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Rocks of Faith

Family Is Marketing Jewelry Encasing Stones From Nativity Cave Area

October 12, 1996|JOHN DART | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Although Slotkin is Jewish and attended synagogue when he was younger, Keith said, his archeological and spiritual interests cross religious lines. About 25 years ago, for instance, he created a small meditation chapel in a Hollywood apartment complex he owned and publicized it as an experiment to be emulated.

He also embraced health causes--from seeking herbal cures for paralysis and helping the disabled walk again to financing plastic surgery for patients with severe deformities. "He was a frustrated doctor," Keith said.

Keith said that the crosses sold on television, such as one advertised for $59.95, are cherished for their beauty as well as for what they contain.

"Some churches have ordered rosaries that we make," she said in an interview at her Beverly Hills estate. Keith and her husband, Harold, raise thoroughbred racehorses, and she is an active supporter of art and music causes in Los Angeles.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday October 16, 1996 Valley Edition Metro Part B Page 3 Zones Desk 1 inches; 29 words Type of Material: Correction
Stones--A story Saturday on the sale of jewelry containing stones taken from the area where Christian tradition holds that Jesus was born misrepresented the religion of Jeff Lowden. He is Roman Catholic.

Keith said they are donating some proceeds to charities and making that a stipulation to their overseas distributors.

Father Bandak of Bethlehem said Keith gave Elias Freij, the mayor of Bethlehem, a $20,000 check last year to help the people of that city. She also gave $5,000 to the national Orthodox Charitable Society in Bethlehem, he said.

She said she did not know how much profit the sales have brought in. "We are not making a fortune out of this, but we are doing fine," Keith said, adding that they need to advertise in magazines such as Biblical Archaeology Review and buy more costly television time.

The 28-minute infomercial was shot two years ago when Slotkin was feeling well enough to tell parts of his story.

To lend a scholarly touch, the video makers contacted Ernst Fred Tonsing, a professor specializing in the New Testament and Greek at Cal Lutheran University.

"They worked on me for hours to get me to say, 'This is the birthplace,' " Tonsing said. "But I kept saying things like 'Well, traditionally this is the place' or 'This has been hallowed by centuries of Christian pilgrimage.' "

Testimonials from unidentified buyers of the jewelry describe the stones as helpful to their faith and reminders of Jesus' life.

The infomercial testimonials do not include examples from letters to Keith that attribute miraculous or supernatural incidents to the nativity stones. But "some people say they feel great warmth from the stones," Keith said.

Tonsing said in an interview that he would feel uneasy if the jewelry were used as talismans, or magical amulets. But "as a witness to faith or as a reminder, I think it's legitimate," Tonsing said.

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