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The Interfaith - December of 2016

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SuperJew | Wikimedia
God and Gov: Israel Edition
December 29, 2016
What did the founders mean when they declared Israel a "Jewish state"? And we meet Israel's hottest TV stars: the sweet Yeshiva boys of "Liturgical Poet."
Just How Jewish Is 'the Jewish State'?
In late 2014, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu introduced a controversial bill that would officially declare Israel a Jewish state. Many Israelis saw Netanyahu’s proposal as an attack on non-Jews, who make up around 20 percent of the population. But Israel has been calling itself "the Jewish state" since the very beginning--so what did Israel’s founders mean by that, and why is it so controversial? Two experts debate, in this encore edition of our God and Government series, from October 2015.

We begin with a look at  Israel's government-run system for organ donation, which brings in donors at just a quarter of the rate in the United States. Many doctors worry that the heavy influence of Orthodox Jewish thinking in the country's legal code is hurting the survival rates of those in need. Produced by Dalia Mortada.

Michael Karayanni, professor of law at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem
Michael Brenner, director of the Center for Israel Studies at American University
December 29, 2016
'Everything Is Spiritual': In the Studio with David Broza December 29, 2016
David Broza launched his career in 1977 and is now one of Israel's best-known musicians and activists. While he doesn't go to synagogue every week, he finds solace in the quiet stillness of prayer, a practice he first discovered as a rebellious teenager. Now nearly 60, he tells us that "the art of contemplation has stuck with me." From October 2015.
Israel's Newest TV Stars: Nice Jewish Boys From A Synagogue Near You December 29, 2016
One of the most popular TV shows in Israel right now is a reality singing contest in the spirit of American Idol and The Voice. But the contestants aren’t singing pop songs or trying to win record contracts. They’re singing liturgical music--sacred songs you would hear in religious services. So why has a show about synagogue music captured the imagination of a country where most Jews don’t even go to synagogue? Laura Kwerel has the story, from October 2015. This story won a Wilbur award in 2016.

Liel Liebovitz,  Israeli-American journalist and co-host of the podcast Unorthodox
Read Liel's article on Ha’Paytan in Tablet magazine, and watch a full episode of the show.

Extreme Do-Gooders
December 23, 2016
The Bible tells us it’s better to give than to receive... but can you go too far? This week: stories of people who help strangers more than the ones they love.
Extreme Do-Gooders, And Why They Make Us Uneasy December 23, 2016
If you had to choose, would you save your own drowning child, or three drowning strangers? Would you adopt 20 children, or take a higher paying job in order to give away more money? Larissa MacFarquhar, author of "Strangers Drowning," introduces us to extreme do-gooders--people who refuse to draw the line at helping their own.

Larissa MacFarquhar, author of Strangers Drowning: Impossible Idealism, Drastic Choices, and the Urge to Help
The Kindness of Strangers December 23, 2016
Bernadette has a plan: She will do one random act of kindness for a stranger every day for a year. How do these strangers react to her flowers and inspirational notes? Producer Kirsty McQuire takes us along for a day in the life of someone trying to do the right thing.

Bernadette Russell, author of Do Nice, Be Kind, Spread Happy: Acts of Kindness for Kids
Dharma in the Dorm December 23, 2016
Georgetown's Brahmachari Vrajvihari Sharan is the first Hindu chaplain (and monk) to serve as a chaplain at an American university. He's celibate, wears traditional robes...and he's living on a hallway of boisterous freshmen in a student dorm.

Brahmachari Vrajvihari Sharan, Hindu chaplain at Georgetown University


Michael Vadon | Wikimedia Commons
Being Muslim in the Year of Trump: A Post-Election Special
December 17, 2016
Muslim reactions to the era of Donald Trump, from a Muslim woman who escaped a 'hijab grab' to a pro-Trump Muslim feminist.
In Self-Defense Class, Learning to Avoid a 'Hijab Grab' December 17, 2016
In a church basement in Washington, DC, a dozen Muslim women are learning how to look an attacker in the eye and use their "outside voice." With an uptick in bias-related incidents before--and after--the presidential election, demand has also risen for self-defense classes to help Muslim women prevent, or escape, attack. Rana Abdelhamid, the founder of a women's empowerment group that runs the class, weighs in with her personal story of a "hijab grab." And a mother attending the class tells us why she brought her two daughters. Produced by Ruth Morris.

Rana Abdelhamid, founder of the Women's Initiative for Self-Empowerment (WISE)

Video: How to Prevent a Hijab Grab
Yuka and Zahra: Discrimination Then and Now December 17, 2016
Yuka Fujikura is a 90-year-old survivor of a Japanese-American internment camp.  Zahra Riaz is a 17-year-old Muslim college student. They sat down together to share their stories, now that their very different situations have been connected: In mid-November, a prominent Trump supporter suggested that Donald Trump’s Muslim registry proposal had precedent because “We did it during World War II with Japanese.” Produced by Abigail Holtzman.

Trump has revised the details of his registry plan multiple times since December 2015. Click here for a timeline of the changes.

Zahra: What advice do you have for me?
Yuka: Don’t forget your history. Know your past. Don’t forget it, but don’t become bitter or hateful. Look forward. Move on, move on. And if you can, move on with a smile. It helps.

A picture of one of the internment camps where Yuka and her family lived. Conditions were inhumane, and the schooling available for children was unaccredited and poor quality.
Asra Nomani: Muslim. Feminist. Trump Voter. December 17, 2016
Close your eyes and imagine a typical Trump voter. Who do you see? Well, it’s probably not Asra Nomani. Nomani is a life-long liberal and former reporter for the Wall Street Journal. She is also a feminist and an activist.  But sometime around this summer's Pulse night club shooting, she started to find herself at odds with many of her friends and colleagues.  And she began to harbor a secret. Her Washington Post op-ed on being a "silent Trump voter" received more comments than any other article in her journalism career.

Asra Nomani, journalist and author of "I'm a Muslim, a woman and an immigrant. I voted for Trump."
Carrie Newcomer: You Can Do This Hard Thing December 17, 2016
Carrie Newcomer is a Quaker singer-songwriter who lives out in the woods near Bloomington, Indiana. She sings about embracing our shared values, searching for moments of beauty, and being present in our own lives. So that got us thinking: after this bitter election season, we’ll have what she's having. She joins producer Laura Kwerel for an in-studio performance of songs that seem especially fitting after this combative and contentious election, including "You Can Do This Hard Thing."

Carrie Newcomer
's new album is called The Beautiful Not Yet.

Carrie performed live in the WAMU studios on Dec 9, 2016. Hear the full recordings below.


Podcast Extra: Noor Tagouri December 17, 2016
Noor Tagouri is a Muslim journalist who made history recently when she appeared in Playboy magazine’s Renegade series… fully clothed, wearing a leather jacket, dark lipstick, and a hijab. She talks to producer Abigail Holtzman about how she's able to connect with interview subjects on a deeper level. She says they see her--a Muslim woman who wears hijab--as a natural ally, someone who will tell their story fairly because she knows what it's like to be misrepresented.


Podcast Extra: Yuka and Zahra, Extended Version December 17, 2016
There is so much more to our conversation between Yuka Fujikura and Zahra Riaz. Hear a longer version here.


Chloe Prasinos
From Vampires To Jesus And Back Again
December 09, 2016
In 2009, Anne Rice told us she had abandoned vampires and returned to the Catholicism of her youth. But a year later, her faith fled once again, and the vampires came back.


Anne Rice: Called Back to the Darkness? December 09, 2016
Vampire novelist Anne Rice has a conflicted soul. When we talked to her in 2009, she had abandoned atheism and returned to the Catholicism of her youth, committing herself to chronicling the life of Jesus. She told the world she was “called out of darkness," and swore off books about the fashionably undead. But just a year later, her faith fled once again, and the vampires came back. Guest interviewer Mark Oppenheimer finds out what happened. From 2015. Followed by our original 2009 interview, when Rice had just come back to the church.

Anne Rice, author of many books including Interview with the Vampire and Prince Lestat.
Mark Oppenheimer, co-host of the Unorthodox podcast from Tablet Magazine. He is now working on a book titled "How to Be a Jew."


From Preacher to Doubter December 09, 2016
As a teenager, Jerry DeWitt was about as fiery a Christian as they come. But slowly, over the course of his 25-year career as a pastor, DeWitt’s beliefs began to burn off until he finally realized he no longer believed in God, or in the infallibility of the Bible. Then he was forced to confront not only the loss of his faith, but the loss of his friends, his wife, and his secular job. From 2013.

Jerry DeWitt, author of Hope After Faith: An Ex-Pastor’s Journey from Belief to Atheism


Can You "Pray Away the Gay"?
December 01, 2016
A whole hour on the different ways people reconcile their faith and sexual orientation: from conversion therapy, to acceptance, to celibacy.


Alan and Leslie Chambers on Love, Marriage and Leaving the Ex-Gay Movement December 01, 2016
Alan Chambers sent shock waves through the Evangelical community when he shut down Exodus International, a network that worked to "re-orient" gays and lesbians through prayer and therapy. Alan and his wife Leslie talk about their decision to distance themselves from conversion therapy, and how they deal with same-sex attraction in their marriage. They spoke to Kevin Eckstrom, former editor-in-chief of Religion News Service and Communications Director at the Washington National Cathedral.

Alan Chambers, former president of Exodus International and co-author of My Exodus: From Fear to Grace
Leslie Chambers, co-author of My Exodus: From Fear to Grace


From Gay to Straight? Two Very Different Stories December 01, 2016
Allen Calhoun spent one year attending Regeneration, a faith-based organization that helps people struggling with sex and relations. He says the program worked--he is now straight and married to his wife Mary Ann.

But after spending 17 years and over $30,000 on three continents trying to become straight, Peterson Toscano came to believe that the task was impossible. He now believes there is nothing wrong with being gay and Christian. Peterson is now married to his husband Glen Reteif.

Allen Calhoun, PhD candidate in theological ethics at the University of Aberdeen
Peterson Toscano, performance artist, activist, and scholar


A Third Way: Celibacy December 01, 2016
Writer Eve Tushnet found a third way to reconcile her lesbian orientation with her devout Catholic faith: celibacy. Other conservative Christians are also moving away from prescribing conversion therapy in favor of encouraging a celibate lifestyle. From 2012.

Eve Tushnet, writer and author of, "I'm Gay, but I'm Not Switching to a Church That Supports Gay Marriage"






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