New Yorker reduces a couple's faith to being 'active members of the local Jewish community'

New Yorker reduces a couple's faith to being 'active members of the local Jewish community'

The Perverse Logic of GoFundMe Health Care,” Nathan Heller’s report for the July 1 edition of The New Yorker, is a powerful mix of pathos, business reporting and ethical analysis.

What it is not is a report that shows clear interest in this story’s obvious religion angles that cry out for attention.

Heller tells the agonizing story of Zohar and Gabi Ilinetsky, a couple who met in Israel, are married and living near San Francisco, and whose year-old twins, Yoel and Yael, have Canavan disease, which likely will kill them during their childhood. The Ilinetskys turned their hope to raising $2 million through GoFundMe to pay for their children to receive, in Heller’s words, “a gene-replacement treatment being developed by Paola Leone, a neuroscientist at Rowan University, in New Jersey.”

Heller provides sobering facts about what the twins have experienced, what they are likely to experience in the future, and what hope the Ilinetskys sees in Leone’s treatment and a physical therapy program called NeuroMovement. (“There’s a girl in the therapy institute that we’re going to who was born with a third of her brain missing,” Zohar said. “In ten years, they got her to walk.”)

We learn that Zohar had resisted turning to GoFundMe:

“When we started the fund-raising campaign, it was something that I personally didn’t feel comfortable with,” Zohar Ilinetsky told me when I visited him and Gabi at home one morning. He worried that people would mistake him for a taker of handouts. “I’m a capitalist to the bone,” he said. “But, when it comes to medicine, this is wrong—it’s inhumane. It’s like telling someone, ‘When you die, you’ll lie on the street, because you don’t have money for a funeral.’”

In Israel, he said, everyone has free coverage for all expected medical needs, from preventive care to transplants and mental health. “I remember, even as a kid, hearing people talking about how horrible the medical system in America was,” he told me. Bearded and stocky, Zohar has a lilting baritone and an open, histrionic personality that comes across as charming. Gabi—auburn hair, leggings—smiled as he expounded his case with flailing arms. She was the one who had convinced him that GoFundMe was worth trying. “I just didn’t have any other choice,” Zohar explained.

We learn that the Ilinetskys believe in using guns in self-defense:

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Here's story of a saintly Muslim immigrant -- with very few details about his faith

Here's story of a saintly Muslim immigrant -- with very few details about his faith

You could not not read this story when it appeared a few days ago in the Los Angeles Times. Everything started with that headline: “ ‘I knew they were going to die.’ This foster father only takes in terminally ill children.”

Here was a well-told story about an unassuming Muslim man doing a heroic task. And -- he's an immigrant!

The Times wasn't going subtle with this message aimed at Donald Trump. Want to kick out immigrants, this article almost says. Want to start with this guy? 

OK, we get the point. It is beautifully written, but there are some big blank spots. The story starts with:

The children were going to die.
Mohamed Bzeek knew that. But in his more than two decades as a foster father, he took them in anyway -- the sickest of the sick in Los Angeles County’s sprawling foster care system.
Now, Bzeek spends long days and sleepless nights caring for a bedridden 6-year-old foster girl with a rare brain defect. She’s blind and deaf. She has daily seizures. Her arms and legs are paralyzed.
Bzeek, a quiet, devout Libyan-born Muslim who lives in Azusa, just wants her to know she’s not alone in this life. 
“I know she can’t hear, can’t see, but I always talk to her,” he said. “I’m always holding her, playing with her, touching her. … She has feelings. She has a soul. She’s a human being.”

The article then informs us that out of 35,000 children in the city’s foster care system, 600 of them are in dire medical straits. As for those who are dying,  only one person is available to take care of any of them. The story doesn’t say it outright, but these are all children who were dumped by their parents.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Thousands of strangers help an 89-year-old Popsicle vendor — surely there's no holy ghost?

Thousands of strangers help an 89-year-old Popsicle vendor — surely there's no holy ghost?

Grab a tissue.

This story — if somehow you've missed it — will warm your heart.

It's about thousands of strangers moved to make a better life for an 89-year-old Popsicle vendor in Chicago.

The basic details via NPR:

It was just a glimpse, but the scene spoke volumes — and started a push for help. Joel Cervantes Macias was struck by the sight of an elderly man pushing his cart of frozen treats on Chicago's 26th Street, so he took a photo. That was last week; as of Monday afternoon, Macias had raised more than $165,000 to help a stranger.
"It broke my heart seeing this man that should be enjoying retirement still working at this age," Macias wrote on a Go Fund Me page he set up for the 89-year-old vendor, Fidencio Sanchez. "I had to pull over and took this picture. I then bought 20 paletas and gave him a $50 and said may God bless him and drove away."
After posting a picture of Sanchez on Facebook, Macias quickly learned that others had the same response to seeing the man bent over to push his cart full of paletas, the traditional Mexican frozen treats. Many who commented wanted to know how they could help the man — and one of them, Joe Loera, suggested the Go Fund Me page.

As of the moment I'm typing this, the amount raised stands at $328,500 given by more than 15,000 people. Wow!

But perhaps I should get to the point of this post: One of the occupational hazards of writing for GetReligion is that you start looking for ghosts everywhere.

So ... is there a holy ghost here? Is there a religion angle in a bunch of strangers donating money to help an old man? Maybe. 

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Same-sex wedding cake wars draw more headlines — and more RNS snark

Same-sex wedding cake wars draw more headlines — and more RNS snark

If you're a regular GetReligion reader, you're probably familiar with the Sweet Cakes case in Oregon.

We've posted on it more than once.

That case is back in the news this week.

The Oregonian newspaper in Portland has solid, balanced coverage of the latest news.

The lede:

The Oregon couple who made national headlines when they refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding are now refusing to pay state-ordered damages to the lesbian couple they turned away.
In response, state officials have gone to court to establish their right to place a property lien or attach other assets belonging to Aaron and Melissa Klein, proprietors of the Sweet Cakes by Melissa bakery.
The Kleins filed an appeal of the state ruling in July but also have defied a Bureau of Labor and Industries order to pay $135,000 to Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer, claiming financial hardship despite crowdfunding efforts that have raised more than $500,000 on their behalf.
Most recently, one of their lawyers wrote to the labor bureau to say: "Our clients do not have a bond or irrevocable letter of credit in place and have no further plans to obtain either one."
The Kleins' refusal to pay marks another chapter in the long-running controversy pitting their claims of religious freedom against enforcement of anti-discrimination laws requiring Oregon businesses to serve the public equally.

There does seem to be some dispute concerning the $500,000 figure reported by The Oregonian.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Icing on the cake: Tasty coverage on bakery fined $135,000 in religious freedom vs. gay rights case

Icing on the cake: Tasty coverage on bakery fined $135,000 in religious freedom vs. gay rights case


Wedding cakes — specifically wedding cakes for same-sex couples — are making headlines again.

In the past, we've discussed the "frame game" as it relates to how news organizations characterize these cases pitting religious freedom vs. gay rights:

Here's the journalistic issue, related to framing: Is "deny service" or "refuse service" really the right way to describe what occurs when a baker declines to make a cake for a same-sex wedding?
Or does such wording favor one side of a debate pitting gay rights vs. religious freedom?

So let's consider how the media covered the latest case making news, starting with The Associated Press:

The AP's lede:

PORTLAND, Ore. — An administrative law judge proposed Friday that the owners of a suburban Portland bakery pay $135,000 to a lesbian couple who were refused service more than two years ago.

Sorry, but that lede doesn't cut it.


Please respect our Commenting Policy

The Daily Mail talks to Memories Pizza folks, but fails to nail down one crucial angle

The Daily Mail talks to Memories Pizza folks, but fails to nail down one crucial angle

After all the ink that was spilled on the Memories Pizza story -- including when the famous and/or infamous GoFundMe campaign hit pay dirt -- I was curious to know how much attention the mainstream press would continue to pay to this angle in the Indiana culture wars. How about you?

Surf around in this Google News search and you discover that, after the death threats died down, the press lost interest. But I was still curious and, in this social media age, I kept following the rumors. Did you know that some on the cultural left actually argued that the entire media firestorm was intentional and part of a clever plot by the Memories Pizza family to become martyrs and, thus, cash in?

Anyway, I was happy when a few friends on social media -- think Rod "friend of this blog" Dreher, and others -- pointed me toward an actual news report on this "What happened next?" topic. Believe it or not, it was The Daily Mail in England that convinced owner owner Kevin O’Connor and his media-battered daughter Crystal to come out of hiding and talk. This on-the scene report ran back on April 7, so I'm rather surprised more people haven't chased the story -- especially the angle of what these small-town folks plan to do with the money. Here's the top:

The pizza parlor owners who received death threats and were subjected to an online hate campaign will reopen for business tomorrow with the backing of $842,000 from well wishers and a defiant message that they stand by their opposition to gay weddings. They were going to open today but were advised to hold off for security reasons.
In an exclusive first interview inside Memories Pizza restaurant since it closed down last week, owner Kevin O’Connor and daughter Crystal emerged from hiding and told Daily Mail Online they had been heartened by the support of 29,000 people who donated and many more who wrote to them.

Please respect our Commenting Policy