Turn, turn, turn: There's a very good reason you didn't hear from Ira Rifkin last week


GetReligion readers who pay close attention to international news, period, and religion trends in international news, to be specific, will have noticed that we didn’t have a Global Wire memo last week from religion-beat veteran Ira Rifkin.

Trust me, this wasn’t because Rifkin didn’t try to hit his deadline. He has filed under some of the most amazingly stressful and even painful situations. We are talking really old-school, on that side of the journalism-skills equation.

Well, last week, Rifkin couldn’t file because he was having surgery. No need for too many details, but everyone thought things were on the up and up, afterwards.

You know that old saying that “minor surgery” is surgery on someone else? This is certainly one of those cases — times 10. There were complications. Thus, I received a follow-up note from Ira about the surgery that included the following material. I think we can all agree that the lede is a bit of an understatement, but that’s Ira.

Life's become even more complex for me. …

I started having seizures  -- a very strange out of body experience -- and my heart stopped several times. I'm back in the hospital. … Strokes and/or brain damage have been ruled out. In any event I needed a heart pacemaker installed. … Though because my heart stopped again while on the operating table, they had to install an emergency one before circling back to install the permanent one.

I'm much better today but extraordinarily weak, mostly in bed and sleeping.

Rifkin will update his status when the time is right, I am sure.

I have known Ira for several decades and it is almost easier to list who — in terms of people and organizations — he has not worked with, as opposed to those with whom he has worked. In his GetReligion resume, I am especially fond of this list, which shows groups he has worked with as a media-relations consultant. Check this out:

He has … done media relations work in India for the International Transpersonal Association, and has consulted to the Center for Strategic & International Studies, Frontline/Helen Whitney Productions, The Pew Charitable Trusts, Religion Newswriters Foundation, Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, Church World Service, The Interfaith Alliance, STAR (Synagogues: Transformation and Renewal), Institute for Christian & Jewish Studies (Baltimore), Rabinowitz/Dorf Communications, Goldring Family Foundation, United Jewish Communities, Jewish Lights Publishing, Beyond Pesticides, Maryland Pesticide Network, InnerSource: A Center for Psychotherapy and Healing (Annapolis, MD), Chabad of California and others.

I think it’s safe to say that Ira and I disagree on more subjects than whose on which we agree (I’m an old conservative Democrat and he’s an old liberal Democrat, unless he has headed left of that signpost in recent years). However, we are both journalists and old-school First Amendment liberals. Back in the era when we broke into news, those two traits always went together.

As Ira has mentioned many times on this website, he is a liberal Jew with strong interests in Buddhism and topics related to that. During this crisis, he has told his colleagues that he welcomes prayers — of all brand names — from those who care about him.

As we wait to hear from Ira himself, I will simply offer these words from traditions within my own Eastern Orthodox faith: God grant him many years.

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