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  • La Mesita Family Homeless Shelter opens

    Tough times inevitably hit everyone, and now, families without a home have a place to go in Mesa.La Mesita Family Homeless Shelter, 2254 W. Ella St., will offer housing for families for up to 120 days as they work to overcome their obstacles.The shelter is operated by Mesa-base A New Leaf and has 16 fully furnished one- and two-bedroom units. Families will be provided food, hygiene products and clothing upon entry.The opening of La Mesita Family Homeless Shelter is phase two of a three-phase, long-term project that will see the addition of 30 new additional housing units for the chronically homeless starting in 2016.For more information about La Mesita Family Homeless Shelter, visit www.TurnANewLeaf.org or call A New Leaf at (480) 969-4024.

  • Mesa taking first steps to end veteran homelessness

    A little less than a month ago, Mesa Mayor John Giles accepted the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness.The next challenge is getting the program off the ground.The program, co-chaired by Mesa Councilmembers Kevin Thompson, an Air Force veteran himself; and Chris Glover, plans to offer Veterans Affairs Supporting Housing vouchers from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to homeless veterans, which they can use to pay for housing.The program is still in its infancy and Thompson said he and Glover are working to get the program on its feet.The first step is identifying the veterans that are in need of housing.“We’re working with our housing group. We’re working with other agencies and entities to help us to identify who our veterans are who are on the streets,” Thompson said. “Once we identify them we have the housing vouchers that we can use that will get them into an apartment or something to get them off the street.”

  • 2 Valley hospitals offering stroke checks May 11

    Tempe St. Luke’s Hospital and Mountain Vista Medical Center in Mesa are partnering with the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association to offer free stroke-risk assessments May 11, from 9 a.m. to noon.The hospitals will provide free screenings that may include blood pressure checks, cholesterol screenings, pulse checks for peripheral artery disease and body mass index calculations.Additionally, attendees can fill out stroke-risk assessment checklists, enjoy light, heart healthy refreshments and will have the opportunity to speak with medical professionals such as a cardiologist, nutritionist and pharmacist regarding screening results.

  • Chandler native fights pediatric AIDS

    For the past two years, Nick Jensen, Chandler native and senior at UCLA, has participated within the Pediatric AIDS Coalition (PAC) with one goal in mind: to give back to the community that has given him so much.According to Mikki Leach, PAC’s executive director of logistics, the organization is student-run at UCLA that works to eliminate pediatric HIV and AIDS through active, educational and mentorship programs within the greater Los Angeles area as well as through fundraising for beneficiaries fighting toward the same goal.Jensen joined PAC during his junior year, where his duties were to contact corporations around Los Angeles in efforts to acquire donations for the annual Dance Marathon.The Dance Marathon is PAC’s biggest event, which is a 26-hour dance-a-thon that raises funds for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, UCLA AIDS Institute, Project Kindle, and PAC’s own direct service model.“Since its inception, Dance Marathon has raised nearly $4 million for the fight against pediatric HIV/AIDS,” Leach said in an email. “These funds have been used to treat women and children across the global for their medical and psychological needs and also fund ground-breaking HIV/AIDS research.”After his first Dance Marathon experience, Jensen said he knew he had to get more involved in PAC, and applied to become a director during his senior year.

  • One great act to follow

    Last December, Adalin Mena’s third-grade class from Mesa’s Longfellow Elementary traveled to Peoria to see “The Quiltmaker’s Gift” at Theater Works — through a program operated by local nonprofit, Act One.For many, it was their first performing arts event, and for some, without the help of this transformative program, they might never have had the chance to see any stage production.“My class had so much fun, and it was a great experience since many of them don’t get the opportunity to really go and see theater,” Mena said. “Act One allowed us to, one, take a field trip that we normally would not be able to afford, and two, provide an experience that the students normally would not be able to afford on their own. They had a great time.”Founded by Valley arts champions, Linda (“Mac”) and Russ Perlich, Phoenix-based Act One provides K-12 students and teachers from Title 1 schools with little or no arts programming the opportunity to attend theater cost free in Maricopa and Pima counties.During the founding year of 2011, Act One engaged 6,000 Title 1 students in the Phoenix area in educational arts field trips. This year, 24,000 students from these underserved schools will have that potentially life-changing experience, bringing the four-year total to 75,000. The final field trip this season will be May 7, at the Tucson Symphony Orchestra.“For the students we serve this is often their very first experience with a live performance,” said Megan Jefferies, executive director of Act One. “Without this program, this bridge to the performing arts, these schools do not have the resources to pay for tickets and transport their students to and from museums and theaters. Students are energized and inspired by the experience, and their teachers see a difference in the classroom.”

  • Mesa uses undercover operations to prevent child sex trafficking

    An effort to prevent child sex trafficking in Mesa is headed by undercover operations conducted by Mesa police.Mesa police conduct undercover operations three to four times per year, Detective Esteban Flores said.“Prostitution is a problem in any city,” Flores said. “We wanted to focus on child prostitution because it is a bigger problem. Obviously any crime dealing with children is serious, so we wanted to focus on that.”The specialized focus started before the Super Bowl, Flores noted. When agencies come into the cities, prostitution rises, he said. Though the Super Bowl has passed, Mesa police wanted to focus on those still hanging around.On March 28, an operation called “Blue Heat,” conducted by undercover officers posing as underage females, resulted in five arrests. Four suspects were taken into custody after arriving at an arranged designation to pay for sex with an undercover officer posing as a 16-year-old girl, a police report said.“What happens is we put out an advertisement on different social media sites and different Internet sites, and wait for people to respond,” Flores said.

  • ‘Desert Dancer’: Westernizing the Middle East

    With all the attention the Middle East has garnered over the past 15-odd years, its no surprise that a bit of romanticizing has occurred. We are wired to want to know more about our “enemy”; and for many of us, there is a desire to convert them — at least in our minds — from foe to fellow human being. At the same time, we seek to justify our controversial actions in the Middle East.Perhaps that is why a story like “Desert Dancer” seems like it would appeal to western predilections. But that’s just what knocks this film from a great story to a mediocre one. The movie oozes westernization, so much that it almost felt like pro-west propaganda.It was shot completely in English, which already dilutes the authenticity of the story. The main character, Afshin Ghaffarian, spoke Persian and then later French in real life — not English.To drive the wedge in further, there is only one Iranian actor — or rather actress — Nazanin Boniadi, who gets a speaking role of any significance. Of course this is forgivable considering that there are not many Iranian actors outside Iran. Still, there were far fewer Middle Eastern actors than expected. Our lead, Ritchie Reece, is British, having a South African mother and English father.As for the actual story, it is interesting. Set in the late noughties, leading up to and after the tumultuous 2009 Iranian elections. The political opposition party known widely as the Green Movement, is prevalent throughout the film. So too is the incumbent regime that carries a big stick.Amid this volatile landscape, we follow the youth of Afshin, an Iranian whose love of dance leads him to create an underground dance company. The film suggests that little Afshin’s dance fasciation began with a secret box of western films that included “Dirty Dancing.” From there we see him learn that the arts, and particularly dance, must be enjoyed away from the public eye.

  • Eat fresh: Local farmers markets

    Eating fresh doesn’t mean it has to be expensive! Eat great and support our local growers by checking out your local farmers market. Freshen out your fridge will locally grown and soucred produce, meats, dairy and more. Don’t forget to browse those craft vendors too!MesaMesa Community Farmers MarketSnag some seasonal produce, or indulge in locally made salsas, jams and jellies. Natural meat products and even seafood can be purchased here. Handcrafted lotions, soaps, and more are also available. This market accepts AZFMNP Vouchers, WIC, and EBT/SNAP. Located near downtown Mesa, this is the perfect market to stop by after a museum visit.DETAILS >> Fridays, 9 a.m. to noon. Located at 236 N. Center St. arizonafarmersmarkets.com.Augusta Ranch

  • Calling all readers, writers and book lovers!

    Indie publishing company She Writes Press is coming to Changing Hands bookstore in Tempe on Monday, April 20 at 7 p.m. As part of the its first-ever national book tour, She Writes Press bring guests face-to-face with distinguished authors Kamy Wicoff, Jo Ivester and Hollye Dexter. A guest moderator will host a panel and guide the evening’s discussion. For any one interested in the book publishing industry this event is a must! The evening will be packed with useful information and fun.In addition, to honor of World Book Day on April 23, SparkPoint Studio, She Writes Press’ parent company, is inviting you to purchase any book at Changing Hands Bookstore as a donation to the Phoenix Public Library. For every book donated, SparkPoint Studio will match it.She Writes Press is the brainchild of Kamy Wicoff and Brooke Warner. Created in response to the difficult barriers that traditional publishing erects, She Writes Press is founded with the principles of connecting and serving all women writers at every level.

  • Local veteran, musician to host benefit concert for fellow vets

    Local veteran, musician and self-proclaimed “biggest charity case in show business,” Victor Pinzon, is hosting “Walk With Me in Love: A Nostalgic Evening of Music and Comedy” a benefit concert for fellow veterans on Thursday, April 30 at Tempe Center for the Performing Arts, featuring works from his recently released album, “Walk With Me In Love.”“Music is a powerful communicator,” Pinzon said, who has used his recently released album to raise money for veterans in need. “I’m looking forward to packing the house because the more I pack the house the more we can donate.”Pinzon served as a Marine in the Vietnam War and understands all too well the hardships associated with returning home from combat. He has committed his life and work to supporting organizations that provide the assistance and support he wishes he and soldiers like him could have had following Vietnam.“When I was a younger Marine coming back from Vietnam, I had a lot of problems,” Pinzon explained. “It took me years to really get my bearing and footing back to where I was functioning as a successful human being.”All proceeds from concert tickets and album sales will be going to two local charities, the Military Assistance Mission and the American Legion, which offer support to veterans returning home from war. Pinzon, along with pianist Paul Gregg, bass guitarist Phil Harley and drummer Big Baby, will be performing tributes to classics like Frank Sinatra, Frankie Laine and the “Ed Sullivan Show.” In addition to singing, Pinzon will also be entertaining guests with comedic celebrity impressions.“It’s an opportunity to reminisce and to discover a part of show business that you don’t see every day,” Pinzon said. “We’re going to be reviving some of the great classics from the ‘Great American Song Book.’”

  • ‘All The Light We Cannot See’ is excellent reading

    As I complete yet another book with a World War II setting, I can’t help but wonder how bare our literature shelves would be without the countless stories of heroism, bravery and sacrifice of those who lived at that time, both in our country and abroad. Although most of the books I read are fiction, I am certain the stories are based on truths that have been passed down through the generations.I highly recommend “All The Light We Cannot See,” by Anthony Doerr, if you want to be transported to a time and place in history. His excellent descriptive writing and memorable characters will make you wish you had known them in real life.Instead of the typical Holocaust story of following persecuted Jews to the horrors of Auschwitz, Doerr takes a unique approach, as he weaves together the stories of two unlikely heroes of the time — a blind French girl, Marie-Laure, and a German orphan, Werner. Their paths collide in occupied France as they try to survive the devastations and horrors of World War II.Marie-Laure’s father works at the Museum of Natural History in Paris where he is the master of a thousand locks. When his daughter goes blind at the age of 6, he teaches her self-reliance in many ways. For example, he builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way from home to the museum. Their loving relationship will touch your heart and then break it when they are separated, shortly after her 12th birthday, as the Nazis occupy Paris. Her birthday gift from her father that year was a Braille edition of Jules Verne’s “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,” which becomes her most prized possession. When her father is taken away, Mari-Laure finds safety in the walled citadel of Saint-Malo where her reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. One of the most touching scenes in the book is the first time she experiences the rush of the sea on her bare feet. And to add a touch of mystery, among the few possessions she was able to take with her just might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.We first meet the young Werner in a German orphanage with little sister, Jetta, who he is devoted to. They become enchanted by a crude radio they find when they discover a copper wire that allows them to tune into foreign broadcasts. “After prayers and lights out, Jetta sneaks up to her brother’s dorm where they lie hip-to-hip, listening till midnight, till 1, till 2.”Werner, through his early fascination with the radio, becomes a child engineering prodigy at building and repairing these crucial new instruments. This talent earns him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, yet allows him to escape his destiny of the coal mines that killed his father. However, he pays a dear price for this trade-off. Like Marie-Laure, he is now separated from the one person he loves, sister, Jutte. We follow Werner through the ravages of the war and when he is assigned to track the resistance movement, he makes his way eventually into Saint-Malo where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

  • Quick look: New this week at the movies

    Now showingAlex of VeniceWorkaholic environmental attorney, Alex Vedder, is forced to reinvent herself after her husband suddenly leaves the family. Dealing with an aging father who still aspires to succeed as an actor, an eccentric sister and an extremely shy son, Alex is bombarded with everything from the mundane to hilariously catastrophic events without a shoulder to lean on. Realizing she will thrive with or without her husband, Alex discovers her hidden vulnerability as well as her inner strength as she fights to keep her family intact in the midst of the most demanding and important case of her career. Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Don Johnson, Derek Luke, Katie Nehra, Chris Messina, Marin Hinkle, Matthew Del Negro, Michael Chernus, Troy Garity. RBeyond the ReachA high-rolling corporate shark and his impoverished young guide play the most dangerous game during a hunting trip in the Mojave Desert. Starring: Jeremy Irvine, Michael Douglas, Hanna Mangan Lawrence, Ronny Cox, Patricia Bethune, Martin Palmer. RChild 44

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  • A small victory for fliers: summer domestic fares fall $2.01

    After years of steadily-rising airfare, travelers this summer can expect a tiny bit of relief — $2.01 in savings to be exact.The average roundtrip domestic ticket this summer, including taxes, now stands at $454, down less than a percent from last summer. Vacationers to Europe will fare better with the average ticket down 3 percent to $1,619, about $50 less than last summer.Not all travelers will get to save.Flights to Hawaii, Florida and New Orleans are cheaper, but travelers heading to New York, Denver and San Francisco can expect to pay more.Even in Europe, it depends on the destination. Overall fares are down but it will cost more this summer to fly to cities like Amsterdam; London; Budapest, Hungary; Lisbon, Portugal; Frankfurt, Germany or Reykjavik, Iceland.Prices are coming down because airlines are now saving billions of dollars thanks to lower fuel prices and because more seats have been crammed into planes, spreading out costs over more passengers. European economic troubles are also keeping some seats empty as business travelers stay home.The generally good news about fares comes in a report released Monday by the Airlines Reporting Corp., which processes ticket transactions for airlines and travel agencies such as Expedia, American Express and Carlson Wagonlit. The study looks at 4.1 million tickets purchased before March 31 this year and last year for travel between Memorial Day and Labor Day.Airfare during the first three months of this year was also lower, down 3.7 percent domestically and 8.9 percent internationally.Even with the moderate relief this summer, prices are still higher than just a few years ago. The average domestic roundtrip ticket is still $13, or 3 percent, higher than it was in 2012. European trips are $60, or 3.9 percent, more expensive.Travelers can thank lower oil prices and more seats on planes for keeping this summer's airfare in check.Airlines at the start of the year paid $2.13 for each gallon of jet fuel, down 30 percent from last year's $3.03, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. With U.S. airlines burning through 42 million gallons of fuel a day, that 90-cent savings adds up quickly: $14.7 billion for the entire year if prices remain at these levels.Travelers are only seeing a sliver of those savings. The rest of the money is being used to upgrade airplanes and airports, pay employee bonuses and reward shareholders as airlines continue to post record profits.European economic woes are also keeping some business travelers home, helping lower fares for vacationers. Fares are down to airports in Spain, Italy and France. However, cities in Germany and England, whose economies are stronger, are still higher this summer compared to last year.Part of the savings is also linked to airlines adding extra seats on certain routes.One of the best bargains to Europe right now is between New York and Milan, Italy. That's because four airlines fly that traditional business route nonstop each day including Dubai-based Emirates Airline. Starting in June, Emirates will fly the world's largest jet, the Airbus A380, carrying 489 people between the two cities. That's 129 more passengers a day than it currently carries, helping to bring down prices.The same situation is true for Hawaii.There are 5 percent more seats between Hawaii and the rest of the country this summer, compared to last. That's helping to lower ticket prices to most airports there by about 10 percent.Scott Mayerowitz can be reached at http://twitter.com/GlobeTrotScott

  • Salvation Army coffee shop important to Tempe area

    It comes as no surprise to hear there are many unique businesses popping up in Tempe, but for one coffee shop on University Drive, money is just a bonus.The mission and the motto for the Salvation Army is “Doing the Most Good,” and the people behind 1865 Coffee are trying to do just that with a little help from the caffeinated drink students survive on.1865 Coffee, the name coming from the year the Salvation Army was founded, opened up two years ago as a way for two Salvation Army pastors, Lieutenants Chris and Latisa Ratliff, to reach out to the younger crowd of students in the area and efficiently use the Salvation Army’s coffee brand, said manager Ruben Cordero.“We’re so close to college, yet we felt we had no impact on the students that walk by our building each day. We regularly have students coming in, wondering how they could get involved, so this is only a small way we can bridge the gap,” Latisa said.Christopher explained that while students are studying or hanging out in the shop, they can learn about what Salvation Army’s mission is and how they can get involved.“We have to make sure we stay focused on our niche,” Christopher said.

  • New home loan program launched in Maricopa County

    A new home loan program, Home Plus, has been launched for Maricopa County renters looking to become homeowners.On behalf of the Arizona Department of Housing, the Arizona Housing Finance Authority is assisting prospective home buyers with a down payment assistance (DPA) grant and 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. The program is aimed toward credit-worthy renters who can afford a mortgage but lack the resources to pay the down payment, Dirk Swift, Arizona Housing Finance Authority homeownership programs administrator, said.“A healthy first-time home buyer market is a precursor to creating strong, stable communities,” Swift said.The Home Plus program has been in existence for a number of years, having previously focused on the 13 rural counties, Swift noted. Last fall, an additional program focusing on mortgages was added which began to incorporate Maricopa County, Swift said.Home Plus is not available in Pima County because they already have a similar program, Swift added.According to the press release, the DPA is a non-repayable grant that may be used for a home’s down payment and closing costs, which is equal to 4 percent of the initial balance of the loan. Prospective home buyers looking to use the program also do not need to be first-time buyers.

  • ‘U-Haul veteran’ opens Friendly Auto Centers in Mesa

    Steve Rozansky, owner of Friendly Auto Centers LLC, faced culture shock when he moved from New York to Mesa.But there was a welcomed member of the family waiting to greet him and his new business in the desert.Rozansky’s automotive shop in New York flourished as a U-Haul neighborhood dealer for 21 years, and he considers himself a seasoned U-Haul veteran. He was eager to renew that partnership once Friendly Auto Centers in Mesa opened in late 2014.Friendly Auto Centers at 5026 E. Main St., Suite 24, is open 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday. In addition, they offer after-hours drop-off for U-Haul equipment.Reserve U-Haul trucks, trailers, towing equipment and support rental items at this location by visiting http://www.uhaul.com/Locations/Truck-Rentals-near-Mesa-AZ or calling (480) 924-0171.Friendly Auto Centers provides repairs for any make and model. Rozansky stands behind his work with a guarantee that all repairs include a lifetime warranty.

  • Slickables opens new location in Mesa

    When you think about ice cream sandwiches you might not think about cookies, but that’s exactly what inspired the owners of Slickables, which just expanded from its original Tempe location to a second in Mesa, to start their business.Sam Chang said he had become “burnt out” in investment banking when he and wife Tina Chau decided to leave the corporate world and do something different. According to their website, sitting around eating cookies and ice cream while debating their future turned into putting the two together and creating a business in the process.“We’re not reinventing the wheel, by any means,” Chang said. The two drew inspiration from Diddy Riese, a longtime staple ice cream shop near UCLA in Westwood.Chang said his business acumen and Chau’s social media and networking skills gained as a veteran broadcast journalist made them confident they could succeed, but did little to convince potential landlords of that in the beginning.Finally, they were able to work with a property owned by ASU, where he said the manager, with a more academic mindset, decided to take a chance on them. That led to their first location on Mill Avenue, now a thriving area favorite.But unlike Diddy Riese, the owners of which Chang said refuse to franchise or expand, the two have set their sights on growth. They say, however, franchising is not in consideration, as they want to be able to mandate quality control and keep the company’s good name.

  • Robocalls peak at tax time

    Washington • Tired of those annoying, sometimes costly, robocalls favored by scammers?The Federal Communications Commission is being asked to consider whether more can be done to block the automated phone calls, but the options appear to be limited.The convergence of Internet and phone lines has made it easier to blast out hundreds of thousands of calls in a matter of minutes to see who takes the bait. The question of whether these calls can be blocked has never been more pressing than around tax season, when many pretend to come from the IRS.The phone companies say they worry that automatic call-blocking might run afoul of laws requiring them to connect phone calls and have asked the FCC to clarify that it doesn’t. Many carriers offer call-blocking services to consumers, sometimes for a fee. But they also don’t want regulators to create any hard-and-fast rules, which they say could be difficult to implement.Consumer groups counter that the phone companies are dragging their feet for no good reason and that, once given the green light from the FCC, could block most robocalls if they wanted.“It is time for AT&T to provide free, effective solutions to this problem immediately, so that unwanted robocalls are stopped before they reach us,” wrote Tim Marvin with Consumers Union in a recent letter to AT&T. The group, which has organized an online petition at EndRobocalls.com, sent similar letters to Verizon and Century Link.

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  • Keeping the Faith: I know it when I see it

    Some concepts are almost impossible to define; words like hope, love, happiness, or faith. And while these are terms we are all familiar with – we use these words every day – we sometimes struggle to say what they really mean. They are simply too intangible and abstract to communicate properly.It is easy to find ourselves in the shoes of Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart. Fifty years ago Justice Stewart famously said of pornography: “I could never succeed in defining it, but I know it when I see it.” Such a characterization applies to much more than obscenity.Take another word as an example: Forgiveness. It is far more than an idea, more than a theoretical concept or a definition inside a dictionary. It is nothing less than a miracle best understood by seeing and experiencing it, not simply talking about it.I first “saw” forgiveness in a woman named Corrie Ten Boom. No, I never met her, but as a child I heard about her at least once a month in my Sunday School class. She and her family were Dutch Christians who hid Jews in their home during the Second World War. Corrie’s memoir, The Hiding Place, records those events.Eventually the Nazis discovered the Ten Boom’s secret and the family was arrested. Corrie and her sister Betsie were sent to Ravensbruck. By the end of the war, only Corrie had survived. Corrie came out of that awful experience saying, “There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still” and “God will give us the love to be able to forgive our enemies.”  Those words were put to the test a few years later.After the war Corrie Ten Boom began traveling around Europe speaking to faith groups about her experience. She was in a Munich church sharing her message of forgiveness when she recognized a man in the crowd. He was a balding heavy-set German in a gray overcoat, clutching a brown felt hat in his hands. Corrie knew immediately that this man had been a guard at the Ravensbruck concentration camp.

  • Shapiro: Judaism is an open culture, walk on in

    Holy Week has ended; Passover is through. There was no anti-Semitic violence tied to Holy Week this year, thank God — at least not to my knowledge. But that hasn’t always been true. In centuries and decades past, Jews feared Holy Week. It was a time of pogroms and attacks against our communities as Christians grieved Jesus’ death.Quite the opposite is true now. This month, I’ve had a Christian family ask me how to install a mezuzah (Jewish blessing box) on their home, a new father sought a tallit (Jewish prayer shawl) in which to wrap his son for baptism, and a Christian mom told me that her young son had made a yarmulke (Jewish head covering) for play. A local pastor proclaimed at the East Valley Mayors’ Prayer Breakfast that the Last Supper was a Passover seder — despite the fact that the seder, as we understand it, wasn’t practiced during Jesus’ lifetime. We live in a time – 2015 – and a place – the Southeast Valley of Greater Phoenix – marked by philo-Semitism, a love of Jewish things and people.I once attended the installation of an Episcopalian bishop. The lay leader who greeted me told me that he had asked to be assigned to me, because he “loved all things Jewish.” “Please tell me,” he asked, “what’s happened in Judaism since the death of Christ?” He loved Judaism because Jesus was Jewish. He didn’t love Jews as living, breathing human beings. He didn’t love Judaism as a dynamic culture and belief system that gives life meaning. To him, my nation was significant only as the parent of his.I prefer philo-Semitism to anti-Semitism. But when “love of all things Jewish” erases Judaism, it goes too far.Jewish spiritual “technologies” — ritual items like tallitot, yamulkes and mezuzot, or attending a seder — are effective. They transform mundane experiences into holy ones. They connect us with God, with each other, and with our inner selves. I understand other people wanting to access them. But I hope they will be sensitive in doing so. Our objects, texts, prayers and ceremonies exist within a cultural context and suite of meanings. Those who claim and redefine our culture demean us, even when their intentions are loving. You wouldn’t use an authentic Hopi mask even if it fascinated you. You wouldn’t change the meanings of a Japanese tea ceremony. Please don’t do the same with contemporary Jewish spirituality. It’s cultural piracy.When borrowing from another culture, ask first whether there is any such technology that’s indigenous to your culture or religion. Realize now that Judaism has evolved greatly in the last 2,000 years. The Judaism of today is not the Judaism practiced in Jesus’ time. If you want to put a piece of scripture on your home’s entrance, why not take the time to decide which text is most meaningful to you? Decide for yourself what the case should look like, and where to place it. If you want to wrap your baby in love, use cloth that’s meaningful in your culture.

  • Keeping the Faith: Now that's a different story

    The Hasidic philosopher Martin Buber told the tale of a Jewish grandfather who was a master storyteller. Though limited physically, confined to his wheelchair, this did not constrict his mind or his imagination. One day the old man's grandchildren gathered eagerly around his chair and asked him to tell a story about his life.Happy to oblige, the grandfather began telling a story from his childhood, how his rabbi would leap and dance during his recitation of the Psalms at the synagogue. The more into it the old man got, the more he seemed to incarnate his rabbi, until unexpectedly the grandfather jumped from his wheelchair!In telling the story - and acting it out - it gave new life to the old man, and his grandchildren needed no further explanation. Martin Buber concludes his tale by saying: "Now, that's the way to tell a story!" And, I would add, that's how to live a life, particularly a life of faith.People of faith, and I include myself in this assessment, often fall back on hardened dogma or cascading Scripture references to explain our way of life. This is fine for as far as it goes, but it doesn't go far enough. Frozen facts and biblical sound bites do very little to inspire life or to invite others to explore faith. These do even less to heal a fractured world.But if we become so immersed in the story of a gracious God, so connected to his powerful narrative of redemption, so skilled in incarnating Christ that we are animated and enlivened by it, then others just might be attracted to it. It just might do some good in the world. Faith just might become a story worth telling; a story worth believing; and a story worth living.The Apostle Paul said it like this in 2 Corinthians:"Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ himself wrote it - not with ink, but with God's living Spirit; not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives!"

  • 27th Annual Crozier Gala set for April 18

    Chaired by Lisa and Ed Staren. Proceeds from the Crozier Gala will fund a comprehensive program for Catholic school teachers who cannot afford to send their own children to Catholic schoolDETAILS>> Saturday, April 18; Xavier College Preparatory, 4710 N. 5th St., Phoenix, For more information, visit ccfphx.org/crozier.

  • Keeping the Faith: A Hollywood Revival

    When I was a young college student I had the opportunity to go with a friend to a “revival” in the town of Hollywood, Georgia. That’s right, there is such a place: Hollywood, Georgia. “On a clear night you can see all the stars,” the locals say (Go ahead and groan). In reality, Hollywood is more of a county crossroads than a mecca for the rich and famous. It has a diner, a church, and not much else.In the South a “revival” has at least two very different things. First, it is a spiritual awakening, a holy renewal where those who have wandered from the straight and narrow return to the fold. Second, it is a church event, a scheduled series of meetings. So a “revival” can be something deeply spiritual that people pray for, and it is a traditional ceremony placed on the congregational calendar. Whether or not the two different meanings of this word cross paths is always up for debate.This revival was the typical affair. It was a week-long gathering when people of the community crammed their families into the pews to sing rousing gospel songs, to hear the pleadings, exhortations, and condemnations of the best visiting evangelist the church could afford, and for everyone to have an annual time of repentance whether they needed it or not.As I made my way to the front door I passed by a long line of Harley Davidson motorcycles. These were not the Baby Boomer playthings so many graying men and women ride today as a hobby or youthful escape. No, these were hardcore, gang-style cycles.And just inside the church, occupying the back pew, lo and behold, there sat the gang. Leather, studs, rippling arms, ponytails, tattoos: It was the complete Hell’s Angels package, sitting in a Baptist church in Hollywood, Georgia. Being a young, eager revivalist myself, I said to my friend, “Good. Maybe these heathen will get saved tonight.” And I meant it.I sat several pews away from them and found myself piously praying for their salvation because I just knew they were seconds from splitting hell wide open. After the service got started, the pastor called on one of the deacons of the church to come forward and offer a prayer and word of introduction. One of those wicked bikers rose from his seat and started down the aisle.

  • First Players Community Theater stages ‘Wind in the Willows’

    The First Players Community Theater will present its 19th annual production, "Wind In The Willows," as dinner theaters. The show will be at First Presbyterian Church, Mesa under the leadership of Production Director Miki Newbry, Assistant Director Kate Buck, and Music Director Mark Ramsey.DETAILS>> 5:30 p.m. April 10 and 11, 17 and 18. Dinner-Theater Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for ages 10 and under, with a maximum of $50 per household. Tickets are available on the church website (www.fpcmesa.org) and in the Church Office during the week. For more information, call (480) 964-8606, ext. 24, or visit in person. First Presbyterian Church, 161 N. Mesa Drive.

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