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Jackie K. Cooper

Jackie K. Cooper

Posted: December 15, 2010 02:59 PM

There is a four hour documentary airing on PBS this month in the Independent Lens series. It plays out over two nights and is titled The Calling. This show focuses on seven people who have been called to the various faiths of Muslim, Jewish, Protestant and Catholic. We see them as they begin the experience of serving their faiths.

The documentary was created by a multidenominational team of film makers but led by Series Director Danny Alpert. The series focuses on those things which are different in our religions but also those things that are common to them all. One thing that is common is the struggle that each of the seven young people endure in order to try to find the spot where they feel they have been led. Most have relationships which are strained by their devotion to duty, and all have conflicts about what their role should be.

In the first two hours the film focuses on Yerachmiel Shapiro (Jewish), Tahera Ahmad (Muslim), Bilal Ansari (Muslim), Rob Pene (Protestant) and Jeneen Robinson (Protestant). The next night Tahera mysteriously disappears from the show and two new stories are added. Those concern Steven Gamez (Catholic) and Shmuly Yanklowitz (Jewish).

Shapiro is one of the most interesting people on the show because in his search to find a place to perform his duties as Rabbi he has to consider he will only be available part time. He and his wife are expecting their first child and when the child arrives he will be the full time parent. His wife is practicing dentistry. This narrows his options.

Jeneen Robinson has similar problems. She is a single mother to a young son. Wherever she goes she has to consider the impact the location and duties will have on her son. She is on a tightrope and must balance between her two callings.

All of the stories shown in this program are interesting. The selection of the people who are shown is perfect in that each has such an interesting back story to be told. Plus the story of their future plans is riveting as it rolls out.

Religion is a fascinating subject for study but it is also an easily controversial one. PBS is to be commended for allowing a four hour focus on it. This length of time allows the show to have depth and development.

Four hours is a long time but in this case is necessary to get all aspects covered. Be sure to allot this time to study and enjoy The Calling. The show airs on PBS On Monday, December 20 at 9PM and on Tuesday, December 21 at 9PM.