Unification News for December 1996


Is Religious Tolerance an Impossible Dream?

by Haven Bradford Gow

Best Friends by Elizabeth Reuter is a moving, touching, beautifully- written story about the friendship of two small girls, one a German, the other Jewish. Pitspopany Press, the publisher of this excellent book of enduring worth, explains: Best Friends unlocks the secret of what it was like to be a Jewish girl in Germany before anyone even heard of the word `Holocaust'. It tells, in simple, touching words and pictures, of Judith's need to belong, of her painful rejection by classmates and friends, and of her helplessness against the forces of Nazism which found even a young, innocent girl to be a threat to its survival."

The publisher continues: "Here also, for the first time, are revealed the thoughts of a German girl, Lisa, as she is being taught to hate the Jewish people. We witness her transformation from innocent spectator to active participant in the emotional destruction of her best friend."

This fine book reminded me of one movie and a TV series which have helped combat religious prejudice and bigotry, fostering religious tolerance and understanding. A Friendship in Vienna is a Walt Disney- made-for-TV movie starring Jane Alexander, Edward Asner and Jennifer Lewis, which deals with the beautiful and inspiring friendship of two young girls, one Catholic, the other Jewish. Despite harsh and unyielding opposition from their parents, the Jewish girl (played by Jennifer Lewis) and the Catholic girl (played by Kamie Harper) remain loyal friends. When a virulent and vicious anti-Semitism during the 1930s and 1940s threatens the lives of the Jewish girl and her parents in increasingly violent and turbulent Vienna, Austria, the Catholic girl courageously risks her life and enlists the help of a Catholic priest so her Jewish friends and her parents can escape certain death.

In my view, because of the noble and inspiring way the film deals with such universal and perennial qualities of the human condition as friendship, courage, loyalty, love and hate, religious faith and bigotry, A Friendship in Vienna should be considered a family classic.

The Faith and Values/Odyssey cable TV channel series, Brooklyn Bridge, also combats religious bigotry and promotes religious tolerance and understanding. Brooklyn Bridge also celebrates and affirms such traditional views as religious faith, decency and the beauty of good family life and friendship.

One of the nicest features of Brooklyn Bridge is the developing friendship of Katie, an Irish-Catholic girl, and Alan, a Jewish boy. In one episode, Katie and Alan bring their families together in a Chinese restaurant, where they help them overcome religious and ethnic bigotry and prejudice and see the positive aspects of each other's religious and ethnic identities and teach them to become friends.

Jennifer Lewis, the lovely and graceful young actress who portrays Katie Monahan, communicates-personifies-a wholesomeness and a spiritual beauty, purity and innocence. Watching Jennifer's fine acting is like watching poetry in motion-like watching a lovely ballerina dancing at her best. When Jennifer smiles, her eyes light up and she radiates an inner grace and beauty. When Jennifer appears in a scene, her eyes glow and she lights up the screen with her grace, charm, dignity, beauty and professionalism.

Jennifer Lewis, who also has performed admirably in the movies Troop Beverly Hills, Perry Mason: Case of the Defiant Daughter, Daddy and The Wizard, possesses a purity of heart and soul, and that purity is reflected in the beauty and gentleness of her eyes and in the graceful way she does and says things. Jennifer possesses the kind of beauty which causes one to think of Christmas, Easter and-ultimately-of God.


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