Meet the Faith
TV journalist David Gregory was facing the most difficult moment of his professional career in August 2014. He was unceremoniously ousted from his position as the host of NBC’s “Meet the Press” amid ratings that had been slipping since he took the job in 2008.
Gregory, who grew up as a self-described cultural Jew in Los Angeles, said he got through the difficult time because of the lessons from a spiritual journey he had embarked on nine years earlier.
The exploration of his Jewish roots, his interfaith marriage to Beth Wilkinson and the fallout with NBC are detailed in his first book, “How’s Your Faith? An Unlikely Spiritual Journey.”
On Thursday, Nov. 5, Gregory will present his book at the Book Festival of the Marcus Jewish Community Center. He talked to the AJT by phone.
AJT: Take me through the title of this book. How did it come to you?
Gregory: It was almost a decade ago. I had been covering the (George W. Bush) administration from the beginning, and I had started studying with a Modern Orthodox scholar named Erica Brown. The president’s mutual friend of a friend had heard about this, and when I got the job at “Meet the Press,” (Bush) asked me, “How’s your faith?” It may seem startling to hear about the president of the United States asking a reporter that question that’s covering him, but as I say in the book, there is some context. I told him it was strong but still taking shape, and I wanted to study to deepen my faith and to better connect to the traditions of my Christian wife. I wanted to be a better husband and father. He was really encouraging and told me about his own faith journey and how it really strengthened him during the more difficult parts of his presidency.
AJT: What was the turning point when you decided to explore your faith more deeply?
Gregory: I describe a spiritual longing that goes back to different points of my life. It was at a time when my wife, Beth, and I had young kids and were trying to figure out our faith life together and when I was feeling really successful in my life and career. I felt so grateful, and I really began to wonder what else is there? What else is expected of me? What does it mean to be a person of faith? I really didn’t understand the answers to those questions.
AJT: What happened once you decided to delve deeper into your faith?
Gregory: My main teacher is still Erica Brown, and I’ve studied regularly with her for almost 10 years. At that time, though, I just reached out to other rabbis and thinkers, like my rabbi at Temple Micah, Daniel Zemel. I also learned from a lot of other religious figures. In the book, I speak to Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, and Tim Keller, an evangelical preacher in New York. Rabbi Joseph Telushkin is also someone that I’ve dealt a lot with.
AJT: What aspects of your faith have become more important to you as you continue your journey?
Gregory: It’s important to me to deepen faith and grow in spirit over time. For me that involves study, prayer and a pursuit of a relationship with G-d. The Torah talks about loving G-d with all our heart, soul and might and G-d loving us. There’s also an emphasis on not only growth in spirit, but growth in character. It’s one of the things I love about our tradition.
AJT: You’re a part of an interfaith marriage, and you’re raising your children Jewish. What kind of sacrifice did that involve for your wife?
Gregory: I think there’s tremendous sacrifice for the spouse that gives up his or her religious traditions. My wife has traditions as an individual, but I think she wants to share them with our family. Giving that up has been painful. I didn’t always recognize how big of a sacrifice that was. Interfaith families require compromise.
AJT: Did your departure from NBC spark your decision at all to write the book?
Gregory: No. I mean, I had been on this path of study and exploration even before I went to “Meet the Press.” This was not about losing my job and finding G-d. That said, there’s no question that going through a really humbling setback in my life is something that grounded me in my faith much more deeply. There’s lots of ways that I feel insecure and lots of ways that I feel adrift, but I think I now have a much deeper feeling that I’m not going through it all alone.
AJT: What’s on the horizon for you now?
Gregory: Well, I’m focused on promoting the book right now. I’ve also been asked to do a lot of speaking. Those two things are taking up a lot of my time. I’ve been having some conversations about how to write the next chapter of my journalism career, and I’m excited about where that’s going.