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Jews, Christians, and NPR

All the Christian stories on NPR these days are Jewish

Adam Chandler
March 18, 2013

To the delight of many (and likely the chagrin of some) the ties between the Jews and National Public Radio are deep and irreducible.

As a result, some pretty fantastic stories have been broadcast across the airwaves in recent years, but perhaps none more remarkable than two reports from yesterday in which the ultimate Christian stories actually became Jewish ones. The first was about how the former Jews of Ireland formed a club called the Yiddish Sons of Erin in the 1960s to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Picture green matzoh balls and Erev St. Patty’s dinners.

A lot of Irish Jews found those opportunities in New York. Like many immigrant groups, they kept their culture alive in the new world. And in the early 1960s, they formed the Yiddish Sons of Erin. According to member Rosalyn Klein, the whole thing started as a joke.

“An advertising agency was trying to get some business for Moskowitz & Lupowitz, which was a Jewish restaurant,” she says.

The restaurant took out a newspaper ad for a meeting of Irish Jews. Klein thinks they didn’t really expect people, but a lot of them showed up.

“And most of them had lived in Dublin, so it was kind of this mishpocha getting together again,” she says.

You think that’s pretty goyishe? Try this one on for size. Yesterday, there was a story about how Argentine Jewish composer named Osvaldo Golijov was tapped to compose a choral work based on the Gospel according to Mark. La Pasión según San Marcos (The Passion According to St. Mark), which was performed at Carnegie Hall last week ahead of Easter, has gotten rave reviews and has been performed everywhere from Italy to Australia. How did Golijov do it?

He also incorporated his Jewish faith and Jewish texts into this most Christian of stories, including part of the Lamentations of Jeremiah and the Jewish ritual prayer of mourning called the kaddish.

“Even for me as a Jew, even if I do not believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus,” Golijov says, “I believe that his message of love and of life triumphing over death had to finish the Passion. Therefore, I wrote for the end the kaddish, which is the prayer for the dead that you sing at the grave of your beloved ones. The beauty of that prayer is that it does not mention death. It is a hymn to life, to God — and to silence beyond words and beyond music.”

Trying to tell that the unnamed relatives of mine who barred me from my elementary school’s Christmas Pageant!

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.