Jewish Journal

LA Times: High gas prices forcing Jews to walk on Sabbath

by Brad A. Greenberg

June 17, 2008 | 12:09 pm

I don’t know Ronald D. White of the Los Angeles Times’ business desk, but I do know that he’s not a religion reporter. So we can forgive him a serious error in this article about how high gas prices are affecting attendance at houses of worship.

In houses of worship nationwide, preachers are railing against the forces of energy evil, and congregations are praying for lower fuel prices.

So far, no results.

The Energy Department’s weekly survey Monday showed U.S. pump prices hitting a fresh record of $4.08 a gallon. Oil neared $140 a barrel, but then retreated.

The problem is affecting even the holy business, driving down attendance at churches, synagogues and mosques. Religious leaders are struggling to help their members cope, spinning new themes about a society that has become almost sinfully reliant on motorized transport. Others are viewing the energy-price squeeze as a test of the way they serve God and their communities.

In Israel, but you get the point

White reached this conclusion after speaking with someone from the Islamic Center of Southern California and pastors of the Baptist, Foursquare and Lutheran persuasion. And certainly there is some truth here: If you provide a busing ministry, your costs have skyrocketed; if you have a commuter congregation that draws folks from 30 miles away, they might be inclined to stay closer to home on Sunday.

White, however, apparently did not speak with any rabbis or synagogue presidents. If he had, they might have told him that Orthodox Jews and many Conservative Jews do not drive on the Sabbath. In fact, most gentiles could have answered that question just as well.

Imagine this anecdote left on the editing floor:

“A Saturday tour through L.A.‘s traditionally Jewish neighborhoods, Pico-Robertson and the Fairfax district, found that Jews, many with their heads covered and beards long, had ditched their cars completely and were walking to shul. If 2,000 of persecution wasn’t enough, Jews are feeling a pinch at the pump just like everybody else. “

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