Thursday, March 17, 2011

Television Review: Danny Alpert's documentary on PBS 'The Calling'
by Peter Menkin

Danny Alpert, Producer with The Kindling Group, Chicago

Danny Alpert works in Chicago as a Producer and Executive Director of a film making organization called Kindling Group. In December, America’s Public Broadcasting System aired his documentary, “The Calling.” Now it is on the road, bringing that same film about seminary students and vocation to schools, groups and organizations around the United States. This ongoing operation called, “What’s Your Calling,” explores for ordinary people, or more accurately, lay people, how the film leads them to understand their career interests as a vocation.

“The Huffington Post” says about Producer Danny Alpert, a man who once wanted to be a Rabbi:

Previously, Alpert directed A History of God, a two-hour documentary special for A&E Networks, based on the bestseller by British theologian Karen Armstrong. He co-produced and edited Legacy, a feature-length documentary for HBO, which was nominated for a 2001 Academy Award® for Best Documentary Feature, a National Emmy® for Best Documentary and was an official selection at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival. From 1994 to 1997, he produced No Time to be a Child, a three-part series that aired nationally on PBS and was nominated for an Emmy. Alpert is Executive Director of the Kindling Group in Chicago, where he lives with his wife, Andrea, and two wonderful daughters, Talia and Anina. 

Danny Alpert says of himself and the making of his documentary aired in December; I did consider being a rabbi. I realized that I did not want to be a public person like clergy need to be — I preferred to be behind the camera or behind the scenes. I think another commonality is the communal aspect of these two jobs, and what I really love about filmmaking is the collaborative nature of the medium (from Independent Lens on the internet, a live chat with Danny Alpert).

His film is a verite documentary of seminary students who show-and-tell about their work and conflicts, their interests and relationship with God—their God. For they are of different faiths, or denominations. There is a Muslim woman, and among others, more than one Rabbi in training, as it were. There is a Christian who has zeal, as do all these young seminarians. There is what this writer would call a “very alive” Roman Catholic seminary student who becomes a promising Priest. All in all in the shorter version of the longer, four hour documentary aired over television in two parts, this writer was taken with the excellence of honesty, the clarity of vision, and the earnestness of intent this documentary holds. As part of preparation for this article-review with its interviews, this writer also saw a reviewer’s DVD copy of the documentary in its full measure of four hours sent by The Kindling Group from Chicago, USA.

The PBS documentary series I produced, The Calling, has been eight years in the making, which gave me a lot of time to ponder the title I chose. During production, I grew to admire the dedication and perseverance of all seven of the series’ up-and-coming religious leaders. I grew to love them for their huge hearts and ingenuous self-scrutiny. But the most remarkable thing I observed over the years was that each of these individuals’ religious calling was matched by a passion to serve their fellow human beings. What unified this group, made up of such wildly varied backgrounds and faiths, was their call to make the world a better place. Producer Danny Alpert says on his blog, “Danny’s Blog.” 

The film for this writer is really about calling. As “Jewish Week” describes a calling, a definition that resonates with most former seminarians and others familiar with such things of divine kind, “Within a religious framework, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks perhaps said it best: When G-d calls, He does not do so by way of universal imperatives. Instead, He whispers our name – and the greatest reply, the reply of Abraham, is simply hineni: ‘Here I am,’ ready to heed your call, to mend a fragment of Your all-too-broken world.” The statement by “Jewish Week” fits so well with the intent of the life of seminarians on an ordination track, as evidenced by this honest and viewable documentary. Do find time to see it, by buying the video on DVD. Or if possible, see the live “screening” with a talk or discussion that is part of The Kindling Group screenings around America–that are ongoing with its own name (“What’s Your Calling”).

Religious News Service, in their article on the film asked a few questions of Danny Alpert:

Director Danny Alpert talked about the $1.8 million project that followed some of its subjects for two years. Some comments have been edited for length and clarity.
Q: Why did you decide to make training for ministry the subject of a documentary?
A: There was a combination of two factors, one very personal and the other more cultural or societal. On a personal level, as a young man, I considered becoming a rabbi. On a more societal level, living abroad in Israel for several years, in a culture where faith and the day-to-day life are so intertwined, when I moved back to the States I was struck by the tension between modernity and faith.
Q: Is this relatively uncharted territory for documentarians or filmmakers?
A: There have been films made about nuns, about missionaries and priests before. I don’t believe that there has ever been a film that covers a number of faiths. And certainly I don’t think there’s been one that really goes into the personal lives as well as the spiritual lives of these individuals.

To this writer’s way of thinking, having read much about the film and Danny Alpert’s words on the internet, and finding the remarks quoted in Religious News Service above, so interesting, I pursued the Producer for some time hoping he would find time to answer questions. He did so: here is that interview, done over the phone from my office in Mill Valley, California north of San Francisco to Chicago USA where Danny Alpert spoke from his office. He was forthcoming in his answers, as you reader will see. Keep in mind that this writer had viewed the documentary at a screening some time before its broadcast over Public Broadcasting system at a screening room in San Francisco. The screening was held at The Delancy Foundation auditorium, sponsored by the United Religions Initiative, an organization founded by The Rt. Reverend William E. Swing, retired Bishop of the Diocese of California.


  1. 1. After the screenings of the documentary series The Calling, and its subsequent airing by Public Broadcasting System on national Television in December, 2010, this writer learned the producers have taken the documentary on the road. Tell us the purpose of this road show, where you have gone in a couple of instances, and where you are going on the road.
The purpose is to continue the momentum we got from the broadcast to bring the show and the issues to a larger audience. In many cases the film is being used in interfaith settings. The film is a great tool for groups to focus on interfaith issues. Tomorrow, for example, I am going to Duke University [Durham, North Carolina] to an interfaith event that is being sponsored by the Muslim Center at Duke University.
The Muslim Chaplain there is very committed to interfaith dialogue. He felt the film would encourage that dialogue. We’re responding to requests in the field. There is continuing interest and as long as that goes on I will go to them [visits to screenings where discussion of the film go on, and part of
Muslim student Chaplain

The Kindling Group “The Calling” campaign called, “What’s Your Calling.”] There are screenings going on in Montreal, Canada and California and all over the country. But I am not going to all of them. I can’t be everywhere.

    Danny Alpert
  1. 2. When this writer went to the screening of the special, shorter version of the four hour documentary on seminary students and their struggles, inspirations, and works of faith and courage in helping others as they discovered their own lessons of finding and following their God, younger people liked the film best (college students, especially). The documentary is by The Kindling Group (Chicago).  What have you, Danny Alpert, Producer,  found were either groups or individuals who’ve gotten a great deal from your road show? Can you recall one or two individual examples, and tell us where they happened.
Many of the interactions we’ve witnessed have been part of our online engagement for The Calling, which is named What’s Your Calling? On our Facebook page (, for example, we often ask our followers questions like: If someone asked you to define what a “calling” is, what would you say?
In response to the question, we’ve received all sorts of interesting answers, such as:

  • I’d say, you’re calling is something you choose to do not because you were asked to do it, or because you get paid to, but because it’s what you want to do all on your own. It’s what you wake up every morning for and can’t wait to get started because it’s what satisfies your need of being happy.

  • For me it’s Christian Ministry, loving those others may deem “unlovable” and following Jesus the way HE has called me to follow, not just the way a man or church tells me too.

  • A calling is the Spirit-defined intersection of your skills and desires with the world’s need.
  • The smallest of voices in your soul that seems sometimes to affect you more the quieter it gets. It invites us to communion with a truth that will make us whole if we will but follow. The path starts in a life that lives the Golden rule every moment of every day.
  • The best version of yourself in this world.
We also interact with folks who are interested in the film and in the campaign via Twitter ( ), where one of our followers recently began hosting a weekly “tweetchat” on the notion of calling, where people from across Twitter can join her in discussing topics of calling and vocation.

  1. 3. Your itinerary for the documentary’s road show called What’s Your Calling ends when? Please explain the purpose of the road show, and explain the motivation for traveling with the documentary. Was this planned from the beginning, or how did it start as both idea and reality?
It’s not a road show; it’s really a campaign. A lot of it is really happening online. It is social media. I think that what we’re trying to do with the campaign is push individuals to what they’re call in the world is, and what they think they can do. It may be religious, but it is also secular. We believe that everybody has a calling, and everybody can answer that [call].

  1. 4. To a more personal questions Danny, how did the documentary series The Calling affect you and in giving your reply, tell us the video’s themes and some of the more compelling parts that influenced these effects had in your experience.
I think that follows on from the previous question; the film began as an exploration of religious callings. And the beginning of the production focused very much on these individuals and their God [seminary students shown in the documentary]. As the production went on, as powerful the individuals call was to follow their call…the call to serve their fellow human beings was equally as powerful. I think it became clear that… where I begin to think about where it belongs is to be a [film about] calling. It may be more comfortable to think of my own work as a documentary filmmaker as a calling.

  1. 5. There is some mystery about the seminary experience, and the relationship of a man or woman with his or her faith. Was a purpose of the film to demonstrate that there is religious or spiritual dimension to the choice of vocation or way one lives one’s life—a move to God—this in even the diversity of faiths revealed in the documentary? And for a tougher question, how did the characters in their development of the documentary reveal their growing in their own religion and relationship with their God?
I think these characters represent a new generation of leaders who haven’t been doing things the way their predecessors have. I don’t think they want to compromise their individual modern identity. They want to have their cake and eat it, too. What I mean is that they are each profoundly connected to their faith. They remain profoundly connected to their faith…at the same time they are going to continue listening to hip-hop, and bucking certain trends, and using different media to reach their flock.

  1. 6. You offer an explanation of the documentary as a study in religion and its tension with the secular, modern world. Is the theme described revealed in conversations of the campaign What’s Your Calling?
Absolutely! It’s definitely come up–and it comes up on the website. I think there are folks who walk that fine line [when participating in the campaign field work What’s Your Calling?]

  1. 7. Have you anything you want to add or a statement you’d like to make to end this interview?

I think that the documentary raises more questions than [the documentary] raises answers. That’s the kind of documentary I like to make. I hope it will leave people with these questions: People will be able to see how these leaders’ training is not so different from [our own and their own training]. They [seminarians] are not on a pedestal; that they’re struggling with the same questions we are. I hope that the viewer can struggle with those questions themselves.

As mentioned earlier in this article-interview, sponsor of the screening viewed by this writer was United Religions Initiative. Over the course of screenings, many locales around the United States were found in favor of the documentary. I spoke with a Press Officer at Auburn Seminary, (founded in 1818 in New York City, Presbyterian), who said, “We continue to champion ‘The Calling’ as an excellent resource in sharing the different stories and narratives of finding a Calling.  A truly excellent film and one we were honored to support.” Generally, the screenings received high praise at their various locations of introduction prior to the broadcast itself.

In talking with the Auburn Seminary Press Officer, The Reverend Kellie Anderson Picallo, she said in another email for attribution, “Peter, when we spoke I wish I’d directed you to the great Web site and outreach campaign, “What’s Your Calling.”  I’m putting the link here: “ She also offered a look at their seminary page on the documentary: “Here is information on Auburn’s work for “The Calling:”

The Reverend Charles Gibbs interview is below. He is Executive Director of The United Religions Initiative (URI). The founder of URI, The Rt. Reverend William E. Swing spoke to this writer through a spokeswoman. He offered that the purpose of United Religions Initiative is to promote peace among religions.

Bishop William Swing: The History of the United Religions Initiative (URI)


    Rev. Canon
1. The documentary The Callings has an interfaith sensibility that speaks to diversity, even by the standard of faith’s chosen and the seminarians represented. Please tell us how (United Religion Initiative) URI helps in this sensibility of interfaith dialogue, if it is that; and where it supports diversity of religious views most clearly in its work.

URI’s whole reason for being has its belief the critical path of bringing people of diverse religious expressions to work cooperatively for their benefit. Every bit of URI’s work every day springs from a belief that interfaith, multifaith cooperation is critical. Our Charter says our purpose is committed to daily interfaith cooperation. The 507 cooperation circles in 78 countries is each one (by definition) a unit of interfaith cooperation. That can range from dialogue and prayer, to engaged action, to engaged local, national and international issues.

  1. 2. Where are the major tensions of dialogue between different religious persuasions in the United States? The documentary, The Calling, helps to bring peace to this tension because it portrays diversity. In the eyes of URI, who sponsored one of the PBS documentary screenings, is this enough? What are the major tensions of dialogue on peace URI has found?

What enables dialogue is a recognition that we share–we people of diverse faith–share an earth, a community: we share schools, workplaces. We live in an interconnected world. The motivation is to share that interconnected world in a positive way. We come to agree and appreciate each other, in a way that celebrates our differences. If that is what enables the work, the challenge is to agree that each thinks they are the only one that is right. If the reason is to convince others that they are wrong, [then openness and commitment lose]. I have encountered a great openness and commitment [in this work]. The tension is when others are not willing to reach out and talk to each other in mutually respectful ways.

For me it’s an attitude, more than an issue. For me the issue is to focus an attitude for the moment. Are we content to be ignorant of our neighbors, or fearful and mistrusting? Where we are ignorant of our neighbors, almost any incident is a conflict.

  1. 3. My understanding is United Religions Initiative, though born out of a Christian Bishop’s dream, literally, is not a Christian organization. The Rt. Reverend William E. Swing (Diocese of California—retired) speaks of it as a peacemaker, and that is United Religions Initiative reason to be. Yet, every peacemaker has a spiritual base. You as Executive Director of URI are in a prime position to comment on the spiritual drive that motivates this peace crusade between religions. Is it Christian founded, and has it a Christian dimension? What are its religious dimensions?

We are not on a crusade at all. That is not a word I would use or apply to URI. [The word crusade] has too many echoes of the historic crusades and can be inflammatory. Having said that, the beginning of our Charter established the URI [not a crusade].

Yes we have a spiritual base. That spiritual base comes from the practice of those who founded URI. I could say as an Episcopal Priest, my core view is Christian. That doesn’t make URI a Christian organization. The Chair of our Global Council is Mayan, but that doesn’t make URI a Mayan organization. We are enriched by the diverse spirituality of our members.

  1. 4. In The Calling, which the Producer Danny Alpert says is a documentary of a cinema verite kind, seminary students find themselves resolving the issue of religion and our current attitude of secularism in this 21st Century modernism. So Danny puts it, the tension between religion and modernism. Would you say this is an issue not only in the United States, but all over the world (URI being a worldwide organization)?

I think it is undeniable, there is a tension…I would say there is a tension between certain ways of practicing a religion and modernism. I think you will see that in most religions, ancient wisdom and modern wisdom needs to be in dialogue…There is a lot of dialogue going on between religion and science. Science is one of the sign posts of modernism.

  1. 5. This is a general question and this writer asks for a more specific answer than general, for about the same time as the December airing of The Calling over PBS nationally, this writer viewed the filmic documentary Bonheoffer. Though not a “video” presentation, it spoke clearly to the theological reasons for Bonheoffer acts and responses to his present day Hitler Germany. His  were theologically important and influential reasons for opposing Hitler, Germany. Can you speak to the theological reasons-to-be of URI in our present world as they are embodied in its work?

First of all, what brings people in URI together is a belief that our religion and spiritual wisdom should unite us and not divide us. That wisdom calls us to work together to build a more peaceful and just world. If you extend that, that means our work is motivated by deep values that are expressed differently in each tradition. Our focus is the “Golden Rule” that is expressed in every religion, [but] in other words: Do unto others as we would do unto ourselves. If you see someone who is hungry, you should do your best to feed them. If you see someone who is in the midst of violence, you should do your best to help create peace.

You could keep going with examples in seeing people in need, and recognizing that we collectively have a responsibility for the community–to make the community whole.

I think the inspiration of Bonheoffer and the inspiration presented through The Calling is people who have gone through their faith have a commitment to be a positive force.

Interestingly, at the screening in San Francisco, a discussion was held after viewing the documentary. Participating in the discussion process, I was matched with a woman with the job of running the campus ministry program at Holy Names University (Roman Catholic institution) in San Francisco. Part of my interest in creating the article-interview of this report and commentary was to tell something of the interest on the part of the many people in that San Francisco screening audience. Most that attended the screening this writer attended were young, and of course sympatico with the purposes and intent of the film’s view of seminarians pursuing their vocation for their God. The film did resonate with these young people. Here is an interview with the campus ministry director, part of the schools campus life program, Carrie Rehak, Ph.D. Note that her graduate assistant talks most in this interview, which fits this writers purposes to hear a young person’s reaction to the documentary.


    Carrie Rehak, Ph.D.
  1. 1. When you had the opportunity to view the screening of The Calling in San Francisco prior to its broadcast by Public Broadcasting System in December 2010, tell us some of your impressions and thoughts on the diversity of the seminary students chosen by the producers? My thought of the screening was, What a wonderful sense of young people, so interested and motivated, sincere and involved in their search for their God. I recall a Jewish man, a Christian man, also a young woman of Muslim faith, and a seminary student studying for the Catholic priesthood. In the actual broadcast, the 4 hour series had as students studying more individuals. Do you think students at your school, Holy Names University responded in any special way to these young students portrayed in their quest for vocation and growth? This especially for the screening, and if any saw the aired full documentary, it itself.

Carrie: The students responded to the authenticity and complexity of the individuals portrayed.  They were surprised by the admixture of doubt, or questions, they expressed in their pursuit of faith and calling.

  1. 2. Will your graduate student, Robert comment? And can he give us an anecdotal example?

Grad Student: I found interesting that the average age, 25 yrs, of the students in the documentary to be relevant for young people who are looking for individuals who are the same age and answering their “calling.”

“I heard positive responses from the Holy Names University students who attended the screening indicate that what impressed them most about the individuals from the documentary was that there was a strong sense of addressing social justice issues.

  1. 3. Your school Holy Names University where you are Director of Campus Ministry is so diverse. How did that happen to be? Do you think its very diversity of kind played a role in their enthusiasm for the documentary screening? Please say a few words about your job and its work.

Grad Student: The 2008 edition of US News and World Report’s America’s Best Colleges ranked Holy Names Number One in Campus Diversity among all institutions in the West. About 70% of our students are from under-represented ethnic backgrounds and our student body represents 36 nations. This accounts for a diversity of students of diverse faith traditions as well.  The Campus Ministry Department started an Interfaith Council this year to address the small but unique identity of the campus.

Carrie: Our campus is very committed to diversity.  Our appreciation and celebration of diversity is apparent from the moment you enter our campus.  It is in the air we breathe, and it impacts the way we engage the world, including our enthusiasm over the documentary screening.

  1. 4. Will your graduate student, Robert comment? And can he tell us his thoughts on this same part of these few questions at issue? Here we find out what the “teacher” and the student thinks of the same subject.

Grad Student: I coordinated the event for the Interfaith Council and for the Director of Campus Ministry.  I am answering the questions because I was responsible for publicizing the event on campus, coordinating the trip into San Francisco and follow up with the students.

I don’t think there was much of a difference regarding our take on the event. We were very happy to have sponsored the viewing of “The Calling” and had attended.

  1. 5. Please explain to use why you were chosen to represent your school at the screening. I guess it was not solely your interest in film, but the religious and spiritual nature of the event with its discussion afterward, and of the documentary itself.

Grad Student: It seemed to be the best fix from among the other clubs at Holy Names University.  Most of the clubs on campus address the cultural diversity of the campus but it seemed that the Interfaith Council addresses the topic the best.

  1. 6. Finally, will you tell our readers if the Roman Catholic seminary student portrayed in the screening held a special meaning for your students or you as Holy Name is a Roman Catholic university; I would think there is some degree of additional interest there? I’d even like to know what Robert thinks, even if he is personally of another faith denomination.

Grad Student: When I was an undergraduate at Holy Names, the college had a good number of Roman Catholic seminarians doing their studies here.  I was very fortunate to have made friends with these seminarians.  I was present to hearing their struggles with family relationships and issues, personal growth and the spiritual maturity required to taking on the commitment to celibacy.  When the young seminarian is ordained and assumes the role of spiritual counseling for his parish, I felt that his taking to task the follow through with the young boy who molested his sister and the parents was as authentic as one can get with showing the day-to-day reality of living out one’s calling.

Carrie: The students mostly responded to the Muslim woman.

  1. 7. In the event this writer has missed anything in this short interview, please add any comments or remarks you’d like at this point. We’re interested in hearing from your graduate student Robert in this regard, as well—if he is willing.

Carrie: We were impressed by how all of the individuals portrayed all had a strong sense of service.

This writer wants to add some of the remarks made in “Jewish Week” by one of the rabbinical students from the film, now a Rabbi. He says:

“I never had a one day transformative calling. I’ve felt called every day of my life.”
I found myself speaking these words last year, during a filming session for “The Calling,” which will air nationwide on PBS later this month. I agreed to be filmed for
Rabbi Yanklowitz

this interfaith documentary as a rabbinical student at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah because I believe deeply in its message, to show the human struggle shared by clergy of all faiths.
In being involved in this film, I’ve been fortunate to have the chance to repeatedly reflect upon my personal calling.
A calling is like love. Anyone who has been in love knows what it feels like. But one who has never been in love might question whether love even exists since the concept can be totally abstract. So too with personal purpose: one must feel it to know it. 

As a rabbi, I have the opportunity to meet people every day who are longing deeply to find their path—career, life partner, spiritual community—and yearning most of all for meaning and connection.
Recently, one student very innocently said to me: “Rabbi, I want to find G-d. How do I do that?” We are all looking for our internal spiritual compass, external inspiration and clarity and for guidance along our life journey.
The language of “calling” feels to me more Christian than Jewish since I think of a Jewish calling as more autonomous and internally cultivated with struggle rather than an external idyllic voice, but I do in fact believe that each of us has, or at least can have, “a calling” in this life.


In this reviewers opinion, the Rabbi reflects well what appeared to be a sense of the seminarians’ view towards their faith development, what is known as “formation.” This is to-a-degree a moving documentary, and I think though I thought of it originally as a “reality film,” Producer Danny Alpert is correct when he says it is “cinema verite.” He takes the seminarians where they are, and as he reported to this writer, he found a way to find the humanity and concerns of the character of these young seminarians. All in all a successful documentary, four hours, broadcast over American Public Broadcasting System in two parts. Let me end by saying, it is a rare event to find a film on a religious subject as well taken, and genuine as this particular documentary, “The Calling.”


To find out about screenings in your area, visit our Screenings page. If you are interested in hosting your own screening of either the four-hour series or the 78-minute Engagement version, check out our  “host your own screening” page for instructions and guidelines. 

The Calling is produced with the support of the from the Independent Television Service (ITVS), the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), the Henry Luce Foundation, the Hartley Film Foundation, Pacific Islanders in Communications, the Irving Harris Foundation, Samuel Zell Foundation, National Black Programming Consortium, The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation and the Zarrow Family Foundation.
Series Director & Executive Producer | Daniel Alpert
Editor & Co-Producer | Susanne Suffredin
Directors | Yoni Brook, Alicia Dwyer, Musa Syeed, Maggie Bowman
Co-Producer | Beth Sternheimer
ITVS Executive Producer | Sally Jo Fifer
Original Music | Califone 

The Calling is available for screenings and events as a four-hour mini-series or a 78-minute “Engagement” version. The Engagement version features four of the series subjects: Shmuly Yanklowitz, a student at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School in Riverdale, New York; Tahera Ahmad, an outspoken young Muslim scholar, schoolteacher, and student in Hartford Seminary’s Muslim Chaplaincy program in Connecticut; Steven Gamez, a Tejano (Texan/Mexican), born and raised on San Antonio’s West side, who entered the Catholic seminary in the hopes of becoming a “servant priest” — pastoring to the underserved in his home community; and Rob Pene, a Samoan, who is studying at the Haggard School of Theology at Azusa Pacific University and working with a Presbyterian Minister in an upper-middle-class Los Angeles church, while mentoring at-risk teenage boys.

From The Calling Blog: Yanklowitz sometimes seems to be everywhere: He is working toward a doctorate in moral development and epistemology at Columbia University, he grooved to the sounds of the Marine Corps Chamber Orchestra at this year’s White House Chanukah party, and he writes frequently in Jewish news outlets, including The Jewish Journal.

Illustrating how Yanklowitz has cobbled together his current multifaceted rabbinate would be an accomplishment in itself — but “The Calling” is accessible and compelling to religious and secular audiences because it presents its seven young subjects not simply as clerics-to-be but as living, complex characters.
“I was looking for a way to show how modernity and faith are living together — or trying to live together — in the United States,” executive producer Daniel Alpert, who directed the series, said. Alpert and his team also offer a look into the private lives of young clergy, into what goes on when it’s not Saturday or Sunday morning. A Catholic priest winds down his day by flipping between a San Antonio Spurs game and an episode of “Survivor.” A hijab-wearing female Muslim cleric goes toe to toe with a male fellow seminarian on the subject of whether sex exists in the afterlife. A young rabbi negotiates with his board over how much food should be served at an upcoming event.

There’s Jeneen, a former actress and beauty queen ministering in the African Methodist Episcopal church; Rob, the Samoan-born rapping Evangelical Christian minister; Bilal, an African American imam working with inmates in a Connecticut jail — and then there’s Yanklowitz.
“The main reason I decided to be a part of this when they asked me,” Yanklowitz said, “was because I believe in the mission, which is to show the humanity of clergy and show that religious leadership is struggling with very human issues, just like everyone else.”
December 15, 2010

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