RELIGION HELPED SHAPE LOCAL LAWMAKERS.
Waxman says that history, his parents' ardent support of labor unions and his own religious studies helped shape his liberal politics.
Waxman's grandparents fled Russia shortly after the 1905 pogroms in Kishinev. He was raised in Boyle Heights and later South Los Angeles in an apartment above his father's grocery store.
As a youngster, he went to Hebrew school and was bar mitzvahed at the Huntington Park Hebrew Congregation. It was as an adult, though, that Waxman said he took a serious interest in Judaism and decided to follow dietary restrictions and many other religious laws.
``It seems to me that the ethics involved in Judaism are most important to me, but the observance helps you maintain high ethical standards,'' he said.
Observances such as refraining from eating pork products or not mixing dairy with meat, he said, ``remind me that even in the most mundane action, there's an ethical dimension. It reminds me that I can't do what I want at any moment.''
Now a member of Valley Beth Shalom, a conservative synagogue in Encino, Waxman said he believes his religious values are very close to overall American values.
``Ideas about social justice, equal opportunity, tolerance, these have all been influenced by a `Jewish outlook' in a very personal way,'' Waxman said. ``It's how I see America in many ways.''
Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks, who is Jewish, was raised reform with five years of religious training and, as he describes it, ``a lifetime of occasional studies ever since.''
Sherman said he now belongs to the conservative Valley Beth Shalom in Encino but does not follow Jewish dietary restrictions or observe restrictions against working on the Sabbath.
Still, he said, Judaism is part of the fabric of his personal and political life.
``Your religion informs your values,'' he said. ``I can't separate that from religion.''
Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Thousand Oaks, grew up in East Los Angeles, attending a Protestant Sunday school and church on most Sundays.
As an adult, he said, ``I am not in church every Sunday morning, but I do attend.''
More than religion, however, Gallegly said conscience shapes his politics.
``I would think that everything we do is tied to one's moral values, one's religious views,'' he said. ``Everything I do is based on what those values are.''
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Pasadena, who is Jewish, said his grandfather was Orthodox and deeply observant and his parents slightly less so.
``By the time it got to me, we were members of a Reform shul,'' Schiff said, referring to the modern liberal movement of Jews who follow the ethical laws of Judaism but leave it up to the individual to make decisions regarding dietary restrictions and other religious laws.
Growing up in Boston and later Arizona and Northern California, Schiff said he went to Hebrew school, learned to ``read and not understand'' Hebrew, and was bar mitzvahed.
``I grew up (imbued) with Jewish culture,'' Schiff said. ``I never thought where Jewish influences began or ended. My brother and I were raised to believe that we had a responsibility to others, that we had to leave behind something more than our inheritance.''
At the same time, Schiff said, he wrestled with religion as a youth.
``It was hard for me to reconcile the pride people had in their own religious group as disconnected with the prejudice against people who were not in that religious group,'' he said.
Beyond noting that he belongs to a synagogue and that his daughter attends Hebrew school, Schiff declined to discuss his personal religious observances.
``An individual's relationship with God is an incredibly personal thing, and it's not something I talk about when I'm out on the stump. It would detract from the relationship.''
Rep. Hilda L. Solis, D-El Monte, describes her Roman Catholic upbringing in La Puente as including church every Sunday, along with catechism and confirmation, a sacrament of Christian commitment.
``My mother was very good about keeping us involved,'' Solis said. Both parents were devout and raised their children that way.
These days, Solis said, her home is filled with rosaries and her church attendance is spotty. But, she added, ``I take time in my morning or evening and do what I have to do.''
She turns to the church and its teachings in times of trial, and finds comfort there.
Crystallizing what she interprets as the central tenets of her personal faith, Solis cites faith, hope and resisting ``falling prey to different things.''
Pointing to her heart, Solis says her faith is there and through her actions.
``I believe I try to carry out my values, my faith, through actions.''
Rep. Howard L. Berman, D-Van Nuys, grew up in what he describes as ``a pretty Orthodox'' Jewish home.
When he was young, Berman and his family belonged to an Orthodox synagogue. He kept kosher, went to Hebrew school, had a bar mitzvah and as a teen attended Jewish summer camps where he started to take a personal interest in his faith.
``For a while I became more personally observant,'' he said. ``I developed a real sense of identity as a Jew.''
Today, Berman describes himself as religiously observant, though somewhat less than he used to be. If anyone cared to check, he joked, he could probably be spotted committing the religious no-no of driving on the Sabbath.
``I don't think how many times I go to synagogue every year is a measure of my Judaism,'' Berman said. ``I really like the religion. I like the ritual of the religion.''
And Berman said his faith has taught him many things.
``There are things greater and more important than just me -- man has some good reason to have humility, and there are benefits to having high standards.''
Rep. Gary G. Miller, R-Brea, was raised in the Christian Church of Christ, which he and his grandparents attended three days a week, including nearly all day every Sunday.
They also frequently attended revivals in Compton, where he said he and his family were often the only white faces in the crowd.
``Wherever there was a revival when I was a kid, I would go,'' he recalled.
Now a member of Calvary Chapel Golden Springs in Diamond Bar, Miller said he finds it difficult to distinguish which of his policy positions are influenced by his faith or how.
``Your overall life experience has a tremendous influence,'' he said. ``That's who you are. If you really have a faith, it's not something you think about. It's who you are.''
Rep. Howard P. ``Buck'' McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, says being Mormon is a big part of his life.
Both sets of grandparents were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who met in Utah and later moved to California.
Growing up in Tujunga with his five brothers, McKeon was raised on the 13 articles of faith, attended church and religious school every Sunday -- ``all day, it seemed like,'' he says now -- and was involved in boys' programs and priesthood meetings.
In his 30s, McKeon served as a bishop for more than a year, teaching church history and later attending seminary.
These days, McKeon says he is less active in his church but that his religious foundation has shaped his outlook on life.
``Our spirit comes into this world with the experience we've had before. We're a product of our environment, a product of heredity, a product of our teachings,'' he said. ``If you have those beliefs, then the little vicissitudes of life, the bumps in the road, maybe it helps you get through those easier.
``We believe when you're serving your fellow man, you're also serving God, so to me, this is public service and I take it seriously.''
-- Interviews by Lisa Friedman, Washington Bureau
(1) Henry A. Waxman
(2) Brad Sherman
(3) Elton Gallegly
(4) Adam Schiff
(5) Howard Berman
(6) Howard P. ``Buck'' McKeon
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Sep 3, 2006|
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