As Jewish families light Chanukah candles this evening, I too will give thanks for two wonderful gifts that have been given to further LDS-Jewish relations on my favorite holiday. The first is Rabbi Jeff Marx of The Santa Monica Synagogue, a dynamic Reform congregation in its namesake city. Rabbi Marx’s involvement with the LDS Church has been fairly extensive: he made a trip to Utah with other LA-based rabbis two years ago, he is a frequent visitor to the Church’s regional Family History Center, he lectured on Judaism to my LDS interfaith class, and he invited my stake president, our stake director of public affairs and me to make a presentation on LDS beliefs to his congregants. Tomorrow he will be speaking on Chanukah and Judaism at an Institute (= LDS Hillel) class at Santa Monica College. The class is taught by Gary and Leisel McBride, who have spent much time living in Israel. Their students are in for a treat.
The second gift is Christa Woodall, an LDS journalist who has been asked to write a blog on Mormons and Jews for J., Northern California’s Jewish news weekly. Here is her inaugural post:
Christa had the good fortune to intern for the Michael Medved Show in Seattle during college, which inspired her to take courses on Judaism at BYU. She has worked as a journalist for the Orange County Register and currently lives in Utah. I couldn’t be happier for Christa or for the LDS and Jewish communities of California. I hope her column is wildly successful.
When I asked J.’s publisher Marc Klein why he had agreed to host a blog on Jewish-Mormon relations, his answer showed that he shares the same vision as my editor, Rob Eshman: “I think there is a tremendous interest in the Jewish community about the Mormon religion, but few Jews understand it or know much about Mormon ritual. The interest will only be growing with the chance that Mitt Romney plays an even greater role in the primary for the 2012 elections. Our readers should also understand the Latter-day Saints because of the large number of Mormons in our local community. The Mormon temple sits proudly at the top of the Oakland skyline and is viewed daily by thousands of Bay Area Jews. We’re lucky to have an experienced journalist writing our new blog. Christa Woodall is a Mormon who knows a tremendous amount about the Jewish religion. Who better to help all of us understand one another?”
With any luck, there will soon be a Rabbi Marx in the Bay Area. Chag sameach!