David Gregory’s journey in faith
Veteran broadcast journalist to open Federation campaign May 3
By Marshall Weiss, The Dayton Jewish Observer
Former NBC news correspondent and Meet the Press moderator David Gregory says his wife — a Protestant — challenged him to dig deeper into his Jewish background.
“I’ve been studying with a group of scholars for almost a decade now,” says Gregory, who was raised by a Catholic mother and a Jewish father.
He identifies as Jewish and is a member of Temple Micah, a Reform congregation in Washington, D.C.
Gregory’s explorations into Judaism have led him to write a book, How’s Your Faith: An Unlikely Spiritual Journey, which will be published in September.
He’ll talk about his pursuit of a spiritual life within Judaism, along with his experiences in broadcast journalism when he delivers the keynote address at the Jewish Federation’s Presidents Dinner on May 3 at the Dayton Art Institute.
“I’m thinking about what’s next for me in terms of some media opportunities that I’m pursuing,” says Gregory, who served as host of Meet The Press from 2008 until last year, when NBC let him go in the face of falling ratings. “But this has been a really meaningful project for me.”
The title of the book comes from a question President George W. Bush posed to him when he learned Gregory had begun studying Judaism.
Gregory was with Bush on 9/11 and accompanied the president on his first visit to Ground Zero days after the attacks.
“We had several conversations about faith,” Gregory says of Bush. “I interviewed him about his own faith, I told him about my studies. I appreciated his interest because it was a topic I was interested in discovering.”
Gregory says he’s studied faith with teachers including his own rabbi in Washington, with Jewish ethicist Erica Brown, Pastor Joel Osteen of Houston’s Lakewood Church, the late New York Cardinal John O’Connor, and evangelical theologian Russell D. Moore.
“I’ve tried to really move across the landscape, to learn from other faith leaders,” he says.
He describes the book as a faith journal about what he’s learned from other people and religions, about how to seek a closer relationship with God, how to live a more spiritual life.
Gregory says he doesn’t see much discussion of faith in mainstream media, which he describes as “a lot more secular.”
“It’s something that’s important to a lot of people,” he says. “I’d like to see faith and spirituality discussed in public life and even in politics without it being kind of in the realm of social policy or kind of a ‘gotcha’ game. I’d really like to understand how public figures, political figures, think about faith: what it means to their lives and how they try to bring it into their public service.”
When asked if Judaism has informed his work as a journalist, Gregory says Judaism and some of the universal lessons of faith help him think about forgiveness and being a better person. He connects these values to “trying to stand up to some of the toxicity in the business I’ve been in.”
The Presidents Dinner will kick off the Jewish Federation’s 2015 annual campaign, which for decades, opened in the fall.
Federation staff and layleaders have restructured the campaign — which helps meet the needs of Jews in Dayton, Israel, and worldwide — to open in the spring.
An active campaign period, 100 Days of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world), will follow the kickoff, culminating in the campaign’s completion in August with an outdoor concert celebration.
Presidents Dinner attendees will be asked to make their pledges to the Federation’s 2015 annual campaign.
As Gregory has learned more about Judaism, he says he’s become even more aware of Judaism’s emphasis on the collective, about the community as a whole.
“There is such a deep, spiritual life within Judaism and within our sacred texts,” he says. “I think as a people, we’ve gotten away from speaking about our spiritual lives individually and from seeking a relationship with God.”
The language of God and spirituality, he says, seems foreign to Jews.
“And yet, it’s so deeply embedded in our sacred text. And so I think discovering that — for me — was a beautiful thing, because it helped me deepen my faith and deepen not just the knowledge of Judaism, but a real spiritual practice.”
David Gregory is the keynote speaker for the Jewish Federation Presidents Dinner annual campaign kickoff on Sunday, May 3, 5 p.m. at the Dayton Art Institute. The cost is $36 for adults age 30 and under, $54 for adults above age 30, with additional giving levels available. R.S.V.P. to Alisa Thomas, 610-1555.