Former Procter & Gamble director turns oral history on spirituality into new book

While traveling the globe as a marketing director for Procter & Gamble, Daniel Epstein interviewed and photographed 500 people across 27 countries documenting the power of faith and spirituality. His 18-year exploration is the world’s most extensive oral history project about faith conducted by an individual.

Epstein founded the nonprofit Portraits in Faith Foundation and has now compiled over a hundred of his inspirational portraits into a book, “Portraits in Faith,” which will be released at a launch event here in Cincinnati on Dec. 4.

“Portraits in Faith” documents the role of spiritual experience inside and outside of formal religion, expected and unexpected, told in people’s own words. The multi-media project has been praised by documentarian Ken Burns, television personality Dr. Oz, and many Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders.

“I was–we were (as several folks in the office crowded ’round)–completely blown away. By its power and dignity, its implicit compassion and yet unblinking eye. What a wonderful project and I only wish I hadn’t been on the road for the last three and a half months because I would have been able to see this amazing project sooner.”

Ken Burns, Emmy Award winning documentary producer/director

Motivated by his own search to fill the “God-sized hole” in his life, Epstein set out on a journey. He felt if he did not develop some type of spiritual faith, he would die. This led him to interview people of all backgrounds and from all walks of life representing over 50 religions, denominations, and spiritual followings.

The book features raw, personal stories of spiritual healing. Each account is a new perspective: Steve, a gay man in Cincinnati with chemical and sex addictions, finds hope in the simple sign of peace Catholics give to each other at the end of Mass. Anna, the mother of post-modern dance, reveals how dance and movement are deeply authentic forms of spirituality. Danny, an Israeli injured by a terror attack, believes that we must thank God even for bad things and work out what they mean in our lives. Alakananda is a mystic who lives “beyond religion where all traditions shine” in the realm of universal light. Every story is unique, but they are all threaded together by the power of faith.

The overall message is that faith, it can be a powerful healer, transformer and changer of lives. However one calls God, Epstein believes there is a greater force that connects us all and each person can find a path that leads to a faith that works for them.

The book also contains 125 black-and-white portraits with the intent to evoke each subject’s true spirit. Quotes from the portrait subjects and reflections by Epstein complement each photo.

Daniel Epstein

Epstein is a marketing and innovation consultant based here in Cincinnati, and a former Harley Procter Marketing Director for Procter & Gamble, the highest distinction and title given to P&G marketers (only 20 in company history). Outside of work, he is dedicated to building bridges across cultures and faith. In 1994, Epstein co-founded and then co-led the Cincinnati African American-Jewish community dialogue. Following the race riots in Cincinnati in 2001, he co-led “Open the Space, Cincinnati!” a unique large group race relations dialogue program.

The book launch will take place Dec. 4, 6 p.m., at the Summit Hotel with performances by Neshama Carlebach, a “Portraits of Faith” subject and an award-winning singer, songwriter and activist. The launch is in an official event of the Jewish Cincinnati Bicentennial.

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