JuBus -- Embracing Judaism and Buddhism

ByABC News
May 2, 2006, 3:08 PM

May 2, 2006 — -- During my long career at ABC News, I have been posted in two seemingly opposite religious corners of the world. I spent nine years in Japan where Buddhism is practiced and nearly four years in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem where the majority of the people follow Judaism. That should qualify me to write about JuBus (pronounced "Jew-Boos"), followers who simultaneously embrace Judaism and Buddhism. The reality is I feel a little nervous exploring the subject, as I still remember that old warning every kid got at summer camp: "Don't discuss politics or religion."

But here goes.

JuBus caught the eye of one of our more astute editors when a long takeout appeared in today's Los Angeles Times. For anyone interested, I strongly urge you to read it online (http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-jubus2may02,0,3937916.story?coll=la-home-headlines). It's filled with anecdotal information from adherents who are "at peace with the paradox." The moniker "JuBu" has been around for a while but was popularized by Roger Kamenetz in his 1994 book, "The Jew in the Lotus."

On the one hand, Judaism bans idol worship yet followers find no problem in placing a statue of Buddha in a family shrine along with Jewish relics. My favorite quote in the article comes from Marc Lieberman, a San Francisco ophthalmologist who set up a historic dialogue between the Dalai Lama and Jewish leaders in 1989. "I'm a healthy mosaic of Judaism and Buddhism," Lieberman told the LA Times. "Is that fair to either religion? Fair schmair! It's what I am."

No one seems to know how many JuBus embrace this dual religious identity. The last survey was conducted in the 1970s. Research shows about one third of Buddhism converts were raised Jewish. But getting a specific number has proved impossible. There are 6 million Jews in America and 3 million Buddhists. Just how many crossovers, converts or dual religious citizens exist remains a mystery.

Understanding anyone's religious beliefs -- or their combination of beliefs --