November 26th, 2013
08:49 PM ET
By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) - Leon Gersten could not bear to watch “Schindler’s List,” the movie about Czech industrialist Oskar Schindler who saved 1,200 Jews from Nazi extermination camps. It was too painful for the Holocaust survivor, too close to reality.
But now, almost 70 years after his village in Poland was liberated by the Soviet army, Gersten is meeting the man who is the Oskar Schindler of his own life: Czeslaw Polziec.
Like Schindler, Polziec is Catholic. His family secretly sheltered Gersten in rural Poland for two years during World War II.
As though such a reunion between survivor and rescuer were not emotional enough, this one is taking place Wednesday on the eve of Hanukkah, which coincides this year with Thanksgiving. Two celebrations of gratitude.
November 25th, 2013
12:47 PM ET
By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor
(CNN) - Break out the menurkeys and sweet potato latkes, people, it's time to celebrate Thanksgivukkah, a once-in-a-lifetime holiday.
A calendrical quirk brings the first day of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving together this Thursday for the first time since 1888. Scientists say the confluence won't occur again for another 70,000 years, give or take a millennium.
Dana Gitell, a 37-year-old marketing manager for a Jewish nonprofit in Massachusetts, is the mind behind the mashup "Thanksgivukkah."
(If you think that's a mouthful, her other ideas were "Thanksgiving-ukkah" and "Hanukkahgiving," both of which caused our spellchecker to sputter and die.)
But with the right portmanteau in place, the Thanksgivukkah idea caught fire faster than a deep-fried turkey.
November 13th, 2013
05:34 PM ET
By Jessica Ravitz, CNN
(CNN) - Of course Tevi Troy has heard the hubbub.
He knows full well that his onetime boss, former President George W. Bush, plans to speak Thursday at a Dallas fundraiser for the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute – a group dedicated to converting Jews to Christianity.
“I have yet to meet a Jewish person who hasn’t heard about this,” says Troy, who served as a Bush administration liaison to the Jewish community and was a former deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The topic of conversion can prompt a visceral reaction for Jews whose darker times have been marred by persecution, expulsion and forced conversions. Millions have died for and because of their faith.
“There’s good historical reason for the Jewish discomfort,” Troy says. FULL POST
November 11th, 2013
11:16 AM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-editorFollow @BurkeCNN
(CNN) – The disasters are always different and often devastating. But the questions they raise are hauntingly familiar.
In the days since Super Typhoon Haiyan swept through the Philippines on Thursday, survivors are frantically searching for lost family members and international aid groups are springing into action.
Officials say the death toll may rise to 10,000 in the heavily Catholic country. Meanwhile, many people are asking: How should we make sense of such senseless death and destruction? Was God in the whirlwind itself, as the Bible hints, or present only in the aftermath, as people mobilize to provide food, water and shelter?
These questions may not be new, but we keep asking them, perhaps because the answers remain so elusive.
November 7th, 2013
10:51 AM ET
By Mick Krever, CNN
(CNN)–One of Pope Francis’ dearest friends is none other than a Jewish Rabbi.
And Rabbi Abahram Skorka, who has known Pope Francis for 15 years, since he was Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, has a concise description of what makes Francis’ papacy different from his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, born Joseph Ratzinger.
Pope Francis “lives with his mind in heaven and with his feet on Earth,” Rabbi Skorka told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday. “And Ratzinger lived totally in heaven.”
Abraham Skorka, a prominent Argentine rabbi, has had frank and open conversations with Pope Francis since he was Cardinal Bergoglio of Buenos Aires. Those discussions are the topic of a book written by both, “On Heaven and Earth.”FULL STORY
November 6th, 2013
12:01 PM ET
Opinion by Rabbi Aaron Frank and Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Should religious leaders care about a football team’s name? We believe the answer is yes.
Religious leaders have a mandate to inspire their communities to come closer to God. Sometimes this requires speaking out about even something as secular as a football team’s name.
We are so concerned about the name of Washington's National Football League team that we are encouraging our synagogues and our schools to become Redskins-free zones.
Synagogues and religious schools are places where we strive toward a broader awareness of the godly nature of all humanity. That's why the Redskins name has no place in our halls and walls.
The name represents a derogatory term and recalls a brutal history of genocide and torture - a past of racist dehumanization inflicted upon the American Indians of the United States.
October 15th, 2013
02:07 PM ET
By Daniel Burke and Hada Messia, CNN
ROME (CNN) - The Italian branch of a Catholic sect with a history of anti-Semitism held funeral rites on Tuesday for a convicted Nazi war criminal, despite protests from Jewish groups and the local mayor.
Crowds packed the streets outside San Pio X Church in Albano, a small town south of Rome, chanting "Executioner!" and kicking the hearse carrying Erich Priebke's body as entered the church compound on Tuesday.
A funeral Mass was celebrated for Priebke but his casket was kept outside, according to a priest from the church who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
The absolution rite, which includes a prayer for clemency for the deceased, was also given outside the church, in the courtyard inside San Pio X's compound, the priest said.
Priebke's body is now being held in a military airport outside Rome.
The church funeral plans for Priebke sparked an outcry in the United States.
October 12th, 2013
09:05 AM ET
Opinion by Joel Baden, special to CNN
(CNN) – Most American Jews consider Judaism to be mainly a matter of culture and ancestry, according to a recent poll. An even higher percentage describe themselves as emotionally attached to Israel. For this we have one person to thank: King David.
The Israel we know today is a nation that David created virtually out of thin air. Before David, there were two territories, Israel to the north, and Judah to the south.
By sheer force of personality—and, to be fair, substantial military strength—David combined these two lands under a single crown (his). Not only had this never happened before; no one had ever thought of it before.
Although the Bible makes it sound as if everyone loved David, and were desperate to follow him, this wasn’t really the case. David took power by force.
October 10th, 2013
09:17 PM ET
By Allie Malloy and Jessica Ravitz, CNN
NEW YORK (CNN) –Two rabbis face kidnapping charges after allegedly arranging assaults of Orthodox Jewish husbands to persuade them to grant divorces to their wives, authorities said Thursday.
FBI raids on Wednesday night led to the arrest of the men, who were arraigned in federal court in New Jersey on Thursday, according to court documents.
A criminal complaint alleges that the rabbis charged Jewish wives tens of thousands of dollars to orchestrate kidnappings and accepted $20,000 for such an operation from undercover FBI agents.
October 1st, 2013
09:52 AM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-editorFollow @BurkeCNN
(CNN) - The number of nonreligious Jews is rising in the United States, with more than one in five saying they are not affiliated with any faith, according to a new survey.
While similar trends affect almost every American religion, Jewish leaders say the new survey spotlights several unique obstacles for the future of their faith.
According to the survey, conducted by Pew Research Center's Religion & Public Life Project, non-religious Jews are less likely to care deeply about Israel, donate to Jewish charities, marry Jewish spouses and join Jewish organizations.
Pew says their study sought to explore the question, "What does being Jewish in America mean today?" The answer is quite complicated.
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 and frequent posts from religion scholar and author Stephen Prothero.