May 22, 2017 — NEWARK, NJ — NJTV’s new monthly series, A Matter of Faith with a Bishop, an Imam and a Rabbi, examines today’s headlining news through the lens of faith. The series, hosted by Bishop Mark Beckwith, Imam W. Deen Shareef and Rabbi Matthew Gewirtz, debuts its second episode Wednesday, May 24 at 8pm on NJTV, and gives viewers a seat at the table as the hosts discuss the topic of opioid addiction and other substance abuse that has been a widely-reported crisis in New Jersey and across the country.
“On (this) program we’re not going to concentrate on statistics or studies,” explains Bishop Beckwith. “Instead, we’re going to meet some real people who suffered through substance abuse and are alive and working every day to stay well. And we’re going to talk about how all of us, including Faith-based communities, need to learn much more about how to help all of its victims.”
This half-hour episode includes discussion with three special guests whose life experiences include personal struggle with opioids and other drugs. Islah Ali, Mariel Hufnagel and Mark Dorsey share their stories of addiction and recovery. Hufnagel, from Point Pleasant, NJ, shares what she considers “a divine intervention” after years of drug and alcohol abuse. “I was arrested. I didn’t make a choice to separate myself from alcohol and drugs…the universe saw fit to separate me and…the catalyst to be wild.”
Dorsey, who has resided in New York and New Jersey, speaks to what he refers to as “the stereotype” of addiction and drug life. “The stereotype meaning if you grow up in certain communities and you like certain cultures, we will say the hip hop culture for one,” he explains in the program. “You’re raised to think…as a black man I’m supposed to sell drugs, ride nice cars, have a lot of money and do all of these things and I was supposed to be this thug dude. Everyone wants to be Scarface at a certain age, and that’s what I thought I had to play into. And I played into it well. I played into it so much I lost who I really was.”
Ali, a former heroin addict, has dedicated her life to assisting those in need as a substance abuse counselor in Atlanta, Georgia. She discusses the change in societal attitudes towards addiction over her decades of experience. “(Prior to the 60’s and 70’s) there was nothing else to offer and they were criminalizing behavior being done,” she says in the program. “So, (addicts) were doing criminal activities and there was no medical treatment. I often use Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker (as examples). If they went to go get help, they were arrested because it was illegal to have drugs, and if you went to go get help, that was proof that you have purchased drugs illegally.”
Post-discussion, the Bishop, the Imam and the Rabbi give closing benedictions to provide broader perspective on the topic.
A Matter of Faith with A Bishop, An Imam and A Rabbi is produced by Public Media NJ, Inc.. John Servidio is Executive in Charge; Mike Kostel is Executive Producer; and Anisa Mehdi is Senior Producer.
Support for A Matter of Faith with A Bishop, An Imam and A Rabbi is provided in part by the William & Mary Greve Foundation, Esme Usdan and the Lemberg Foundation, Ross Wisnewski and George Reeves, and by these funders: Madeline and Charles Dreifus and Donald and Margery Karp.
Watch the premiere episode, discussing sanctuary cities and women’s activism, here.
About the Hosts
Bishop Mark Beckwith
Mark Beckwith is the tenth Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark. He co-founded and chairs Bishops United Against Gun Violence and is co-chair of the statewide Coalition of Religious Leaders of New Jersey. Deeply committed to urban ministry, Bishop Beckwith has initiated homeless programs and soup kitchens in each congregation he has served in New Jersey and Massachusetts.
Imam W. Deen Shareef
Imam W. Deen Shareef is the Imam of Masjid Waarith ud Deen in Irvington, New Jersey and the Convener of the Council of Imams in New Jersey. Previously he served as Director of Logistics and Industrial Opportunities in the Department of Economic & Housing Development and as Senior Advisor to Mayor Cory A. Booker. Committed to serving the spiritual, social, and economic needs of community, Imam Shareef co-founded Waris Cultural Center, Masjid Waarith ud Deen, and ComWealth Economic Development Corporation in New Jersey.
Rabbi Matthew Gewirtz
Rabbi Matthew D. Gewirtz is the Senior Rabbi of Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in Short Hills, New Jersey. Previously he served as Senior Associate Rabbi of Congregation Rodeph Sholom in New York City. A regular contributor to numerous professional publications, Rabbi Gewirtz is the author of “The Gift of Grief: Finding Peace, Transformation and Renewed Life after Great Sorrow” (Random House).
About the Producers
Mike Kostel, Executive Producer
Mike Kostel is a five time Emmy-award winner and twenty-time nominee with extensive experience developing, producing, writing and directing compelling television shows and special events in entertainment, sports, news and the arts. He has served as the executive producer of American Graduate Day at WNET and NJTV’s Emmy-nominated American Songbook at NJPAC.
Anisa Mehdi, Senior Producer
Emmy Award-winning producer, director and correspondent Anisa Mehdi is a pioneer in covering religion and has helped broaden the scope of religion reporting at CBS News, PBS, ABC News Nightline, NPR, and National Geographic. Her documentary films shine a human light on global culture, religion and politics. Mehdi consults to the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art and writes on global affairs for Stratfor.com.
Bishop Mark Beckwith, Islah Ali, Imam W. Deen Shariff,, Mariel Hufnagel, Rabbi Matthew Gerwitz and Mark Dorsey discuss addiction on the second episode of A Matter of Faith.