Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

Jews celebrate Simchat Torah today. This festive holiday marks the end of the annual cycle of Torah readings and starts off the new cycle.

Jews in Austin just recently got two historic Torah scrolls to read from. The scrolls, along with a 19th century synagogue, came from a disappearing Jewish community in Brenham.

Catholic Church of England and Wales/flickr

From Texas Standard:

One of the first things we do each morning – in the wee small hours – is check in on the top stories our colleagues are talking about here in Texas, across the country, and around the world. 

From Texas Standard:

Picture this: A prominent Republican speaks at one of the country's most liberal enclaves, The University of California at Berkeley. Not only is it a full house, he gets a standing ovation.

The Rev. Fred Phelps Sr., whose tiny Westboro Baptist Church has protested outside the funerals of fallen soldiers and celebrities to spread its views about homosexuality and abortion, has died, according to news reports. He was 84.

Seton Healthcare Family Archives Division

The Daughters of Charity came to Austin in 1902, in response to a letter writing campaign by a group of local women. Their mission: to build and operate a first-class medical facility.

At the time, Austin’s existing hospital was decidedly less than first-class.

Code Switch has been writing about some overlooked cultural interactions that have helped shape what Jewish identity is today, and we continue the series with this post about the murky and fascinating history of crypto-Jews in the Southwest.

Wednesday marked 12 years since the September 11 terrorist attacks. The attacks thrust radical Islam into the spotlight and arguably ushered in an era of Islamophobia. But do stereotypes about Muslims actually go back much further?

Measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. more than a decade ago. But in recent years, the highly infectious disease has cropped up in communities with low vaccination rates, most recently in North Texas.

There, 21 people — the majority of whom have not been immunized — have gotten the disease, which began at a vaccine-skeptical megachurch.

The outbreak began when a man who contracted the virus on a recent trip to Indonesia visited the Eagle Mountain International Church in Newark, about an hour and a half northwest of Dallas.

Minza Khan for KUT News

During the Islamic month of Ramadan, Muslims around the world fast from dawn to dusk. Austin's Nueces Mosque in West Campus hosts free iftar dinners, a communal feast where Muslims break their day’s fast after sunset. The iftars are open to all members of the community, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.

Sabrina Khwaja, a University of Texas senior, said she frequents Nueces Mosque during Ramadan to engage with the local Muslim community. The location makes it easy for her to stop by. When she first heard about Nueces, Khwaja was relieved to find out she no longer had to break her fast alone.

The Southern Baptist Convention has approved a resolution opposing a new Boy Scouts of America policy that lifts a ban on gay membership.

The decision was made earlier today, at the group’s annual convention in Houston.

The resolution itself does not demand that affiliated churches discontinue their sponsorship of troops. But the resolution voices its support for churches that choose to do so, while reiterating earlier declarations calling for the removal of the various leaders that instituted the new Boy Scouts policy this past May.

An East Austin church is evolving to match the way Austin worships.

Vox Veniae, which is affiliated with the Evangelical Covenant Church, began as part of the Austin Chinese Church for Asian Americans and Asian immigrants to worship. But it has since grown into a very diverse environment. It now has worshipers come to its Sunday service that are white, Latino and African American.

Eric Kayne for Texas Tribune

Cheerleaders at an East Texas high school who were told to stop displaying Bible verses on banners at school athletic events can resume such displays, after a state district judge ruled in their favor Wednesday.

The national headline-grabbing lawsuit arose last fall when Kountze Independent School District administrators ordered its high school cheerleaders to stop displaying religious messages during athletic events after a group advocating for the separation of church and state threatened to sue. 

Sometimes great change can be revealed in small gestures. This week Pope Francis knelt on the stone floor of a detention facility in Rome to wash and kiss the feet of 12 young inmates.

Other popes have carried out this rite on Holy Thursday. It is a ceremony to emulate the way Jesus washed the feet of his 12 apostles at the Last Supper, just before he was tried and crucified.

But previous popes have washed the feet of priests in Rome's grand, golden St. John Lateran Basilica. Pope Francis went to a penitentiary to wash the feet of prisoners.

With less silk, lace and gold than many of his predecessors displayed, Pope Francis on Tuesday was inaugurated at a Holy Mass in St. Peter's Square during which he appealed to world leaders to be protectors of the poor and the environment, NPR's Sylvia Poggioli tells our Newscast Desk.


The eyes of much of the world were on the Vatican this afternoon for the announcement that a new pope had been elected.

Pope Francis of Argentina is the first pope from the Americas. Here in Austin, Bishop Joe Vasquez says that origin suggests someone with a perspective popes of the past have not had.

The world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics have a new spiritual leader, and for the first time it is someone from the Americas.

As afternoon turned to evening in Vatican City on Wednesday, a little after 7 p.m. local time, white smoke rose from a chimney above the Sistine Chapel and bells rang through St. Peter's Square — the traditional signals that the church's cardinals have chosen a new pope.

Update at 6:41 a.m. ET. The Smoke Is Black:

Smoke just started pouring from a special chimney above the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City — and its dark color means the 115 cardinals meeting inside the chapel have not yet agreed on a successor to Pope Benedict XVI.

If all has gone as planned inside the chapel, where the cardinals are meeting in secret, they have now cast three ballots and no one name has been written on at last two-thirds of the slips of paper. It takes two-thirds — 77 votes — to become leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

Roman Catholic cardinals are in "no rush" to set the date for the start of their conclave that will choose the next pope, a Vatican spokesman told reporters Tuesday.

As they begin the process that will lead to selection of the next pope, the Roman Catholic Church's cardinals must first decide just when to officially start deciding, NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reminds us from Rome this morning.