- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) - A Philadelphia-area rabbi is in line to become the new executive vice president of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism _ part of a leadership overhaul that movement officials hope will help restore the footing of what was once was the largest branch of Judaism in the U.S.

Rabbi Steven Wernick, 41, spiritual leader since 2001 of Adath Israel in Merion Station, Pa., will assume the position heading the movement’s congregational branch pending negotiations and board approval.

In a news release, the group called Wernick an innovator, community-builder and successful fundraiser who turned around a dwindling congregation. Wernick “has said that he hopes to move United Synagogue in the direction of ever-greater responsiveness, engagement, and transparency,” the organization said.

Conservative Judaism is viewed as a middle ground between the more liberal Reform and conservative Orthodox movements. Studies show the movement is aging and has fallen behind the Reform movement in numbers.

About 26 percent of the American adult Jewish population identified as Conservative in the 2000-2001 National Jewish Population Survey, compared with 35 percent who called themselves Reform.

Earlier this month, more than 50 Conservative rabbis, cantors and lay leaders wrote a letter warning against “business as usual” within the United Synagogue.

Other changes have taken place at the two other major Conservative institutions. Arnold Eisen became chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2006 and Rabbi Julie Schonfeld will take over as executive vice president of the movement’s Rabbinical Assembly this summer.

Wernick would replace longtime executive president Rabbi Jerome Epstein, who is retiring.




Kansas archbishop defends criticism of governor over abortion stance

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) _ The Roman Catholic archbishop of Kansas City, Kan., isn’t backing off of his criticism of the nomination of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius for health and human services secretary.

“I don’t think I have any influence on who’s going to be the next secretary of HHS,” Archbishop Joseph Naumann told The Kansas City Star, but “I felt I had to exercise my teaching authority for the good of the Catholic community.”

Earlier this month, Naumann said he was “concerned personally” for Sebelius and that he found her nomination “particularly troubling.”

Last year, Naumann urged Sebelius, who is Catholic, to stop taking communion until she repudiated her abortion rights views. She never replied publicly about that or Naumann’s latest comments.

But some people take issue with his statements about Sebelius, as well as other comments about social issues, such as abortion and gay marriage.

In a column written before the November election, Naumann and Bishop Robert Finn of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese argued that while Catholics “may and do” disagree over the death penalty, war and other issues, abortion and gay marriage are always evil and therefore more politically important.

“This has the appearance that the church is involved in partisan politics,” said Chris Korzen of Catholics United, which supports Sebelius’ nomination.




Pittsburgh bishop to hold service for those hurt by the Roman Catholic Church

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ The head of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh will hold a Holy Week prayer service for anyone who feels hurt by anyone acting in the name of the church.

Bishop David Zubik will preside April 7 at 7 p.m. at St. Paul Cathedral in Pittsburgh.

The service is the first of its kind for the Pittsburgh diocese, although Zubik did the same thing when he was bishop of the Green Bay diocese in Wisconsin in 2006.

Zubik said the prayer service will not be a forum for people to air their grievances out loud. But in his homily and the prayers offered, Zubik will address ways people have been hurt by the church.

Zubik described it as a way for him to ask for forgiveness on behalf of the church.




Buddhist monks, Virginia Beach reach agreement on home services

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) _ Virginia Beach has agreed to consider giving a group of Buddhist monks a permit to hold worship services at their home.

The tentative agreement would settle a federal lawsuit the monks had filed against the city. City officials filed a stipulation of settlement Monday in U.S. District Court.

The proposed permit would limit Sunday meditation services at the home to no more than 20 people at a time. Festivals wouldn’t be allowed but the city agreed to help the monks to find another location.

The monks sued the city in September after complaints about traffic prompted the City Council to shut down the services.

Monday’s filing asked the court to refer the matter to City Council so it can consider whether to issue a permit.


Episcopalians have higher goal for `March Madness’

ST. LOUIS (AP) _ An Episcopal anti-poverty group is trying to harness the power of March Madness for the greater good.

Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation is running a bracket for the NCAA basketball tournament that raises money for charity.

Dubbed “March Gladness,” all the funds in the pot will be donated to nonprofits that work toward reaching the Millennium Development Goals. The eight goals aim to ease poverty, eradicate preventable disease and fight other social ills worldwide. The goals were drafted in 2000 by 189 heads of state and governments, including the United States.



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