- The Washington Times - Friday, September 18, 2009

Gingrich credits wife and pope for conversion

In a recent interview with the National Catholic Register, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says his wife, who is in the choir at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and Pope Benedict XVI played important roles in his decision to convert this spring from Baptist to Catholic.

Mr. Gingrich, who had been a Baptist since graduate school and married third wife Callista in 2000, said in a Sept. 9 interview that attending Mass to hear her sing became part of his becoming “a good husband.”

“For nine years, I watched Callista take Communion and could see the power of the Eucharist in her life. Callista’s view had always been that she was glad that I came to church with her. She has a deep need to be at Mass every week and sing at the basilica. That’s part of her service. She would occasionally say to me that ‘the church is available.’ That’s as hard as she would push. She didn’t try to twist my arm. When I was received into the church, she was beyond delighted,” Mr. Gingrich told the Register.

He also reflected on Benedict’s April 2008 visit to America, saying it was at that visit that he informed Monsignor Walter Rossi, rector of the shrine, of his decision.

“I had met Pope John Paul II twice, both as a junior member of Congress and as speaker. Those were official meetings,” Mr. Gingrich said. “I watched Pope Benedict XVI’s week in the U.S.; Callista sang for him at the basilica. I thought his choice of ‘Christ Our Hope’ [as the theme of his pastoral visit] was exactly right. He expressed in his eyes such joy that night that he was at the basilica. That evening I told Monsignor Rossi, ‘I want you to know that I’m going to convert. My experience today convinces me that my natural home is in the church.’ ”

New funding will bolster Jewish teaching, learning

In an effort to reach a new generation of Jewish teachers and learners, the Jim Joseph Foundation has donated nearly $12 million in grants to the three leading institutions - the Jewish Theological Seminary, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and Yeshiva University. The money, administered over five years, will be used as financial aid and to help the schools collaborate on new and enhanced programs in the field of education.

“The quality of future heads of school, teachers and educational leaders in Jewish education will improve directly because of this funding,” said the seminary’s chancellor, Arnold Eisen. “They will contribute greatly to the future of North American Jewry. And with this incredibly generous grant, the Jim Joseph Foundation is strengthening our institutions and giving a huge vote of confidence as we work to enhance Jewish education in the coming decades.”

Yeshiva President Richard Joel said: “The future of Jewish life depends on a Jewish people who know and own their story. Jim Josephs extraordinary ongoing partnership and investment ensures that the best and the brightest are equipped to educate our children and to advance Jewish life. More than that, these four institutions can become a powerful advocacy voice to remind and encourage the Jewish community of the centrality of Jewish knowledge to Jewish life, and the essential nature of quality Jewish education to the advancement of the Jewish people.”

The Shimon Ben Joseph Foundation, commonly known as the Jim Joseph Foundation, was founded in 1987 by businessman and philanthropist Jim Joseph.

“Our commitment is to Jewish education, and the partnership now established with these three institutions through these grants should contribute greatly to advancing this cause,” foundation President Al Levitt said.

The grants can be used this school year.