Lauren Markoe, Religion News Service

Lauren Markoe covered government and features as a daily newspaper reporter for 15 years before joining the Religion News Service staff as a national correspondent in 2011.

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After Recent Shootings, White Churches Take Stock on Race

Image via Matt Miller / Baptist Press / RNS

In the wake of a string of racially tinged shootings, majority white churches — even those quiet in past years about racial prejudice — have begun to find their voices.

The latest incidents of police shooting black men in Louisiana and Minnesota, combined with the targeting of white police officers in Dallas, have exposed for many congregations a racial divide in America too wide to ignore.

How Jewish-Asian Marriages Shape Religious Practice

Noah Leavitt and Talia Kim-Leavitt with their kids Ari and Talia. Image via Kim-Leavitt family / RNS

Noah Leavitt and Helen Kiyong Kim’s marriage is one of an increasing number of Jewish-Asian pairings in the U.S., a trend evident in many American synagogues. The two Whitman College professors have just released the first book-length study of Jewish-Asian couples and their offspring.

Though JewAsian is geared toward social scientists, the chapters in which they excerpt and analyze their interviews with 34 Jewish-Asian couples will interest any readers curious about intermarriage in general, and the evolving American-Jewish community in particular.

Grief and Gratitude for Elie Wiesel

REUTERS / Kai Pfaffenbach / RNS

President Barack Obama with Elie Wiesel in 2009. Photo via REUTERS / Kai Pfaffenbach / RNS

Elie Wiesel’s death is inspiring an outpouring of grief and gratitude from leaders in the religious and political worlds, and ordinary people alike.

New Guide Offers Guidance on How to Defuse Hate

Hoping to make the world safer, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has published a guidebook on countering dangerous speech, authored by a young American who helped quell intertribal conflict in Kenya during its 2013 elections.

Defusing Hate: A Strategic Communication Guide to Counteract Dangerous Speech , doesn’t reveal exactly how to quell incendiary speech. The nature and context of speech that can lead to violence vary too widely across the globe for any particular prescription to make sense.

A Multifaith Crowd Packs Soap and Toothpaste for Syrian Refugees

Image via Brian McDonnell / Heart to Heart International / RNS

The call went out for 600 volunteers to make care packages for Syrian refugees. Nearly 1,000 Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, Buddhists, Christians, and Hindus answered it.

They formed assembly lines June 26 at the historic 69th Regiment Armory in lower Manhattan and stuffed toothpaste, nail clippers, soap, hand towels, condoms, washable menstrual pads, and other personal hygiene products into plastic bags to send to camps in Turkey for refugees of Syria’s civil war.

Anti-Semitic Assaults Spike in U.S.

The words "No Jews" with a swastika spray-painted on a sidewalk in Pico-Robertson, Calif. Image via Anti-Defamation League / RNS

Violent anti-Semitic attacks in the U.S. rose 50 percent last year. According to the Anti-Defamation League, there were a total of 56 against Jewish victims.

“And we know that for every incident reported, there’s likely another that goes unreported,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, CEO of the ADL, which produced the study and calls the trend “very concerning.”

Greece and Turkey Spar Over Ramadan Prayers at Hagia Sophia

Image via REUTERS/Murad Sezer/RNS

Turkish authorities have allowed Hagia Sophia, a World Heritage site, to be used for Ramadan prayers, an act that has enraged Orthodox Christians who say the famed former church and mosque is supposed to be off-limits for any religious ritual.

Prayers for the holy Muslim month were first read at the start of Ramadan on June 8, prompting a swift and pointed response.

'Passion of the Christ' Sequel in the Works

Image via Phillippe Antonello / Icon Distribution / RNS

Mel Gibson is hoping for a hit with a sequel to his 2004 blockbuster The Passion of the Christ, this time with a film focusing on the resurrection.

Gibson will direct the movie based on a screenplay by Randall Wallace, Wallace confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter June 9.

Holocaust Survivors on Capitol Hill Light Candles to Remember

Image via United States Holocaust Memorial Museum / RNS

At Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Capitol, speakers warned of anti-Semitism as a problem of the millennia, and hate speech as a challenge that threatens present-day America.

Eight elderly survivors of the Holocaust — which took the lives of 6 million Jews, including 1.5 million Jewish children — lit six candles at the Capitol’s Emancipation Hall on May 5 as a United States Holocaust Memorial Museum official told of the death camps they survived, and of those who had risked their lives to save them.

'Suspicious' Fire Destroys Orthodox Cathedral in New York

Hours after parishioners celebrated Easter, which fell on May 1 in the Orthodox community, a fire gutted their landmark Manhattan cathedral.

“Our church has burned down last night,” read the announcement the next day on the website of the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava.

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