Ira Rifkin is an award-winning journalist, author, educator and media consultant specializing in issues relating to religion and culture, with special emphasis on the Middle East, the American Jewish and Muslim communities, Eastern religions, new religious movements, interfaith dialogue, and globalization. He currently is a public speaker on religion and globalization and leads structured protocol dialogue groups on Middle East issues. He is also a certified English as a Second Language instructor.
Ira is the author of Spiritual Perspectives on Globalization: Making Sense of Economic and Cultural Upheaval (SkyLight Paths, 2003; 2nd Edition, 2004) and the editor of Spiritual Leaders Who Changed the World: The Essential Handbook to the Past Century of Religion (SkyLight Paths, 2002; 2nd Edition, 2008). He has received awards from both the Associated Church Press (1995, 1996, 1997) and the American Jewish Press Association (1991, 1992, 2006). He has also won awards from the Religion Newswriters Association (1996) and the Society of Professional Journalists (1984, 1990, 1994).
Previously, he served as an adjunct journalism professor at the University of Maryland at College Park, as an adjunct at the Washington Semester Journalism Program at American University, and as a lecturer in environmental journalism at the State University of New York at New Paltz. Ira formerly was News Director of Beliefnet. com, a multi-faith Web magazine, and a Washington-based National Correspondent for Religion News Service. He has contributed to three college textbooks on journalism; to a professional manual for religion journalists, Guide to Religion Reporting in the Secular Media: Frequently Asked Questions; and to Media Guide to Islam, a Website for journalists writing about Islam produced by the Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism at San Francisco University.
Ira wrote The Search for the Historical Jesus for Microsoft's Encarta CD-ROM Encyclopedia. He has worked as a staff writer and editor for the Los Angeles Daily News, United Press International in New York and San Francisco, the Baltimore Jewish Times, and other newspapers and magazines in New York, California and Nebraska, and has reported from the former Soviet Union, Cuba, Peru, Ecuador, Panama, Mexico, and Israel/Palestine.
He has also done media relations work in India for the International Transpersonal Association, and has consulted to the Center for Strategic & International Studies, Frontline/Helen Whitney Productions, The Pew Charitable Trusts, Religion Newswriters Foundation, Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, Church World Service, The Interfaith Alliance, STAR (Synagogues: Transformation and Renewal), Institute for Christian & Jewish Studies (Baltimore), Rabinowitz/Dorf Communications, Goldring Family Foundation, United Jewish Communities, Jewish Lights Publishing, Beyond Pesticides, Maryland Pesticide Network, InnerSource: A Center for Psychotherapy and Healing (Annapolis, MD), Chabad of California, and others. Additionally, he has been a private editorial consultant and ghostwriter.
Ira has been an Advisory Council member for the Buxton Initiative, a Washington think tank promoting interfaith discussion, and Lead Editorial Advisor to the online Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue.
He has also been a guest speaker at Berea College, Northwestern University, Chautauqua Institution, Grace Cathedral (San Francisco), University of Baltimore, Mt. St, Mary's College (Emmitsburg, MD), Rivier College, Marywood University, Georgia Perimeter College, Bergen College, New Jersey City University, San Jacinto College, Maricopa College, Temple Adat Elohim (Thousand Oaks, CA), the American Council for the Study of Islamic Societies, the U. S. Department of State Office of International Visitors, the Humphrey International Fellowship Program (UMd College Park), MICA-Interfaith Programs & Spiritual Diversity (UMd College Park), Baltimore County (MD) Public Schools, and elsewhere.
He has contributed to a variety of newspapers, magazines, Websites, and news services. They include MSNBC.com, The Jerusalem Report, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Times, People, Spirituality&Health, The Jerusalem Post, Teacher Magazine, Mindful.org, The Village Voice (NY), Common Boundary, Moment, National Catholic Reporter, Sightings (Univ. of Chicago Divinity School), New York Jewish Week, the Forward, On Faith (washingtonpost.com), Common Ground News Service, SojoMail.net, Sokka Gakkai International Quarterly, Detroit News, United Methodist News Service, Los Angeles Jewish Journal, New Jersey Jewish News, JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) news service, MyJewishLearning.com, Jbooks.com, Faith&Values.com, New Age Journal, Media & Values, Religious Socialism, Emmy Magazine, Catholic Library World, The Lutheran, Omaha World-Herald, Omaha Sun, The Capital (Annapolis, MD), and the Peruvian Times and Latin American Economic Report (Lima, Peru).
Ira has a BA in Journalism from New York University (1965). He was a 2007 fellow at the Religion & Globalization Summer Seminar at Boston University's Institute on Culture, Religion & World Affairs.
He has also worked as a set dresser and script consultant in feature film production (San Francisco) and as an importer of Central American (Guatemala and Panama) native textiles and artifacts. Additionally, he curated a show on Panama's Cuna Indians at Omaha's Joslyn Art Museum (1975).
He chaired the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism Seaboard Region's Israel Affairs Commission (2007-2009) and served for more than a decade on the Board of Congregation Kol Shalom, Annapolis, where he heads its Israel Affairs Committee, and for which he has conducted numerous structured dialogue and panel discussions on Middle East issues.
Ira is married to Ruth Berlin, a psychotherapist and environmental activist, has two sons and two grandchildren, and divides his time between Annapolis, MD, and Marina del Rey, CA.