Friday, July 31, 2015

Justin Baldoni is proud of his Jewish ancestry.

Justin Baldoni and Emily Baldoni
Jane the Virgin star Justin Baldoni has an out-of-the-ordinary interfaith background. “My mom was Jewish and became a Baha’i before she met my dad, and when they fell in love he became a Baha’i. When I was in my teenage years I became a Baha’i,” he relates. “But we celebrated Hanukkah and Christmas, as an ode to our grandparents. Baha’is have some amazing holidays and we did those too. It was a wonderful thing to grow up in an interfaith family.”

Baldoni explains that “In the Baha’i faith we believe that all religions are one so it’s important for me to know about everything—Jesus, Moses, Buddha, Mohammed. It’s a beautiful thing. Baha’is believe that we are known by our deeds—it’s not about what we say, it’s about what we do. So it’s all about our service to humanity.”

Now married to a Swedish woman, also Baha’i, he doesn’t celebrate Jewish holidays now but is proud of his Jewish ancestry. “My grandfather was in WWII and a lot of my family was killed in the Holocaust,” he notes. “One of my aunts was a survivor.”

Baldoni (Charmed, Everwood), who plays a rich hotel owner and inadvertent father of the mistakenly inseminated young woman of the title in Jane the Virgin, calls the new CW show “Kind of my comeback to acting. I took a break to start my production company, Wayfarer Entertainment. We create socially conscious, inspirational content. The project that we’re most known for is a series called My Last Days. I took two years and spent time with people that were dying from terminal illnesses. We wanted to tell their stories in a way to inspire others to live. It’s a show about living told by people who are dying. It’s the most-watched documentary series in the history of YouTube. Thirty million views.”

His next projects include TV and feature documentaries. “We’re developing reality content that we think is going to make a difference and inspire people to be the best version of themselves,” he says. “We’re all about being of service to each other. We have to use what we have to do good.”

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Kitab-i-Aqdas in Hebrew for Jewish friends

ALTHOUGH THE Baha’i World Center is located in Haifa, where its breathtaking terraced gardens are a must-see tourist attraction, Naw-Ruz, the Baha’i New Year, is traditionally celebrated in Jerusalem after first being celebrated in Haifa and Acre.

The Jerusalem reception, explained Baha’i International Community secretary-general Joshua Lincoln, is to show appreciation to the people and institutions Baha’i works with in many areas of endeavor. These include inter alia the Justice, Interior, Foreign Affairs, Religious Services and Tourism ministries; the leaders of the religious communities; the diplomatic corps; the legislature; and academia.

The golden-domed Shrine of the Báb, atop Haifa’s Mount Carmel, is the resting place of the prophet-herald of the Baha’í faith and a place of pilgrimage for the 6 million strong members of the global Baha’i community.

Work has begun on a future service facility for Baha’i pilgrims, said Lincoln, who also noted that the number of visitors to the Baha’i gardens over the past year was in the range of 870,000.

Lincoln also paid tribute to Kern and Barbara Wisman, Baha’i’s Jerusalem representatives, who organize the reception there.

Reception guest of honor was Prof. Moshe Sharon, who was Arab affairs adviser to prime minister Menachem Begin and also participated in the peace negotiations with Egypt; he now holds the chair in Baha’i studies at the Hebrew University’s faculty of the humanities.

Coincidentally, Sharon – who is also a Hebrew University alumnus – was born in Haifa. He joined the faculty of the Hebrew University in 1965 and received his PhD in Islamic history in 1971. A world-renowned specialist in Arabic epigraphy, Sharon has recorded all the Arabic inscriptions in the Holy Land. He related that 40 years ago, when he was teaching at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, one of his students came to seek his advice on a doctoral thesis on Baha’i; he told her he knew nothing about it and suggested she find another subject.

Some time later, when he was searching for Arabic inscriptions in Acre, he came across gravestones with terminology that was not familiar to him. He was intrigued and when told by an elderly man that the graves belonged to Baha’i, he found his way to the Baha’i World Center – where he asked many questions and became so enamored with the history and theology, he began writing extensively on the subject. The upshot was that in 1999, he was appointed to the chair of Baha’i studies at the Hebrew University.

In 2005 he published the first translation into Hebrew of Al-Kitab al-Aqdas, the holy book of the Babí-Baha’í faiths.