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Jews can learn a lot from Mormons, editor says

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 29 2011 10:01 a.m. MST

In this file photo taken June 24, 2011, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, greet supporters during a campaign stop at Hires Big H on 700 East and 400 South in Salt Lake City.

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Whether or not Mitt Romney becomes president of the United States, the editor of The Jewish Week in New York says there is a lot Jews can learn from the Mormons.

"For the most part, (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) takes a decidedly, and admirably low-key approach to negativity in the media and elsewhere, focusing on its mission," wrote Gary Rosenblatt, The Jewish Week editor and publisher. "And in that, and other ways, there is much the American Jewish establishment can learn from the Mormons."

Rosenblatt acknowledges a couple of issues that have been troubling to Jews with regards to the LDS Church – specifically, concern about BYU students associated with the BYU Center in Jerusalem proselyting Jews in Israel and the controversy over performing baptisms for the dead for Jewish Holocaust victims.

Both issues, Rosenblatt notes, have been resolved, which should allow Jews to appreciate that "Mormons and Jews have a good deal in common. Though they have very different theologies, both place an emphasis on family life, charitable giving, performing good deeds and education. And both are strongly supportive of Israel."

Rosenblatt cites several specific examples of things the Jewish community can learn from the LDS Church, including the church's measured, low-key response to "The Book of Mormon" musical on Broadway ("Brilliant," he writes, "with a restraint we seem incapable of"), the church's success in engaging their young people and the fearless outreach of the "I'm a Mormon" advertising campaign.

"Pride. Confidence. Direct action. Reaching out to others," Rosenblatt observes. "Like I said, there's a lot we can learn from the Mormons. And whether or not Mitt Romney becomes the Republican candidate or our next president, our Jewish leaders would do well to think about why the Mormons are the fastest-growing religion in the world while what most unifies us is our ongoing obsession with our decreasing numbers."

Speaking of the "I'm a Mormon" campaign, the Catholic Church is launching a similar media campaign called "Catholics Come Home," designed to help people find "true peace, happiness and purpose in life." Referring to it as "the largest television evangelization campaign in the history of the Catholic Church," the "Catholics Come Home" website notes: "No doubt you have seen the commercials from the Mormons, Methodists, Scientologists (thanks to ex-Catholic Tom Cruise) and even Atheists recruiting viewers to come to their church. So many ask: where are the Catholics? With so many fallen-away Catholics, why don't we use the mass media to help our fellow Catholics return to Jesus and His Church?"

According to the website, "Catholics Come Home" is an answer to those prayers.

The National Catholic Register quotes one viewer's enthusiasm for the new campaign: "It was really well done. You see the Mormon ads popping up all over online. This is something the Catholic Church should be doing. It's important for the church to use the same forms of media that constantly attack it to evangelize and defend itself."

The campaign, which features television commercials and online "testimonials" from people who at one time left the Catholic Church and have returned, has been going through pilot releases in 30 dioceses around the country. As a result of these pilot programs, "at least 3,000 people (came) back to the Catholic Church," one Diocese of Phoenix official said. In Sacramento, another official said that "some parishes experienced upwards of a 30 percent increase in Mass attendance."

"This pastoral tool is a useful method for the re-evangelization of our society," said Venice, Calif., Bishop Frank Dewane. "Through the positive use of media (this has) given expression to the church's outreach to her wandering sons and daughters."

"Catholic Come Home" will begin airing on national television networks beginning Dec. 16.

EMAIL: jwalker@desnews.com

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