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Columbia The New Americans: Homelands and Diasporas

About This Project

American religion is undergoing a vast and monumental change, in large measure because of the new immigrants coming to these shores. Will Herberg’s 1950s paradigm of Catholic-Protestant-Jew has given way to a festival of rituals, practices, behaviors and beliefs that once seemed like the province of faraway lands. Today, mosques and gurudwaras and temples sacred to Buddhists and Hindus dot the American landscape along with churches and synagogues. What is more, Catholics, Protestants and Jews -- having absorbed immigrant populations -- aren’t what they once were.

We are a group of graduate fellows of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government who studied the religious diversity of New York and then traveled together to India to see the roots of the faiths we examined. Our studies and our travels have convinced us of the imperative of better understanding the beliefs and practices not only of America, but of the world. With instant global communication and the ease of international travel, the faiths of distant lands are immediately at hand.

We plan to go about this exploration by undertaking a series of reports and interactive, multimedia projects on new American immigrants from Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. Our prism, however, will not be geography but faith. We will look at Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims and Buddhists, as well as Christians and Jews. We will begin with our home base of New York and then expand to American and foreign cities that best tell the stories of the new immigrants. We will look at how they are being changed and how, in the process, they are changing America.

Biographies of News21 Fellows and Reporters
James Angelos

Prior to earning a master's degree from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, James Angelos worked at StoryCorps, the oral history project affiliated with National Public Radio. With StoryCorps, he traveled the country recording people's stories in sound, visiting places like an Indian Reservation in North Dakota and cities in Montana and Idaho. At Columbia, he turned his focus from radio to writing and published articles in the The New York Times and The Brooklyn Rail.

During the News21 fellowship, he worked on The Refugee City, a series of stories about the religious life of refugee groups living in Utica, N.Y. He also reported a story about Mandaeans, a small religious group from Iraq whose existence has been threatened by the war.

Other News21 stories by James Angelos:
Defusing Religious Tensions on the Streets of Mumbai
The Art of Devotional Song
In Praise of Sri Venkateswara

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Stokely Baksh

Baksh is a multimedia journalist from Washington, D.C., who has worked as a national correspondent for the newswire United Press International under the technology and business desks, and reported for the non-profit investigative journalism organization Center for Public Integrity. A recent graduate of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, she completed an investigative project that explores the profitable business of immigration detention with her colleague Renee Feltz. The investigation won the Melvin Mencher Award for Superior Reporting and the James A. Wechsler Award for National Reporting.

You can visit or Business of Detention at

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Karim Bardeesy

Karim Bardeesy is entering his second year in the Master's in Public Policy program at the Kennedy School of Government, and is the News21 fellow from Harvard University. He has a BA in Political Science from McGill University, was most recently a political assistant and policy adviser to the Ontario Minister of Finance, and has worked as a researcher for Toronto Life magazine and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He is the Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Kennedy School Review in 2007-08.

With Anna-Katarina Gravgaard, Karim worked on a major project to identify and profile elected officials in America who are immigrants or from minority religious backgrounds. The project includes seven video profiles of politicians which took Anna-Katarina to California, Minnesota, Iowa, and New Jersey, and an interactive map featuring sketches of over 40 elected officials. Karim and Anna-Katarina invite comments to allow them to add to this map of elected officials.

Karim also did a profile of Oklahoma singer-songwriter Kareem Salama and reviewed a new book on immigration and America's religious landscape for News21.

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MaryCatherine Brouder

Mary Catherine Brouder graduated cum laude from Harvard University in 2006 with a BA. She received her MS in May 2007 from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism where she specialized in broadcast journalism and was part of a 3 person team that produced a 30 minute (Social justice award winning) documentary on immigration reform. While at Harvard she worked at the Institute of Politics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was a reporter/correspondent for several publications including the Irish Emigrant, Boston Pilot and Irish America Magazine and was an arts editor at the Harvard Crimson. Mary Catherine also hosted a cable tv program for the Boston Neighborhood News in 2005/6. Former Senator John Edwards's new anthology, Home: The Blueprints of Our Lives includes a story about Mary Catherine and she is listed in the acknowledgments of Ron Fournier's book, Applebees America: How Successful Political, Business, and Religious Leaders Connect with the New American Community for her research work. Mary Catherine lives at home in the Bronx, where she grew up as the fifth of five siblings. She is also the bass guitarist for the musical group, "The Spirits of Gilbride" with whom she played at the White House, Disney, Yankee Stadium, etc., and toured Europe and the U.S. in 1999 - 2001. She is 21 years old.

This summer, she reported with James Angelos and Peter Cox on a series of stories about refugees changing the religious landscape of Utica, N.Y. and, a story about Mandaeans, an ancient religion endangered by the war in Iraq.

Sarah Brown

Sarah Brown is a contributing research editor to the Columbia News21 project.

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Karla Bruning

After performing as an actor, singer and model in New York City, Karla Bruning became a Researcher and Reporter at Newsweek. She contributed to cover stories for the International Edition and occasionally sat in as Head Researcher and Editor of the Periscope section. Her work has appeared in Newsweek, The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Times-Picayune in New Orleans, The Gazette in Montreal, the Orlando Sentinel and a dozen other publications in North America and online. In 2006, she traveled to Germany on a Fulbright scholarship for young American journalists, and she is currently an M.S. candidate at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. Karla graduated Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Amherst College. As a Religion major, she earned the honor of High Distinction and won a college prize for her honors thesis about contemporary American mysticism. At News21, Karla created One in a Million: Hispanic Clergy in the Catholic Church, an in depth look at the national shortage of Latino priests amidst a booming Hispanic population, and Peace Like a River, a personal reflection. Her other News21 stories include On Tour With the Hugging Saint, Under the Bodhi Tree, The Stars of India, and Breathing Corpses: A Hatha Yoga Ritual. She also contributed audio recording to Nigerian Catholics Take Root in America and Our Journey.

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Peter Cox

Peter Cox received his master's in journalism from Columbia University in New York in May. He graduated from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn. in 2002 with a degree in English and Political Science. He spent the past four years working at three daily papers in Minnesota -- the Albert Lea Tribune, the West Central Tribune and the St. Cloud Times -- covering everything from turtle races to the role of National Guardsmen in rebuilding Kosovo. His work has been published in the Philadelphia Daily News, the Orlando Sentinel, the Austin American-Statesman, the Lexington Herald-Leader, the Times-Picayune, the Columbus Dispatch, the St. Louis Post Dispatch and The Oregonian.

This summer, he reported with James Angelos and Mary-Catherine Brouder on a series of stories about refugees changing the religious landscape of Utica, N.Y. and, a story about Mandaeans, an ancient religion endangered by the war in Iraq.

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Brett Elliott

Brett Elliott was born and raised in Los Angeles. He graduated UCLA summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in theatre arts and earned a postgraduate diploma from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. He stayed in Los Angeles, working in classical theater as an actor, director and fight choreographer, and doing voice-overs for radio and television. Yearning for a change of pace, Brett decided to take his storytelling skills to the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. At Columbia, he was awarded a Parrish scholarship and graduated with honors, earning distinctions in Reporting and Writing and in News Broadcasting. To date, his areas of focus in religion reporting have been Shi’a Islam in America and interfaith relations. His half-hour radio documentary, Planting Churches in the Fields of New York, is scheduled to air this summer on WFUV in New York, where he works as a freelance newscaster.

Anna-Katarina Gravgaard

Anna-Katarina Gravgaard is the daughter of a liberal Minister in the Protestant Danish State Church and a strict Catholic father. She has written for her local paper since she was 14. When she was 15 she was asked to become editor in chief and at the age of 18 she edited two local papers in Copenhagen, Denmark. Today, she is part owner of the small publishing house DFL. She earned her B.A. and M.A. in English at the University of Copenhagen and her M.S. in journalism under a Fulbright Scholarship at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Anna has traveled in more than twenty countries and prefers to go by sailboat.

Deena Guzder

Deena Guzder is a global nomad who graduated from Oberlin College and is currently a dual-degree graduate student at Columbia University. She is a freelance reporter whose articles on human rights issues have appeared in the New York Blade, Chicago Tribune, Black Star News, Providence Journal, Metta Center's Nonviolence in the News, Arab American, Chronicle-Herald, Journal of International Affairs, Worcester Telegram & Gazette News, Arizona Central, The New York Resident, Common Dreams, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, CounterPunch, Morristown Daily Record's Panache, Indian Express, National Geographic Traveler and elsewhere. She runs a nonprofit organization, Students Together in Tackling Child Hunger (S.T.I.T.C.H).

Tania Leah Haas

Tania worked in Nepal and Canada before embarking on her journalism career. In the radio workshop course at Columbia University, she covered asylum seekers in the Bronx and former child soldiers living in Brooklyn. Other radio assignments included a documentary on fluke fishing and pollution in India. Her articles and photographs have been published in The New York Times, The Brooklyn Paper, Black Star News, The Arab American Paper, The Canadian Jewish News and the Queens Chronicle. In August, Tania will intern with CBC's "The Current," Canada's national morning show.

For News 21 Tania focused on the Tibetan and Muslim communities in New York and the Sikh community in Canada.

Her photos can be found on the homepage. Tania also produced and shot four slideshows, including the Islamic Games slideshow.

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Rebecca Kaufman

Rebecca worked at New Hampshire Public Radio in Concord, New Hampshire from 2003-2006. While at NHPR, she worked as a reporter, covering the environment, and a producer for a daily public affairs program, "The Exchange." She graduated from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism in May with a concentration in radio and broadcast. Rebecca grew up in Chicago and received her B.A. from Middlebury College in Vermont where she studied political science and Italian.

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Jennifer Lai

Jennifer Lai is a contributing web producer to the Columbia News21 project, and a recent graduate of the Columbia Journalism School, where she specialized in new media journalism. Prior to Columbia, she co-founded inFlux, an online magazine on politics, music and lifestyles for the digital revolution generation. She received her undergraduate degree from Wesleyan University, where she majored in studio arts. Since November 2005, Jennifer has been maintaining the apartment renting and living section of

While at News21, Jennifer helped design and build Columbia News21's homepage. She also worked on interactive maps, including Glimpses of Faith, a Pilgrimage Through Iran and Day-by-Day in the Homeland.

She also produced the following interactive pages:
The Refugee City
Theocracy & Democracy: Persian Minority Religions in Iran and America

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John Soltes

John Soltes, a New Jersey native, is a graduate of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Rutgers University. He has written for The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Hollywood Reporter, The Times-Picayune, The Brooklyn Rail, and The Daily Targum, among other publications. His stories include Nigerian Catholics Take Root in America, Christianity in India and the travel diary for Day 8 on our trip to India.

Biographies of News21 Editors
John Judis

Editorial Coordinator John B. Judis is a senior editor of New Republic, where he has worked since 1984. As a visiting scholar at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Judis wrote The Folly of Empire: What George W. Bush Could Learn from Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.

Judis' articles have appeared in American Prospect, New York Times Magazine, Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, Washington Monthly, American Enterprise, Mother Jones, and Dissent. He has written five books, including The Emerging Democratic Majority (with Ruy Teixeira), The Parodox of American Democracy, and William F. Buckley: Patron Saint of the Conservatives.

Russell Chun

Russell Chun, Flash and design consultant to Columbia News21, is a freelance scientific art developer and multimedia Flash developer, author, and teacher. He creates visual and interactive educational media and consults and teaches others to use Flash as an effective pedagogical tool.

Russell is an adjunct at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and at City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate School of Journalism. He has authored several books on advanced Flash: Flash 5 Advanced, Flash MX Advanced, Flash MX2004 Advanced, Flash 8 Advanced, and Flash CS3 Advanced, all in the VisualQuick Pro Guide series published by Peachpit Press in association with Macromedia/Adobe Press. His books have been translated in multiple languages and sold internationally. He has also written about Flash in magazines such as SBS Digital Design and MacWorld.

Kenan Davis

Kenan Davis is a multimedia journalist whose work has appeared in The Valdosta Daily Times, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, The Village Voice, The Queens Tribune and on WAMC/Northeast Public Radio. He is now a new media fellow at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

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Ari Goldman, Coordinator

Coordinator/Executive Editor Ari L. Goldman has been teaching at Columbia Journalism School since 1993. He is the director of the school’s Scripps Howard Program in Religion, Journalism and the Spiritual Life. Since 2000 and under the aegis of the Scripps Program, he has taken his religion class on study-tours abroad during spring break. His class has visited Israel, Jordan, Russia, Ukraine and India. Goldman also co-directs the University’s Religion-Journalism Dual M.A. Program in which students spend one year at the Journalism School and a second at Columbia’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences studying religion. Before coming to school, he spent 20 years at The New York Times, most of it as a religion writer. Goldman, who was educated at Yeshiva University, Harvard and Columbia, was a Visiting Fulbright Professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, a Skirball Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies in England and a scholar-in-residence for a semester at Yeshiva. He is the author of three books: The Search for God at Harvard, a New York Times Notable Book in 1991, Being Jewish: The Spiritual and Cultural Practice of Judaism Today (2000) and Living a Year of Kaddish (2003). He just began writing a regular religion column in The New York Daily News.

Ahmed Shihab-Eldin

Ahmed Shihab-Eldin, News21 Flash producer, built the Columbia project's home page and its immigration timeline, and provided general assistance to the Columbia fellows.

Ahmed grew up in California, Kuwait, Egypt and Austria. He has most recently worked as a news producer for The New York Times and as a web producer for the PBS international documentary series, Wide Angle. His work has been featured in Frontline/World online, TimeOut, Washington Week and other blogs.

He graduated from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, where he now teaches as an adjunct professor for new media skills. He hopes to one day adopt a dog and produce a feature-length documentary film, but not necessarily on the same day. His family is originally from Palestine.

Duy Linh Tu

Duy Linh Tu, multimedia consultant to Columbia News21, is a multimedia producer, journalist, and educator. He is the co-founder and Creative Director of Resolution Seven, a New York City-based video and DVD production studio. His clients range from non-profit groups to very-much-for-profit corporations. Resolution Seven produces commercials, industrials, and short- and long-form documentaries.

Duy has been a full-time faculty member at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism since 2001, where he coordinates the New Media Program. Duy is a lecturer at MediaBistro, where he conducts seminars on topics such as podcasting and multimedia journalism. Over the past six years, Duy has trained hundreds of journalists, producers, and other content creators interested in learning the tools of multimedia journalism and production.

Duy received his Masters degree in journalism from Columbia University. He is a board member of the New York Film/Video Council.


The Latest

Over six months, members of the Columbia News21 team traveled 525,000 miles across the United States, Canada, India and Iran in search of a better understanding of minority religions and the immigrants who practice them.