Judd’s Interfaith Show Nixed

By E.B. Solomont

Published August 19, 2005, issue of August 19, 2005.
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Interfaith marriage is not the taboo it used to be in the Jewish community, but the topic is stirring controversy on cable television.

Early in the week, the producer of a new talk show, to be hosted on the Hallmark Channel by legendary country singer Naomi Judd, was soliciting participants for a segment on interfaith relationships. In its search for participants, the producer contacted InterfaithFamily.com, the nonprofit group that pushes synagogues and Jewish organizations to adopt a more tolerant and welcoming approach to interfaith families.

But when the Forward called Hallmark and producers of “Naomi’s New Morning” for more details, executives denied that such a segment was in the works. They said that while a pilot for Judd’s show did feature people with different religious backgrounds, the program was deemed too narrow.

“The content for the show, it’s certainly evolving,” said Christine Luzano, public relations manager for Faith & Values Media, which is producing the show for Hallmark with Lightworks Producing Group. The premiere episode — topic to be determined — is set to air November 27.

Earlier this week, producers contacted InterfaithFamily.com, sending the group what was later described as an outdated document describing the new Sunday talk show. In the letter, “Naomi’s New Morning” was described as a show that would explore how “faith is interwoven in contemporary life, popular culture, and personal transformations.”

Heather Martin, vice president of marketing and operations at InterfaithFamily.com, said she forwarded the solicitation to her group’s e-mail list, letting them know that the show would like to feature people in interfaith relationships discussing their holiday experiences. By the next day, she received a dozen responses.

One couple hoping to be featured was Dana Turney Hagenbuch, a Reform Jew, and her Catholic husband, Jay. The “religious question” has been an issue for them before, but has become more salient than ever since she became pregnant. Elizabeth McNamara, a Reform Jew who is dating a Catholic, also looked forward to participating. “It’s not realistic to say that people are only going to meet people inside their faiths,” said McNamara, a child of intermarried parents. “It’s an issue that affects a lot of people, and it’s important to get it out there.”

One executive at the Hallmark Channel speculated that a low-level production associate inadvertently sent out a call for participants. Although Judd’s show likely will focus on life experiences that may be spiritually charged, the executive said it would not be a faith-based show. Religions tend to divide us, the executive said.

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