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The God Squad: A Godwink and ‘Keeping the Faith’

Rabbi Marc Gellman, Tribune Content Agency on

Hello, we lost our daughter, Kristen, to leukemia when she was 18. The first time we went to the cemetery, we were getting back into our cars, talking about our faith, and I remarked that I felt so very sorry for those without faith and don't believe that we will see our loved ones again. We stopped to use the ladies' room and as I waited for her at my car, she asked if I had lost something. There was a paper at my feet and even though I believed it wasn't mine, I picked it up to check. It was a receipt from a Blockbuster Video store for the movie "Keeping the Faith" and if that wasn't enough from my Kristen, the amount on the receipt was $8.22. Kristen's birthday is August 22! God is good! – (From M and B)

A: The most amazing part of your God wink is that you met Father Tom and I at the cemetery without realizing it. The 2000 Disney Touchstone movie, “Keeping the Faith” written by Stuart Blumberg is a film loosely based on our friendship. It is a movie about the deep friendship of a rabbi and a priest and a woman they both love.

Ben Stiller plays the rabbi (I thought he was too short and not as funny as me, but otherwise he was perfect).

Edward Norton (in his directorial debut) plays the priest (I thought he was not as handsome as Tommy, but otherwise he was perfect).

Jenna Elfman plays the woman they both love (Betty is more beautiful and, though we both loved Betty, it was purely platonic with Tommy. Otherwise, she was perfect, too).

There is no doubt we were the inspiration for the characters. In the movie, they call themselves the God Squad and Disney pictures asked us to fly to LA for the opening (we never did). It is a charming movie, and it still appears on different streaming sites.

 

It still amazes me that people find the friendship of a priest and a rabbi unusual. For Tommy and I, our friendship was completely normal and unexceptional. In time, we realized that we had become a symbol for true interfaith dialogue, and we were proud of that. What filled us with most joy was the fact that it all began from the bottom up. It was not a once-a-year interfaith Thanksgiving service-type of interfaith dialogue. It began with personal friendship and grew up into a mission to teach that the ways we are the same are so much more important than the ways we are different. After Tommy died, it surprised me and saddened me that no one else took up the mission of the God Squad. What I now understand is that this is not true. I regularly hear from dear readers of their deep and sustaining friendships with people of other faiths. The truth is that the world is filled with many God Squads. They are not on television or in the papers, but they are real and they sustain the truth that God has given pieces of the truth to every religion. Let us lift up this universal revelation and let us learn from this passage from I Corinthians 12 that Tommy sent me on my birthday a month after we first met:

There are different gifts but the same Spirit.

There are different ministries but the same Lord.

There are different works but the same God who accomplishes all of them in everyone … it is one and the same Spirit who produces all these gifts, distributing them to each as He wills.

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