’

The Power of Faith

Monday, July 9th, 2012

The power of faith is unmatched; it can lift man above adversity and help him climb the highest of mountains. It can help him overcome pain and torture. It can make him see the light in a night that is inky in its darkness. The Gaon Rav Tzvi Hirsh Levin manifested such a faith when he was a starving and poverty-stricken rav in Halberstat.

Halberstat was a small and very poor town that was proud to have the great scholar as its spiritual leader. Unfortunately, their love for him was greater than their capacity to pay his salary and he was forced to live a life of abject poverty.

He never paid any attention to his meager existence, because the opportunity to sit and study Torah more than compensated for the lack of material benefits, but his wife and children suffered greatly from deprivation.

Wife Complains

The rebbetzin, who was a good woman, could stand it no longer and her patience and stoicism finally broke down. One day, when the rav returned from the Beis Medrash, he found his wife in tears.

“Why are you crying?” he asked.

“How can I not cry?” retorted the wife. “We have no money and all the inheritance that I received from my mother is almost gone.

“I sit each day counting every coin and worrying. Every day is another worry for me while you do not care about our desperate financial plight.”

Sharp Mind

Rav Tzvi Hirsh felt very bad about his wife’s anguish sand he tried to comfort her with a smile and a little joke.

“It is not true that I do not worry about our economic plight,” he said. “You know, however, that your mother chose me for a son-in-law because I was reputed to have a sharp mind.

“What is the difference between someone who has such a mind and someone who does not? The latter takes a long time to understand while the former grasps the situation quickly.

“It takes you a long time to understand our plight and so you worry some every day. I understand it right away and I do all your worrying in a moment.”

Naturally the wife was hardly satisfied with this “answer” and she berated him for his lack of compassion.

Urges Faith

Rav Tzvi Hirsh began to remind her that a Jew must never lose faith in the Al-Mighty, but must rather always look to the heavens and anticipate aid and comfort. His wife, however, refused to listen.

“How can we expect help when there is not a piece of bread in the house and not a coin in our pockets? Who will feed the children tonight?”

“But you still have things of value left, do you not?” asked Rav Tzvi Hirsh. “Pawn the jewelry and the silverware that remain from the inheritance and buy food with the money that you get from them.”

“And what will happen when they are all gone?”

“At that time we will worry. I am convinced, however, that when we have nothing left the Almighty will surely come to our aid as He always does.”

One Spoon

The months passed and the family lived on the money that came from selling and pawning their valuables. This could only go on for so long, however, and the day arrived when the rebbetzin, once again, came to her husband with tears and said, “All that we have is now gone except for one teaspoon. What shall we do? How shall we live?”

“Will the teaspoon buy us breakfast?” asked the rabbi.

“Yes.”

“Then sell it and let us eat breakfast. Afterwards we will sit and discuss the future.”

With a heave sigh, that is what the rebbetzin did. The family sat down to eat the bread and butter she bought with the money. She, however, ate nothing. Her heart was too filled with pain and worry.

The rav saw his wife’s misery and asked gently, “Why do you not eat? Have you not learned that the salvation of the L-rd comes as the blinking of an eye? This means that just when the eyelids of a man are about to close through weakness, and he sees no help on the horizon, that is the time when he can expect the Almighty to come to his rescue.”

A Knock On The Door

No sooner had he finished saying these words when a knock was heard on the door. It was the mailman and he had a letter that came all the way from London. Rav Hirsh opened the letter with great puzzlement and read it.

Lollipops Don’t Fall From The Sky

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Last week I published a letter from a thirty-eight year old single woman who lamented that despite her having become a ba’alas teshuvah, forsaking her secular life, committing to Torah and mitzvos, going to rabbis, receiving berachot – in short, doing all the “right” things – she has failed to find her bashert, her soul mate. She wondered where G-d was and what all her sacrifices were all about. She was angry at G-d and regarded all her efforts as having been for naught. “My joy in Judaism has disappeared,” she wrote. The following is my response.

My dear friend:

As I write this column, the portion of the week is Chukas. I have found that if one searches properly, the parshah of the week always offers clarification on the challenges one has to wrestle with.

You have resentment in your heart. You feel you have been treated unfairly and that your commitment to Torah and mitzvos has been futile. In your disillusionment, you are angry at G-d and ready to give it all up.

Look in the Torah portion to which I referred. Miriam, Aaron and Moshe himself, the giants of our people, had their hopes dashed. Their dream of entering Eretz Yisrael was never realized. They could have argued, “For this we sacrificed? For this we labored? The nation has the privilege of entering Eretz Yisrael and we do not? Where is justice? It’s just not fair!” But they remained silent and accepted the will of G-d with equanimity, love, and a full heart.

Throughout the long centuries of our painful history, the emblem of our people has been unconditional faith. No matter where life took us, no matter what catastrophe befell us, we clung tenaciously to our G-d. Obviously there have been individuals whose faith faltered, who disappeared into the melting pot of assimilation, but we as a people triumphed, and our “Shema Yisrael” reverberated and continues to reverberate throughout the world.

I myself, a child of the Holocaust, can testify to this. With my own eyes I saw the indescribable suffering of our people. I will never forget the holy countenance and the voice of my saintly father, HaRav HaGaon Avraham HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l, who, after our own liberation from Bergen Belsen, received the catastrophic news that he was the only surviving son of the glorious rabbinic house of my grandfather. In a trembling voice, his eyes filled with tears, my father called out: “Ribbonoh shel Olam, I ask only one thing – that all my children, all my generations, should remain by Torah.”

Think about this and absorb it well. Wouldn’t my father have been justified in saying, “I am through! If this is the reward of great tzaddikim, if this is how You protect Your beloved chosen ones, there is no reason for me to remain and sacrifice. I’ve had it. I quit.”

Wouldn’t that have been the logical response? Wouldn’t that have been the reaction of so many in our generation who recognize entitlement but not indebtedness, rights but not responsibilities, privileges but not obligations? But my beloved revered father, like millions of others spanning many centuries and continents, had only one request, one prayer – that the light of Torah forever shine in the hearts of his descendants.

Having said this, I will try to address your personal dilemma and individual struggle.

While more than 40 years ago I had the zechus, the merit, of establishing Hineni, one of the first ba’al teshuvah movements in the world, I had actually been involved in outreach from early childhood. My father was a visionary, way ahead of his time. To the dismay of many in the chassidic world, he went to Szeged, not to be confused with Sziget, a shtetl in Romania. Szeged was a cosmopolitan city, the second largest in Hungary, as well as the most assimilated. My father created an Orthodox community there and kindled the light of Torah in the hearts of our people.

So it was from a tender age that I was nurtured in outreach. Over the years I learned it is dangerous to tell a secular person if he or she would only do such and such, the heavens would open up and all their dreams would be fulfilled. Our Torah way of life is not a candy store; lollipops do not fall from the sky, nor are there any guarantees of living “happily ever after.”

Half of US Reform Rabbis Officiate at Intermarriages

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

While the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) does not have statistics on how many of its 2,000 Reform rabbis in North America officiate at intermarriages, when pressed, Rabbi Hara Person, director of CCAR Press, estimated “it’s about half.”

A testament to the prevalence of officially sanctioned intermarriage inside the Reform movement, is JTA’s Penny Schwartz’s story published this week, on a special publication coming out next month from CCAR, a Premarital Counseling Guide for Clergy, written by Dr. Paula Brody, director of the Union for Reform Judaism’s Outreach Training Institute, which includes an entire section for counseling of intermarried and conversionary couples.

The goal is to give clergy more tools to help couples discuss the meaning of their faith background, Brody told JTA.

Brody’s exercises delve deeply into both partners’ childhood experiences from their faith backgrounds to enable a couple to be able to discuss the sensitive issue of how they will raise any future children. “It means a tremendous amount to the person from a different faith background to know they are being recognized,” she told JTA.

In a highlighted section, Brody writes, “The Jewish community has been blessed to have had so many individuals from other faith backgrounds give the gift of raising Jewish children. Tremendous appreciation needs to be expressed by the partner, the partner’s family, and the Jewish community for giving this gift to Judaism.”

The manual also includes suggestions for follow up, a key factor that is now lacking, according to many observers.

Back in March, Dr. Brody held a series of workshops for clergy and professional staff based on the manual. In her notes describing the series she wrote:

“Most couples will seek out a clergy connection before their marriage. For interfaith couples, this interaction is often pivotal. How can clergy turn pre-marital meetings, whether with in-marrying or intermarrying couples, into opportunities for meaningful Jewish engagement, nurturing their Jewish choices and solidifying their commitment to creating a Jewish home for their family?

“This workshop will provide some useful tools to strengthen couples’ communication around faith issues enabling each partner to untangle the complicated threads that connect them to their family and religious background. The workshop will introduce clergy to the couples communication exercises and wedding planning suggestions available in the forthcoming CCAR publication.”

Schwartz writes that some rabbis set conditions – such as joining a synagogue or committing to raising future children as Jews – before they’ll officiate at an intermarriage. But Rabbi Lev Baesh told her he worries such conditions would turn off couples.

“It matters so much for a rabbi to say, ‘yes,’” no matter where the couple is in the process, says Baesh, director of the resource center for Jewish clergy for Interfaithfamily.com, a resource and service organization that supports Jewish life for interfaith couples.

Interfaithfamily.com is a resource center which believes that “maximizing the number of interfaith families who find fulfillment in Jewish life and raise their children as Jews is essential to the future strength and vitality of the Jewish community.”

The website provides “useful educational information and resources, connect interfaith families to each other and to local Jewish communities, and advocate for inclusive attitudes, policies and practices.”

But while resources like Interfaithfamily.com seem vital for dealing with the ever growing problem of intermarriages, it is a far cry from openly sanctioning the creation of such marriages.

According to Schwartz, historically, CCAR has opposed its members officiating at intermarriages. In 1973, it reaffirmed that opposition, but also recognized that its members hold divergent interpretations, with each making his or her own decision.

A resolution proposed at CCAR’s 2008 annual convention called for dropping the official opposition. To avoid a polarizing debate on the hot button issue, the resolution was tabled.

Two years ago a task force on intermarried issued a report affirming that continuity is more likely for inmarriages. But there is a significant opportunity among intermarrieds, as well, the report noted, and called for strengthening outreach efforts and providing more resources to its rabbis. The new premarital counseling manual was an outgrowth of the recommendations.

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The Cult of America

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

Not long ago, there was a case of a cult leader who was arrested for having a harem of twenty homeless teenage girls whom he kept in a mansion and sexually molested as part of their allegiance to him. In court, his lawyer gave an impassioned speech, asking the jury to take into consideration all of the good he had done in rescuing them from the street, housing them, providing them with food, clothing, and paying for their medical care. He hadn’t forced anyone to stay in his mansion. He hadn’t locked the doors. He had simply rescued them and given them his love.

Yes, America took in hordes of downtrodden immigrant Jews. Yes, America was a land of opportunity for the homeless and starving. Yes, America allowed them freedom of religion. Yes, in America, many poor immigrant Jews became rich and famous. And, yes, America has helped the State of Israel in many ways too.

But the fact is, call it whatever nice fancy, intellectual-sounding, three or four syllable name that you wish, the majority of Jews in America are being raped. Raped of their Jewish identity. Raped of being Jews. Raped of their Jewish future. No one is forcing them, but it is happening all the same.

Not everyone mind you. About 35% to 40% of American Jews are still hanging on to being Jewish. But assimilation is steadily increasing, and hundreds of thousands are disappearing with every passing decade. Soon, only the Orthodox will be left, and who will save them when the Americans remind them the hard way that they are Jews, not Americans – as has happened in every age throughout history, in every gentile country with whom we have fallen in love?

In my family alone, except for my brother, all of my cousins and second cousins married out of the faith – all of them. Finished. Kaput. The end of the line. After 5000 years of clinging to being Jewish, generation after generation, through times of harsh and often murderous oppression, the candle was snuffed out in the love boat of America, which is so good to the Jews, it rapes them of being Jewish – not by force – but by feeding them, and housing them, and providing them with all kinds of goodies and love.

It won’t happen to your children, you say – if you are even married, because who but homosexuals get married these days? And if it does happen to your children and grandchildren, well, it’s no big deal, you claim – everyone is equal, people are free to do what they want with their lives, why should there be differences and ethnic borders in the world? The main thing is love.

“Love, shmov,” my grandmother would say. “A curse on Columbus!”

That little gem, she was fond of saying every Columbus Day for his having discovered the land of assimilation that is steadily and surely wiping out the Jewish People, even though everything is honky dory with you. Who cares about the future of our people? My life today is what matters! That’s all that counts to the cultists of America. EQUALITY! LIBERTY! ACCEPTANCE!

Yes, America has been good to the Jews. Just like the rapist was good to his harem of teenage lovers.

Grounding Kings and Presidents

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Okay, I’ll start off by saying that I really don’t understand where some of these titles come from – but what can I do…I’m just the typist here. My brain says to the fingers – type it and they do…so don’t blame them, please.

I didn’t walk among kings last week, but I certainly walked among presidents, ministers, generals, former generals, and ambassadors. They walked somehow above the rest of us, occasionally stopping to speak to someone here or there. They were hustled in, hustled out. We were the audience, the children – told to stand (as if we did not know); told not to leave our seats for security reasons.

We were a bit awed, a bit nervous. They are but men, flesh and blood but when someone like Gabi Ashkenazi stands a short distance away, you hesitate to approach. When Peres comes into the room, your mind fills with questions and you wonder if you should ask. I did approach; I did ask. I pushed myself by reminding myself that I have as much right to share in the sunshine of this world as they do, to question what my country is doing and where it is going. It is the future of my children; I am their mother.

After two full days, I was ready for the quiet that is my home. I woke Friday morning to the task of making challah and as I kneaded the dough, I thought about the week. My success of the day was not measured in international agreements brokered among diplomats and journalists, but on whether my dough would rise and if the bread that would be baked would be sweet enough.

Hours later, the table set, two of my children received their father’s blessings and we watched as he cut the bread and gave each of us a piece. It was delicious – this fantastic recipe I got from Lauren months ago. I’ve changed it a bit – added mostly whole wheat flour, increased the honey by a bit. I braided six strands, which makes a lovely loaf – and we enjoyed it and it was as I was kneading and later as I was eating it that I thought about how we are grounded, as kings and presidents are not.

More than the simple task of making bread is the concept here. We can walk among presidents and kings all week long, but it is only as we ground ourselves on Friday and enter the Sabbath do we approach the True King. These men who spoke have voice but no real power. They do not determine the present and future of Israel, nor do the rockets that hit our land, even on Shabbat. As we entwine the strands of dough, we are entwined with our land, our people, our faith and most of all, with God. It is this act, of preparing the challah and caring for our families that Jewish women have done for centuries, millennium.

All week long, we can forget that. We can listen to politicians suggest that Israel can make peace if is surrenders this, concedes this, gives up that, forgets that. We can listen to academics play with lines on a map wondering if they notice, perhaps, that the line just happens to go through someone’s living room, and we can wonder about whether this man’s perceived crisis is really more about him than about us. And then we can come home, add yeast and flour, eggs and water and honey and salt, We can watch the dough rise, a promise that Shabbat is coming soon.

And we can bake it, letting the house fill with the most amazing scents. We can thank our married children as they stop by to bring a salad for us, or as they call and wish us a peaceful Shabbat. We put the freshly baked bread on the table, light the Shabbat candles as we close our eyes and pray for peace. No, not the peace of these kings and politicians, but true peace that comes from the heart and in the heart.

And then, as the candles burn and we sit around, we have that first taste of the challah and know we have been truly blessed, truly grounded and truly honored to walk with the King.

Shoshana Bluth: A Supermom Hotline Of Emunah

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Shoshana Bluth’s telephone number is a help hotline for mothers and wives of Israeli soldiers – a hotline of faith, emunah in Hebrew.

“Mothers whose eldest sons were about to go into the army would come to me for encouragement. I was thought of as a kind of Western Wall for mothers of soldiers… My message to them was, simply, to be optimistic. I have complete confidence in G-d, and also in my sons,” she reveals.

Who would know better about the need for “optimism,” for courage and faith, than Shoshana Bluth, the mother of eight children in uniform, seven of them as combat soldiers? Asked whether she is ever worried, she replies honestly: “We are human beings. Of course we’re worried and afraid. During an operation or a war, it’s hard to sleep at night.” Shoshana Bluth, however, does not waste a sleepless night. When one of her sons was a platoon commander during the Second Lebanon War, the mothers of his men would call Shoshana at night. “They knew I was available,” she says simply. “My telephone number was their hotline.”

Who is this wonder woman? Born in Boro Park, Brooklyn, Shoshana Schiff attended Brooklyn College, where, in 1968 besides graduating with a B.A. in Special Education, she met her future husband, economist Ephraim Bluth. However, before marrying him, the dedicated young Zionist spent her prenuptial year in Israel within the framework of Sherut LaAm program, working with youth in development towns as a special education teacher.

After their wedding, the two young religious Zionists went on aliyah in 1971, committed to the building of the land they love. Shoshana did her share in special education, soon to be augmented by special motherhood. In 1973 her first son was joined by a daughter, followed by a second son in 1974, by a third in 1979, a fourth in 1980, a fifth in 1983, a sixth in 1984, a seventh in 1987 – eight children in fifteen years! By the time the baby turned two, his oldest brother had enlisted in a combat unit of the Israeli army.

Your children in combat units in a country that is relentlessly beleaguered by vicious enemies! I cannot imagine a greater dedication to any cause no matter how sacred. How does a mother do it? One of Shoshana’s sons was critically wounded when terrorists infiltrated the pre-army academy in Atzmona, where he was studying.

Five of his friends were killed beside him. “They say that I ought to be worried because my children are combat soldiers. In the end, the child who ended up being the most severely wounded was in the study hall,” Shoshana says. A grenade exploded next to Shoshana’s son and he suffered shrapnel wounds all over his body, including in his chest, where one piece of shrapnel was millimeters away from his heart. He was evacuated by helicopter to Tel Hashomer Hospital. “It was a nightmare to see him,” she recalls. “His whole body was cut and torn, and there was an enormous gaping hole in his chest. His right eardrum had been completely torn, and his left eardrum was dislocated.”

The Begin Center presents an annual prize to a person or organized body who accomplishes an extraordinary act or acts for the benefit of the State of Israel and/or the Jewish People. This year the award went to Shoshana and Ephraim Bluth. “Never in our wildest dreams did we expect to be ranked among those who are worthy of it,” Supermom Shoshana reveals with characteristic modesty.

The Sin of the Spies – Perspective

Friday, June 15th, 2012

In my experience as a Synagogue Rabbi, I found that so much of life is about perspective. Helping congregants deepen their commitment to Judaism, deepen their relationships with one another, I learned that often fear paralyzes people from achieving their goals. I also learned that a positive attitude makes for a richer, fuller, more meaningful life.

The above might seem obvious – but it wasn’t obvious to the Ten Spies who returned from the Land with a negative report. They were the leaders of the Jewish Nation: “All distinguished men; heads of the Children of Israel were they” (Num. 13:3). But their lack of faith and their lack of vision brought about consequences that, according to the Talmud, we still suffer from today (See Ta’anit 29a).

What did they do that was so wrong, it warranted forty years of wandering in the desert? What was so egregious, that turned the 9th of Av, the day they returned with their report, into a day of tragedy and mourning for the rest of Jewish History?

In their first report, the Spies relate:

We arrived at the land to which you have sent us, and indeed it flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. But – the people that dwells in the land is powerful, the cities are large, and we also so there the offspring of the giant (Num. 13:27-28).

With the word “but,” they begin their editorial. They are no longer objective. They bring in their negativity and project their fears. They see themselves as “grasshoppers” (v. 33), in the eyes of the inhabitants of the Land.

While the Spies tell the Jewish People, “We cannot ascend” (v. 31), Caleb tells them, “We shall surely ascend and conquer it, for we can surely do it!” (v. 30) For the Spies, it is a land that “devours it inhabitants,” (v. 32) but for Joshua and Caleb, “the Land is very, very good” (Num. 14:8).

Twelve Spies went to scout out the Land. Ten maligned the Land, while two defended it. But they all saw the same land! To see the Land as an insurmountable challenge or, to see it as a goodly Land, is a choice. It’s a matter of perspective.

This week, while walking through Shuk Machaneh Yehudah, Jerusalem’s open air market, I noticed some unusually large fresh figs. They were bright green, and as big as apples. At first I didn’t know what they were. After doing a double take, I purchased the fruit, which turned out to be sweet and delicious – the best figs I have ever eaten. I was reminded of how the Spies, “…cut from there a vine with one cluster of grapes, and they carried it on a pole, by two, and of the pomegranates and of the figs” (13:23). A famous interpretation has it that the grapes were so large they had to be carried “on a pole, by two.” They carried this mutant fruit back, “with the intent to spread slander, ‘Just as the fruit is unusual, so are its people unusual” (Rashi, ad loc.). But the Spies had a choice. Instead of seeing these large fruits as “unusual,” they could have seen them as a product of Hashem’s blessing – a gift from God; a symbol of sustenance and abundance. As Rashi emphasizes, it was all a matter of intent. The Spies chose to see the negative.

Let’s not confuse a positive outlook with naïveté, or being a Pollyanna. One can look through rose-colored glasses and still recognize the problems. But one who posses a deep faith, who truly believes that “whatever the Merciful One does is for the good” (Berachot 60b), will see the good in the vicissitudes of life. The challenges of life are obstacles to overcome and lessons to be learned. The Sin of the Spies was so egregious, because rather than possessing the faith and strength to recognize the Divine blessings of the Land, with all of its challenges, they chose to color their report with their fears and negativity.

The message of the Biblical account of the Spies has tremendous relevance today, here in the modern State of Israel. With a nuclear threat from Iran, enemy states on its borders, the ever-constant fear of terrorism, and pressure from the International Community, Israel is not without its challenges. But it’s also the ‘Start Up Nation,’ with a healthy, growing economy when most of the world’s economies are failing. It is at the forefront of many technologies and industries, research and development. It is a country that is hated by the world, yet continues to shower the world with acts of kindness.

Fearing Anti-Mormon Prejudice, Romney Plays Down His Religion

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

WASHINGTON – Mitt Romney’s Lacrosse moment awaits him.

The Democratic convention in Los Angeles was where Joe Lieberman made history as the first Jewish candidate on a major ticket on Aug. 17, 2000. But two days later, history came to life in Lacrosse, Wis., the little college town where Lieberman walked – and pointedly did not drive – to the local synagogue on his first post-nomination Shabbat.

Townspeople came out of their homes to shake the vice presidential candidate’s hand, congratulate him and express their admiration for his adherence to the traditional tenets of Sabbath observance. The Middle American scene affirmed for Lieberman the country’s openness to different faiths.

By contrast Romney, the presumed Republican presidential nominee, seems to prefer silence in handling his Mormonism in public. It’s a stark contrast to both Lieberman and Democratic candidate John F. Kennedy, a Roman Catholic who in 1960 famously said he would not take political guidance from the Vatican.

“It’s clear his campaign made a decision that it is not interested in talking about his Mormonism, not its doctrines or theology, his experiences as a church leader, how it shaped his family,” said Patrick Mason, the chair of Mormon studies at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, Calif. “He’s always said ‘I’m not running to be pastor in chief.’ ”

In fact, Romney on the trail has even cut off questioners when they ask about his religious beliefs.

There was nary a hint of Mormonism during his one term governing Massachusetts, from 2003 to 2007, said Nancy Kaufman, then the director of the Boston-area Jewish Community Relations Council and now the CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women.

“It was never an issue – it never even came up during the campaign,” Kaufman recalled of her many meetings with Romney and his staff on issues such as faith-based initiatives, health care, Israel and Iran divestment. “The only thing I ever heard about it was when we went to receptions and there was no wine.” Mormons abjure alcohol.

That lack of conversation about Romney’s religion is clearly no longer the case. In an e-mail complaint last year to the Washington Post about a story that detailed Romney’s leadership in the Boston-area Mormon community, his Jewish spokeswoman, Andrea Saul, substituted “Jew” and “Jewish” for Mormon in an attempt to underscore what she depicted as the complaint’s intrusiveness and offense. The New York Times has reported that the Romney campaign challenges reporters, “Would you have written this about a Jewish candidate?”

Some experts on Mormonism say the answer should be yes and add that Romney should welcome the scrutiny, especially because of his deep involvement in his church, as a young missionary in France and then as a bishop in Boston.

“His experience as a church leader provides some humanizing narrative of working with people who are unemployed, poor, immigrants,” Mason said. “People in America respect faith.”

Romney should be prepared to accept even greater scrutiny because Mormonism is less well known and much younger than Judaism, said Ryan Cragun, an expert in the sociology of religion at the University of Tampa and a former Mormon.

“Judaism has been around for thousands of years, many people have been familiar with it,” he said. “The same cannot be said of Mormonism. It’s a young religion, it has a number of quirks and oddities, and people want to know more of that.”

Mason agreed, but added that Romney should avoid the particulars of Mormon theology while focusing on broad principles of shared faith with other religious communities. Romney seemed to be doing that last month when he delivered the commencement speech at Liberty University, the evangelical school in Lynchburg, Va., founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell.

Making common Christian cause against secular encroachment served Romney well, Mason said.

“It showed this common language of faith,” he said. “When he leaves [specific] theology out of it, he does well with the evangelicals.”

The approach could be critical for Romney with the GOP’s evangelical base, whose distaste for Mormonism may have been evidenced in Romney’s difficulties in winning primary states in the South this year.

The Anti-Defamation League in tracking anti-Mormon prejudice has found negative attitudes among about a quarter of the population, according to its national director, Abraham Foxman.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/local/fearing-anti-mormon-prejudice-romney-plays-down-his-religion/2012/06/13/

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