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A rabbi, a Mormon and a black Christian mayor walk into a room...
The worlds of Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, left, Michael Benson, center, and Mayor Cory Booker collided 20 years ago. The unlikely trio has maintained a friendship ever since.
June 23rd, 2012
10:00 PM ET

A rabbi, a Mormon and a black Christian mayor walk into a room...

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

Newark, New Jersey (CNN) – Mayor Cory Booker waits in his wood-paneled city hall office for his next visitors. His life, even on a Sunday, is tightly scheduled. He checks the time on his cell phone and lets the ribbing of his two friends, who are now late, begin.

“Jewish time is even worse than black time,” he says, “although I should never drag all the Jewish people down with Shmuley.” And then, about the other guy: “I thought Mormons were always 15 minutes early?”

If the friendship between these men – a black Christian mayor, a rabbi running for Congress and a Mormon university president – wasn't so real, this would sound like a bad joke. Instead, it’s a reflection of how three men from profoundly different backgrounds met 20 years ago, connected and changed one another.

So when this unusual trio got together for a rare meeting this spring, we jumped at the chance to join them.

But before the others arrive, let’s introduce the players.

There’s Booker, the 43-year-old Democratic mayor of Newark, a rising political star and headline grabber, a man who was recently lauded for saving a neighbor from a burning building and grilled for his perceived off-message remarks on a Sunday talk show. He was raised by parents who fought in the courts to integrate the northern New Jersey suburbs where he grew up.

Mayor Cory Booker takes a break on a Sunday from running Newark to dish about his old friends – two men from profoundly different backgrounds. (Shaul Schwarz/Getty Images for CNN)

The two men he’s waiting for are no schlubs themselves.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, 45, is a TV personality, former radio host, prolific author - his books include “Kosher Sex” and “Kosher Jesus” - and now Republican congressional candidate in New Jersey. He was also an unofficial spiritual adviser to Michael Jackson. He was raised by a single mom in Miami.

And Michael Benson, a 47-year-old political scientist and president of Southern Utah University, comes from Mormon and Utah royalty, of sorts. His grandfather is the late Ezra Taft Benson, secretary of agriculture under President Dwight D. Eisenhower and the 13th prophet and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

With his wife and two young children in tow, the Mormon shows up first.

“Brother Benson,” Booker booms, addressing his friend in Mormon-speak as he stands to give him a big hug.

The last time these two had seen each other was five years ago, when they both helped celebrate the rabbi’s 40th birthday in New York. The massive party, as described by the mayor, was “a mosh pit of yarmulkes and sweat.”

CNN's Belief Blog: the faith angles behind the big stories

Boteach, who lives in New Jersey and sees the mayor often, rushes into the room on this Sunday a half-hour late.

“Let the record reflect, the Mormon got me lost,” he says by way of hello. The rabbi then glances down at Benson’s two little ones, who sweetly peer up at him.

“They’re a little too Mormon perfect,” he quips. “When Mormons walk into a hurricane, does their hair move?”

Booker, whose nearby desk features a stack of religious texts including the Bhagavad Gita and the Quran, watches as a crowd streams in behind Boteach. The mayor has box seats for this afternoon’s Cirque du Soleil performance of “Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour,” and he wants his friends and their families to join him. But first he demands to know of the rabbi, “How many people are with you? … They just multiply.”

“Are you kidding?” Boteach shoots back. “We have 30 kids.” Actually, he only has nine.

Long before he became an author, TV personality and now congressional candidate, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach ran a popular student organization at Oxford University, which is where he met Benson and Booker. (Shaul Schwarz/Getty Images for CNN)

The three men and their very different worlds collided in the early 1990s at Oxford University in England, where they overlapped for two years. Booker was there on a Rhodes scholarship; Benson on a Rotary scholarship - "but if I slurred, it sounded like Rhodes,” he says. Boteach was there as an emissary for Chabad Lubavitch, a Hasidic movement in Orthodox Judaism.

The first one to arrive at Oxford was Boteach, in 1988. His official mission was to serve as a rabbi to the students, but by 1990 he’d broadened his outreach by establishing the all-inclusive L’Chaim Society, a campus organization to promote the universal values of Judaism while celebrating differences. The society, whose Hebrew name means “To Life,” became the second largest student group on campus, surging to 5,000 members – no more than 800 of them Jewish.

The Mormon arrived in 1991, having spent six months in Israel at the Brigham Young University Jerusalem Center. Benson, who earned a doctorate at Oxford, would write his dissertation on President Harry S. Truman and eventually write a book about the Jewish influences in Truman's life and his contributions to Israel’s founding. (The “Mormon perfect” son in the mayor’s office, it turns out, is named Truman.)

Shortly after Benson arrived at Oxford, a Jewish friend told him about Boteach, saying, “You have to meet this rabbi.”

Boteach admits his previous impressions of Mormons had been pretty negative. Then Benson walked into the L’Chaim Society – and the rabbi’s life – one Friday evening. “Not a hair was out of place,” a slightly disheveled and wild-bearded Boteach says, remembering when they met. “I was fascinated.”

Benson never budged from his own religious beliefs, but he became a devout member and officer of the L’Chaim Society, which held legendary Friday night dinners.

Michael Benson, a grandson of the 13th prophet and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, helped change how his friends – and countless others – view Mormons. (Shaul Schwarz/Getty Images for CNN)

Booker arrived on campus a year later. He first met Benson through basketball - they both played for the Oxford Blues - then got to know Boteach with the help of a woman who stood him up for dinner. Booker was supposed to meet her outside the L’Chaim Society; when she never showed, he moseyed inside on his own to check out this mysterious place with a name he couldn’t pronounce.

Inside, hordes of people – many of them drunk – were dancing around with sacred scrolls containing the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. They were celebrating Simchat Torah, a holiday that marks the end of the annual Torah-reading cycle.

“I felt like I walked into a scene from ‘Yentl,’” Booker says.

Booker would go on to become president of the now-defunct organization, taking on tasks like lighting a Hanukkah menorah with Mikhail Gorbachev when the former Soviet leader visited Oxford.

Like Benson, Booker doesn’t drink; together they became allies as well as teammates. At the end of holidays like Simchat Torah or Purim – another raucous Jewish festival where celebrators often get drunk - they bonded as sober men in the room. They also led the Oxford Blues to win a British collegiate championship.

“I was their mascot,” boasts Boteach, whose friends tower above him.

The rabbi and Mormon say the mayor's humanity and heart inspire them. Booker says these two faithful men taught him to love and respect different religions, while helping him deepen his own beliefs and sense of awe. Likewise, both the mayor and Boteach say Benson changed how they and hundreds of others view Mormons.

Booker has been known to have his driver pull over when he spots young Mormon missionaries walking in pairs. He understands they’re often financially strapped, so he gives them some money for food and thanks them for being in his city.

“That’s something I never would have done if I hadn’t met Mike,” the mayor says.

And Booker certainly wouldn’t have pulled all-nighters studying Jewish texts before meeting Boteach. There’s a tradition, the rabbi explains, for a father to stay up and study the night before his son is circumcised. It was the middle of exams at Oxford when the rabbi first roped Booker in to join him the night before his first son Mendy's circumcision. Boteach came back again 11 years ago after the birth of Yosef, to which Booker responded, “Shmuley, you’re killing me” before he agreed to take part.

But the last time the rabbi issued his all-night study decree, Booker wasn’t having it.

“Forget it. Don’t even ask. I’m running for mayor,” the then-candidate told his friend six years ago, after Dovid Chaim was born. At 1 a.m., though, there was a knock on Boteach’s door. “You have 60 minutes. That’s it,” the mayor said as he rushed inside.

“Cory and I see each other whenever he needs advice,” the rabbi likes to say of Booker. And it's comments like this that prompt the mayor to retort, “He needs to get his head examined by a proctologist.”

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach rushes in for the reunion, and a hug from Booker, 30 minutes late. Michael Benson looks on, laughing as Boteach blames him, “the Mormon,” for making him late. (Shaul Schwarz/Getty Images for CNN)

All kidding aside, these three look out for each other's interests. After leaving Oxford for Yale Law School, Booker became a self-appointed kosher police officer, alerting the rabbi when he heard about Jewish L'Chaim Society members who had stopped keeping kosher. “You really need to do something,” he'd tell the rabbi.

Ever since Boteach learned that Benson’s older brother, Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Steve Benson of The Arizona Republic, had shrugged off religion, the rabbi has said he’s on a mission to bring the older Benson back to the LDS Church.

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The Mormon can’t help but marvel at the rabbi’s chutzpah, but he’s happy to let him give it his best shot. So far Boteach has only e-mailed with the older Benson, but he looks forward to a face-to-face meeting so he, the Jew, can give the ex-Mormon the proper Latter-day Saint sell.

Boteach has fallen for the national parks of Utah, where the LDS Church is headquartered. He has lectured a handful of times at universities where Benson has been affiliated. Benson has led the way in scrambling to find kosher food for the rabbi before the two have headed out for weekend hikes.

Booker reflects on his old friends and says, “I love the fact that those two have kept such a good friendship. They’re very different. Mike is humble and soft-spoken; Shmuley is loud and bordering on obnoxious.”

Noticing the time, Booker rushes off to squeeze in a meeting before Cirque du Soleil.

The mayor's friends, at home in his office, take their time leaving. They stroll down the empty and echoing hallways toward the exit of Newark City Hall. The Mormon throws his arm around the rabbi's shoulder.

“I have to get back to Utah soon,” Boteach says. “It's been too long.”

“This time, we'll get you baptized,” Benson tells him.

The suggestion of a Mormon conversion, even in jest, might stop other rabbis in their tracks. But Boteach doesn’t skip a beat: “If it'll get me votes, fine.”

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Christianity • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints • Faith Now • Interfaith issues • Judaism • Politics • Race

soundoff (941 Responses)
  1. RS, CA

    Wonderful article. Sad to read nasty Palin comments from wacko readers. Totally unnecessary to do that, but totally NOT surprising considering the lack of intelligence from such idiots finding it necessary to insert biased "digs" in an otherwise "teaching" article. Some people just NEVER learn.

    June 24, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  2. julie

    My best friends and I met when we were four. 38 years later the atheist, catholic and jewish girls are not just friends, we are a family that celebrates together christenings, bar mitzvahs, weddings...

    June 24, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  3. humberto

    A man is trapped on a rock during a flood when a Rabbi on a ocean liner asks if he needs help – the man says, No, his faith in God will save him,
    The water keeps rising
    and a Priest on a motorboat appears, the Priest asks, do you need help.
    the man with water to his waist Answers No, My faith un God will save me.
    the water keeps rising and next three Mulla's in a row boat show up in a rowboat, they ask , do you need help. The man with watter up to his neck says No, his faith in God will save him .
    Thw water keeps rising and the man dies and appears before God.
    The man asks God, I have kept faith wirh you Lord my God all my life, why did you not save me.
    The Lord replied , What do you want, I sent
    you a Rabbi, A Priest and Three Mulla's.

    June 24, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • bill constantine

      Grreat old joke, but I heard it was that a policeman, boat and then a helicopter was sent. But it is nice to hear it in an other version. Bill The Greek from Las Vegas, Greek Orthodox. We have the same amount of faith as anyone else. In respect to walking over water as a miracle, for $50,00 I will show you were the rocks are....How can a person tell the difference of five men who are naked as to who belongs to what rreligion??

      June 24, 2012 at 10:53 am |
  4. floridamom1

    CNN please do more stories like these.

    June 24, 2012 at 10:32 am |
  5. Annie

    Good article, although the timing is a bit strange. Is this a diversity (feel good) piece or just politically motivated sidebar propaganda? I have never seen so must interest from the media Mormons.

    June 24, 2012 at 10:23 am |
  6. Ms Jackson

    Ahh, mutual respect from people whose essential genome keeps telling their subconscious that it's all a myth and a childish one at that.

    June 24, 2012 at 10:19 am |
  7. Diane

    Not sure how anyone else may feel, but I wish Cory Booker was running for President. This man has made tough decisions concerning his city's government, is clearly able to get along with others holding different beliefs and opinions, and not the least of which is not timid about getting involved when he sees someone who needs assistance. A class act in anyone's book.

    June 24, 2012 at 10:19 am |
  8. Jay Shelley

    Hats off to CNN for publishing a very high quality of journalism in these sidebar stories. They are descriptive and filled with hope and energy, not to mention well-written.

    June 24, 2012 at 10:06 am |
  9. Joe145

    What an encouraging story about the good in humanity. It reinforces my impression that there is far less division in society. Despite our differences we must look lift each other in our common walk in life with all it challenges. I applaud the journalist and CNN for reporting on the positive.

    June 24, 2012 at 10:05 am |
  10. Calycat

    What's up with all these articles that are trying to make mormons look like polished gems, right as Romney runs for President? Seriously, this article is propaganda at it's best! Why not read some of the things that mormons really believe:

    Troubling Quotes from the Second Prophet (leader) of the Mormon Church

    Brigham Young said your own blood must atone for some sins.

    "There is not a man or woman, who violates the covenants made with their God, that will not be required to pay the debt. The blood of Christ will never wipe that out, your own blood must atone for it . . . " (Journal of Discourses, vol. 3, p. 247; see also, vol. 4, p. 53-54, 219-220).

    Brigham Young said you must confess Joseph Smith as a prophet of God in order to be saved.

    "...and he that confesseth not that Jesus has come in the flesh and sent Joseph Smith with the fullness of the Gospel to this generation, is not of God, but is Antichrist," (Journal of Discourses, vol. 9, p. 312).

    Brigham Young said his discourses are as good as Scripture.

    "I say now, when they [his discourses] are copied and approved by me they are as good Scripture as is couched in this Bible . . . " (Journal of Discourses, vol. 13, p. 264; see also p. 95).

    Brigham Young said he had never given any counsel that was wrong.

    "I am here to answer. I shall be on hand to answer when I am called upon, for all the counsel and for all the instruction that I have given to this people. If there is an Elder here, or any member of this Church, called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who can bring up the first idea, the first sentence that I have delivered to the people as counsel that is wrong, I really wish they would do it; but they cannot do it, for the simple reason that I have never given counsel that is wrong; this is the reason." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 16, p. 161).

    Brigham Young compared his sermons with scripture.

    "I know just as well what to teach this people and just what to say to them and what to do in order to bring them into the celestial kingdom...I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call Scripture. Let me have the privilege of correcting a sermon, and it is as good Scripture as they deserve. The people have the oracles of God continually." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 13, p. 95).

    Brigham Young said you are damned if you deny polygamy.

    "Now if any of you will deny the plurality of wives, and continue to do so, I promise that you will be damned," (Journal of Discourses, vol. 3, p. 266). Also, "The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy," (Journal of Discourses, vol. 11, p. 269).

    Brigham Young said you can't get to the highest heaven without Joseph Smith's consent.

    "...no man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith," (Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, p. 289).

    Brigham Young boasted.

    "What man or woman on earth, what spirit in the spirit-world can say truthfully that I ever gave a wrong word of counsel, or a word of advice that could not be sanctioned by the heavens? The success which has attended me in my presidency is owing to the blessings and mercy of the Almighty . . . " (Journal of Discourses, vol. 12, p. 127).

    Brigham Young said Jesus' birth was as natural as ours.

    "The birth of the Savior was as natural as the births of our children; it was the result of natural action. He partook of flesh and blood–was begotten of his Father, as we were of our fathers." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 8, p. 115).

    Brigham Young said that God the Father and Mary 'do it.'

    "When the time came that His first-born, the Saviour, should come into the world and take a tabernacle, the Father came Himself and favoured that spirit with a tabernacle instead of letting any other man do it," (Journal of Discourses, vol. 4, p. 218). "The birth of the Savior was as natural as are the births of our children; it was the result of natural action. He partook of flesh and blood - was begotten of his Father, as we were of our fathers." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 8, p. 115). Note: the late Bruce McConkie who was a member of the First Council of the Seventy stated "There is nothing figurative about his paternity; he was begotten, conceived and born in the normal and natural course of events..." (Mormon Doctrine, by Bruce McConkie, p. 742).

    Brigham Young said that Jesus was not begotten by the Holy Spirit.

    "I have given you a few leading items upon this subject, but a great deal more remains to be told. Now, remember from this time forth, and for ever, that Jesus Christ was not begotten by the Holy Ghost." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, p. 51).

    Brigham Young taught that Adam was God.

    "Now hear it, O inhabitants of the earth, Jew and Gentile, Saint and sinner! When our father Adam came into the garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body, and brought Eve, one of his wives, with him. He helped to make and organize this world. He is Michael, the Archangel, the Ancient of Days! about whom holy men have written and spoken - He is our Father, and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do. Every man upon the earth, professing Christians or non professing, must hear it, and will know it sooner or later." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, p. 50).

    Brigham Young made a false prophecy?

    "In the days of Joseph [Smith] it was considered a great privilege to be permitted to speak to a member of Congress, but twenty-six years will not pass away before the Elders of this Church will be as much thought of as the kings on their thrones," (Journal of Discourses, vol. 4, p. 40).

    Brigham Young comments about blacks

    "You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind....Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, p. 290).

    "In our first settlement in Missouri, it was said by our enemies that we intended to tamper with the slaves, not that we had any idea of the kind, for such a thing never entered our minds. We knew that the children of Ham were to be the "servant of servants," and no power under heaven could hinder it, so long as the Lord would permit them to welter under the curse and those were known to be our religious views concerning them." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 2, p. 172).

    "Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 10, p. 110).

    Now if that last portion didn't strike you as unbelievably horrible, than imagine this....Mormons are taught to believe every word of their prophets as though they were the words of God: Unquestionable. And these are quotes from just one of their prophets.
    Now imagine the President of the USA being Mormon.....

    June 24, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • xman51

      Calycat its idiots like you and others on here with negetive comments that make me sick. I read the entire article and what I got from it was three men of different backgrounds,race and beliefs are friends and care deeply for one another. Our country would be a much better place if we had more like these three men and a lot less of people like you.

      June 24, 2012 at 10:09 am |
    • asdf

      An accusation that CNN is putting out propaganda for Romney? Now I've heard everything.

      June 24, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • floridamom1

      Could someone please remove people like this from the conversation?

      June 24, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • tnwoman

      @calycat:

      You are NOT an "idiot" as some people try to label you. I am happy these men are friends, but that still doesn't negate the fact that Mormonism is NOT Christian in any sense of Christine doctrine. I just don't want a person who believes and follows this religion in the Oval Office.

      I also don't want a person who has most of his money sitting in foreign accounts as POTUS. If Willard loves America so much, why did he put his money offshore? The Bible teaches where your MONEY is there is your HEART is also. So that must mean a BIG part of Willard's heart is NOT in America. Willard is NOT fit to be POTUS. President Obama IS and WILL BE a much better POTUS than Willard Mitt Romney.

      June 24, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • JoeS

      There is nothing you can do if The Church of Jesus Christ is really a true Church. There is nothing you can do if Mitt Romney will become the first Mormon President. There is nothing you can do on judgment day , Jesus Christ will reject for not beating a Mormon.

      June 24, 2012 at 11:31 am |
  11. hc1951

    And, "That's what friends are for"!

    June 24, 2012 at 9:45 am |
  12. jgnewman

    This wonderful story speaks to so many differences in our society today, yet the overriding theme is true friendship. It made my day and gave me a very positive outlook on Booker and his buddies.

    June 24, 2012 at 9:38 am |
    • Joe

      I am Catholic and friends who are Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, even Pagan friends and Atheists. I don't understand why people need to be so narrow minded to think good people of all religions and beliefs cannot get along.

      June 24, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • EvolvedDNA

      Joe..i agree when you look at friends as human beings first, and not use any religious yardstick to measure, life is so much easier...

      June 24, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      Joe .. Ihave to ask. Why did you say, "... "EVEN" Pagan friends and Atheists."?? that one word "even" actually speaks volumes.

      June 24, 2012 at 11:01 am |
  13. Toma Joel

    Thus says The Lord, to the United States and to this wicked generation of modern peoples...

    Hear the word of The Lord your God, The God of Israel, The God of All, for there is no other: You are walking into death... Dead man’s bones lost in a sea of sin, a dark ocean of transgression! You have forgotten Me, days without end, thus must I also forget you in the Day of Harvest. Yet of your evil deeds, even all this wickedness of which you are guilty, I shall remember! Behold, I shall bring it to the forefront, that all who walk in it may receive of My punishment!... Then you shall know, there is a God in Heaven who reigns and judges the earth.

    http://www.TrumpetCallofGodOnline.com

    June 24, 2012 at 9:35 am |
  14. popseal

    Sounds like a joke to me ! A rabbi a TV evangelist, and Joe Biden go into a bar where the monkey cleaning the place looks up and says, "What is this, a joke?"

    June 24, 2012 at 9:33 am |
  15. rh

    Gotta love it how discriminatory comments make the mayor "more human".

    I'd lose my (NJ) state job if I made those comments.

    Discriminatory speech is allowed by people in power, or people who are perceived as being discriminated against.

    June 24, 2012 at 9:29 am |
  16. PAUL

    WE ALREADY KNOW COREY BOOKER IS BLACK!! WHY DOES WHITE ENGLISH CNN WRITERS ALWAYS HAVE TO MENTION RACE OR ETHNICITY? DID THEY CALL THE RABBI A WHITE JEW, OR THE MORMON A WHITE CHRISTIAN?? HOW IDIOSYNCRATIC AND UNDERMINING IS THAT FOR BRITISH AUTHORS IN THIS COUNTRY TO WADE IN ON RELIGIOUS BELIEFS IN AMERICA. IS BETTER THEY SPEAK OF THE CAMERON GOVERNMENT, THE UNDERCLASS HE CREATED, THE FAILING MONARCHY, THE BNP AND THE IRA!!

    June 24, 2012 at 9:24 am |
    • WeOnBrickCityxXthug67SpitFIRE

      Mormon,+christian?

      June 24, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • bill constantine

      I did not know that cory was black. sorry but we still have to carry these thoughts ..and it was for this special article. Can I come and visit you at your home with out your friends looking at me..Billl the Greek. It will take mucho time but we are getting there..

      June 24, 2012 at 11:00 am |
  17. Reality

    Only for new members of this blog:

    Some contemporary historical and theological reality for the three of them:

    1. origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482

    “New Torah For Modern Minds

    Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

    Such startling propositions – the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years – have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity – until now.

    The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine docu-ment. “

    June 24, 2012 at 9:15 am |
    • Reality

      2. Jesus was an illiterate Jewish peasant/carpenter/simple preacher man who suffered from hallucinations (or “mythicizing” from P, M, M, L and J) and who has been characterized anywhere from the Messiah from Nazareth to a mythical character from mythical Nazareth to a ma-mzer from Nazareth (Professor Bruce Chilton, in his book Rabbi Jesus). An-alyses of Jesus’ life by many contemporary NT scholars (e.g. Professors Ludemann, Crossan, Borg and Fredriksen, ) via the NT and related doc-uments have concluded that only about 30% of Jesus' sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various Christian, Jewish and Pagan sects.

      The 30% of the NT that is "authentic Jesus" like everything in life was borrowed/plagiarized and/or improved from those who came before. In Jesus' case, it was the ways and sayings of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Hitt-ites, Canaanites, OT, John the Baptizer and possibly the ways and sayings of traveling Greek Cynics.

      earlychristianwritings.com/theories.html

      For added "pizzazz", Catholic theologians divided god the singularity into three persons and invented atonement as an added guilt trip for the "pew people" to go along with this trinity of overseers. By doing so, they made god the padre into god the "filicider".

      Current RCC problems:

      Pedophiliac priests, an all-male, mostly white hierarchy, atonement theology and original sin!!!!

      2 b., Luther, Calvin, Joe Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley, Roger Williams, the Great “Babs” et al, founders of Christian-based religions or combination religions also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of "pretty wingie thingie" visits and "prophecies" for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immacu-late co-nceptions).

      Current problems:
      Adulterous preachers, pedophiliac clerics, "propheteering/ profiteering" evangelicals and atonement theology,

      June 24, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • Mary718

      I don't understand how a story on friendship would elicit this diatribe. Clearly, you have too much time on your hands. Get off the computer and LIVE!!! You may make some meaningful friendships.

      June 24, 2012 at 9:31 am |
    • dao

      Off-Topic....

      I will entertain one notion. Although the writing of the Torah are very much revered, they tell a story where mankind lived on a much smaller and rudimentary scale. To out of hand diminish or deny smacks of Holocaust denial, where an angry ardent chooses disbelief.

      June 24, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • EvolvedDNA

      Mary.. Why is it a story that three human beings have managed to remain friends despite the fact they are all of different religions..does that not speak more to the inherent distrust that each religion has of each other? This is akin to three humans remaining friends despite the fact that one takes the bus, the other takes his car and the other rides a bike....

      June 24, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • TG

      David was a real person, a king of Israel that ruled from 1077 B.C.E. to 1038 B.C.E. in which his rulership lineage became well established, with the expression "House of David" being utilized 25 times in the Bible. Until relatively recently, David was only known through the Bible. However, in 1993, an archaeological team headed by Professor Avraham Biran, uncovered a basalt stone outside the outer gate of ancient Dan (Tel Dan). It referred to the ' House of David ' and to the ' King of Israel '. This stone is dated to ninth century B.C.E., a little over 100 years after the death of David.

      Another stone, the Mesha stela (also called the Moabite stone and found at Dibon to the northeast of the Dead sea) that was discovered in 1868, was also found to contain the expression ' House of David ' by Professor Andre' Lamaire some 2 years before the discovery of the basalt stone found at Tel Dan, though only reporting it only after the find of the basalt stone at ancient Dan in 1993.

      June 24, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • Reality

      Obviously, some need to contact the 1.5 million Jews and their rabbis and complain about their New Torah for Modern Minds.

      Before doing so, you might want to buy the book:

      From amazon.com

      "Etz Hayim: Torah and Commentary (Hardcover) $58.00

      ~ David L. Lieber (Editor), Jules Harlow (Editor), United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (Corporate Author), The Rabbinical Assembly (Corporate Author)
      4.7 out of 5 stars (15 customer reviews)

      "The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ) is the primary organization of synagogues practicing Conservative Judaism in North America. It closely works with the Rabbinical Assembly, the international body of Conservative rabbis, the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, and the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies.[1]"

      June 24, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  18. Michael Q

    In Canada, this has been a common story for decades. We still have segregated minds but we blame that on the influence of American television which constantly invades our senses. But, more and more of us, mostly those with higher education, keep a candle burning in the window that some day, our American friends to the south will someday see light flickering in the hope and respect for all mankind. Oh, we had given up on Alaska (north of us) but since the Palins are moving to Arizona and no longer coming across our borders for free health care as momma bear is making millions selling her religious wacko theories, we do hold out more hope for Alaska. We are not perfect but we do seem to be further along the road to human respect.

    June 24, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • Manuel J.

      Michael, I'm glad to inform you the Palins will no longer be here in Arizona. Hoorah for us.

      I'm very conservative but I'm pragmatic, sensible, and know that Russia is not a stroll away from Alaska. By the way, I learned about Russia and Alaska (e.g. Seward's folly) by reading something other than "The Enquirer" ): and other such dribble.

      June 24, 2012 at 9:33 am |
  19. Mary718

    Good article. There are tens of thousands of friendships like this all over America. We are a lot less segregated and polarized than the politicians the the media would lead us to believe.

    June 24, 2012 at 9:03 am |
  20. J. Georgino

    Wonderful story! Enjoyed every word...well-written. What great friends – all successful, intelligent and humble in their own worlds.
    I love, love this story....bring on more CNN and NYT.....Hope Booker runs for prez some day! Thank you! what an enjoyable Sun morn read! on point!

    June 24, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • tony mcmillian

      first thing i read this morn with a cup o' joe ....what a great article....color/creed/religion/political beliefs aside there ARE people out there that can love and enjoy ALL!

      June 24, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • johnharry

      yes excellent read

      June 24, 2012 at 9:45 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.