Author Archive

May 2020

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Due to the Corona Virus Pandemic the WISDOM Membership Dinner on May 27th has been cancelled. It is now a zoom installation for the WISDOM officers and board.

WISDOM elects new officers and board

WISDOM has elected officers and board members for 2020-21. They will be installed at WISDOM’s annual meeting, which will be conducted via ZOOM starting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 27.
These women were nominated for two-year terms as officers:
President: Teri Weingarden, Jewish, of West Bloomfield
Vice Presidents, Board Development: Paula Drewk, Baha’i, of Warren, and Patricia Harris, Roman Catholic, of Bloomfield Hills
Vice Presidents, Membership: Bobbie Lewis, Jewish, of Detroit, and Shama Mehta, Hindu, of Livonia
Vice Presidents, Programming: Sameena Basha, Muslim, of Bloomfield Hills and Ayesha Khan, Muslim, of Bloomfield Hills
Vice Presidents, Public Relations/Marketing: Karin Dains, LDS, of Lathrup Village and Gail Katz, Jewish, of Bloomfield Hills

New members nominated to the board are:

  • Rev. Stancy Adams of Bloomfield Hills, Baptist, associate pastor at Russell Street Missionary Baptist Church and chair of the Interfaith Leadership Council.
  • Mary Gilhuly of Oak Park, Roman Catholic, an artist and designer and co-founder of Song & Spirit Institute for Peace
  • Suzanne Levin of Pleasant Ridge; Jewish, a retired physician assistant
  • Reem Saleh of Dearborn, Muslim, a hospice social worker
  • Rev. Diane Van Marter of Detroit, United Methodist, pastor of Faith Macomb United Methodist Church

General board members continuing their two-year terms are the Rev. Dr. Rose Cooper, Unity, of Lathrup Village; Uzma Sharaf, Muslim, of Bloomfield Hills, and the Rev. Carolyn Simon. Unity, of Southfield.
WISDOM’s Advisory Board includes Parwin Anwar, Muslim, of Sterling Heights; Sharon Buttry, Baptist, of Hamtramck; Peggy Dahlberg, Episcopalian, of Bloomfield Hills; Fran Hildebrandt, Jewish, of Farmington Hills; Delores Lyons, Buddhist, of Detroit; Brenda Rosenberg, Jewish, of Bloomfield Hills; Gigi Salka, Muslim, of Bloomfield Hills and Maryann Schlie, Unity, of Beverly Hills.

General members of WISDOM are welcome; annual dues are $25 and may be paid via the WISDOM website, www.interfaithwisdom.org. General members are invited to join any of WISDOM’s standing committees: Board Development, Finance, Membership, Program and Public Relations.

WISDOM wishes everyone to remain safe and healthy at this very difficult and scary time!!

April 2020

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events 
 
The April 18-24th “Arts and Faith” show at the Robert Kidd Gallery has been cancelled due to the Coronavirus epidemic. Stay tuned for a rescheduling down the road.
May 27th WISDOM General Membership meeting and Installation dinner
See Flyer Below

WISDOM announces slate of officers and
board members for 2020-2021
WISDOM will elect its incoming board at its annual meeting, scheduled for May 27. If the meeting is cancelled because of the ongoing health crisis, the election will be held via email.
All WISDOM members in good standing (those who have paid their 2020 dues) are eligible to vote. The slate is listed below.
Nominated for two-year terms as officers are the following:
President: Teri Weingarden
Vice Presidents, Board Development: Paula Drewek and Patricia Harris
Vice Presidents, Membership: Bobbie Lewis and Shama Mehta
Vice Presidents, Programming: Sameena Basha and Ayesha Khan
Vice Presidents, Public Relations/Marketing: Karin Dains and Gail Katz
We will not have a designated treasurer this year; Teri Weingarden and Trish Harris will take care of the necessary tasks.
We will also not have a designated secretary this year; all board members will rotate in fulfilling the secretary’s role.
General board members continuing their service are the Rev. Dr. Rose Cooper, Uzma Sharaf and the Rev. Carolyn Simon.
New members nominated to the board are:
  • Rev. Stancy Adams of Bloomfield Hills, Baptist, associate pastor at Russell Street Missionary Baptist Church and chair of the Interfaith Leadership Council.
  • Mary Gilhouly of Oak Park, Roman Catholic, an artist and designer and co-founder of Song & Spirit Institute for Peace
  • Suzanne Levin of Pleasant Ridge; Jewish, a retired physician assistant
  • Reem Saleh of Dearborn, Muslim, a hospice social worker
  • Rev. Diane Van Marter of Detroit, United Methodist, pastor of Faith Macomb United Methodist Church
Members who have questions about the slate or the election should contact Bobbie Lewis, WISDOM’s current president, at blewis14140@gmail.com.

PRAYERS AND POEMS FOR THE PANDEMIC FROM DIFFERENT FAITHS

Dear Friends:
Who could have ever imagined that we’d be all going through such an experience like this pandemic? It seems that every life is impacted in one way or another. May our eyes, ears and hearts be opened in new ways to be a supportive community of hope and love.
Here is a prayer a friend recently sent that may encourage us to keep a larger perspective during this time.
And may this find you safe and healthy.
Prayer for the Pandemic
May those who are merely inconvenienced
        remember others whose lives are at stake.
May some who have no risk factors
        remember those who are vulnerable.
May people who have the luxury of working from home
        remember those who must choose between
             preserving their health or paying the rent.
May some who have the flexibility to care for their children when the schools close
          remember others who have no options.
May some who have to cancel trips
          remember others who have no safe place to go.
May those who are losing their margin money
          in the tumult of the economic market
           remember the many who have no margin at all.
May some who settle in for a quarantine at home
           remember all those who have no home.
As fear grips our country,
           let us choose love.
During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other
           let us find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbors.
Amen
 
Adapted from a prayer sent on Facebook by Michael Anthony Smith
Kate Thoresen, Coordinator, Faith Communities Coalition on Foster Care
1669 West Maple Road
Birmingham, MI 48009; 248.835.8151

“Pandemic” by Lynn Ungar
What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath –
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel
Cease from buying and selling
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those whom you commit your life.
Center down.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love —
for better of for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live
Shabbat Shalom

Brother Richard Hendrick, a Capuchin Franciscan Friar living in Ireland, has penned a touching poem about coronavirus. Brother Richard shared his poem “Lockdown” in a Facebook post on Friday, March 13th. His original post received more than 19k positive reactions and was shared more than 34k times.
LOCKDOWN
Yes, there is fear.
Yes, there is isolation.
Yes, there is panic buying.
Yes, there is sickness.
Yes, there is even death.
But, they say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise,
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet,
The sky is no longer thick with fumes,
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know is busy
spreading fliers with her number through the neighbourhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques, and Temples are preparing to welcome and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary.
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting.
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way.
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality.
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To love.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
but there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be a disease of the soul.
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of you panic.
The birds are singing again.
The sky is clearing, Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able to touch across the empty square,
SING!

God is our Refuge
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.
The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.
(from Psalm 46)
Peace, Sharon Buttry

“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and grew gardens full of fresh food, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.
“And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.
“And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.”
~Kitty O’Meara

STOP: An Imagined Letter from Covid-19 to Humans
Kristin Flyntz wrote the following poetic letter from the Virus to us all. She is the Content Editorial Director for Ascensus. —
 Stop. Just stop.
It is no longer a request. It is a mandate.
We will help you.
We will bring the supersonic, high speed merry-go-round to a halt
We will stop
the planes
the trains
the schools
the malls
the meetings
the frenetic, furied rush of illusions and “obligations” that keep you from hearing our
single and shared beating heart,
the way we breathe together, in unison.
Our obligation is to each other,
As it has always been, even if, even though, you have forgotten.
We will interrupt this broadcast, the endless cacophonous broadcast of divisions and distractions,
to bring you this long-breaking news:
We are not well.
None of us; all of us are suffering.
Last year, the firestorms that scorched the lungs of the earth
did not give you pause.
Nor the typhoons in Africa,China, Japan.
Nor the fevered climates in Japan and India.
You have not been listening.
It is hard to listen when you are so busy all the time, hustling to uphold the comforts and conveniences that scaffold your lives.
But the foundation is giving way,
buckling under the weight of your needs and desires.
We will help you.
We will bring the firestorms to your body
We will bring the fever to your body
We will bring the burning, searing, and flooding to your lungs
that you might hear:
We are not well.
Despite what you might think or feel, we are not the enemy.
We are Messenger. We are Ally. We are a balancing force.
We are asking you:
To stop, to be still, to listen;
To move beyond your individual concerns and consider the concerns of all;
To be with your ignorance, to find your humility, to relinquish your thinking minds and travel deep into the mind of the heart;
To look up into the sky, streaked with fewer planes, and see it, to notice its condition: clear, smoky, smoggy, rainy? How much do you need it to be healthy so that you may also be healthy?
To look at a tree, and see it, to notice its condition: how does its health contribute to the health of the sky, to the air you need to be healthy?
To visit a river, and see it, to notice its condition: clear, clean, murky, polluted? How much do you need it to be healthy so that you may also be healthy?
How does its health contribute to the health of the tree, who contributes to the health of the sky, so that you may also be healthy?
Many are afraid now.
Do not demonize your fear, and also, do not let it rule you.
Instead, let it speak to you-in your stillness,
listen for its wisdom.
What might it be telling you about what is at work, at issue, at risk,
beyond the threats of personal inconvenience and illness?
As the health of a tree, a river, the sky tells you about quality of your own health,
what might the quality of your health tell you about the health of the rivers, the trees, the sky,
and all of us who share this planet with you?
Stop.
Notice if you are resisting.
Notice what you are resisting.
Ask why.
Stop. Just stop..
Be still.
Listen.
Ask us what we might teach you about illness and healing, about what might be required so that all may be well.
We will help you, if you listen.
     —— Kristin Flyntz

Prayer by Cameron Bellam, who describes herself as a “Writer of Prayers.” In an article by Tom Roberts in the National Catholic Reporter.
May we who are merely inconvenienced remember those whose lives are at stake.
May we who have no risk factors remember those most vulnerable.
May we who have the luxury of working from home remember those who must choose between preserving their health or making their rent.
May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close remember those who have no options.
May we who have to cancel our trips remember those who have no safe place to go.
May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market remember those who have no margin at all.
May we who settle in for a quarantine at home remember those who have no home.
As fear grips our country, let us choose love.
During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other, let us yet find ways to be loving embrace of God to our neighbors.

Representation or Stereotype: Women in Art at the
Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA)
As a women’s interfaith group committed to examining and dispelling stereotypes and misrepresentations of women in the world around us, we women of WISDOM were curious: –Just how are women portrayed in art at the DIA? I’m sure this is not the first time this question has been asked, but Wisdom decided it was time for a group tour which would explore how artists depict women and contrast this with women artists’ presentations. We assembled February 9, 2020 and enjoyed lunch together at the DIA café before embarking on our tour, arranged jointly between Cynthia Blackburn and myself, which included 6 DIA docents. I had previously explored the museum collections in search of likely art objects to include for the tour. That was a good thing as many of my initial choices were no longer on exhibition when I returned shortly before our event. There is no shortage of work showing women subject matter in art, but finding women artists was another challenge. With few exceptions, objects by women artists are largely from the late 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.
As a women’s interfaith group, we wanted to explore works that represented diverse religions as well as women from different ages, places and cultures. I drew upon some of my favorites from my almost 40 years teaching Humanities in college. Several of the art objects viewed on the tour are portrayed by photographs taken by tour member Trish Harris.
This supple, standing figure with child might remind you of Mary and her son, Jesus, so often depicted in Christian art.
But, it’s Kuan Yin from the Buddhist tradition of China done in ivory, c. 1800’s. Kuan Yin is a Buddhist goddess of Mercy derived from the Mahayana Buddhist tradition which saw the qualities of Enlightenment in many forms of the past and future. She represents the female form of Avalokitesvara and is commonly shown on a lotus pedestal with flowing robes and a benign countenance. Her compassion (a key Buddhist virtue) is exemplified by her cradling the child and his prayer beads. I felt that each work portraying women would be best understood by comparing it with its contrasting opposite. I chose the voluptuous figure of Parvati in bronze from the Chola dynasty in India as a good idealized female representation of Hinduism. Both she and Kuan Yin are idealized women portrayed in stylized forms. Parvati is the wife/consort of Lord Shiva, one of the Trimurti or Hindu “trinity,” and, as such, represents female power and energy as well as an idealized woman.
Our next stop was the American art galleries and a couple of marble sculptures by Edmonia Lewis entitled Minihaha and Hiawatha. Edmonia is of mixed African-American and Native-American heritage. Her works are from the late 19th century and in the Neo-Classical style.
                     
These works recall the poem, Hiawatha, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and their beautiful but tragic love. Our next photo is of Penelope by Franklin Simmonds, who, like Edmonia, worked in the Neo-Classical style. Such artists often studied abroad and became ex-pats as did Simmonds, who settled in Rome and died there in 1913. He preferred Greek subject matter so his marble statue of Penelope recalls the Odyssey of Homer and the wife of Odysseus who waited for his return from the Trojan War for 20 years.
She is seated on her throne with a robe across her lap which she faithfully wove everyday and unraveled every night to stall her suitors. “When I’ve finished this robe, I’ll decide which of you to marry.” Of course, she didn’t want any of them and was stoically awaiting the return of Odysseus. Her demure, classically styled face with its rosebud mouth and classical nose are complemented by her Grecian-style dress which we may have seen in countless movies taking place in ancient Greece or Rome. The lion forms on her chair remind us that she is indeed the queen of her realm as well as the ruler of her heart. Like Minihaha, Penelope’s form is idealized to represent her faithfulness and composure under stress.
Our tour concluded with examples of women in art in the 20th-21st centuries. Trish’s photo of Henry Moore’s Recumbent Figure, 1938, reveals the artist’s use of the Elmwood medium to take advantage of the grain as it accentuates the curvilinear form.
 Moore is a British artist who worked largely in the 20th century after abstraction had become adopted as the visual language of much 20th century art. Such abstraction, which simplifies and distorts physical reality, is intended to focus our attention on an inner reality… inspired by the Surrealists who relied on intuition. Moore’s materials may suggest many forms and qualities. He clearly establishes a rhythm of solids and voids in this piece which carry the eye around and through the figure. We also respond to the warmth of the wood used and to the organic nature of the image. Such a contrast from the cool marble of the Neoclassical works!
Alison Saar’s, Blood, Sweat and Tears, 2005, was one of the 21st century’s women artists on display. Alison was born in 1956 in Los Angeles and moved to New York City in 1983. She takes art beyond aesthetics to a spiritual, inner reality by the pendants of brown teardrops hanging from every pore.
This particular work was inspired by the death of her dad. Saar’s work combines multiple materials to give a sense of past and present: the base is made from old ceiling tiles while rusted nails are used to fasten the teardrops. The overall mottled skin treatment is due to sheets of copper covering the wooden figure and lends an especially tragic quality to the work. We witness no face so that arms and hands become the physical representation of grief. Alison is the daughter of artist, Betye Saar, famous for her work The Liberation of Aunt Jemima.
In conclusion, we certainly found both stereotypes of women as well as representations of many aspects of her, but, more often as idealized representations. Current women artists such as Alison Saar and Florine Stettheimer are working in more personal and intuitive styles not dictated by the major art movements of an era; whereas both Helen Frankenthaler and Joan Mitchell fall within the mid- to late 20th century Abstract Expressionist camp. I’m left with the idea that stereotyping and its cousins are just lazy thinking, an unwillingness to explore the true diversity of women’s talents, capacities and qualities. Whereas, studying these diverse representations in art opens and challenges our minds to think and feel beyond the obvious and pay more attention to what is behind the eye as well as in front of the eye.

Give Yourself a Great Gift!
Holiday gift money just waiting to be spent?
Searching for a good read for yourself or your book club?
Look no further, purchase “Friendship and Faith”, 2nd edition, by the Women of WISDOM.
This unique collection of stories of women forming friendships with women different than themselves is a fantastic way to start you reading for the new year!
It is available in both print and e-book formats on Amazon.
  
Our book sales are a major source of program funding for our nonprofit. Your patronage is greatly appreciated.
Help us create a better world through faith and friendship. Buy a copy for yourself, a good friend and recommend it to your book club.
Happy New Year and great reading for 2020.

Delhi Riots: How A Sikh Hero Transported Dozens Of Muslim Neighbours To Safety
Mohinder Singh took exceptional steps to ensure the safety of Muslim residents in one of the worst-hit neighbourhoods in the Delhi Riots.
NEW DELHI –   On 24 February, as the worst communal violence since the 1984 Sikh riots swept Delhi, Mohinder Singh and Inderjit Singh used a Bullet motorcycle and scooty to transport somewhere between 60 to 80 of their Muslim neighbours to a safe location. The father and son duo say they had sensed the situation was spiralling out of control in the Hindu-dominated neighbourhood of Gokalpuri in northeast Delhi, and started moving their terrified neighbors in batches to the nearest Muslim locality of Kardampuri, one kilometer away.
Mohinder Singh, 53, said that his son was on the Bullet motorcycle and he was on the scooty, and they made around 20 trips each from Gokalpuri to Kardampuri in one hour. When it was women and children, they took three to four of them at a time. When it was men and boys, they took two or three at a time. For some of the boys, they tied Sikh turbans to conceal they were Muslim.
“I did not see Hindu or Muslim,” said Singh, who runs an electronics store and is a father to two children.
“I just saw people. I saw little children. I felt like they were my children and that nothing should happen to them. We did this because we all should act humanely and help those in need. What more can I say?” he said.
Gokalpuri saw some of the worst violence in the three days of rioting, which has left almost 40 people dead. Head constable Ratan Lal died of a bullet injury that he sustained here. Muslim shops, houses and a mosque were torched and looted here. The Muslims who fled are yet to return.  The “sardars” are now famous among the Muslims of Kardampuri, where HuffPost India heard about them. Their story offers a rare heartwarming tale in a grieving city torn apart by the riots. For Singh, who was 13 years old when the horrific anti-Sikh riots swept through the city, the violence last weekend was a grisly reminder of the past. His incredible bravery offers hope that not all is lost at a time when India seems more divided than ever before. “I have lived through the hell that was 1984,” Singh said. “Those memories have been revived.”
There were very few shops open in Gokalpuri market on 27 February, five days after Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Kapil Mishra made a hate speech against people protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which is now regarded as the trigger for the violence.  Singh had opened his electronic store for the first time since the riots on 27 February.
Smiling at this reporter’s repeated queries about what motivated him and his son to make so many trips to save his neighbors, Singh said, “You have to understand that this is the belief and culture of our community. You may have heard the expression: nanak naam chardi kala, tere bahne sarbat da bhala. Sarbat da bhala means that we want everyone to prosper. We did this to honour humanity and our 10 gurus whose central message is that we should act for everyone to prosper.”

I just saw people. I saw little children. I felt like they were my children and that nothing should happen to them.

What happened
It was around five in the evening on 24 February when tensions spiked in Gokalpuri, Singh said, giving a blow-by-blow account of what happened in his neighborhood that evening. It started with people chanting Jai Shri Ram, and raising slogans in praise of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and calling for “traitors” to be shot, said Singh. Their numbers swelled quickly. The Muslims of Gokalpuri panicked and gathered at their local mosque – the Jamia Arabia Madinatul Uloom mosque – that would be set on fire and looted later that night. After the meeting, the Muslims decided they would leave immediately. Singh said he offered them protection and asked them to consider staying back, but they told him the people who wanted to harm them were likely to be more than those willing risk their own lives to save them.  The Muslims of Gokalpuri were terrified they would not be able to make it past Hindu mob that had commandeered the main road outside the locality. That is when Singh and his son stepped in, offering to ferry 60 to 80 of them to the closest Muslim locality.  Given how quickly the situation was worsening, father and son decided there was no time to get their car from the parking lot. They would have to make do with their motorcycle and scooty.
“We don’t think we did anyone a favour,” said Singh. “We didn’t do it for praise or for thanks. We did it because it was the right thing to do.”

We did this to honour humanity and our 10 gurus whose central message is that we should act for everyone to prosper.

Something human’: Mideast fight against virus elicits rare unity
The Christian Science Monitor
For years, cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians has been in retreat, as peace negotiations became a remote prospect, governments focused on mutual demonization, and President Donald Trump cut support for the Palestinian Authority. The coronavirus pandemic, however, has forced the sides to put recriminations on hold and instead work together to save lives. Palestinian health care professionals have received training in Israeli hospitals, Israeli labs have analyzed Palestinian COVID-19 diagnostic tests, and doctors on both sides are sharing data. Despite decades of arguing over where to draw a border, the spread of COVID-19 has highlighted how Israel and the Palestinian areas in the West Bank are in fact one unit in the battle to preserve public health. Handling the challenge requires the sides to collaborate and resist the tendency to focus first on the political.
“In the end, this isn’t something related to politics. This is something human, for the benefit of everyone,” says Mariana Alarja, chief manager of the Angel Hotel in Beit Jala, next to Bethlehem, where dozens of Palestinian coronavirus patients – including herself – are staying in quarantine.
As of Tuesday, 29 Palestinians in the West Bank have been diagnosed with the virus. An emergency was declared there last week. COVID-19 tests from Palestinians were sent to laboratories at Israel’s Sheba Hospital outside Tel Aviv for analysis because the facilities don’t exist in the West Bank. After years of Israeli military closures imposed on Bethlehem, the Palestinian Authority (PA) is enforcing its own closure to prevent the virus from spreading to other cities in the West Bank.
“A doctor should help everyone, regardless of race or nationality – whether the patient speaks English or Arabic,” says Ms. Alarja. “It doesn’t matter if you are an Israeli or a Palestinian, we all have to work on this very quickly.”
While any sign of normalization of ties with Israel carries a stigma among Palestinians, Zaher Nazzal, an epidemiologist at An-Najah University in the West Bank city of Nablus, says the cooperation makes sense. “This is normal. Whenever there’s a crisis that affects the people’s health, collaboration should be possible,” says Dr. Nazzal. “It doesn’t mean you put everything behind you, or that you agree with everything that’s happening.
Since the first Israeli was diagnosed with the virus nearly three weeks ago, the outbreak in Israel is showing signs of spiking: The count stood at 77 on Wednesday, after jumping 50% Monday to Tuesday.
Israel has responded by requiring all arrivals at Ben Gurion Airport to self-quarantine for 14-days, and on Wednesday banned gatherings of more than 100 participants in closed spaces. Tens of thousands are already in isolation. The country has closed its border with Egypt, and both Israel and Jordan have restricted traffic on their border. The Israeli and Palestinian populations, however, are far more intertwined. Yet, save for the coordination between Israeli and Palestinian security forces, cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority has all but completely eroded over the past five or so years. The collaboration on the coronavirus includes the health ministries of both governments along with the Israeli military liaison. Israel in recent days delivered 250 virus test kits to the West Bank and held training sessions for Palestinian medical workers on how to protect themselves. Israel’s Civil Administration, the military-run authority in Palestinian areas of the West Bank, promised to supply medical equipment and training as needed.
“Viruses and epidemics don’t stop at the border, and the spread of a dangerous virus in Judea and Samaria could endanger the health of Israeli citizens,” Dr. Dalia Basa, health coordinator for the military administration, said in a statement, using the biblical terms for the West Bank. Helping the PA fight the virus “is both in the interest of Israel and of the highest humanitarian significance.”
In practice, a border between Israel and the Palestinian territories barely exists. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian laborers from the West Bank commute daily to jobs in Israel. Palestinian residents of Jerusalem also cross Israeli checkpoints into the West Bank. Because Israel and the Palestinian areas are effectively one territorial unit, the discrepancy between the two public health systems figures as a major challenge to containing the outbreak, say experts.
“Israel has the stronger economy and the stronger health system. It has not only a moral obligation but a self-interest to help all its neighbors. Given the seriousness of the crisis, there’s an urgent need for much greater cooperation,” says Gidon Bromberg, Israeli director of EcoPeace Middle East.
“Should the PA, Jordan, or Egypt request emergency hospital facilities to be set up,” he says, “Israel should be ready to respond like it responds to earthquakes in other parts of the world.”
Public health threats have spurred cooperation among rivals on other maladies. A year ago, the “vaccine diplomacy” of international organizations prompted Afghanistan and Pakistan to introduce all-age polio vaccinations to travelers at their joint border to combat that virus in the violence-wracked region. And Cold War era vaccine diplomacy between the U.S. and the Soviet Union helped eradicate polio and smallpox in much of the world. Israelis and the Palestinians have cooperated on health before. Some 15 years ago, the Israeli, Palestinian, and Jordanian governments established an organization to promote joint public health initiatives – the Middle East Consortium on Infectious Disease Surveillance. The organization sponsored joint epidemiological training for doctors and nurses and promoted research collaboration and a regional network of public health professionals.
Those professional connections still exist, but Israeli-Palestinian government cooperation became nearly nonexistent as political ties eroded, says Nadav Davidovitch, director of the School of Public Health at Ben Gurion University and one of the founding members of the consortium. “On both sides, people on the ground really want to collaborate in spite of the political situation,” says Dr. Davidovitch. “It’s part of a shared goal of public health.”
That goal was made more difficult to achieve after the Trump administration cut funding for joint Israeli-Palestinian research projects under a program that promotes Israeli collaboration with its Arab neighbors.
Ikram Salah, a Bethlehem resident who did doctoral studies under Dr. Davidovitch, had a joint epidemiological research project cut off by USAID under the Trump administration. She acknowledges that the public health infrastructure in the Palestinian territories is limited, but says it’s due to Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank.
“I’m always saying that disease knows no borders,” she says. “As a Palestinian, it’s hard to say, but we are not independent. We are dependent on Israel in all sectors.”
Despite the collaboration in the West Bank, however, there is serious uncertainty about what would happen should the pandemic spread to the Gaza Strip, where some 2 million Palestinians live under military blockade in cramped conditions with woefully inadequate infrastructure. Israel has no direct relations with Hamas, the Islamic military group that rules Gaza.
Though there is a hard border between Israel and Gaza, there’s still traffic back and forth. Military officials reportedly consider an outbreak there a nightmare scenario that will have humanitarian and geopolitical fallout for Israel, as much of the world still holds it responsible for the situation there despite its 2005 military withdrawal.
“Gaza is not sterile. It will enter Gaza at some point. It has to,” says an Israeli health official who asked not to be named. “It’s one of the most densely populated places in the world. It will burn through Gaza very quickly, I’m afraid.”
In such a scenario, the World Health Organization would have to intervene to help coordinate efforts between Israel, Hamas, and the Palestinian Authority. For the time being, however, Israel and the Palestinians are focusing on handling the West Bank.
“This is being done because we don’t have another choice. We have to work together,” says Dr. Itamar Grotto, associate director-general of Israel’s Health Ministry. “If you are looking for a positive effect of this event, you could point to this.”

March 2020

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

WISDOM WINDOW
MARCH 2020

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events 
Sunday, March 1st, 4:00 – 6:00 PM
21st Annual World Sabbath Celebration
North Congregational Church in Farmington Hills
See Flyer Below
Coming to America: A Women’s Perspective
A Panel Discussion on Immigration
Sunday March 8th 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM
Bloomfield Township Library
See Flyer Below
Sunday, March 8th 5:00 Muslim Unity Center
Audacity of Spirit
See Flyer Below
Saturday, April 18th through Friday, April 24th
Art and Faith at the Robert Kidd Gallery
See Flyer Below
Sunday, April 19th 3:00 – 5:00 PM
Interfaith Panel Discussion about Art and Faith
Robert Kidd Gallery 107 Townsend St., Birmingham Mi 48009
See Flyer Below
May 27th WISDOM General Membership meeting
and Installation dinner
Stay tuned for more information

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha: Hosted by the West Bloomfield Library and co-sponsored by the Chaldean Cultural Center, this is an evening with Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha on  Thursday, April 23 at 7 pm.  Due to popular demand, a ticket will be required for this event. Tickets are free but limited and will be available on a first come, first served basis. Register for tickets by phone or at any Library Information Desk. Limit two (2) tickets per cardholder. Contact the Adult Information Desk at (248) 232-2290 with questions and to register.
A short documentary about four women poets: The West Bloomfield library is holding an event on Thursday, June 18 at 7 pm to screen a short documentary about four women poets – Dunya Mikhail, Weam Namou, Alise Alousi and Lamise Al Ethari. There will be a poetry reading afterward and Q&A.

Give Yourself a Great Gift!
Holiday gift money just waiting to be spent?
Searching for a good read for yourself or your book club?
Look no further, purchase “Friendship and Faith”, 2nd edition, by the Women of WISDOM.
This unique collection of stories of women forming friendships with women different than themselves is a fantastic way to start you reading for the new year!
It is available in both print and e-book formats on Amazon.
  
Our book sales are a major source of program funding for our nonprofit. Your patronage is greatly appreciated.
Help us create a better world through faith and friendship. Buy a copy for yourself, a good friend and recommend it to your book club.
Happy New Year and great reading for 2020.

Hundreds of Jews pay solidarity visit to Jerusalem mosque hit by arson attack

Roughly 200 Jews paid a solidarity visit to a mosque in the Sharafat neighborhood of East Jerusalem on Saturday evening, a day after the Muslim house of worship was torched in an apparent hate crime.
Fire services were dispatched to the East Jerusalem mosque on Friday morning and managed to put out the blaze before serious damage could be caused.

Police announced that they had opened an investigation into the attack and distributed photos from the scene, showing that the vandals had spray-painted in Hebrew “Destroy [the property of] Jews? Kumi Ori destroys [the property of] enemies!” before fleeing.
Kumi Ori is a flashpoint outpost neighborhood of the Yitzhar settlement in the northern West Bank where security forces razed a pair of illegally built homes earlier this month.

The Saturday visit was organized by the Tag Meir organization, which works to counter hate and racism in Israel and the West Bank. Recalling the inter-faith meeting, the group’s chairman Gadi Gvaryahu said: “We expressed our shame and anger at the appalling crime, jointly wished for days of peace and brotherhood and promised to keep in touch with the residents of the neighborhood.”
“They shared with us that despite their anger, they declared during their Friday prayers that it is imperative to respect everyone – Jews and Arabs alike,” Gvaryahu said.
Ismail Awad, a Mukhtar or community leader in Sharafat, who was present during the Saturday solidarity visit said he was overwhelmed by the gesture.
“It’s good that this horrible event happened because it led us to meeting all of these generous people,” Awad told The Times of Israel, adding that the Jewish visitors also donated more than enough money to repair the damage caused by the arson attack.
In a Friday statement, Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion said he “strongly condemns the hate crime committed in the [Sharafat] neighborhood. Such things are unacceptable and not tolerated.”
Anti-Arab vandalism by Jewish extremists has become a common occurrence in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
Incidents of vandalism against Palestinians and Israeli security forces in the West Bank are commonly referred to as “price tag” attacks, with perpetrators claiming they are retaliation for Palestinian violence or government policies seen as hostile to the settler movement.
Arrests of perpetrators have been exceedingly rare and rights groups lament that convictions are even more unusual, with the majority of charges in such cases being dropped. Last week, however, state prosecutors did indict one perpetrator of such a crime and requested that the suspect remain behind bars until the end of proceedings against him.

First female and openly lesbian bishop of the 
Episcopal Diocese of Michigan ordained
Dr. Bonnie Perry receives a hug from Rev. Dan Scheid, of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Flint, before the ceremony where she will be ordained as the 11th Episcopal Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan on February 8, 2020 at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center in Dearborn, Mich. Perry will become the first woman bishop as well as the first lesbian bishop in the diocese since it was formed in 1836. (Photo: Kimberly P. Mitchell, Detroit Free Press)
Bonnie Perry still remembers sitting out on the ocean on a boogie board and watching the sun set over the Pacific Ocean while she lived in Hawaii growing up. The image of that sunset and the golden light over the water is one she has always carried with her.  That image decorated Perry’s body Saturday morning. Bright teals and gold captured the scene Perry still remembers on her cope, the vestment worn by priests in celebration. She wore the water scene in front of a crowd of more than 1,000 as she was officially ordained and consecrated as the 11th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center in Dearborn.
“The ocean for me is a great metaphor for God, because it is necessary for life, it is playful, compelling. And you can’t control it,” Perry said. “You don’t know when it’s coming and when it’s going, you can try to predict but there’s no way of controlling it, it’s enormous and it’s also scary. I think God is like that in all of its ways, both comforting and caring.”
Perry is the first female and openly lesbian priest to be elected as bishop in the 184-year history of the diocese. She was elected as the next bishop  on June 1. She was voted in with 64 clergy votes and 118 laypeople. To be elected, Perry needed a minimum of 55 clergy votes and 94 lay votes. She succeeds current Bishop Rt. Rev. Wendell Gibbs Jr., who has held the role since 2000 and was the first African American pastor to fill the role.  Rt. Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, the 11th bishop of Indianapolis, reminded the audience of the importance of sound leadership that cares about equality and love for all people, regardless of creed, during her sermon Saturday.
“I don’t have to remind you of what is at stake, our country is being held hostage by fears based on the lies of white supremacy, transphobia, misogyny and a callous disregard for the generations we pray will come after us,” Burrows said.
Perry’s history of community organizing and passion for social justice was also highlighted during the ceremony.
“There’s an urgency to this moment, and knowing how to organize and mobilize for the sake of the gospel is a matter of life and death for vulnerable children, for immigrants and refugees,” Burrows said. “Your new bishop is the real deal, she knows that the world wants us to be afraid, afraid of stretching out beyond our comfort zone, but like Peter, we’ve got to try.”
Perry was also presented with her Episcopal ring, which is given to a newly ordained bishop at the ordination service. The custom ring captures Perry’s love for the Great Lakes, with each lake elevated on the side of the ring and surrounded by sapphires of different shades of blue to represent the different colors in the lakes.
On the underside of the ring is the logo of All Saints Chicago, where Perry got her start and served for 27 years. The Celtic knot on the bottom of the band is representative of her Irish roots and Scottish connections.

Air Force updates its dress code policy to include turbans, beards and hijabs
By Harmeet Kaur, CNN

The US Air Force has updated its dress code policy to outline a clear approval process for Sikhs and Muslims who want to serve while wearing their articles of faith. Under the new guidelines, which were finalized last week, Sikhs and Muslims can seek a religious accommodation to wear turbans, beards, unshorn hair and hijabs, and expect to be approved as long as their appearance is “neat and conservative,” except under extremely limited circumstances. The final review for the accommodation must take place within 30 days for cases in the United States, and 60 days for all other cases, according to the guidelines. And for the most part, airmen can expect the religious accommodation to follow them through their career. Previously, Sikhs and Muslims serving in the Air Force individually requested religious accommodations that were granted on a case-by-case basis, but the approval process could be lengthy. This update standardizes that process and outlines a formal timeline for approval.
Advocacy organizations say more needs to be done. Sikh and Muslim advocacy organizations said the move was a significant step toward inclusion, though some said that the military needs to go further.
“We support these new guidelines as a step toward religious accommodation and inclusion for military personnel of all faiths,” Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for the Council of American-Islamic Relations, said in a statement.
Both the Sikh Coalition and the Sikh American Veterans Alliance (SAVA) have called on the US military to allow religious minorities to serve without exception.
“Sikhs have served honorably and capably in the U.S. Armed Forces and other militaries around the world, and while we are eager for a blanket proclamation that all observant Sikh Americans can serve in every branch of the military without seeking accommodations, this policy clarification is a great step forward towards ensuring equality of opportunity and religious freedom in the Air Force,” Giselle Klapper, a staff attorney for the Sikh Coalition, said in a statement.
SAVA President Kamal Singh Kalsi said that the Department of Defense should institute a broader policy that applies across all branches of the military, following the example set by the US Army in 2017.
“The Department of Defense should have a consistent and department wide policy on religious accommodation,” Kalsi said in a news release. “Those who are committed and qualified to serve our country in uniform should be able to do so in a more streamlined and efficient manner.”
A handful of Sikhs and Muslims have received accommodations to serve in the Air Force while wearing their articles of faith.
On Wednesday, the Sikh Coalition announced that Airman 1st Class Gurchetan Singh became the first Sikh American to receive an accommodation to serve in the Air National Guard.
Last June, Airman 1st Class Harpreetinder Singh Bajwa became the first active duty airman to receive religious accommodation allowing him to serve with the Sikh turban and beard — a process that took nearly six months.
Airmen 1st Class Sunjit Singh Rathour and Jaspreet Singh received religious accommodations last year.
And in 2018, Maysaa Ouza, now a captain, made history as the first officer in the Air Force’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps authorized to wear a hijab, a reflection of her Muslim faith.

INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE:
BRUSSELS, 9 February 2020, (BWNS) – At a recent European Parliament panel discussion, the Brussels office of the Baha’i International Community (BIC) led an exploration of how institutions and civil society actors can develop language that at once respects diversity and fosters shared identity. This discussion comes at a time when questions of identity and belonging occupy a central place in contemporary discourses across Europe.
The panel, attended by some 40 policymakers and civil society representatives, was hosted by Julie Ward and Samira Rafaela, two members of the European Parliament Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup (ARDI), and chaired by the BIC Brussels office. Ms. Ward expressed that she welcomed this conversation, giving an opportunity to frame these issues from a new perspective, and remarked on the power of language as a tool for either fostering cohesion or inciting division.
“We should value diversity as a unifying factor,” said Ms. Rafaela, “but how do we address this through language? We need to create language that is respectful towards people rather than laying blame on others. How can a language be developed that fosters a strong sense of loyalty to all of humanity?”
In a paper prepared for the discussion and distributed to participants at the gathering, the BIC office highlighted that much of the thinking about language has been directed towards celebrating diversity and promoting peaceful coexistence. Language reflects people’s attitudes toward one another and shapes their thoughts. The BIC suggests that, while it is essential to have language that respects differences, overemphasizing this can reinforce the notions of “us and them” that must be overcome.
The panel, therefore, focused on how institutions and social actors can address the root of the issue: that although celebrating diversity and advocating co-existence represent a step forward, a shared identity is needed to chart a path towards harmonious societies.
Pascal Jossi, a representative of an agency that assists firms and institutions to create inclusive organizational cultures, spoke about how the language used to describe differences among people can lead to a sense of othering. “It’s not about finding the best category to place someone in,” he said “but building a new reality in which everybody feels welcome.”
Mr. Jossi shared his experience as someone of Cameroonian descent born in Belgium and raised in Luxemburg, who in each of these places found himself referred to in terms that separated him from the majority. “This kind of tension will remain,” he said, “until we remodel our interactions. I don’t think adding or removing specific words from our vocabulary will alone make language a catalyst for creating an inclusive society; we have to examine what attitudes and assumptions underlie the way we speak to one another so that we can begin engaging in a way that builds trust and unity.”
“We are learning to speak in ways that enable us to establish interdependent and cooperative relationships,” said Mathieu Marie-Eugenie, describing his experience facilitating workshops with youth in the Paris area that promote coexistence and cooperation through poetry and artistic expression. “In an environment of trust and kindness, we are able to tell ourselves ‘I am a person who belongs within humanity,’ or in poetic language, ‘I am a drop, and I am a part of the ocean.'”
“Beyond our individual identities,” said Rachel Bayani, representative of the BIC, in her remarks at the forum, “we need to conceive of an overarching, shared identity, one which can unite, which is based on the understanding that humanity is one and that all the peoples of the world are part of the same human family. This is essential if the splintering of humanity into opposing groups is to give way to greater degrees of unity, and if the rich manifestations of diversity are to be constructively woven into the fabric of social life.”

February 2020

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events 
Sunday, February 9th
WISDOM Visit to the DIA
1:30 PM lunch in Kresge Court Cafe
3:00 Guided Tour
4:00 – 5:00 Optional Tour on your own
Thursday, Februrary 20th 7:00 PM
Song and Spirit Unity Interfaith Music
See Flyer Below
Sunday, March 1st, 4:00 – 6:00 PM
21st Annual World Sabbath Celebration
North Congregational Church in Farmington Hills
See Flyer Below
Coming to America: A Women’s Perspective
A Panel Discussion on Immigration
Sunday March 8th 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM
Bloomfield Township Library
See Flyer Below
Sunday, March 8th 5:00 Muslim Unity Center
Audacity of Spirit
See Flyer Below
May 27th WISDOM General Membership meeting and Installation dinner
Stay tuned for more information

SAVE THE DATE
MAY 27, 2020
WISDOM’s GENERAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING AND INSTALLATION DINNER
Look for Details in the March WISDOM WINDOW
Dinner Registration Beginning April 1

Give Yourself a Great Gift!
Holiday gift money just waiting to be spent?
Searching for a good read for yourself or your book club?
Look no further, purchase “Friendship and Faith”, 2nd edition, by the Women of WISDOM.
This unique collection of stories of women forming friendships with women different than themselves is a fantastic way to start you reading for the new year!
It is available in both print and e-book formats on Amazon.
  
Our book sales are a major source of program funding for our nonprofit. Your patronage is greatly appreciated.
Help us create a better world through faith and friendship. Buy a copy for yourself, a good friend and recommend it to your book club.
Happy New Year and great reading for 2020.

Peaceful coexistence only possible

 with full participation

of women
From the Baha’i World News Service
SOUSSE, Tunisia, How do we address inequalities between women and men on our path to peaceful coexistence? How can we overcome cultural barriers to achieve greater advancement of women?
“These are major questions in our country, but there is little consensus on the issues,” said Mohamed Ben Moussa, a representative of the Tunisian Baha’i community, at a discussion on the advancement of women held last week in Sousse. The gathering, organized by the country’s Baha’i community, brought together some 40 people, including religious and civil society leaders, at a “cultural café”-a new kind of forum emerging in Tunisia in which people from every stratum of society meet to exchange ideas and explore insights about the progress of their society.
“Our country has been held up as an example for the advancement of women in the Arab region,” Mr. Ben Moussa continued, “but many people feel that we have reached a plateau. The laws of our country have advanced, but it is essential for our culture to advance as well. We must examine family structures, how children are educated from an early age, and how we can foster a culture of cooperation among all people, especially between women and men, in all spheres of life.”
The question of the advancement of women has gained prominence in recent years as a new constitution and legal changes have instituted greater protections for women. Representatives of various groups-Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and the indigenous Amazigh people-contributed to the conversation, highlighting how coexistence is only possible when women are able to participate fully in the life of society.
“The oppression of women exists in all fields,” said Sahar Dely, a director of an Amazigh cultural organization. “Oppressive constraints are linked to other matters such as religious, racial, and cultural differences.”
Ms. Dely described stereotypes in society that excuse violence against women and spoke of the achievements that become possible for women when attitudes towards them change, citing stories of female leaders of the past, including Tahirih-a Baha’i heroine and champion of women’s emancipation. “Today, we have to address cultural matters before any legal changes can be realized. If nothing is changed within the collective imagination of Tunisians, the role of women in society will not be transformed.”

An Orthodox Jewish rabbi hosts Syrian refugee families at his Thanksgiving table every year
For one thing, as a vegan family, they serve Tofurky instead of the traditional turkey. But Yanklowitz also makes a point to invite guests he’s never met – and who often don’t even speak the same language.
Spurred by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s call for an “immediate halt in the placement of any new refugees in Arizona” in 2015 and an overall rise in fearful rhetoric regarding foreigners in recent years, the activist rabbi wanted to demonstrate that refugees should be welcome in the US. So he invited them to share a Thanksgiving meal with his family in Scottsdale, and has continued to do so every year.
This will be his fifth time hosting Syrian refugees for Thanksgiving. He hasn’t kept track of how many people he’s hosted over the years, but says it’s somewhere in the dozens.
“In what I have perceived as a moral crisis over the last number of years in how Americans are relating to foreigners, immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, I felt like it was time to take a more expansive approach,” Yanklowitz told Insider. “I saw a lot of demonization and dehumanization of Muslim refugees, and I wanted to be a part of the welcome team.”
According to the Arizona Refugee Resettlement Program, 1,322 Syrian refugees have arrived in Arizona since 1980, 820 of them in 2016. Yanklowitz became connected to the local Syrian community through his human rights work as a commissioner on the Phoenix Human Relations Commission and founder of the activist group Jews for Human Rights in Syria.

“At the center of my Jewish social justice commitment is that we’re not fighting for equality but for equity,” he said. “It’s not that everyone should have the same stuff, but everyone should have what they need. And the way to know what people need is to know them. I’m a big believer that relationships need to precede advocacy.”
Yanklowitz’s standing Thanksgiving invitation is part of this effort. He works with the Syrian American Council to meet newly arrived refugee families and invite them over for Thanksgiving. The guests join him, his wife Shoshana, their four biological children, and a fluctuating number of foster children in their home at any given time.
The adults enlist the help of a translator, but Yanklowitz says the children get along just fine without one.
“The way they play, they figure out how to communicate so easily, and [I] think of them as our teachers in terms of how to connect on a level beyond words,” he said.
The bonds they form last long after the last slice of pie has been eaten. According to the FBI, religion-based hate crimes rose 23% in 2017, and Yanklowitz’s work has helped Jewish and Muslim communities stand in solidarity with each other through tragedy.
“When there have been attacks on Muslims, we’ve shown up for them, and when there were attacks on synagogues last year they showed up,” he said. “That wasn’t the explicit goal, but it’s been an amazing benefit that has emerged.”

And on a happier note, Yanklowitz remembers an enthusiastic, impromptu reunion when he ran into one of the families he’d hosted in a local park. It took us all like 15 seconds to connect the dots,” he said. “And then it was this great reunion that felt like it wasn’t this one-time experience, but that we were building community and building social trust. From the outside, here was a religious Jewish family and a religious Muslim family who hardly spoke English hugging in a park like old friends. But to us, it was this simple human love of what it meant to have a really meaningful meal together and what can emerge from that.”

Cambodian Royal Family
Celebrates Its First Bat Mitzvah
Elior Koroghli, the Jewish great-grandaughter of the late Cambodian King Monivong, celebrated her Bas Mitzvah surrounded by the royal family.
The giant menorah stood proudly overlooking the pool at the plush Raffles Hotel in the bustling heart of the capital city of Cambodia, Phnom Penh. Facing the crowd of well-wishers stood the who’s who of the royal family, guests from around the world and an Israeli-born Chabad rabbi.
They were there to celebrate the belated bat mitzvah of Elior Koroghli of Las Vegas. Her father, Ray (Rahamim), is a Persian Jew, and her mother Susie (Sarah Bracha) is the Washington, D.C.-born granddaughter of HM King Monivong, who ruled Cambodia until his death in 1941.
Elior’s bat mitzvah was the first Jewish milestone ever celebrated by the Cambodian royal family, and the first time many of the royals ever tasted food from a kosher kitchen, catered by Chabad of Cambodia, which was founded by Rabbi Bentzion and Mashie Butman in 2009.
The family celebrated the actual bat mitzvah when Elior turned 12 on the fifth night of Chanukah a year ago, but the official celebration in Cambodia took place this Chanukah, closer to her 13th birthday.
Literally a party for the books, the event will be chronicled in the Royal Palace Record Book.
The celebration was the brainchild of Susie Koroghli, who wanted her children, who live a rich Jewish life in Las Vegas, to know of their royal roots.
After the bat mitzvah party, which included the lighting of a large menorah, speeches and lots of food, the family formally met the current ruler HM King Norodom Sihamoni and the queen mother, HM Norodom Monineath.
The celebration continued on Shabbat at the Chabad House. When the entourage walked to and from the synagogue, they were escorted by an honor guard.
To cater for the event, Chabad invited Chef Kobi Mizrahi, who “took over” the kitchen and guided Chabad’s staff in creating meals that were truly “fit for a king.” In addition, some of the kosher food was prepared in the hotel kitchen under Susie’s watchful eye.
No stranger to preparing meals for large crowds, she and her husband often host as many as 30 guests for a Shabbat meal and many more for Jewish holidays, including 120 that cram their giant sukkah and as many as 500 who attend the Purim party she throws every year.
“She lights up the room wherever she goes,” explains her husband with pride. “People are just drawn to her and are fascinated by her knowledge of Judaism, as well as her actions.”
Susie Koroghli’s journey to Judaism is an unlikely one. Her father served as the Cambodian ambassador to the United States, and she grew up in a Buddhist home.

She met Ray, who had left Iran to study in America

and never returned home due to the 1979 revolution.
Before Rosh Hashanah, he informed her that he would be out of touch for two days due for holiday observance and begrudgingly agreed to take her to services.
She was enthralled by what she encountered and insisted that they return for Shabbat. After experiencing the entire holiday season at Chabad in Las Vegas, she began a journey of self-discovery that resulted in conversion to Judaism.
The couple lives with their three children in Las Vegas, where they form an integral part of the Chabad of Henderson community.
Although she was a member of the royal family, raised with the formalities and expectations of a granddaughter of a king, she never visited Cambodia until 2012, when she represented her mother at the funeral of late king HM Norodom Sihanouk.
It was only then, she says, that she realized that the stories she had been raised on were real-she was truly the child of royalty.
When asked if his wife, a leader in her Jewish community, was technically a Cambodian princess, Ray deflected, saying, “I call her my queen.”

How Helene, a Jewish Holocaust survivor, became Leila, the matriarch of a Palestinian Muslim clan
UMM AL-FAHM, Israel – Leila Jabarin looked every inch the matriarch of the Muslim family that surrounded her on a recent morning, encircled by some of her 36 grandchildren in a living room rich with Arabic chatter and the scent of cardamom-
flavored coffee.
But Jabarin, her hair covered with a brown headscarf, was talking to visitors in Hebrew, not Arabic, and telling a story that not even her seven children knew until they were grown. She was born not Leila Jabarin, but Helene Berschatzky, not a Muslim but a Jew. Her history began not in this Arab community where she has made her life with the Palestinian man she fell in love with six decades ago, but in a Nazi concentration camp where her Jewish parents had to hide their newborn from the Nazis.
As world leaders – including U.S. Vice President Pence – gather in Jerusalem this week to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Jabarin was sharing a survivor’s memory unlike any other, a history of love and hate that exposes not just the power of transformation, but also the blindness of prejudice.
“First I was persecuted because I was a Jew, and now I am persecuted because I am a Muslim,” said Jabarin, who has watched the recent rise of both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia with alarm.
Jabarin took note of the massacre of 11 worshipers at a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018 and another 51 last year at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. She attributed to both killers the same motivation, a hatred of the other, and is telling her story to show that love for the other is possible as well.
“When I was in school, they taught us that Arabs had tails,” she said, looking around at her Arab husband and her Arab family, as the Muslim call to prayer sounded across the neighborhood outside. “Everyone should know what happened to the Jews because it could happen to the Arabs.”

Among those listening in her living room was Erez Kaganovitz, a Tel Aviv photographer who is crisscrossing Israel to document as many such stories and images he can from the rapidly dwindling number of living Holocaust survivors. Through histories like Jabarin’s, he hopes to keep the knowledge of those horrors from disappearing with those who endured them.

“Ten years from now, what will be the memory of the Holocaust when the last survivor is no longer with us?” asked Kaganovitz. “If well tell the human stories, not just what happened in the camps but how they lived after, they appeal to humans in the way that numbers cannot. Six million Jews killed; it’s too big.”
Kaganovitz launched his project, Humans of the Holocaust, last year in light of research showing Holocaust awareness declining among young people in many countries even as anti-Semitic violence and neo-Nazi movements are on the rise. In the United States, 66 percent of millennials had never heard of Auschwitz, according to a 2019 survey by the Claims Conference, an international survivors advocacy group, and a third of Americans cite the number of Holocaust victims at 2 million, not 6 million.
Racing against mortality, Kaganovitz has interviewed and photographed 25 survivors to date, mostly in their 90s, including a kindergarten teacher who wrote children’s books about the camps and an artist who portrays her lost family in puppets. A traveling exhibit based on the project will begin in Pittsburgh next year.
The trends that motivated Kaganovitz also prompted officials to locate this year’s World Holocaust Forum at Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial and research center, and to focus the event on confronting the ballooning incidents of hatred against Jews.
“We need a moral majority of leaders to come to Jerusalem and say that it is enough and now is the time to stand together and fight anti-Semitism,” said organizer Moshe Kantor, head of the World Holocaust Forum Foundation and the European Jewish Congress.

A sense of urgency is infusing what will be one of the largest international gatherings ever hosted by Israel. Almost 50 delegations will attend, including world leaders like Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron and Britain’s Prince Charles.

For Jabarin, it was decades before she was willing to speak of her own memories: the dark hiding, the “striped pajamas,” the scattered round objects that seemed like balls in her toddler’s recollection but now loom as skulls.
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Her welcoming neighbors knew she was Jewish when she arrived in 1960 as a new bride in this Arab city of 55,000 located in Israel, just south of Nazareth, she said. But only her husband, Mohammed, knew of her Holocaust origins. Her six sons and a daughter didn’t understand for decades why she was fascinated by the televised documentaries on the Holocaust, a subject they learned little about in their Arab schools.
“I decided to let the pain stay in my head,” she said, a serene figure on a brocade couch, eyes bright behind heavy glasses, weathered hands folded over the crook of a walking stick. “It’s still difficult. I see the scenes in my head, like a film.”

But in 2012, at a town meeting for pensioners on Israeli insurance benefits, a government staffer heard Jabarin interpreting his Hebrew for her seatmates. He asked her a few questions, was surprised to learn she was raised Jewish and, further, that she was a Holocaust survivor. Eventually, he helped her navigate the bureaucracy that saw her case investigated and registered with Israel’s survivor’s program.

And only then did she tell her children how she came to be their mother.

“It was very difficult to hear her story,” said her son Nadar. “I asked her many questions about the war and about the Holocaust.”

She was born to a Jewish Hungarian mother and Jewish Russian father in a Nazi concentration camp in either Hungary or Austria in either 1942 or 1943. (Her parents didn’t like to talk about their time in the camp, and the family’s archival file at Yad Vashem, reviewed by The Washington Post, is unclear on key points). The camp doctor her mother worked for hid her family in the cellar of his house, she said, and she was outside very little until the camp was liberated in 1945.
With thousands of others, they stayed in a transit camp in Yugoslavia until boarding a ship for Israel in 1948. “They told us it was a Jewish country,” she said.
AD
They landed in Haifa, eventually settled in Tel Aviv, and Helene, as she was known then, had become a teenager when a young construction laborer working near her house caught her eye.
“He was working hard,” she said. “I gave him a lot of water.”
Mohammed Jabarin remembers the kindness still. “She was only a girl,” he said.

When Helene told her father she wanted to marry Mohammed, he was furious. They were not religious, but he wanted her to marry a Jew.

“If you go with him, it will be like going back to Hitler,” she recalled her father saying. But she was determined, and in 1960 they wed.
“Wherever fate takes a person, that is where you have to go,” Jabarin said.
She settled easily into her new home, becoming known as Leila and adding Arabic to the Russian, Hungarian and Hebrew she already knew. She reconciled with her father and remained close to her mother. But in almost every way, she was the mother of a booming Arab family.
It was only after her children were born that she converted to Islam in 1973, but for reasons more practical than spiritual. With a Jewish mother, her sons would be considered Jewish by the government, and they would eventually be required to serve in the Israeli military.
Jabarin decided she had lived with enough war in her life.

January 2020

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events 
Sunday, February 9th
WISDOM Visit to the DIA
1:30 PM lunch in Kresge Court Cafe
3:00 Guided Tour
4:00 – 5:00 Optional Tour on your own
See Flyer Below
Sunday, March 1st, 4:00 – 6:00 PM
21st Annual World Sabbath Celebration
North Congregational Church in Farmington Hills
See Flyer Below

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A group of Sikh volunteers drove all the way from Melbourne to Braidwood, just outside Canberra, Australia after hearing of how the recent bushfires had devastated surrounding communities.
A Sikh community group has driven more than 700 kilometres through the night to deliver 350 boxes of food and water to the NSW town of Braidwood, where nearby bushfires burned out of control for more than week. The Sikh Support volunteers left Melbourne at 11pm on Friday armed with hundreds of kilograms of milk, pasta, cereal, muesli bars, water and household essentials for the fire-affected communities surrounding Braidwood.
“When we came here, to Australia, we had nothing – only like two bags with us,” Sikh Support secretary Gurjit Singh told SBS News.
“So everything we have, we have because Australia gives us a lot of things. So we spread the message that if a bad situation is happening anywhere in the country, we always stand with them.”
Sikh Support drove to Braidwood armed with 350 boxes of food for fire-affected families. After stopping for a couple hours’ rest in Albury, Mr Singh and his group arrived in Braidwood on Saturday morning, delivering the boxes of food to community centres as well as affected farmers’ houses. On their way through the town, they came across a volunteer firefighter brigade by chance, and stopped to share food and drink with them too.
Volunteer firefighter Alex Dunnin said his team was just about to stop for a dinner break when the Sikh Support volunteers spotted them.
“These folks drove all the way from Melbourne – they were that keen to help,” he told SBS News. “People are getting exhausted, they’ve still got to run their jobs, their businesses, their families – so these kinds of gestures from the community mean a lot.”
Sikh volunteers visit farms with food donations after bushfires burned out of control around Braidwood for more than a week. After spending some time with the community, Mr Singh said many were also inspired to join the ranks of their own local volunteer firefighting brigades.
“We also want to look into training with the firefighters, so the next time this happens we can help,” he said. “When we met with them, we talked with them, and they motivated us, so if we can get some training through the Country Fire Authority or other firefighter groups then maybe in a few years we can join them.”
Sikh Support is now raising money for a new water system for one of the Braidwood farmers they met in their travels.

                  How a Jewish Santa Helps Repair
 the World At Christmas

There’s a Santa Claus I know who is spreading Christmas happiness in the Louisville, Kentucky, area as the holiday season ramps up. His bushy white beard is as genuine as his affection for the people he meets. But there’s something about this Santa that might surprise the folks with whom he’s sharing his ho-ho-hos.
Art Hoffman is Jewish.
Hoffman tells me that playing Santa is one way he lives up to the beautiful Jewish principle of “tikkun olam” – repair the world – which has been an integral part of his makeup since he was young.
“Ever since the 1960s, when I came of age in all the turmoil of that decade, I was concerned about injustice and worked on social causes,” Hoffman said. “Now, some 50 years later, there is an opportunity for me to continue this good work as ‘Santa Art.’ In fact, as we witness America becoming more polarized in so many ways, I think the mission is more urgent.”
Whatever our angle on the Christmas holiday and the religion of which it is part, there is much we can take away from Art Hoffman, the Jewish Santa Claus.

All of us can find delight in Christmas

One, Christmas is a multifaceted holiday with many parts to enjoy even if we don’t identify with the “Christ” part. All are eligible to delight in Christmas tree lights, giving and receiving gifts, singing about sleigh bells and, if you’d like, consorting with Santa, who, for the record, is not a figure from the New Testament. Even more, Hoffman’s work as a Jewish Santa inspires us to push past our self-imposed boundaries. He shows that we don’t have to be part of something – a particular religion, community or culture – to appreciate what’s good about it and befriend the people who populate it. Even though he is not black, female or gay, Hoffman joined the fights for civil rights in the 1960s, women’s rights in the ’70s and gay rights in the ’80s. When it came to his AIDS activism, Hoffman tells me that “even though I did not have a ‘dog in that fight,’ as they say, it was the right thing to do.”
And for 45 years, he has been making Christmas happier for multitudes of kids and their families, undeterred by logic that might say, “Not your religion, not your holiday.”

Our strength depends on belonging. More of us need to be like Santa Art.

Identities, communities, tribes – they are a fact of life. We all belong to some. Thus has it ever been. As humans evolved over the eons, individuals’ ability to secure food, shelter and safety, to raise children and pass on our genes, hinged on our being part of groups and cooperating with our compatriots.

Muslim and Jewish youth groups
unite in Edmonton to serve homeless
Two youth groups from different religious backgrounds joined forces to help the less fortunate in Edmonton on Saturday. Young women from the Muslim group Gathering Angels and the Bat Mitzvah group from Temple Beth Ora organized a care package and lunch service for people at Boyle Street Community Services.
“I really want to teach these girls that our job in this world pretty much is to serve others,” said Nesrine Merhi-Tarrabain, the leader of the Gathering Angels. Merhi-Tarrabain said that she has been encouraging her girls to volunteer for several years but recently got a call from a local Jewish temple to suggest a collaboration. “I thought that would be a great opportunity. First of all, getting them to go out and volunteer and do something meaningful, and the other thing… would be to get to know other kids from the wider Edmonton community,” said Gila Caine, the rabbi at Temple Beth Ora. “Getting to know each other’s culture, understand where our values come together, understand the difference in our values.”
About two dozen teens participated – around a dozen from each group.
“When it comes down to helping others, we should put our differences aside, and truly just bring out our humanity in us. We should really serve others for that reason,” said Merhi-Tarrabain.
Merhi-Tarrabain said that many of the girls in the group donated some of their own money to buy supplies for care packages.
Nour Tarrabain, 16, said that the experience of volunteering with another religious group has helped give her a new perspective.
“It’s been very eye-opening,” Tarrabain said. “Two completely different groups and religions coming together and doing the perfect thing: giving back to the community and just helping one another.

Mixed families get the best of both worlds with Christmas and Hanukkah

If you’re feeling the stress and chaos that comes with the joys of the holiday season, just think of those mixed-faith families who are planning two holidays. This December, Christmas and Hanukkah – which usually arrive in proximity to each other on the calendar – will overlap for the first time in three years. In accordance with the Christian Gregorian calendar, Christmas – marked in red on many calendars – is always celebrated on Dec. 25 each year, while the eight-day celebration of Hanukkah follows the lunar calendar, beginning on the 25th day of the ninth Hebrew month, Keslev. This year, that is Dec. 22-30.
Alicia Chandler, president of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC/AJC) in Bloomfield Hills, is part of one of those mixed-faith families. Alicia is Jewish and her husband, Jeff, is Catholic.
The Birmingham couple have been celebrating both holidays for about 20 years. Both a decorated Christmas tree and menorah – a candelabra of nine candles, one representing each of the 8 days of Hanukkah and the last to help light the others – are visible from the street, shining brightly in their window.
“In our house we very much celebrate and enjoy both holidays and traditions,” she says.
While Christians celebrate Christmas as the birth of Jesus Christ, their savior, Hanukkah is a less-important celebration in the Jewish year. Also known as the Festival of Lights, it commemorates a miracle in which lamp oil in the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the first century BCE burned for eight days even though there was only enough oil for one.
What the two holidays have in common, besides their calendar

proximity, is the giving of gifts to children.
Embracing her husband’s Polish side, each year Chandler makes a trip to Hamtramck with their two kids to buy ingredients and make homemade pierogies, traditional Polish stuffed dumplings, which you can find in the frozen food sections of most grocery stores.
“We make the pierogies from scratch, then Christmas Eve we all go to church together and have a very big Polish Christmas Eve dinner, which is a great deal of fun,” she says.
During Hanukkah, the family spends at least one of the eight nights with Alicia’s parents, partaking in traditional customs: One candle of the menorah is lit during each day, and the traditional festive foods feature oil, especially latkes – fried potato pancakes, often topped with applesauce or sour cream.

Chandler’s first Christmas memory with her now-husband was as a senior in college.
“While studying for exams, my husband, who loves Christmas so much, says that it doesn’t even feel like Christmas,” she says. “I was a 21-year-old Jewish girl going out to buy Christmas lights for the first time and I surprised him by stringing his apartment with lights and putting up a mini Christmas tree.”
Combining holidays was never a challenge for the Chandler family. While it can be overwhelming and easy to get caught up in the over-commercialization of it all, they always keep the focus on what the holidays are really about. To prevent an overflow of gifts they set a few ground rules.
During Hanukkah, smaller gifts such as books or pajamas are exchanged. During Christmas, Chandler’s limit is three gifts for each of her children and one gift from Santa Claus. She chose the limit of three in remembrance of the three gifts – gold, frankincense and myrrh – that the three Magi in the book of Matthew brought to baby Jesus.

“I’m really happy that my kids are raised in an environment where they see not just their two faith traditions but other faith traditions,” she says. “It makes us all focus on what we have in common rather than focus on what might be different about our various religions.”
According to Chandler, about 30 percent of married Jews in Metro Detroit are mixed-faith relationships, and on a national scale, about 45 percent of Jews have a non-Jewish spouse.
Each year, the City of Birmingham allows local organizations to decorate Shain Park with both a Nativity scene and menorah. This year’s menorah lighting will be at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 23, with music, latkes and doughnuts.
As a gesture of friendship toward the Christian community, the JCRC/AJC is getting ready to host its 23rd annual Mitzvah Day on Christmas Day at several nonprofit organizations through Metro Detroit. More than 600 volunteers of all faiths will visiting nearly 40 locations to perform good deeds, including meal and toy delivery, visiting and working with the elderly or filling in at animal shelters.
“We volunteer on Christmas Day so it allows those Christians who volunteer to take the day off and be with their families,” Chandler says. “It’s a wonderful time for Jewish and other non-Christians to step up for their Christian neighbors and help out.”
Mitzvah Day is the largest day of volunteering by Detroit’s Jewish community. The word “mitzvah” is Hebrew for “commandment” and commonly refers to a good deed done in the spirit of charity.

Diversity in Christianity panel tackles issues that bind, divide in fractured religion
Susan Bromley, Hometownlife.com
Rev. Bethany Peerbolte, Pastor at Birmingham First Presbyterian Church
Louise Ott is ready to broach tough subjects this Christmas at the dinner table, regardless of whether she is sitting across from a relative who doesn’t share her views. She got started on the often “off-limits” topic – religion – during a “Diversity in Christianity” panel discussion at Birmingham Covington School.
“We have to agree that love and acceptance and agreeing to disagree has to be OK, and that doesn’t mean the other person is evil because they don’t believe as you believe,” Ott, a Birmingham United Church of Christ pastor, said. That attitude is one the Birmingham Covington School Diversity Committee has been embracing much of the year with a series of panel discussions meant to educate and inform, dispelling misconceptions and stereotypes about people and fostering understanding and kindness. At these panel discussions have been members of the African-American, LGBTQ, Muslim and Jewish communities. The most recent discussion was perhaps the most controversial, said Rick Joseph, a Covington teacher and member of the diversity committee.
“We had many discussions about whether or not this panel should take place at all,” Joseph said. “This of course was due to the pain, hurt, and exclusion that many people, particularly people in the LGBTQ community, have felt in their church communities over the years.”
Despite concerns over possible legitimization or even glorification of what he said has been very “unchristian treatment of people” the committee went ahead in the belief that all political and cultural viewpoints should be represented in diversity work and people must come together to find solutions to challenges faced while promoting mutual understanding. While the 12-member panel, which besides Ott included two other pastors, as well as parents, students, and Covington staff members, were all representing the predominant religion in the United States, they were from varying denominations and showed that even within a religion that shares one major belief, there are vast differences about what it means to be Christian. Joseph, himself a Catholic, was eager to learn, as was the moderator of the panel, Covington Spanish teacher Joe Leibson, who is Jewish.
“There are some who have wondered why a Christianity panel is part of the diversity series,” Leibson said during the panel’s introduction. “After all, Christians represent a large majority of the U.S. population and have power and influence in every sphere of our society. Every US president has identified as a Christian and we often hear that our founding principles are based on Judeo-Christian values. Those things are all true, but they don’t mean that there is no room for Christian voices in the context of diversity work. Diversity is for everyone.”
Leibson continued by noting that religious participation in general is “dramatically slipping.” He cited FiveThirtyEight, a statistical analysis website, saying, “Millennials are leaving religion in droves and aren’t coming back,” with people between the ages of 23-38 almost as likely to say they have no religion as to identify as Christians. Less than half of this age group subscribe to the idea that a belief in God is necessary to be moral, and millennials are much less likely than baby boomers to believe it is necessary to raise children with religion so they learn values. Panelists at the “Diversity in Christianity” forum were invited to consider and share their answers to questions about their faith and its importance in their lives to about 50 people in attendance.   Mike Elia, a Chaldean Catholic panelist, said we are “living in an age of relativism, wanting to redefine the truth in a way that suits me” and in the process “erasing the absolute truth of Jesus Christ.”
“Obviously, we are all sinners in this room,” he said. “You have to confront in a loving way when you see someone doing something that might affect their salvation…In this day and age, you need to do it in a delicate way.”
Nicole Jones, a Baptist who sat next to her son David, a Covington student, on the panel, said God is not open for interpretation.
“If God tells me something in the Bible, I would rather err on the side of what is there than to be found wrong,” she said. “It is good to consider Jesus ministered to all kinds of people, no matter their walk of life.”
While she said “all sin is sin,” God is the one to do changing of hearts. Love doesn’t mean agreement or acceptance for her, but means that she can be in a room with someone with a different lifestyle or beliefs and be friends.
“I have a friend who is an atheist, and I love her,” Jones said. “We can sit and talk and be friends. We do not have to agree.”
Bethany Peerbolte, a panelist and associate pastor at Birmingham First Presbyterian, said she grew up in a church in which attitudes toward LGBTQ persons that she knew and loved nearly drove her away from the church. She views the Bible as “a living, breathing text,” and one through which the words have been translated a hundred million times from texts and languages which aren’t understood completely.
“It says women are not supposed to speak in churches, and here I am a pastor,” Peerbolte said. “We have to go back to what Scriptures are teaching us in 2020. What is it saying right now? We talk about sin like we know what it is… Jesus sat with people who are sinful and outcasts. Those are people who Jesus would sit with and didn’t ask to change.”
Peerbolte said in a time when it is perceived there is a “war on Christmas” and the loudest Christian voices seem to be evangelicals and those offended about coffee cups from a corporate organization without religious affiliation, she was grateful for the panel and the opportunity for a variety of Christian voices, including her more liberal, progressive one. “It’s great to see diversity and get us into a room to hash it out,” she said. “That understanding gets us to a unity place instead of being in our corners comfortably.”
Joseph said he saw at the forum a common bond between the 12 panelists-their deep faith and belief in its power, as well as understanding as a Christian value the importance of loving their neighbors. He was surprised by how consistently humble all of the panelists were. “I kept waiting for someone to sound self-righteous, perhaps, because therein lies the problem that so many people have with organized Christianity, and perhaps religion in general throughout the world – that is, the dichotomy between the sacred Scriptures and their interpretation by people,” Joseph said. “Furthermore, the extent to which people have interpreted sacred texts and used them to justify ways that have excluded, marginalized, and hurt people.”
Joseph was impressed with the panelists’ comments in regard to the importance of doing the will of God, which he believes ultimately means “developing a realization that humans are not in control.”
The BCS Diversity Committee plans to continue panel discussions into 2020. Joseph said there will be a repeat of a panel on issues related to people who are LGBTQ plus and he would also like to have a panel on mental health awareness and suicide prevention due to an increase in teen suicides as well as the stigma surrounding these issues. Other possible subjects include atheism/agnosticism, military veterans, women’s history and Native Americans.
 “We certainly will continue to have these panels because they have clearly met and identified need for many people in our community,” he said. “I believe that people are hungry for a way to have conversations about difficult issues that is constructive. I believe we have found that way.”
Check the Birmingham Covington School Facebook page for information on future panels, which will be posted by mid-January.
Contact reporter Susan Bromley at sbromley@hometownlife.com or 517-281-2412. Follow her on Twitter @SusanBromley10.

5 million Indian women just made a 385-mile human chain for equality.
The human chain formed by millions of Indian women on New Year’s Day makes a powerful statement. On January 1, 2019, 5 million women in the southern Indian state of Kerala lined up shoulder to shoulder to form a “women’s wall” 385 miles (620 km) long. The wall was a statement of gender equality, and a call to end violent protests against women trying to enter Kerala’s Sabarimala temple, a pilgrimage site for Hindus.

The Guardian reports that women of all ages have the legal right to enter the temple, as India’s supreme court ruled on the matter in September. However, religious tradition has held that only men and elderly women may enter. Even after the court’s ruling, women of menstrual age have been met with violence and abuse as they attempt to worship at the temple.

The wall is also a reminder that India is seen as the most dangerous country in the world to be a woman.

Women in India face various forms of gender-based violence and discrimination, including gang rape, tribal practices, sex trafficking, forced servitude, and more. In 2012, India was found to be the fourth most dangerous country for women according to a Thomson Reuters Foundation poll. In 2018, it climbed to number one.  
India ranks as the worst country in the world for women in several areas measured by the poll, including:
– Cultural practices, which include acid attacks, female genital mutilation, child marriage, punishment by stoning, physical abuse, or mutilation and female infanticide/foeticide
– Sexual violence, which includes rape (domestic, stranger, or as a weapon of war), lack of justice in rape cases, sexual harassment and sexual coercion as a form of corruption
– Human trafficking, including sex slavery, forced labor and servitude, and forced marriage.
(In case you’re curious, the United States came in at number 10 on the list this year-the only Western nation to make the top 10.)

This wall of women is a powerful show of unity, letting the world-and their country-know that they’re done putting up with gender-based violence.

The abuse of women trying to enter a sacred temple is just one symptom of a much larger gender violence problem in India. Since the brutal gang rape of a female student on a New Delhi bus-an assault that eventually led to her death-gained international attention in 2012, India has been on global organizations’ radar for violence against women. However, things don’t appear to have improved much since.
In 2017, India began offering state-issued wooden bats to women to fend off drunken abusive partners with a promise that police would not intervene. Oxfam India has helped form a coalition of organizations working to end violence against women in the South Asia region, but clearly more needs to be done to turn the tide.
We’ve seen time and time again that when women come together and raise their voices as one, change follows. Hopefully this powerful “women’s wall” will help move the needle for women in India as they inspire others around the world with their show of unity.

WISDOM Mission Statement

To Provide concrete modeling of women from different faith traditions working together in harmony for the common good.
To Empower women to take a more active role in furthering social justice and world peace.
To Dispel myths, stereotypes, prejudices and fear about faith traditions different from our own.
To Nurture the growth of empathy and spiritual energy that result from our projects and interfaith dialogue.