Free Yiddish Lessons, Vacation Liberty School, and Brangelina’s Universalism: The Week in Religion, Poetically

Is it getting too expensive to be Jewish? Well, Tablet Magazine is offering free Yiddish lessons every Friday.

A group of conservatives have launched a pro-Israel, anti-Obama organization called The Emergency Committee for Israel. Meanwhile, J Street, a pro-Israel group that favors a two state solution, is calling on Treasury Secretary Timothy Geitner to investigate American groups sponsoring Israeli settlements. But have no fear, the Presbyterians have an answer to the whole problem.

Speaking of anti-Obama; it doesn’t get much more “anti” than a Tea Party billboard in Iowa. The billboard takes up the rhetoric of Tea Party rally signs and puts the president alongside Hitler and Stalin. Classy.

The Tea Party movement continues to attract scores of women to its cause. Ruth Rosen asks “why does this chaotic movement appeal to so many women?” Christian book publisher Zondervan will try to appeal to young girls with its upcoming Sarah Palin biography. The book is part of a series for tweens profiling individuals “working for the betterment of the world in which we live and who are motivated primarily by their Christian faith.” Other titles in the series include Heisman Trophy Quarterback Tim Tebow and U2 front man Bono.

If you prefer poetry to biography, you can write a haiku to Glenn Beck here.

Muslims still face opposition to mosque building in the United States. A mosque in Temecula, California is facing opposition from the Baptist church next door because of “the whole issue of Islam and what it stands for.” It seems it’d be easier to build mosques if they didn’t have any connection to Islam. In New York, the Cordoba House mosque (a.k.a. the dreaded “Ground Zero Mosque”) is still embroiled in controversy. The latest blocking strategy has been to apply for landmark status for the current building on the site. Echoing the Temecula Baptists, US Representative Peter King said, “It’s a house of worship, but we are at war with al-Qaida.” King also argued that it was a bad time for Muslims to build a mosque. “Right at this moment in history, it’s bad form to put it there.”

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The Obama administration is removing the word “Islam” from all descriptions of terrorism. The Washington Institute of Near East Policy disagrees with the decision and claims that “radical Islamic extremists” can be identified as such “without denigrating Islamic religion in any way.” Meanwhile, the Washington Post’s On Faith blog has a forum of posts on both sides of the question, “What to call terrorists?”

Church rating sites are making it easier for the pious to find a congregational match made in heaven.

A new novel, The Loser Letters: A Comic Tale of Life, Death, and Atheism, offers Christians a comic critique of atheists. But atheists in Lakeland, Florida don’t think opening City Commission meetings with prayer is a laughing matter. The Atheists of Florida has filed a suit against the city and the mayor in U.S. District Court. Meanwhile, the North Carolina House of Representatives is rethinking its own prayerful opening to sessions. If your kids don’t have a clear picture of America as a “Christian nation” you can send them to Vacation Liberty School for lessons on “equal rights, not equal results,” “recognize men don’t create rights—only God,” and “understanding falsehoods of separation of church and state.”

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are hoping to give their children a wide range of religious options. “Brad and I are raising our children to respect everyone. We have a bookshelf in the house that has the Bible, the Torah, the Koran, everything. We will take our children to church, temple, Buddhist ceremonies, mosques, teaching them about all faiths. Whatever religion they choose, the choice will be theirs,” Jolie said. Elsewhere in Hollywood, Lindsey Lohan is turning to Buddhism to help her through her 90-day jail sentence. And is Will Smith considering Scientology?

Anderson Cooper’s weeklong investigative report on Scientology in March has earned him an entire issue of the Church of Scientology’s Freedom magazine. The issue is dedicated to attacking him and his claims about the church. A Moscow court convicted two art curators of “inciting hatred” against Christians for their 2007 exhibition of various controversial pieces, including an image of Jesus with a Mickey Mouse head. Convicted serial killer David Berkowitz, known as the Son of Sam, has found religion in prison and become a popular figure for some evangelicals.

The Church of England continues a contentious debate over the ordination of women bishops, but has taken the next step towards approval. The Crystal Cathedral is getting a woman lead pastor. Sheila Schuller Coleman replaced her father, Robert H. Schuller, as leader of the 10,000-member California megachurch. The elder Schuller will maintain a role on the church’s board of directors.

Yoga has had a long history in American culture, as two new books about the Indian import explain. Despite its nonviolent claims, Yogaville, the Virginia ashram of Sri Swami Satchidananda, is caught in the middle of a murder investigation.

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