Jewish Pittsburgh listened in Wednesday, Feb. 18, at Temple Sinai to the first of six live satellite broadcasts from New York’s 92nd Street Y on a variety of subjects concerning Jews everywhere.
The first program, “A Moral Courage Conversation With Christiane Amanpour,” was moderated by Israd Manji, and focused on the challenges to free expression in the world.
“I invited Christiane here tonight because she dared to outrage Bill Clinton in front of her bosses,” Manji said, “and because Yasser Arafat slammed the phone on her during a live broadcast. And because Mahmoud Ahmadinejad considers her rude.”
Sounds like she’s doing her job.
Known for having experts in their fields present the most pressing issues in our contemporary world, the Y Series program is timely — the rich educational experience that our Jewish minds crave.
Temple Sinai’s Rabbi James Gibson said simulcasting the series provides Pittsburgh Jews with direct access to a level of dialogue they may not otherwise have.
“We feel that there is an incredible intellectual vibrancy in the Jewish world that we don’t get to participate in fully,” Gibson said. “This simulcast is an opportunity to provide people with the top ideas of the day. We could never afford to bring Jerry Seinfeld or Al Gore here but we can afford to bring them here as they speak in New York.
“What we are saying,” he added, “is that we are just as committed in Pittsburgh as they are any other place in the world to be involved in the top level of discourse in Jewish thought.”
The 92nd Street Y (in New York City) was founded in 1874 as the Young Men’s Hebrew Association.
Amanpour is CNN’s chief international correspondent. She became a household name during the first Gulf War when she kept us glued to CNN.
Manji is the Muslim reformer whom the New York Times calls “Osama bin Laden’s worst nightmare.”
Manji showed clips from Amanpour’s CNN portfolio, using them as a reference point in their conversation about morally courageous journalism. They probed difficult issues. How do you practice investigative journalism, especially at a time when reporters and their employers feel enormous pressure, financial or otherwise, to avoid causing offense?
A native of Iran while under the Shah, Amanpour described her childhood as idyllic and sheltered. With an English Catholic mother and a Shiite Muslim father, “I knew intrinsically, by watching my own family, that people from different backgrounds can get along.”
Her big moral courage breakthrough came during the 1990s breakup of Yugoslavia. “I stayed in the Balkans for four years while the United States and Europe denied that genocide was being committed,” Amanpour said. “We were there day in and day out. President Clinton didn’t want to do anything about it. The world wanted to tell public opinion that this was just a centuries old conflict and more importantly and falsely, that all sides were equally guilty.
“Those of us who were living there and reporting it and were actually part of the civilian population and therefore could feel it and be affected by the bombardment of Sarajevo, we told the truth,” she continued.
(Dev Meyers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)