Judaism

Context, context, context: Financial media outlet flunks basics in millenials flock to astrology story

Context, context, context: Financial media outlet flunks basics in millenials flock to astrology story

How does potentially good journalism go bad? Perhaps it's when reporters fail to find (and editors fail to insist upon) more than one side to a story. Let's call it a context deficit disorder.

Today's nominee is MarketWatch.com, part of the Dow Jones media group, which no longer includes The Wall Street Journal, it should be noted. (That daily is now owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.)

MarketWatch readers are promised an explanation of "Why millennials are ditching religion for witchcraft and astrology." Instead, we're treated to what essentially is a puff-piece for some firms in the metaphysical realm without much, yes, context about whether this really is a thing.

Let's start with the introductory paragraphs. This is long, but essential:

When Coco Layne, a Brooklyn-based producer, meets someone new these days, the first question that comes up in conversation isn’t “Where do you live?” or “What do you do?” but “What’s your sign?”
“So many millennials read their horoscopes every day and believe them,” Layne, who is involved in a number of nonreligious spiritual practices, said. “It is a good reference point to identify and place people in the world.”
Interest in spirituality has been booming in recent years while interest in religion plummets, especially among millennials. The majority of Americans now believe it is not necessary to believe in God to have good morals, a study from Pew Research Center released Wednesday found. The percentage of people between the ages of 18 and 29 who “never doubt existence of God” fell from 81% in 2007 to 67% in 2012.
Meanwhile, more than half of young adults in the U.S. believe astrology is a science. compared to less than 8% of the Chinese public. The psychic services industry -- which includes astrology, aura reading, mediumship, tarot-card reading and palmistry, among other metaphysical services -- grew 2% between 2011 and 2016. It is now worth $2 billion annually, according to industry analysis firm IBIS World.

Can you say non-sequitur, gentle reader?

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Who are those gentiles observing Jewish holy days? The Forward has a (nearly complete) answer

Who are those gentiles observing Jewish holy days? The Forward has a (nearly complete) answer

It is difficult to figure out today's incarnation of The Forward, a left-leaning Jewish news website based in New York City.

A century or so ago, it began life as the Jewish Daily Forward, a Yiddish-language daily for Jewish immigrants. Its political cast was on the socialist side, something that abated slightly during the 1990s when Seth Lipsky, later to resurrect the New York Sun, edited what was then a weekly publication. ...

I mention all that not to "bury" the Forward but to add some context before I praise it. The website ran a rather interesting and informative story about a group of non-Jews, also known as gentiles, who observe Jewish holy days and eschew celebrations of Christmas and Easter.

From the article:

On the night of Rosh Hashanah, thousands of people will leave work, gather in congregations across the globe and worship God, the ruler of the world. Ten days later they will begin a fast and gather again to pray, this time atoning for their sins.
On both occasions they will praise Jesus Christ and pray for his return.
They are not Jews, nor are they Jews for Jesus. Rather, these congregants are members of an evangelical Christian movement called the Living Church of God. On the days Jews know as Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, these Christians celebrate what they call the Feast of Trumpets and Day of Atonement.
“We’re not trying to be Jewish,” said Dexter Wakefield, a Living Church minister and the church’s spokesman. “We’re obeying God’s commandments. The holy days have great meaning for the Christians who keep them.”

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If it's an imam trashing Jews, not all editors agree that his words are hate speech

If it's an imam trashing Jews, not all editors agree that his words are hate speech

A California imam has made some waves in recent days by suggesting all Jews be killed in an apocalyptic battle in some future time.

Needless to say, this did not go over well with some of those who viewed a video of the speech -- but its combustible content got no national coverage.

Even coverage within California was limited, causing some to wonder that had the roles been reversed -- with the speaker a rabbi or a Christian preacher, attacking Muslims -- news media professionals would have been all over the story.

The Sacramento Bee had the clearest account of the sermon with a bit of theological punch:

A Davis imam is under fire after giving a sermon last week that combined end-of-days prophecy with the current religious conflict over a Jerusalem holy site, causing critics to condemn him as anti-Semitic.
Imam Ammar Shahin on Friday gave a nearly hour-long sermon to worshippers at the Islamic Center of Davis calling for congregants to oppose restrictions placed by Israel on the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem and citing Islamic texts about an end-times battle predicted by the prophet Muhammad.
The sermon included a prayer to Allah to “destroy those who closed the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” according to the translation from the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which first posted an edited clip of the sermon.
Shahin’s prayer continued, “count them one by one and annihilate them down to the very last one.”

After the Islamic Center claimed that MEMRI had misconstrued the remarks, the Bee got its own translator who sided mostly with the Center, but said the imam was unwise at best to give such a sermon.

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Washington Post's Jewish-Art-About-Jesus 'taboo' extends to theology, too

Washington Post's Jewish-Art-About-Jesus 'taboo' extends to theology, too

That Jews have issues in considering the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth should come as little surprise. Christ, as Jesus was later called, challenged the spiritual orthodoxy of his day, and remains a challenge to the faith of millions. The bottom line: If Jesus is the Messiah, then Jews (and everyone else) has to make a decision to accept or reject Him.

In Israel, where, cultural sensitivities are high, then, it’s no surprise that Jewish art challenges the taboo of Jesus,” as the Washington Post noted recently.

Nevertheless, it is a little surprising that at the very epicenter of news coverage of this issue in Jewish and Christian experience, there’s practically no discussion of, well, theology.

Diving in:

At the center of the Israel Museum’s newest art exhibit stands an imposing, life-size marble figure of Jesus. The sculpture, titled “Christ Before the People’s Court,” would not be out of place in a church in Rome.
Yet in this depiction, the Christian savior wears a Jewish skullcap.
The sculpture, created by Russian Jewish artist Mark Antokolsky in 1876, is part of a collection of more than 150 artworks by 40 Jewish and Israeli artists who have used Christian imagery to challenge long-held taboos in both communities. It showcases the evolving attitudes of Jewish, Zionist and Israeli artists toward a figure whose place in Jewish history has been negotiated and reinterpreted over more than two millennia.
It is a risky statement for an Israeli museum.
Throughout history, Jews have traditionally shunned Jesus and his gospel. And while the Holy Land might be his accepted birthplace, for Jews in the modern state of Israel there is often resistance to learning about or even acknowledging Christianity.

Again, that's no surprise: As the Post notes, the better part of the past two millennia have been occupied by those blaming Jews for the death of Christ, culminating in the Shoah, the attempt to exterminate the Jewish race undertaken by Germany's National Socialist, or Nazi, party.

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Hello? Hello? Mindy Finn is a Jewish vice presidential candidate, so where's the ink?

Hello? Hello? Mindy Finn is a Jewish vice presidential candidate, so where's the ink?

Evan McMullin, a third-party candidate for president based out of Utah, is a Mormon and he's chosen a very interesting vice presidential candidate: Mindy Finn, a businesswoman and tech entrepreneur living in DC. She's an interesting pick, not the least because she's conservative and Jewish.

But don't expect any decent take-outs about her faith. Even though it's been two weeks since she was announced as McMullin's running mate, there's been very little done about her and especially her beliefs. I can excuse the secular media not getting too worked up over Mindy Finn’s faith as she and her running mate are long shots at making a dent in this election. But Jewish media should be ahead of the game on this one.

Typical of the coverage-lite out there is this piece from the Forward

Independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin announced a Jewish running mate last weekend: Mindy Finn.
 
Finn is a veteran GOP strategist who runs a feminist non-profit. She and McMullin, a former CIA agent, see their independent candidacy as a conservative alternative to Donald Trump.
With their religious makeup — a Mormon and a Jew — and their outspokenness, the McMullin/Finn ticket has been gaining traction lately. Following Donald Trump’s struggles after the release of a tape on which he makes lewd comments about women, they might win Mormon-heavy Utah, where McMullin is now statistically tied with both Trump and Clinton.
Their candidacy is a long shot — they are not even on the ballot in all states — but there technically is a way how it could work. If they manage to win one state and then both Trump and Clinton fail to get the 270 electoral votes necessary to become president, the House gets to decide the election.
More realistically, Finn sees their campaign as the start of a new conservative movement. “We are a glimmer of light in what many have seen as a sea of darkness in this election,” she told Glamour.

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RNS looks at 'new' Jewish Institute for women priests -- but not closely enough

RNS looks at 'new' Jewish Institute for women priests -- but not closely enough

I get it -- we've all been there, all of us newspaper religion writers. Holidays come up, and our editor demands something besides the "same old same old." So we reach for the new and bizarre.

So it's understandable when the Religion News Service used Yom Kippur, which Jews observed on Wednesday, for a look at the Hebrew Priestess Institute, even though the institute is a decade old.

Still, why simply hand the mike to its boosters?

The institute is about as non-traditional as they come, as the article quickly establishes: dancing, beating a drum, sitting in a circle, placing women's pictures on the altar, praying to the "divine feminine." And, of course, ordaining women as priests -- something that would arch many Jewish eyebrows. But RNS offers only the slightest hint that not everyone buys into this approach.

That approach gets a loud, clear hearing in the article. Rabbi Jill Hammer, co-founder of the institute, wants to "re-imagine the role of a holy woman, an intermediary between the human and the divine who is part prophet, liturgist, shaman":

For inspiration, this Jewish priestess movement looks to biblical women such as Miriam, Moses’ sister, who drums and sings, and Deborah, the judge who held court beneath a palm tree.
It also embraces those ancient Israelite women who worshipped fertility goddesses condemned by the prophets, as well as modern teachings from various Earth-based religions with their healers and ritualists.
This Yom Kippur, as Jews crowd synagogues for the Day of Atonement, some women will gather in a circle for a mix of prayers, chants, songs and meditations — all of which incorporate references to the divine feminine – sometimes known in the Jewish mystical tradition as the Shekhinah.

Institute students are introduced to 13 women’s "archetypes" of leaders, including prophetess, witch and fool. Some participants refer not to God but the Goddess.  And Jill Hammer and cofounder Taya Shere use artifacts like stones and divination cards in worship.

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Donald Trump and the telltale tallit: Jewish media storm offers lots of heat but little light

Donald Trump and the telltale tallit: Jewish media storm offers lots of heat but little light

Picture it: Even though your grasp of the basics of Christianity isn’t the greatest, you’re visiting a church. A black church, at that.

Then the pastor throws a tallit over your shoulders.

Now, what’s a Jewish prayer shawl doing at a black church? And what’s the candidate to do? The only thing he could do: Graciously accept it. What happened next? Go to Twitter and put “Donald Trump tallit” in the search field. You’ll find lots to read.

One is the hot-button phrase “cultural appropriation.” But what was Trump supposed to do? Reject the gift and give it back? Here’s how Jewish Telegraph Agency wrote it up

(JTA) --  Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was gifted a traditional Jewish prayer shawl by a pastor during a visit to a black church in Detroit.
Bishop Wayne Jackson of the Great Faith Ministries in Detroit draped the tallit around Trump’s shoulders after the candidate finished addressing the congregation.
“Let me just put this on you,” Jackson said as the congregation burst into applause.
The pastor said he fasted and prayed over the prayer shawl.
“This is a prayer shawl straight from Israel. Whenever you’re flying from coast to coast -- I know you just came back from Mexico and you’ll be flying from city to city -- there is an anointing. And anointing is the power of God,” Jackson said. “It’s going to be sometimes in your life that you’re going to feel forsaken, you’re going to feel down, but the anointing is going to lift you up. I prayed over this personally and I fasted over it, and I wanted to just put this on you.”

Wait, there's more. Clearly there is a theme going on here, in the mind of this pastor.

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Palestinian BDS movement: Getting a handle on a complicated story ahead of deadline

Palestinian BDS movement: Getting a handle on a complicated story ahead of deadline

So you're taking a group of art students to Paris and you want to sign them up in advance for a group tour of the Louvre.

No problem.

Unless the students are Israeli. Then, unexpectedly, the world's most visited museum is too busy to accommodate 17 more visitors. Ironically, it seems not to matter one bit that the Louvre relies on Israeli technology for its in-house security.

This incident is one of a slew of similar situations reported daily in Israeli and American Jewish media and ascribed to the impact of the Palestinian-led "Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions" movement. BDS, as it's commonly known, is designed to pressure Israel to ... well ... just what is its intent is the subject of this post.

What are BDS's tactical and strategic goals? What motivates its leaders? How do journalists keep from getting lost in the rhetoric clouding this issue?

As in most places, but perhaps even more so in the largely dysfunctional and terribly sad Middle East, the answers are highly subjective. Is BDS a nonviolent effort to help Palestinians gain an independent nation? Or is it a tactic designed to help isolate, undermine and eventually destroy Israel?

As I said, the answer depends upon the speaker. Here's a link to Wikipedia's exhaustive attempt to address the issue in an even-handed manner, -- to the degree that's actually possible.

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The inky-fingered Dawn

The inky-fingered Dawn

It is a joy and an honor to join GetReligion, as this site has done much to shape my understanding of the dynamics involved in news coverage of religious issues.

I am a very traditional religious believer with a decidedly unorthodox background. I am also a journalist. Put that together and some people think I'm controversial, especially those with long memories who remember when, as a new Christian convert, I was outspoken on issues relating to sexual morality and abortion. Nearly 10 years ago, that outspokenness -- along with an error of misplaced zeal -- lost me a newspaper job, as I'll relate here momentarily.

But here is the bottom line: having put in years in New York City newsrooms, not to mention decades as a rock music historian, I know the value of a free press, and I want to see mainstream journalists produce accurate, fair, balanced reporting on faith issues. That's why I am here at GetReligion.

New York City is in fact my birthplace (technically: Mom was rushed from New Rochelle to a Brooklyn hospital) and raised Reform Jewish -- sort of. Although I was a bat mitzvah, I was also exposed to various New Age practices after my parents' divorce, as my mother explored the Seventies religion smorgasbord.

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