Author Archive

December 2019

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events 
Tuesday, December 17, 8:00 PM on PBS
Ornament of the World Premier
800 year period of medieval Spain where Muslims, Christians and Jews collaborated and flourished.
Thursday, December 19, 7:00 – 9:00 PM
Women in Islam
See Flyer Below
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

Yes in God’s Backyard’ to use
 church land for affordable housing
 Faith congregations across California are responding to the state’s housing crisis by sharing their parking lots with people living in their cars, providing mobile showers for the homeless and joining their neighbors in calling for rent control in their communities.
But another form of housing advocacy has been taking place among spaces of faith. A number of churches are exploring ways to build affordable housing on their own land. It’s what pastors and other leaders are referring to as YIGBY, or “Yes in God’s Backyard.”
The acronym is a play off of the term NIMBY – short for “Not in My Backyard” – a term often used to describe community pushback against affordable housing or other similar projects. “Jesus very clearly tells us to keep our eyes open to those who are in need,” said Clairemont Lutheran Church pastor Jonathan Doolittle. California is home to the 10 least-affordable major markets in the nation and is near the top in cost-burdened households – second among homeowners and fourth among renters, according to a January 2019 report from the Public Policy Institute of California. The median home price in California is $549,000. The median rent price is $2,800.
Aerial view of Clairemont Lutheran Church in San Diego, with a rendering of proposed affordable housing project in the parking lot, bottom right. Image courtesy of About four years ago, Clairemont Lutheran Church members in San Diego decided they needed to do something about the housing crisis affecting their community.
The church was part of an interfaith shelter network in which congregations open their spaces for a certain length of time to house families in crisis. During this time, churches host families for two weeks while they get back on their feet. The families rotate to other churches in the network, but once that cycle runs out, they may have nowhere else to seek shelter, Doolittle said. As the church made plans to redevelop its fellowship hall, Doolittle said they sought to include affordable housing as part of that project. The church proposed building a number of affordable apartments on part of their current parking lot.
Church leaders thought the affordable housing component could also speed up the approval process for the project. Instead, they encountered more roadblocks including parking restrictions and costly environmental impact reports.
In San Diego, city code makes it a requirement for churches to have a certain number of parking spaces based on the number of people who can fit in the sanctuary. The renovation of the church’s fellowship hall is underway, but the housing element is on hold for now. However, that could soon change. On Nov. 6, a subcommittee of the San Diego City Council voted in favor on an item that would make it easier for faith communities to get approval to build housing on their parking lots. Under this plan, excess parking spaces could be used as a location for housing. The City Council will consider the item at a future meeting.
Clairemont Lutheran Church plans to jumpstart its housing efforts next year, hoping to put between 16 and 21 apartments on its parking lot.
To housing advocate Tom Theisen, the city’s move is a step in the right direction. Theisen – a retired attorney and former chair of the Regional Task Force on the Homeless – is part of the San Diego YIGBY working group that helps activate under-utilized faith community properties suitable for residential units. He says the YIGBY group shows how an abundance of church land across the county can help address the region’s housing shortage. Theisen said that in the past, individual churches were going to the government proposing small projects of 15 to 20 units.
“It’s hard to create any change when you’re talking about individual small projects,” Theisen said. Theisen said the YIGBY group emerged when San Diego County tax collector Dan McAllister identified about 1,100 faith community properties on more than 2,000 acres of land. Theisen said a substantial portion of that land is available for housing.
“If we look at this from the perspective of, ‘how do we help the churches help the needy in their community and look at it county wide,’ we’re talking hundreds of potential housing units, possibly thousands,” Theisen said. Theisen estimates construction costs could be “primarily if not exclusively” paid through income coming in from the housing.
“The idea is to start building housing and start putting people in houses,” Theisen said.
People tour St. Paul’s Commons in Walnut Creek, California, in September 2019. Photo courtesy of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
In Northern California, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Walnut Creek would like to open its affordable housing complex in December or January.
It’s called St. Paul’s Commons and will be a mixed-use development with community spaces operated by St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. It’s also where the nonprofit Trinity Center will have a physical space to serve people who are homeless. The project will include 45 affordable apartments. The church leased its land to Berkeley-based developer Resources for Community Development, which used a property management company to perform background checks, call references and conduct interviews for apartment applications.
The development is taking over a single-family home where Trinity Center provided services to the homeless. The Rev. Krista Fregoso said they were already assisting people who were homeless and later thought, “What if we became a part of the solution, too?”
To Fregoso, “This is just one part of how we live out our faith. We hope to be a model for other faith communities who might see their property in a different way.”

  Najah Bazzy – CNN Hero of 2019
Just recently CNN revealed the Top 10 CNN Heroes of 2019 – these are men and women that are changing the world by helping families affected by the tragedy, cleaning up the environment, protecting neglected animals, and so much more. They were nominated by CNN to receive a ten thousand dollar cash prize with the Hero of the Year to receive one hundred thousand dollars. One of the nominees is Najah Bazzy, an Arab-American who changed the lives of thousands of women and children in the Detroit Metropolitan Area.
Najah learned to navigate through attitudes and beliefs that were conflicting very early in life. Born in a neighborhood that was predominantly Arab and Muslim – Dearborn, Michigan –  she refers to herself as ‘a new thing‘ – a by-product of a merger between being Arab, American, and Muslim all at once. She believes these are not mutually exclusive identities, even in a post 9/11 America.
They are, which is now having the largest concentration of Arab Americans in the United States, back then was a hub of immigrants. In an interview, Najah says: “It was the people from Poland, Italy, Macedonia, Mexico, and others that we learned about their traditions and their different faiths. That’s why I love diversity so much. Neighbors sat on the front porch and they shared food while their children would go from house to house visit other children and play.  The amount of care that people had for each other was tremendous, and this is where I learned to love my neighbor.”
However, she also felt a different attitude towards Muslims after the September 11 attacks. “I’ve had death threats. I’ve had to have protection placed on me. It’s an uncomfortable feeling,” she shares. “To know that you can put out love, and other people judge that love saddens me. I want to make every breath count, so I can’t fear those who choose hate. I can only control the love I have in my heart and choose that love.”
Najah is the founder of Zaman International, a non-profit organization, which has the mission to facilitate change and advance the lives of marginalized women and children of different backgrounds in the Detroit area; she has been doing it by enabling them to meet essential needs common to all humankind. The group’s 40,000-square-foot warehouse offers for free aisles of food, rows of clothes, and furniture to those in need.
The history of the organization is truly inspirational. In 1996, when a three-month-old infant was with a terminal diagnosis, Najah Bazzy, a Transcultural Clinical Nurse Specialist, provided clinical, spiritual and cultural support to his parents who were new arrivals to the United States. She helped them face the reality that no treatment would save their child. After visiting the family at their home, Najah was shocked by their living conditions. Instead of a refrigerator, the family used a picnic cooler to house their limited food supply and baby formula. Instead of a stove, a portable propane stove was used for cooking. The infant’s bed was a laundry basket piled high with towels, and the infant only had the hospital’s receiving blanket to keep him warm. When the infant passed away and the family was unable to pay for a funeral, Najah raised funds from the community to provide him with a proper burial. This was the beginning of Plots for Tots, Zaman’s signature program which provides dignified burial support for families that have lost a fetus or infant.
Witnessing this family’s sorrowful experience and shocking living conditions, Najah was inspired and determined to harness the community’s efforts to help struggling families. She asked community members to donate furniture, food, clothing, and household goods. The support and need for such efforts quickly increased, encouraging Zaman to formalize as an organization committed to using community support to address community needs.
In 2018, Zaman distributed 170,400 pounds of food, collected 886,950 pounds of clothing, provided over 7,750 hours of job skills and literacy instruction to more than 90 women, and gave 268 winter coats and 895 school supply-filled backpacks to local children. Meanwhile, it partnered with 444 community partners on a range of initiatives and funded overseas relief projects, bringing safe water and humanitarian relief to more than 431,900 people. Now that Zaman’s mission has been shared with the world, Bazzy is encouraging interested readers to help by donating through the CNN Heroes program, for which a CrowdRise donation page has been set up.
“What I’m most proud of this year is that Zaman is 94 cents on the dollar (which has been audited financially), she said, and it goes to programs,” she said about the percentage of donation dollars used to help fund its operations to serve those in need.
“We really encourage people to go to the website and to donate any amount that they can, anything helps.”
To donate, visit the Zaman International website, but you and your friends are highly encouraged to VOTE by December 3rd here.

An Olive Tree Symbolizes Hope For Two Cultures
An olive tree symbolizing hope and peace was planted at Israel’s Gush Etzion Winery in memory of a beloved deceased Palestinian worker.By United with Israel Staff
Israel’s Gush Etzion Winery memorialized a Palestinian worker who died suddenly from a brain hemorrhage two weeks ago. A group of Jews and Palestinians joined forces to plant an olive tree, a symbol of peace, in front of the winery.
Shadi Assad, 25, from the village Khallet Sakariya in the Gush Etzion region outside of Jerusalem, had worked at the Gush Etzion Winery’s restaurant for five years as a cleaner.
Last month, Assad complained of head pain. He was taken to a medical clinic in Bethlehem, where he was told that nothing serious was wrong. One week later, Assad died of a brain hemorrhage.
Following a condolence visit by the winery’s owner, Shraga Rozenberg, to the Assad family, his colleagues decided to plant an olive tree in his memory.
Biblically, the olive tree represents peace and comfort. However, presently, the olive tree is often portrayed in the news as a point of contention between Jews and Palestinians.
In Israel, planting trees (usually olive trees as they grow well in hill country) establishes squatter ownership rights on property. This creates a “land grab” between Jews and Palestinians.
Assad’s olive tree is meant to symbolize hope for peace between the clashing cultures. Alongside the tree is a large stone with both Hebrew and Arabic inscriptions.
The inauguration was attended by local rabbis, staff, family and friends from both the Jewish and Muslim communities.
Following the event, one winery employee wrote, “I don’t know what peace would be like and how to bring it, but I know that a few hours ago I experienced a moment of peace. I feel the crazy complexity, the anger – but also neighborly and humane feelings.”
In a video, Rozenberg and Muhmad Assad, the father of Shadi, sit together and explain their feelings about Shadi and the tree planting.
Muhmad said that he witnessed the love that the winery staff had for his son, noting that they cried along with him. Rozenberg shared that he wanted to comfort the family with the memorial.
The video ends with both men expressing similar sentiments, hoping for peace in their native languages.

TorontoSikh community planting hundreds of trees in Brampton, Scarborough
Environmentalism ingrained in Sikh faith, says founder of EcoSikh Canada Sikhs worldwide are planting 550 trees in their respective communities to celebrate the 550th anniversary of Guru Nanak’s birth. (
Hundreds of people braved rainy weather to plant 550 trees in Brampton on Saturday as part of an effort to combat climate change and honour the founder of Sikhism. Shovels in hand, Sharanjeet Kaur came with her young children to do their part for the environment – but also to celebrate Guru Nanak, the first Sikh guru.
“Guru Nanak was an environmentalist,” said Kaur. “[This is] really understanding his teachings and putting them into practice.”
City of Brampton councillor Harkirat Singh planned and organized the event, with members of EcoSikh on hand.

EcoSikh is a non-profit organization that has begun a global movement to connect Sikh values and environmental issues.

People around the world are planting 550 trees in their respective communities to celebrate the 550th anniversary of Guru Nanak’s birth, said global EcoSikh founder Rajwant Singh.
Another 550 trees will be planted in Scarborough on Sunday, and there is a tree planting event in Oakville next weekend.
Environmentalism is engrained in the Sikh faith, said Roop Sidhu, who founded EcoSikh’s Canadian chapter in June.
EcoSikh Canada has done a number of tree planting events across the country, Sidhu said. By Guru Nanak’s birthday on Nov. 12, Sidhu said they will have planted more than 10,000 trees across Canada. Their goal is to plant 55,000 trees in Canada by 2021.
Guru Nanak was the founder of Sikhism – and harmony with nature was a core part of his teachings, Singh said. “We feel that planting trees is a sacred act,” said Singh, adding that it “should be part of practicing our faith” and not just for the environment. EcoSihk’s goal is to engage the Sikh community to take action on the environment based on the teachings of their faith, Singh said. “Earth is a gift from God,” said Singh. “Our future generations need to have the same gifts of nature.”
Sidhu said the organization is not exclusive to the Sikh community – they want to work with all communities to take action against climate change. “We’re just another climate action group that wants to help,” Sidhu said.

 Congressional Caucus for
Black and Jewish Relations Kicks Off
Detroit Jewish News
Congressional Caucus for Black and Jewish Relations held its kickoff event last month, hoping to raise awareness and initiate measures to combat hate.
Featured photo courtesy of Linda Jacobs
By Mark Jacobs
The Congressional Caucus for Black and Jewish Relations held its kickoff reception on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., last month, hosted by the American Jewish Committee and attended by a bipartisan team of leading lawmakers and supporters.
The group, the first Black and Jewish caucus in the U.S. Congress, is co-chaired by Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Mich., Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Shultz, D-Fla., Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., Rep. Lee Zelden, R-N.Y., and Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas. The caucus seeks to raise awareness of each community’s needs as well as to initiate measures to combat hate and stereotypes.
“White supremacy is alive and well,” declared Wasserman-Shultz, warning the crowd that hate crimes against blacks and Jews have spiked in recent years and that the need for the caucus is imperative.
Lawmakers spoke of the current disunity in Washington, D.C., but noted that support for the caucus is widespread and undisputed.
The speakers recalled the historical roots of the two communities uniting during the civil rights movement. Rep. Elliot Engel said this caucus “comes at a critical time, and it is incumbent on both of our communities to act now.”
The full executive committee of the local Detroit group, the Coalition for Black and Jewish Unity, attended the event. The coalition, a partnership between the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC and the Council of Baptist Pastors of Detroit and Vicinity, shares similar goals as the Congressional Caucus.
Coalition Executive Board member Hazzan Dan Gross, along with Dr. Pauline Plummer, an accomplished pastor and singer, capped off the evening by leading the group in an emotional, arm-clinging rendition of the civil rights ballad “We Shall Overcome.”
In what was possibly a first on Capitol Hill, Gross sang the first verse of the song in Hebrew. It was an extraordinarily moving and unforgettable display of solidarity for two communities who now have re-committed to each other through this new Congressional Caucus.
Mark Jacobs is co-director of the Coalition for Black and Jewish Unity.

November 2019

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events 

Sunday, November 3rd 2:30 – 5:30 PM
Interfaith Panel on Organ Donation
See Flyer Below
Thursday, November 7th 3:00 PM
Neighborly Discourse Panel
See Flyer Below
Thursday, November 7th, 7:00 PM
Portraits in Faith at Temple Israel

See Flyer Below

Thursday, December 5th 7:00 – 9:00 PM
Islamic Institute of America
Christians Reading the Qu’ran Through the Ages
See Flyer Below
Thursday, November 21 7:00 – 9:00 PM
Women in Judaism
See Flyer Below
Thursday, December 19, 7:00 – 9:00 PM
Women in Islam
See Flyer Below
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
Stay tuned for Flyer
Sunday, March 1st, 4:00 – 6:00 PM
21st Annual World Sabbath Celebration
North Congregational Church in Farmington Hills
See Flyer Below

WISDOM in the Kitchen
From left, WISDOM Vice President Ayesha Khan, Gigi Salka, President Bobbie Lewis, board member Dr. Carolyn Simon and Chef Adrianna Kalota.
WISDOM once again volunteered at the Zaman Culinary Kitchen October 3, chopping veggies for stock and fattoush salad under the direction of Chef Adrianna Kalota. Zaman was founded in 1996 by former WISDOM board member Najah Bazzy. Located in Inkster, the nonprofit provides counseling and other services for refugees, immigrants and low-income women. Their large building’s first floor includes the modern culinary kitchen, used for catering services and training in culinary arts, a food pantry and a store selling second-hand furniture and clothing (donations are welcome!). Upstairs there’s a classroom for ESL (English as a Second Language) and a workshop filled with sewing machines where women are trained as seamstresses. Gigi Salka, a member of the WISDOM Advisory Board, is the director of Zaman’s BOOST (Building Ongoing Opportunities through Skills Training) program.

Religions for Peace and Institute for Economics and Peace Launch New Positive Peace Partnership for Communities of Faith
At the Religions for Peace(RfP) 10th World Assembly in Lindau, Germany, over 900 delegates affirmed their commitment to the 10th World Assembly Declaration of Religions for Peace. Included in this Declaration, is a “Call to Common Action” including a commitment to strengthening the partnership between RfP with the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) to “produce positive peace materials and workshops for multi-religious contexts.” RfP and IEP proudly announce their shared commitment to this common action in the following article by Vision of Humanity

Implementation of new multi-faith training courses on Positive Peace and the implementation of Positive Peace workshops for the world’s faithful.

Two global thought leaders in peacebuilding will soon join forces to spread Positive Peace around the world. Internationally renowned think tank, the Institute for Economics and Peace, and the world’s largest multi-faith coalition Religions for Peace (RfP), are working on a new program of courses to spread their shared vision of Positive Peace worldwide. The two organizations will build on years of existing mutual engagement to strengthen ties and produce Positive Peace materials and workshops for multi-religious contexts. Following last month’s World Assembly of Religions for Peace in Lindau, Germany, more than 900 participants including multi-faith leaders and peacebuilders, committed to fostering Positive Peace as a concept of Shared Well-Being. Mr Killelea [Founder and Executive Chairman, Institute for Economics and Peace; Honorary President, RfP] said, “IEP’s data-driven research provides the evidence base for the Positive Peace model for sustainable development and social cohesion.”
“The Positive Peace framework is a flexible and culturally-neutral model, based in rigorous data research. People of all walks of life and faith can adapt the approach to building peace in any community or nation,” Mr. Killelea said. Rev. Kyoichi Sugino [Acting Secretary General, RfP] said, “The many complex problems facing the world today require unprecedented global cooperation, including bringing people of different faiths and cultural backgrounds together – peace is essential for humanity to find the global solutions to these shared challenges.”
Mr. Killelea further commented, “We’re looking forward to working with RfP who are thought leaders in interfaith dialogue, conflict resolution and peacebuilding.” IEP’s evidence-based Positive Peace framework and workshops build the attitudes, institutions and structures that create and sustain peaceful societies, and offers a new way to achieve common economic outcomes, sustainable development, violence reduction, social cohesion and resilience for communities.
Positive Peace expresses the multi-religious notion of Shared Well-Being, virtue and tolerance, while also providing a practical framework to help build these precepts into societies. The world’s leading non-profit and independent think tank dedicated to measuring peace, IEP uses data-driven research to show that peace is a positive, tangible and achievable measure of human wellbeing and development and is renowned for producing the annual Global Peace Index.
Religions for Peace is the most-representative multi-religious coalition in the world that advances common action among the world’s religious communities in the pursuit of peace. The organization works to transform violent conflict, advance human development, promote just and harmonious societies and protect the earth

Noted Baptist Pastor Charles Adams retires after 50 years in Detroit
Niraj Warikoo, Detroit Free Press

After more than 50 years as head of an influential Baptist church in Detroit, the Rev. Charles G. Adams is retiring, church officials announced Monday.
Adams, 82, senior pastor at Hartford Memorial Baptist Church, will step down officially on Tuesday and is to be replaced by his son, Rev. Charles C. Adams, who has been helping lead the church for years.
“We thank God for Pastor Adams, who has led this church with Christian love, truth and generosity for more than 50 years,” said Thomas R. Williams, chairman of the Dianonate Ministry at Hartford Memorial Baptist Church, in a statement. “While we will miss his active leadership, his legacy continues with his son.”
Adams is the longest serving pastor in Hartford Memorial’s history and only the third pastor of the church, said church officials. Adams said in a statement: “I wish I had ten thousand tongues to say ‘Thanks be unto God’ and ‘Thank you, Hartford!'” His advice for his son as he leads the historic Detroit church was: “Love everyone.” Adams was a professor at Harvard University in the 2000s, serving there as the first William and Lucille Nickerson Professor of Ethics and Ministry.  For five years, he flew to Boston to teach every week.
In announcing his appointment in 2007, Harvard Divinity School described him as “one of the most prominent and dynamic ministers in the United States.”
“He is not only a widely acclaimed preacher, but has been just as influential as a pioneer in linking the church’s mission to urban revitalization through economic, educational and social initiatives,” said the school’s dean at the time, William A. Graham.
Adams graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. and Harvard Divinity School with a B.D. He also has done graduate work at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.
The church said he grew the Hartford’s membership from 400 to a peak of nearly 10,000.
Adams has also been a past president of the Detroit chapter of the NAACP, once leading a boycott of businesses in Dearborn over discrimination against African-Americans in its city parks.  He has been professor of preaching at Ecumenical Theological Seminary and pastor of Concord Baptist Church in Boston, and president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention. The Free Press reported in 2017, when the church marked its 100th anniversary, that he helped make vibrant a stretch of 7 Mile Rd. after the church moved into the area in 1977.  In March, the church opened Hartford Village, a gated senior citizens community.
“I had been to Atlanta and seen what the Kings had done around Ebenezer Baptist Church,” Adams said in 2017. “That gave me an idea that we should own all the land we could around Hartford Memorial. As a result, most of the land around the church belongs to the church, so that it makes economic development all the more possible.”

Ellen Katzen, center, of Squirrel Hill, attends services on the first night of Rosh Hashana at Temple Sinai in Pittsburgh, on Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019. It was the first Jewish New Year since a gunman killed 11 congregants at a nearby synagogue on Oct. 27, 2018. (Rebecca Droke via AP)

An Indian man inspects the head of an effigy of mythical demon king Ravana before purchasing it ahead of the Hindu festival Dussehra in New Delhi, India, on Oct. 4, 2019. The effigy will be burned during the festival, which celebrates the defeat of demon king Ravana at the hands of Hindu god Rama, marking the triumph of good over evil. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

Vandals Destroy Sukkah at MSU

Michigan State Hillel’s Sukkah was destroyed by two males late Saturday night during the Sukkot holiday. Despite the office being closed for the holiday, Michigan State University Hillel’s Executive Director Cindy Hughey decided to drop by the Hillel building Monday morning. She instantly noticed the Sukkah appeared to be falling down, so she stepped outside to take a closer look.
“I noticed that it was more than just falling down – it looked like it had been totally decimated,” Hughey said. “We began to look at the security footage and saw two males enter the patio area and proceed to destroy the Sukkah.”
Hughey then contacted the East Lansing Police Department and filed a complaint. The police asked them to share the information and photos on the MSU Hillel Facebook page so that students could help identify the vandals. Through Facebook, Hughey received three different names which she forwarded to police. Hughey is currently waiting on confirmation from police to see if they have the vandals in custody. Although it is unclear whether this act was pre-meditated or not, both men appeared to be inebriated during the incident.
“It was just extremely disappointing to see it being destroyed – and for what purpose?” Hughey said. “However, the MSU community and administration has been very supportive. We’ve had people send their positive and kind words to us and even offer to come help us build a new Sukkah.”
Wendy Starr, President of the Jewish Student Union at MSU, hopes this incident will educate other students on campus about Jewish holidays and culture.
“In addition to Jewish culture, we hope to foster understanding for all student populations,” Starr said.  “We hope students will take this opportunity to work together and unite to combat vandalism on this campus.”

October 2019

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events 
Wednesday, October 9th 7:00 PM
The Great American Family at the Maple Theater
See Flyer Below
IFLC Annual Award Dinner
Tuesday, October 29th 6:00 – 9:00 PM
Bint Jebail Cultural Center, 6220 Miller Rd., Dearborn, MI 48126
See Flyer below!!
Bahai Bicentenary Celebration
Sunday, October 27th at 2:00 PM
Pontiac Little Art Theatre
See Flyer Below

Sunday, November 3rd 2:30 – 5:30 PM
Interfaith Panel on Organ Donation
See Flyer Below
Thursday, November 7th, 7:00 PM
Portraits in Faith at Temple Israel
See Flyer Below

Najah Bazzy started helping Detroit’s impoverished
community in her house.
Now, her nonprofit has reached 250,000 people.
By Kathleen Toner, CNN
Najah Bazzy, CNN Hero
In 1996, she was working as a nurse when she visited an Iraqi refugee family to help care for their dying infant. She knew the situation would be difficult, but she wasn’t prepared for what she encountered.
“There, at the house, I got my first glimpse of poverty. … They absolutely had nothing,” she said. “There was no refrigerator, there was no stove, there was no crib. … The baby was in a laundry basket, laying on clean white towels.” For years, Bazzy ran her goodwill effort from her home, transporting donated goods in her family’s minivan. Eventually, her efforts grew into Zaman International, a nonprofit that now supports impoverished women and children of all backgrounds in the Detroit area. The group has helped more than 250,000 people. According to the US Census Bureau, more than one-third of Detroit’s residents — and nearly half of the city’s children — live in poverty. It is the poorest big city in America.
Today, Zaman operates from a 40,000-square-foot facility in the suburb of Inkster. The group’s warehouse offers aisles of food, rows of clothes and vast arrays of furniture free to those in need. The group’s case managers help clients access housing and other services. “We work to stabilize them as quickly as we can,” Bazzy said. “Women walk in and they are in desperate need, and they walk out with their basic needs met.” The group’s donated clothing and furniture are also available to the public through its Good Deeds Resale Shop.
“Our mothers are able to come. They get a voucher and have the same dignified shopping experience as somebody else, but (do) not have to pay for it,” she said. “It’s about dignity.”
The nonprofit also offers clients free education and job placement, as well as vocational training through its sewing and culinary arts programs. The goal is to help women become self-sufficient.
“We’re a one-stop shop,” she said. “We help our clients move from a ‘hand out’ to a ‘hands on,’ because when you’re in crisis … the idea of how to get yourself out of it is overwhelming.”
Sherri Blanton, a Detroit native, was distressed when she came to Zaman. Her marriage had recently ended, and health issues had left her unable to support her daughter. “Not being able to stand on my own two feet, it was hard,” said Blanton, tearing up. “They helped me with clothing, furniture, my car. … They picked me up when I was down, they really did.” Blanton completed the culinary arts program and now works as a kitchen apprentice at Zaman. “I look forward to going to work every morning,” she said. “This was just a stepping stone for me … Maybe in the next year or so I’ll be a chef!”
Ultimately, Bazzy wants to empower women to achieve their potential.
“People just need an opportunity. And they need hope,” Bazzy said. “That’s what we do best.” CNN’s Kathleen Toner spoke with Bazzy about her work. Below is an edited version of their conversation.
CNN: How has Zaman evolved since you started?
Najah Bazzy: Zaman began helping refugees during the post-Gulf War (era) when we had a tremendous amount of refugees from Iraq coming into the Detroit area. But after a few years, I saw another population that was even more marginalized: the single mom, trying to raise her children with nothing. Now, we focus on women with children living well below the poverty line. Most of our families make below $10,000 a year. We still help refugees, but we now have a large African American population. It’s open to everybody. It’s not based on faith or culture. All that matters here is: What do you need?
CNN: How does your Muslim faith inspire your work?
Bazzy: Our organization is a little mini-United Nations. Watching African American and Arab and Jewish and gay and people with disabilities and everyone working together — I just love that. For me, that’s the highest expression of faith — just bringing people together. Islam is full of verses about caring for humankind, but I think I would be this human being no matter what faith tradition I followed. Because in my heart of hearts I believe we are one human family.
CNN: How did your upbringing influence your decision to do this work?
Bazzy: People are often shocked when I say, “My family’s been in America 125-plus years.” My parents are born here, and my dad served in the Army during the Korean War. I grew up in the south end of Dearborn, outside Detroit. Nowadays, it’s well known for having the largest concentration of Arab Americans in the United States, but back when I was growing up, it was a hub of immigrants. It was people from Poland, Italy, Macedonia, Mexico, and we learned about their traditions and their different faiths. That’s why I love diversity so much.
Neighbors sat on the front porch and they shared food. Children would go from house to house. And just the amount of care that people had for each other — this is where I learned to love my neighbor.
CNN: It was recently the anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Your nonprofit expanded in the years after the attacks — a time when some people viewed Muslims with suspicion. How did that affect you?
Bazzy: There is a lot of risk in doing the work that I do, as a visible Muslim woman in hijab. I’ve had death threats. I’ve had to have protection placed around me. It’s an uncomfortable feeling. To know that you can put out love, but there are people out there who will judge love, this saddens me. I want to make every breath count, so I can’t fear those who choose hate. I can only control the love I have in my heart and choose that love.
Want to get involved? Check out the Zaman International website and see how to help. To see the video about Najah Bazzy CNN hero go to

India Jains: Why are these youngsters
renouncing the world?
 India’s Jain community, a religious minority, 
has around 4.5 million believers
Hundreds of young people belonging to India’s Jain community have begun renouncing the material world to become monks who always walk barefoot, eat only what they receive as alms and never bathe or use modern technology. The BBC’s Priyanka Pathak explores why. “I will never be able to hug my daughter again,” says Indravadan Singhi, his voice breaking. He looks away, determined not to reveal emotion as he says, “I can never meet her eye again.”
Resignedly, he watches friends and family drift through his home, decorating his living room with gold and pink tassels to celebrate his daughter’s renunciation of the world and entry into monastic life.
In the days ahead of the ceremony, family came from around the country to spend her “last days” doing things she enjoyed – playing cricket in the local park, listening to music and eating out at her favourite restaurants. She will never be able to do these things again. As a nun, 20-year-old Dhruvi will never again address him and his wife as mother and father. She will pluck out her own hair, always walk barefoot and eat only what she receives in alms. She will never use a vehicle, never bathe, never sleep under a fan and never speak on a mobile phone again.
 By undergoing deeksha, the Jain ritual of renunciation, Dhruvi (left) is withdrawing completely from the world
The Singhis belong to the ancient Jain community, a religious minority comprising around 4.5 million believers. Devout Jains follow the tenets of their religion under the spiritual guidance of monks. These include detailed prescriptions for daily life, especially what to eat, what not to eat and when to eat. For the past five years, Indravadan Singhi and his wife have watched their only child – who loved ripped jeans and dreamed of winning the reality singing show Indian Idol – become increasingly religious and withdrawn. By undergoing deeksha, the Jain ritual of renunciation. Dhruvi is withdrawing from the life she knows. She is not alone. Hundreds of Jain youth are following the same path, their numbers rising each year, with women outnumbering the men.
“There used to be hardly 10-15 deekshas a year until a few years ago,” says Dr Bipin Doshi, who teaches Jain philosophy at Mumbai University. But last year, that number rose to 250 and Dr Joshi says this year is likely to see close to 400 deekshas. Community leaders attribute the rise to three things: growing disenchantment among the young with the pressures of a modern world, gurus of the faith adopting modern technology to make it easier for people to communicate religious ideas and finally, a superstructure of religious retreats that allows young people to experiment with monastic life long before they choose to commit to it. The economic and social stresses of a “hyper-connected” world have contributed to this phenomenon, Dr Joshi says.
“What’s happening in New York, or what’s happening in Europe, you see it at the same moment. Earlier, our competition was restricted only to the streets in which we were staying. Now there is competition with all the world,” he said, adding that Fomo – the Fear Of Missing Out – was driving more young people to try and escape everything.
“Once you take deeksha or renounce the world, your level of spirituality, social standing, religious standing becomes so high, even the richest man will come down and bow to you,” he added. Pooja Binakhiya, a physiotherapist who took deeksha last month, says the focus of her life changed completely after she became a nun. Where her day was once filled with concerns like family, friends, beauty and career, she says she no longer has to think about how she will appear to her friends. “Here we only think about soul, soul and soul,” she says tranquilly.
Dhruvi, days ahead of her deeksha, says her guru is “everything to me”.
“She is my world. Whatever she says, that is it.” Almost all Jain novices speak with similar warmth of their gurus. It is clear that these religious leaders also inspire tremendous obedience and loyalty. Dr Doshi says that it was not always like this. “Previously the ascetics were more introverted and interested only in their own self-purification,” he says. But today, he adds, they are more involved and are actively reaching out to young people in particular. “They are good orators and offer young people a path which is simple, they get attracted to it.”
Until as recently as 10 years ago, Jains relied on literature written in the ancient Indian languages of Ardha Magadhi or Sanskrit. Now, the religious literature is offered in many languages, especially English. “Stories of the Jain religion are made into short films, which are shareable on social media. Reading a book may not be important but just seeing one small story in a minute or two would influence youngsters a lot actually,” Dr Doshi says. These videos, which are mostly circulated via WhatsApp messages, are well produced films which often glorify renunciation and sometimes even portray monks as superheroes.
Muni Jinvatsalya Vijay Maharajsaheb, a Jain monk, says that over the last few years, films produced by Jain NGOs have played a critical role in making the religion accessible to young followers. He himself has published several YouTube videos that have had over a million views. “If one wants to reach youngsters, it is easier to go to where they are rather than to try and bring them here,” he says. “YouTube was the best choice because that is where young people spend most of their time online”.
Dhruvi says an Updhyan – a 48-day retreat she attended five years ago – was “the spark that made me consider a monk’s life”. Under a presiding guru, the retreat allows regular Jains to experience a monastic life – without shoes, electricity and baths. Most novices point to this gruelling retreat – where gurus exhort them to renounce a world “full of sorrow” – as the moment they decided they want to be monks. But such retreats cannot be undertaken overnight.
Hitesh Mota, who organises deekshas in Mumbai, say that most attendees undergo a series of short retreats to “slowly build the confidence that yes, I can live like this for a little bit longer next time”. “You know the fear of a monk’s life, the fear of giving up everything. That fear is removed during the retreat. It is the first step, a sort of training camp to become a monk.”
Last month, a retreat in the western city of Nashik ended in a celebratory procession of chariots carrying 600 attendees wearing glittering clothes. Most were under 25 and reportedly hundreds of them expressed a desire to take deeksha. Among them was 12-year-old Het Doshi. A bright student and skating champion, Het missed three skating races and several weeks of school to attend this retreat. His feet were blistered and covered in boils and he lost 18kg (40lb) during the retreat, but Het says the flame had already been kindled in his heart. “My guru has said there is nothing good in this world,” Het said, uttering words he scarcely seemed to understand. “I don’t like anything in this material world. I want to move away from my karmas, my sins. So I want to take deeksha. My guru says I should take it sooner rather than later, so I want to take it before I turn 15.”
His parents looked on proudly. But not everyone shares their children’s enthusiasm for renunciation. Dhruvi had to work very hard to get her parent’s endorsement. “My family got very upset when I told them,” she says.
She strategically stopped mentioning deeksha for a couple of years, aware that if she pushed too hard too quickly she could jeopardise her freedom to travel with her guru. And even though she eventually wore down the family’s resistance, their trepidation lingers just under the surface. On the morning of Dhruvi’s renunciation ceremony, her father hugged her for the last time before she donned the dress of a nun, grief etched on his face. “All this pomp is one thing,” he said. “Come back in two years to see how it has worked out.”

Muslim and Jewish women tour Shoah
sites in Poland and Berlin
Vow to ‘change the future’ by speaking out against hate
By Debra Rubin (New Jersey Jewish News)
Atiyah Aftab said she was already schooled in the horrors of the Holocaust, but it was not until she was in Auschwitz standing in a room filled with piles of women’s hair that the extent of the genocide hit her.
“It was physically nauseating me,” said the South Brunswick resident. “It was just unbelievable to me that this is humanity and it made me extremely sad. It made me think about what we can do in our lives today to prevent this from ever happening again and what we can do to make this a better world.”
Atiyah Aftab said she was already schooled in the horrors of the Holocaust, but it was not until she was in Auschwitz standing in a room filled with piles of women’s hair that the extent of the genocide hit her.
“It was physically nauseating me,” said the South Brunswick resident. “It was just unbelievable to me that this is humanity and it made me extremely sad. It made me think about what we can do in our lives today to prevent this from ever happening again and what we can do to make this a better world.”
Olitzky and Aftab, an attorney who also teaches at Rutgers University and serves as director of its Center for Islamic Life, founded the sisterhood’s original chapter in North and South Brunswick in 2010. The group is dedicated to building friendships between Muslim and Jewish women and teens. SOSS went national four years after its founding, and Olitzky serves as the national director. Today it has 170 chapters – including a dozen teen chapters – in the U.S. and Canada. The first “Building Bridges” trip was to the Balkans in 2016, and last year they explored the civil rights movement in the southern United States.
This year’s tour of Poland and the city of Berlin was led by Dr. Mehnaz Afridi, director of Manhattan College’s Holocaust, Genocide, and Interfaith Education Center. Afridi is the only Muslim to head a Holocaust center in the U.S.
The SOSS itinerary included Holocaust sites, interfaith dialogues, and prayer services at synagogues and mosques, and Olitzky said they held what is believed to be the only Muslim-Jewish prayer service ever held by women in Auschwitz.
“No one can prepare you to see these sites of genocide,” said Aftab. “But this was a supportive group of women. There definitely was a sense we were all together in this. It wasn’t just a Jewish trip.” One of the places visited in Poland, along with Oskar Schindler’s Enamel factory and the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, was Warsaw’s Nozyk Synagogue, the city’s only surviving prewar synagogue. There they met with its rabbi and a representative of the Tartar community, Muslims who have lived in or near Poland since the 1400s. In Krakow they met with an interfaith group of Jews, Muslims, and Christians, and assisted in the cleanup of a Jewish cemetery.
Highlights of the Berlin tour included a prayer service in the Bavarian Quarter, which served as a ghetto for Jews, and visits to memorials for gay and Roma (Gypsy) victims of Nazi mass murder. They also attended prayer services at the Dar Assalam Mosque and Shabbat evening services at the New Synagogue on Oranienburger Strasse. They also met with Syrian refugees and interfaith groups of Muslims and Jews who are working to help newcomers to the city.
Roberta Elliott of South Orange had already been everywhere the group journeyed, “but I wanted to take a dive with my Muslim sisters.”
“When I went to Auschwitz in 1990 it never occurred to me there would be any reason to ever go again,” said Elliott, who co-founded the Essex Two chapter of SOSS as well as a chapter in Tucson, Ariz., where she lives in the winter. Retired from a career in Jewish communal work, mostly working for Hadassah and HIAS in New York, Elliott said having Afridi, “who knows just about everything there is to know about the Holocaust, but it comes from the point of view of another minority,” proved both challenging and thoughtful. For instance, the group learned that a small number of Muslims also lost their lives at Auschwitz.
Miniimah Bilal-Shakir of Hillside said she feels a special kinship to the Jewish experience as an African-American and Muslim. She calls the Jewish women she’s met through SOSS “my sisters from another mother.”
At Auschwitz, Bilal-Shakir, a member of the Essex One chapter, said she was struck by the shared suffering “of slaves coming on ships from Africa, who couldn’t move and had to relieve themselves where they were, and the similarity of people on those boxcars.” Heba Macksoud of Princeton, an original member of the North and South Brunswick chapter, said among the reasons she went on the trip was to gain an understanding of why Jews have such a strong connection to Israel. She said that until the trip it had never occurred to her “how Jews felt displaced after they were subjected to such wide and discriminatory hate. How could they want to go back to those places?
“Just walking in their shoes and seeing the remnants of that hate helped me understand why Israel is so important” to all Jews, said Macksoud. “It wasn’t necessarily about religion, but more about creating an identity for them as a people.”
Macksoud also brought along her 17-year-old twin daughters.
“I wanted them to get out of their social media bubble and wake them up to what’s going on in the world,” she said. “Now they understand and can continue the legacy of standing up for things. I heard every person on the trip, Jews and Muslims, say that it is their job to stand up for the other.”
Heather Ciociola of Lawrence-ville, who started the Mercer-Somerset chapter in 2017, said the experience of Muslims and Jews witnessing together the vestiges of genocide was a powerful image in the face of all the hate being spewed nationally against refugees, Muslims, Jews, and others.
“Since we can speak up now, we should speak up,” said Ciociola, a refugee advocate. “What we do makes a difference. It matters to stand up for our neighbors, and it matters if we hear something hateful that we stand up and call it out.
“It didn’t start at Auschwitz. It started long before that and we need to take a stand against hate, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and anti-refugee sentiment.”

There is Now A Peace Pole in Every Nation On Earth
It has been a decades long goal of the Peace Pole Project to get a Peace Pole planted on the soil of every nation on our planet. That goal is about to finally be reached. Late in 2018 the Peace Pole Project was down to just two countries without at least one Peace Pole within their borders. Those two countries were Montenegro and Timor-Leste. Earlier this year, through the work of Patrick Petit who is the European Liaison of the the Peace Pole Project’s parent organization the Goi Peace Foundation, a young woman named Zorana Visic planted a Peace Pole in the beautiful coastal town of Tivat in the Western Balkan Nation of Montenegro. That milestone left only one nation without a Peace Pole. With just one nation left Jim Dugan of Peace Pole Project at May Peace Prevail On Earth International, headquartered at The World Peace Sanctuary in upstate New York, was put in touch with Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and former President of Timor-Leste Jose Ramos-Horta; through his brother Kerry who lives in Thailand and is also a life long peace worker. President Ramos-Horta put Jim in touch with Sierra James, Program Manager and Co-Founder of the amazing peace organization Ba Futuru in Dili, Timor-Leste about getting a Peace Pole planted.
Ba Futuru in the local Tetun language means “For the Future” and they are renowned for positively influencing the lives of hundreds of thousands of Timorese and have provided life enhancing training programs to more than 40,000 children, youth, parents, teachers, police and community leaders across Timor-Leste. Ba Futuru specializes in peace building, gender empowerment, child protection education, teaching approaches and conflict resolution. After overcoming incredible shipping hurdles two Peace Poles are now at the Ba Futuru Headquarters in Dilli, Timor-Leste. These Peace Poles will be planted later this year when Ba Futuru holds their Youth Peace Jam where President Ramos-Horta will likely be in attendance.
All of us at The Peace Pole Project and May Peace Prevail On Earth International truly share our deepest thanks to President Ramos-Horta, Sierra James and the rest of the staff at Ba Futuru and all the People of Timor-Leste for making this dream of a Peace Pole being planted in every nation on our planet become a reality.
We encourage you to check out the amazing work of Ba Futuru by visiting their website at
May Peace Prevail in Montenegro
May Peace Prevail in Timor-Leste
May Peace Prevail on Earth

Virginia County’s Official List Of Races Includes ‘Aryan,’ ‘Hebrew’ and ‘Jew’
September 9, 2019 By Aiden Pink
Attorneys seeking to overturn a Virginia law requiring couples to list their races on marriage licenses has released one county’s official list of acceptable races, which includes over 200 options – from “Assyrian” to “Zoroastrian.” The federal suit, filed Thursday in the Eastern District of Virginia, claims that the race requirement is “offensive,” “unconstitutional” and “reflective of a racist past,” NBC News reported. The plaintiffs are three couples were denied a marriage license because they refused to disclose their race.
The lawsuit also states that different counties in Virginia have different lists of possibilities. Rockbridge County, in the rural west of the state, has over 200 “approved races.” The county’s list, released on the website of plaintiff’s attorney Victor M. Glasberg, includes several outdated or unsettling terms, including “Aryan,” “Mulatto” and “Quadroon.” There are also several variations for Jewish couples, such as “Hebrew,” “Israelite,” “Jew,” “Ladina (Ladino),” “Semitic” and, possibly, “Cosmopolitan.”
Glasberg and his clients have compared their case to Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 lawsuit that eventually struck down a ban on interracial marriage in that state and around the country. Seven other states – Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota and New Hampshire – also have laws requiring marriage license applicants to state their race.
A spokesman for Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring told The New York Times that it was “not readily apparent why state law requires the collection of this data on the marriage license application.”
Aiden Pink is the deputy news editor of the Forward. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter @aidenpink

September 2019

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events 
Sunday, September 15th 2:30 – 4:30 PM
WISDOM Membership Tea
See Flyer Below
Thursday, September 19th 7:00 – 9:00 PM
Exploring Women and Hindu Life
See Flyer Below
Sunday, November 3rd 2:30 – 5:30 PM
Interfaith Panel on Organ Donation
See Flyer Below

On August 11th, members of the Temple Israel Sisterhood joined members of the Hartford Memorial Baptist Church Sisterhood at the Detroit Institute of Arts to take an incredible tour of the African American art collection there!  Fantastic day together!!

‘It’s long overdue’: the first exhibition for Native American female artists
In a groundbreaking new exhibition, the often unseen or uncredited works of Native American
 women are being celebrated
Walk into most museums and there might be something missing on the wall labels beside Native American artworks – an Apache dress from the 19th century might just read: “Title, year, materials.”
What’s missing? The artist’s name. Though many of the artists’ names were not recorded, and will forever be anonymous, many that have been recorded are now being recognized as never before. Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists is the first ever museum retrospective of Native American and Canadian female artists. It opened at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and until 18 August, over 115 artists from 50 Native communities are being given the credit they deserve.
“This is the first, believe it or not, show devoted to Native women artists,” said Jill Ahlberg Yohe, who co-curated the exhibit with Teri Greeves. “It’s the first to honor Native women from ancient times to the contemporary moment.”
Then why did it take so long? Most 19th-century art collectors were “men with a Victorian sensibility,” Yohe said. For the most part, these men weren’t interested “in identifying women, or individualizing Native people”. She added: “90% of Native art is made by women. Native artists know this. It’s just non-Native people who haven’t recognized that.”
Yohe has been working on this exhibition since 2015. “It dawned on me after scouring the collections that all the work is made by women,” she said. Putting together the show meant more than just plucking out items from renowned collections. Rather than repeating the same old narratives, the co-curators wanted to incorporate fresh voices.
That led them to working with 21 women, both Native and non-Native scholars and artists, to curate this show as part of their “exhibition advisory board”. “That’s what made it special,” said Yohe. “We have the voices, expertise and knowledge from all these women.”
Upon entering the exhibition, there’s a parked 1985 Chevy El Camino by Rose Simpson, a work which pays homage to the 20th-century potter Maria Martinez, “the first self-identified non-anonymous Native artist,” said Yohe. That sets the tone for the entire show, which is divided into three sections: legacy, relationships and power. The exhibition includes the work of 12 Canadian artists to trace tribes and communities that were established long before borders between the two countries. “The borders between the US and Canada weren’t created by indigenous people, but by outside influences,” said Yohe. “All this work is connected to our history, whether it was made in 1500 or 2019. It’s all a part of the American and Canadian story.”
Métis artist Christi Belcourt shows The Wisdom of the Universe, a painting from 2014 that features animals on the endangered species list in Canada, alongside Haida fashion designer Dorothy Grant, who sketches Haida artwork on to clothing, is showing her wool Hummingbird Dress from 1989, the same year she debuted her first collection.
Though craft and fashion play a role in this exhibit, it’s not where it ends. “It’s the gendered aspect of women’s work,” said Yohe. “These categories don’t work; they just don’t work in Native communities.”
One of the most fun pieces in the exhibit is a pair of heels by the Luiseño/Shoshone-Bannock artist Jamie Okuma, who is showing her Adaption II shoes from 2012.
 The artist has taken a pair of Christian Louboutin heels and covered them in what Yohe calls “Native couture” – including the likes of glass beads, porcupine quills and buckskin. The work counteracts the stereotype that Native art lives in the past and lacks sophistication. The Creek-Cherokee artist Joan Hill is showing her 1990 painting Women’s Voices at the Council, which shows the head of a tribe, a woman she refers to as the “Beloved Woman”, meeting with other women as part of the decision-making for their tribe. Haida artist Freda Diesing shows Mask, Old Woman with Labret from 1974, which depicts a woman with a labret, a body modification known as “lip plugs”, which were recognized as status symbols for women on the north-west coast. (Diesing was one of the few female carvers of her generation and her Haida name Skil Kew Wat means “magical little woman”).
The artworks here are more than just decorative or folk-art masterpieces. They offer an overlooked, often silenced narrative. “Their work tells the story of Native people, the idea of resilience, despite all measures of annihilation of federal policy, settlers and acts of genocide,” said Yohe. The Anishinaabe artist Rebecca Belmore shows Fringe, a sculpture from 2007, which draws attention to the violence against First Nations women with a gaping back scar the artist believes will never disappear. But this exhibition is, in part, about healing.
For one, it aims to be a counter-narrative. They’re calling it “corrective art history” to the dusty old textbooks that ignored them for decades.
“It’s long overdue,” said Yohe. “Native women’s art history is American history.”

Female chief in Malawi breaks up 850 child marriages and sends girls back to school
Theresa Kachindamoto, the senior chief in the Dedza District of Central Malawi, wields power over close to 900,000 people… and she’s not afraid to use her authority to help the women and girls in her district. In the past three years, she has annulled more than 850 child marriages, sent hundreds of young women back to school to continue their education, and made strides to abolish cleansing rituals that require girls as young as seven to go to sexual initiation camps. With more than half of Malawi’s girls married before the age of 18, according to a 2012 United Nations survey – and a consistently low ranking on the human development index, Kachindamoto’s no-nonsense attitude and effective measures have made her a vital ally in the fight for women’s and children’s rights.
Kachindamoto, who was born in Dedza District, had been working as a secretary for twenty-seven years in another district when she was called to come home and serve as a chief. Upon her return, she was dismayed at the sight of 12 year-old girls with babies and young husbands and quickly began to take action. Last year, Malawi raised the legal age to marry to 18, yet parental consent continues to serve as a loophole to allow younger girls to marry. Kachindamoto ordered 50 of her sub-chiefs to sign an agreement ending child marriage in Dedza District. When a few male chiefs continued to approve the marriages, Kachindamoto suspended them until they annulled the unions. In addition to annulling the marriages (330 in June of 2015 alone!), this fierce chief sent the children back to school, often paying their school fees with her own money. She has also asked parliament to raise the minimum age of marriage again to 21.
In an area where girls are often married early to ease a family’s financial burden and where one in five girls in Malawi are victims of sexual abuse, Kachindamoto is also taking a stand against the cleansing camps where girls are routinely sent before marriage. The sexual initiation rites that take place there are extremely disturbing, particularly in a country where one in ten people has HIV. Kachindamoto is threatening to dismiss any chiefs that continue to allow these controversial practices. Kachindamoto has faced plenty of opposition to her efforts from parents and community members, even receiving death threats, yet she remains determined to continue changing minds and laws for the benefits of Malawi’s females and their futures. In Kachindamoto’s own words, “If they are educated, they can be and have anything they want.”

Interfaith concert brings Jewish and
African American communities together

Late last month, two communities came together to share and express spirituality through music.  Called “A Celebration of Spirit: Strengthening Our Common Bonds Through Music and Faith,” the gathering, sponsored by the Arizona Jewish Historical Society and Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church, took place on Sunday, June 30 at the church, and featured religious music from both Jewish and African American traditions. The intention was to encourage more dialogue and awareness between the communities.
AZJHS Executive Director Lawrence Bell explained that the organization was making an effort to reach out to the African American community. Even though there is a strong history of connection between the two communities – especially during the fight for civil rights – Bell believed that the two communities have been growing apart.
“We came up with the idea of a religious concert so we as Jews can see what they’re singing in church and they as African American Christians can see what we’re singing in our temples and synagogues,” Bell said. “The Jewish and African American communities work together a lot in areas of common interest, but we really don’t understand each other very much.” The concert was originally going to be on Martin Luther King Jr. Day but it had to be postponed due to scheduling conflicts. However, Bell believed the spirit of King was felt that day because it was such an uplifting and joyous event.
Between 400 and 500 people attended the concert, including members of other faith traditions, including Hindu and Buddhist communities.
Temple Solel cantorial soloist Todd Herzog and Temple Kol Ami cantorial soloist Emily Kaye performed Jewish songs at the beginning of the concert, and the church’s choir sang Southern Baptist songs. All the musicians performed together at the end of the concert.
AZJHS Volunteer Event Chair Stu Siefer heard the choir rehearse multiple times. “Their singing was so powerful and spiritually uplifting that it made me realize how sharing music is a great way to bring people of different faiths together,” he said in a statement prior to the show.

Elder Richard Yarbough, Pilgrim Rest administrator, agreed and said that because music is a universal language, he believed it affected those who attended on an emotional level. He was also grateful there were so many photos of the audience in the concert.  “Sometimes when you’re immersed in an environment like that, there’s so much personal appreciation for what’s going on you sort of get in your own zone and you’re not as sensitive as to what’s going on around you,” he said. “Seeing the audience captured in photos just illustrated how much how much joy, camaraderie and interaction there was between all the people who attended.”
In between the performances there were also two religious sermons led by Temple Solel Rabbi Emily Langowitz and Pilgrim Rest Pastor Terry E. Mackey. The two analyzed the same biblical text, which was the story of Korah, and shared their religious perspectives.
Audience member Allan Frenkel, resident of the Kivel Campus of Care, thought the concert was powerful, and said the Jewish community should participate in even more interfaith events.
“I do not think anyone left without making new friends. Many exchanged numbers, emails and vowed to get together,” Frenkel said. “The spirit that was in the attendees’ hearts when leaving the church could not be fully described, but all knew they had been blessed by this event.”
Cepand Alizadeh, community relations director for the Mayor’s Office, read a letter to the audience written by Mayor Kate Gallego.
“I encourage us to integrate music more into our daily lives so that Phoenix becomes a stronger and more unified place,” Gallego wrote. “I have no doubt that today’s inspiring interfaith concert is a positive step that will move our city towards harmony.”
“A Celebration of Spirit: Strengthening Our Common Bonds Through Music and Faith” concert can be viewed in its entirety on the Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church Facebook page.

Muslim Man Pledges To Keep Long Island Town’s Beloved Jewish Bakery Kosher – And Halal
The Beach Bakery & Grand Café, in Westhampton Beach, on Long Island, is a local institution. Since 1988, it has served black-and-whites, baguettes, pastries and challah from its bakery counter, and made custom wedding cakes for its community. But there’s a reason for the challah, and a reason its restaurant only serves vegetarian and fish dishes: the Beach Bakery is certified kosher, the only such establishment in Long Island’s East End, a popular summer vacation spot. When the bakery and restaurant went up for sale last year, local residents worried that the new owner wouldn’t be interested in preserving its kosher certification.
Turns out the eventual buyer actually wanted to add a certification, Newsday reported: Rashid Sulehri, owner of two other local establishments, is Muslim, and says not only will the Beach Bakery stay kosher, but it will become halal, too, so devout Muslims can eat there.
“It’s a dream come true,” Sulehri said. “Sons of Abraham can sit under one roof and they get a chance to see how much in common they have instead of staying away from each other and just thinking how different they are from each other.”
The Beach Bakery has already begun attracting Muslim residents: In June, a large group came to the restaurant to celebrate the holiday Eid al-Fitr, the closing of the month of Ramadan.
Ari Feldman is a staff writer at the Forward. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter @aefeldman
This story “Kosher And Halal: Muslim Man Saves Jewish Bakery” was written by Ari Feldman.

Attack on Hindu priest near Queens temple
 probed as possible hate crime, say police
Hindu priest Swami Ji Harish Chander Puri was beaten Thursday near the Shiv Shakti Peeth in Glen Oaks, Queens while he was walking down the street in his religious garb.
Investigators are trying to determine if an attack on a Hindu priest in Queens was a hate crime, police said Sunday. An umbrella-wielding attacker struck a punched the priest near a temple in Floral Park at about 11 a.m. Thursday morning, said cops. Swami Ji Harish Changer Puri, 62, was dressed in his religious garb when he was attacked on 264th St. near 85th Ave. 52-year-old Sergio Gouveia confronted him and said he didn’t want him in the neighborhood, police sources said. Gouveia struck Puri with the umbrella and punched him, cutting his nose, head, chest, arms and legs, said cops.
The scene unfolded about two blocks north of the Shiv Shakti Peeth temple, and about three blocks south of Gouveia’s home.
Patrol officers arrested Gouveia minutes later, and charged him with misdemeanor assault, harassment and weapon possession.
He’s not currently charged with a hate crime, but police sources said the case remains under investigation.

Jewish and Latter-day Saint scholars just had an interfaith dialogue in Jerusalem. Now they’re going to publish a book.
SALT LAKE CITY – At the beginning of June, an event at the BYU Jerusalem Center featuring two prominent religious leaders – Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Rabbi Michael Melchior, the chief rabbi of Norway and a recognized leader in Israel – served as both a highlight and illustration of something even greater that is taking place between the two faiths. Not only did BYU students and other invited guests listen to two insightful keynote addresses and witness firsthand a respectful interfaith dialogue between two faith leaders, but the program set the tone for other dialogues and study sessions held at the Shalom Hartman Institute, the Jerusalem campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and Bar Ilan University for Jewish and Latter-day Saint scholars, said Rabbi Mark Diamond, a professor of Jewish studies at Loyola Marymount University, who was there.
Rabbi Diamond, along with fellow attendees Rabbi Samuel L. Spector of Utah’s Congregation Kol Ami and Brent Top, who served as dean of BYU’s Religious Studies Center from 2013-2018, agree that the Jewish-Latter-day Saint Academic Dialogue Project is building new bridges of common ground and friendship between the two groups.
“The Jewish-Latter-day Saint Academic Dialogue Project has built strong bonds of collegiality, friendship, and fellowship between the participating scholars,” Diamond said. “We share a passion for academic interfaith dialogue and engagement and are equally committed to both the private and public programs of the project.”
On the private academic side, their discussion has moved from topics in which there is a broad agreement between the two faith traditions to more challenging subjects such as supersessionism. On the public side, they have reached out to Jewish and Latter-day Saint communities in California, Utah and now Israel to dispel common misconceptions about one another and share some of the fruits of their interfaith exchanges, Rabbi Diamond said. Since he arrived in Utah last year, Rabbi Spector has had opportunities to meet Latter-day Saint church leaders and shared a photo or two on social media. Some members of his congregation criticized him for meeting with church leaders, but he holds to the belief that Latter-day Saints and Jews share a lot of common narratives, he said.
“With the dialogue and the work I’ve done with the church this year, one of my proudest achievements is now, in just one year, my community has changed so much their view on the church and sees them as friends. You’re not always going to agree on every single thing, but these are our friends,” Rabbi Spector said. “I explain that this is an investment for our community, a way for me to understand and learn more about the church and the dominant religion here in Utah. But likewise, this is a chance for the church to get to know us and our local leadership and to build bridges. If we want to accomplish making Utah a better place, which is something that we have as a shared goal, how can we be effective in this state, if we aren’t building bridges with the church? It’s not possible.”
In addition to the program with Elder Cook and Rabbi Melchior, Jewish scholars and leaders of BYU’s Religious Studies Center jointly participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, and engaged in several interfaith dialogues. The group also made visits to Save A Child’s Heart/Wolfson Medical Center and the Save A Child’s Heart home in Holon, Israel, where they met children from Gaza, the West Bank and Africa who have undergone heart surgeries performed by SACH cardiologists.
“They were deeply moving experiences,” Rabbi Diamond said. “SACH staff members and volunteers know that every child is a child of God, and political, religious and ethnic divisions do not intrude on their lifesaving work.”
The Academic Dialogue started a few years ago when Top was the dean of Religious Studies and hosted a visit by Rabbi Diamond, Steven Windmueller and others. A genuine bond was forged and the Jewish scholars asked how they could be more involved with BYU. That’s how the dialogue group was formed, Top said.
They started out meeting twice a year; once in Utah and once in California. They would present papers, engage in discussions and have public events. One year, BYU professors were invited to speak in a southern California synagogue. Another time Rabbi Diamond participated in a Q&A session with BYU students and spoke in a Latter-day Saint sacrament meeting on the Jewish view of the Sabbath. There have been memorable discussions on Zionism and the gathering of Israel.
“What happened in Jerusalem was an outgrowth of those early years,” Top said. “We always had the goal and dream of having our dialogue meetings in Jerusalem because Jerusalem is near and dear to both traditions.”

Rabbi Spector first attended a dialogue event in Los Angeles shortly after he was appointed the new rabbi of Congregation Kol Ami. The respectful tone and depth of the conversation at the event impressed the young rabbi.
“What immediately made this dialogue different is while still being respectful, I feel like we can have difficult conversations at times,” he said. “Those are conversations I could imagine happening in another dialogue setting without people taking it personally and getting offended. Here there are people who were able to listen, but also not take it personally, but rather look at these criticisms through an academic lens for learning. That was really exciting for me. I felt like I
I could express myself and learn more in this type of dialogue.”
Building on the success of their meetings in Israel, Rabbi Diamond said the group is organizing interfaith conferences in selected cities and sending teams of Jewish and Latter-day Saint scholars to speak about the project on college and seminary campuses, as well as in churches and synagogues. There are also plans to publish a book of academic papers delivered at the first five interfaith conferences.
“We are proud that the volume is set to be jointly published by BYU Press and the Central Conference of American Rabbis Press,” Rabbi Diamond said. “This is a historic first – to have a work co-published by Jewish and Latter-day Saint presses – and we are excited about this development.”

National faith leaders begin ‘Moral Monday’ actions against federal immigration policies
EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Hundreds of faith leaders from multiple denominations and people from across the country came together in Central El Paso Sunday night as part of the ‘Moral Monday at the Borderlands’ Mass meeting. The First Christian Church on Arizona Avenue was packed to capacity as noted speakers including Dr. William J. Barber II, Imam Omar Suleiman, Rev. Terri Horde Owens, and Linda Sarsour, who was one of the co-chairs of the inaugural Women’s March delivered remarks on the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy, migrant detention and family separation. The group was called from around the country to protest current immigration policies that they say are against the morality of their faith teachings.
“Our faiths are on trial here,” Imam Suleiman said. “If you say that Jesus is in your heart, but you would put him in a cage today, you are a hypocrite. If you say that you believe in Moses but you would let him drown, you are a hypocrite. If you say you believe in Abraham, and you are following the footsteps of Abraham but you would turn him away from these borders, you are a hypocrite.”
Those in attendance Sunday came to El Paso from Ohio, California, Florida, and even as far as Canada to participate in the Mass Meeting and Moral Monday direct action. Repairers of the Breach and the Border Network for Human Rights will hold a mass protest action Monday morning. The Moral Monday action is the highlight of the group’s trip and the focus of their time in El Paso.
Previous ‘Moral Monday’ events have led to the arrest of participants who engage in acts of civil disobedience.

Anti-Semitic flyers posted in Birmingham, Royal Oak by neo-Nazi hate group
Birmingham resident Alicia Chandler was upset when she heard that anti-Semitic flyers were appearing in her hometown as well as in Royal Oak. Most disturbing, she said, was that one was found at the entrance to Clover Hill Cemetery, a traditionally Jewish cemetery where many Holocaust survivors are buried. Chandler, the interim executive director for the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC (American Jewish Committee), is the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor.
“It is incredibly disturbing and scary to see these sentiments on the rise in our country and also to be appearing in our hometown where parts of the Jewish community live,” Chandler said. “We do feel targeted,”
The flyers are attributed to the Atomwaffen Division (AWD), a national neo-Nazi network that has been labeled as a terrorist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The messages on the flyers, found in two locations in Birmingham and one in Royal Oak, are disturbing.
More: African-American man becomes president of neo-Nazi group in Detroit One of the anti-Semitic posters put up in Birmingham and attributed to the neo-Nazi hate group, Atomwaffen Division.
Three different flyers were found, all with distinct, vivid messages taking aim directly at Jewish people. One flyer uses a derogatory term for Jews in a headline that references the 6 million victims of Nazi genocide during World War II, then denies the Holocaust ever happened, but said it should have.
“When Holocaust denials are being placed on the gates of a cemetery where Holocaust survivors are buried there’s a sadness to that,” Chandler said. “There’s also a danger to what we feel that these sentiments are on the rise in this country.”
Chandler noted that the flyers ” … appear to deny the Holocaust while simultaneously saying it would be a good idea to kill 6 million Jews.”
Kim Raznik, executive director of Clover Hill Cemetery on 14 Mile in Birmingham, said the flyer was found by their superintendent, Richard Straitz, on July 4. Raznik said they immediately filed a police report.
“We take these things seriously and we reported to the officials,” Raznik said. “I think it’s a concerning topic for t
he entire nation.”
Scott Grewe, patrol commander with the Birmingham Police Department, said two flyers were found in Birmingham’s Poppleton Park. The residents who found them took them down and turned them in to police.
The poster found at the cemetery “was stuck with duct tape underneath the Jewish Star of David on a cement column near the front gate,” he said. Grewe said his department reached out to the Michigan Intelligence Operation Center, a branch of the state police, and learned that MIOC is aware of the group, “but they are not aware of any planned activity or specific event that we need to be concerned with at this specific time.” In Royal Oak, a flyer was found on a light pole near 14 Mile and Hampton, near the Birmingham border, according to Royal Oak Police Lt. Keith Spencer.
“Right now, we will continue to monitor the area and any further incidents,” Spencer said. “At this time we haven’t found that there is an imminent threat to violence.” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit that monitors and exposes hate groups and their activities, Atomwaffen Division “is organized as a series of terror cells that work toward civilizational collapse.” Their members, the website says, “can be fairly described as accelerationists, believe that violence, depravity and degeneracy are the only sure way to establish order in their dystopian and apocalyptic vision of the world.”
On the website RationalWiki, Brandon Clint Russell is listed as AWD’s founder.
Last September, anti-Semitic flyers featuring crude caricatures of Jewswere discovered outside the First United Methodist Church in Ferndale and reported to police. The black-and-white flyers were taped to three entrances of the church and expressed support for the controversial far-right websites The Daily Stormer and

 In the second podcast episode about Baha’i Houses of Worship, Felipe Duhart and Eduardo Rioseco of Chile, Santos Odhiambo of Uganda, and M. A. Ghanbari of India explore the impact that Temples are having on visitors and on surrounding populations. Creating a sacred space open to all has given rise to greater consciousness of and action for the betterment of society.
“Service is the way to transform ourselves and society,” explains Mr. Rioseco. “And in the Houses of Worship, really you can find many avenues to do that. It’s a question that each visitor and each person that interacts with the House of Worship takes home. How do we keep transforming ourselves and society-in our neighborhood, in our family, in our workplace? Wherever we interact with others this question accompanies us. And the Temple inspires us in all those places.”
The interviews followed a unique gathering last month at the Baha’i World Centre, where more than 30 individuals gathered to explore what is being learned about all 10 Temples currently in operation. The participants hailed from Australia, Cambodia, Chile, Colombia, Germany, India, Panama, Samoa, Uganda, and the United States.
Part one of their discussion can be heard at this website:

Interfaith vigil held after mass shooting
In the wake of the two mass shootings that occurred within 13 hours of each other this weekend, the First Church United Church of Christ of Phoenix hosted a candlelight interfaith vigil to mourn the victims of the shootings. The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Phoenix worked to help bring the vigil together.
“There is no place for hate in Phoenix. There is no place for hate in Arizona,” Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said to vigil attendees. “It is the 216th day of the year. We have already had 251 mass shootings in this country. That is 251 too many. We must demand change. I am not here to offer prayers, but hopeful words for action.”
The vigil was a communal response to a devastating week- end. On Saturday, a shooter killed 22 and injured more than two dozen at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. On Sunday, another shooter opened fire at a popular nightclub in the Oregon District in Dayton, Ohio, killing nine people and injuring 20. The president and dean of Valley Beit Midrash, Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz, quickly joined the interfaith coalition to help plan the vigil interfaith vigil. Hate wins, he told the gathered mourners, “when it makes us cynical, when it gives us a negative view on the human condition. We come together because we dare not accept the mass shootings as acceptable, as normal. We dare not give up hope in this country and we dare not give white supremacy the upper hand.”
Arizona Faith Network Executive Director Rev. Katie Sexton also spoke at the vigil.
“We are here tonight, again,” Sexton said. “‘Again’ is a word that no one hopes to say as we gather to mourn the mass casualties of the mass shootings. But again, we say tonight we are here, again.”
The JCRC was motivated to help organize the vigil, said JCRC Executive Director Paul Rockower, “because we wanted to help the Jewish community share its sadness and grief alongside other faith communities of the Valley. This was a means for us to express our collective condolences to the families and communities affected by these tragedies, and to understand the ramifications of xenophobia and gun violence, as means to counter these horrific incidents.”
Multiple spiritual and community leaders at the event called for the denouncement of hate-filled acts of violence and the ban of military-grade firearms such as assault rifles.
After the vigil, Yanklowitz talked about the Jewish perspective on gun ownership and the Second Amendment. “Jewish law is clear on two points,” Yanklowitz said. “Firstly, that we must protect ourselves. Secondly, that we must remove dangerous objects from our homes and from society. It is clear that the current regulations in place fall very short of what Jewish law and values require in ensuring a safe society to protect our children.”
Rabbi Bonnie Sharfman of Congregation Kehillah added that there are cases in the Torah that allow for killing a home invader, and provided examples of the Israelites arming themselves. She also referenced The Talmud Avodah Zarah chapter 15b, which states that it is prohibited to sell a weapon to someone who might kill. “When this was all being written, no one could have possibly predicted that there would be assault weapons like the ones used in the shootings,” Sharfman said. “There is a difference between owning a handgun and an assault weapon that can cause just horrific carnage and should only be used by the military.”
In Arizona, there is no permit, background check or firearms registration required when buying a handgun from a private individual. The purchaser only needs to be 18 years old. The minimum age requirement to buy a gun from a federally licensed dealer is 21. There is no ban on assault weapon sales in Arizona.
Arizona does have some restrictions on who can purchase a gun. Prohibited possessors include those convicted of a felony, undocumented aliens or anyone who is considered a threat to themselves and others. As a constitutional carry state, Arizona does not require an individual to have a permit for concealed carry. The state is the third in modern U.S. history to allow the carrying of concealed weapons without a permit, and it is the first state with a large urban population to do so. Yanklowitz doesn’t believe in banning gun ownership, but he said he wishes there were more sensible and responsible regulations in place to protect families.
“I have found most gun owners to be quite hostile toward studying the Jewish values on this approach,” Yanklowitz said. “For many, their specific interpretation of the Second Amendment was revealed at Sinai.”
Sharfman said that she doesn’t want to go to another vigil and hopes more can be accomplished at the legislative level.
“You should keep praying, sending good thoughts and attending vigils,” Sharfman said. “But this is also a legislative issue, and there’s a lot of power we have in how we vote.” Jewish News of Arizona

No more green tea, vaping or drinks ending in ‘-ccino,’ Mormon Church tells members
The Washington Post by Marisa Lati

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wants to make clear that vaping, green tea and fancy coffee drinks are off limits under the religion’s dietary code meant to keep members from consuming unhealthy substances. Church leaders on Thursday pointed to a recent article in New Era, the church’s magazine for young people, reminding them that the Word of Wisdom prohibits “hot drinks” – understood to mean tea and coffee – and harmful or habit-forming substances. E-cigarettes are highly addictive, “iced tea is still tea,” and any drink ending in “-ccino” probably has coffee and therefore breaks the rules, the church wrote. Recreational marijuana is also banned, church leaders said, but medical marijuana and opioids are fine when used as prescribed by a doctor. The church had previously said it approved of medical marijuana in certain circumstances, but last year it opposed a medical marijuana bill in Utah that it said went too far.
Still, experts and church members said the clarifications raised as many questions as they answered: Why is iced tea off limits if it’s cold? What’s the church’s stance on coffee-flavored desserts? Are drinks with green-tea extract okay?
To Lauren Lethbridge, editor of Brigham Young University’s student newspaper, the Universe, following the Word of Wisdom is about obedience to the church. She said her friends have been talking about the clarification that green tea violates the rules because several of them drink juices with green-tea extract. Many of them feel fine about the extract, Lethbridge said, but one friend vowed to throw out her drinks immediately. “I think people are still concerned and a little stressed about ‘Does this qualify?’ or ‘Is this bad?’ ” said Lethbridge, 21. “But I think less people are having it be a major concern for them.”
The Word of Wisdom is a section of the Doctrine and Covenants, one of the church’s four volumes of scripture. Mormons believe God revealed in 1833 the foods and substances that are good and bad for people to consume. Liquor, tobacco, tea and coffee were prohibited. Heber Grant, who was a church president, decided in the 20th century to drill down on the rules and to make adherence a prerequisite for entering a Mormon temple, said Gregory Prince, a historian of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Beer and wine were initially acceptable, while liquor was not. Eventually, Prince said, all alcohol became off limits. Church members in recent years have debated whether soda, which – like coffee and tea – typically has caffeine, is prohibited. After prominent church member and then-Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney attracted attention in 2012 for drinking Diet Coke on the campaign trail, the church clarified that it has no rule against caffeine itself. The church tends to issue clarifications when it gets a lot of questions about the same substance or when it realizes members in different locations are not on the same page, Prince said. He said church members also vary in how closely they follow the Word of Wisdom, which he called “a living document.” Adhering to the dietary rules signals to others that someone is a church member, Prince said. He said the practice is similar to how Jews might keep kosher as a way of demonstrating their faith.
“This is how we self-identify within our tribe,” Prince said. “This is your outward living of your inward religion.”
Contradictions abound between the text of the Word of Wisdom and members’ 21st-century consumption habits, said Taylor Petrey, a religion professor at Kalamazoo College. Most families develop their own interpretations of the rules, he said. Some Mormon households might eat coffee-flavored ice cream, for example, while others would not. Church members believe in continuing revelation, which means that prophets interpret the scriptures for changing times, said Jana Riess, a columnist for Religion News Service and the author of “The Next Mormons.” She said the church is trying to keep up with a changing culture and the availability of new foods and other substances. “It feels like the church is trying so hard to keep up with some of the newer questions that are being raised about these drinks or about substances … but it’s not necessarily a slam-dunk in terms of clarity,” Riess said.
Riess said there’s also a generational gap: Older Mormons are more likely to be dogmatic about the Word of Wisdom, while young members tend to follow the rules less closely. In a study Riess conducted and wrote about in March, 40 percent of millennial or Generation X church members said they had consumed caffeinated coffee in the past six months. Thirty-eight percent of members with permission to enter the temples said they had consumed at least one of the forbidden substances.
Despite the continuous debate about interpretation, Riess said the Word of Wisdom is not supposed to be a list of commandments with defined borders. She cited a quote from church founder Joseph Smith that she said was meant to guide members’ dietary choices: “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.” “People really want to know what the rules are, where the boundaries are, how far is too far,” Riess said. “I feel sorry for the leaders of the church in trying to respond to this because I think that they would much rather have members understand that they have good principles and can govern themselves.”

August 2019

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events 
Sunday, August 4th noon to five
DION interfaith picnic at Belle Isle
See Flyer below
Tuesday, August 20th Noon to 1:00 PM
Five Women Five Journeys
Blue Cross Blue Shield, 600 E. Lafayette Blvd.
Detroit, 48226
Thursday, August 22nd, 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM
Faith Community Nursing For All Traditions
Live Video Chat – See Flyer Below
Sunday, November 3rd 2:30 PM – 5:30 PM
Interfaith Panel on Organ Donation
St. John’s Episcopal Church, 26998 Woodward Ave., Royal Oak, 48067
Stay tuned for flyer and more information

Metro Detroit Muslims, Jews work together to raise $26K for border asylum seekers
WEST BLOOMFIELD, Mich. (FOX 2) – Republican or Democrat – it doesn’t matter what side of the aisle you think is right. There is a harsh reality on the ground in cities that border Mexico.
When asylum-seekers arrive at border cities as they try to enter from Mexico, they’re met with resistance and told to find their own way. That’s according to rabbi Jen Lader with Temple Israel.
“They’re then dumped in a downtown city with no food, no clothes, no lodging – often with children in tow and their expected, often without English skills, to find their way to their sponsors, so they can have their asylum hearings in that city,” Lader said. Members of the metro Detroit Muslim community caught wind of the effort and got on board to help. Mahmoud Al-Hadidi with the Michigan Muslim Community Council said the problems at the borders span all faiths.
“We have a lot in common as American citizens from all faiths. Whether we practice our religion or uphold our Constitution, we have a lot in common.  It’s an essential part of a mission to bring people together,” said Al-Hadidi.
These two faiths working together is nothing new in Southeast Michigan. The Muslim and Jewish communities have made a strong bond over the years and it’s something both sides are proud of, in good times or in bad.
“Our traditions, both in the Jewish and Muslim tradition, there is a teaching that he who saves one life is as if that person saved an entire world. It speaks to the magnitude of a single life,” said David Kurzmann with the Jewish community relations council.
In just one week, $26,000 have been raised for toiletries, food, underwear, and bus tickets.  All of it is going right to the New Mexico congregation that’s helping asylum seekers ahead of their legal proceedings.
“When they clear the process to give them essential health aid, transportation to their destination, some cash. To give them some dignity and welcome to this country that we all wish to receive when we enter any other country,” Al-Hadidi said.
“Buying packs of T-shirts, housing their families in hotel room for a night or two, giving them $10 cash and a bus ticket for a three-day journey to somewhere else in the country. So, we can’t be there on our hands to hug children had to hand people sandwiches, but we are doing our best to partner with them in their holy work on the ground,” said Lader.
It’s taken years for the Jewish and Muslim faiths to work hand-in-hand.
“The Jewish, Muslim relationship in our community is something we cherish and it is an initiative we work on regularly, it is been about building trust and building relationships, and partnerships,” Kurzmann said
But they can’t do it alone. Both sides are hoping others can chip in and help people who need it. For more information check out

(CNN)Canada has added to its list of terrorist organizations
a neo-Nazi group and its “armed branch,” the first time the country has classified white supremacists that way.
Blood and Honour and Combat 18 were labeled terrorist entities last Friday, joining about 60 groups that include al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and the Islamic State. Under the designation, the groups could have their assets seized and organizations that aid in the terrorist activities would be subject to criminal penalties. The Canadian government described Blood and Honour as “an international neo-Nazi network whose ideology is derived from the National Socialist doctrine of Nazi Germany” and referred to Combat 18 as Blood and Honour’s “armed branch.”
Blood and Honour was founded in England in 1987 by Ian Stuart Donaldson, the lead singer of a hate rock band. The group takes its name from the slogan of the Hitler Youth movement, and its chapters and associated groups have carried out murders and bombings throughout the world. In 1998, four members of a Tampa, Florida chapter of Blood and Honour killed two homeless men in that state, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. In February 2012, members of Blood and Honour and Combat 18 firebombed a building in the Czech Republic that housed mostly Romani families. Canada’s terror designation comes as the country appears to be ramping up its fight against terrorism and extremism.
Also Friday, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) cited right-wing terrorism as a threat to the country’s national security and said it was increasing resources to understand it. On Wednesday, Canada announced initiatives to crack down on terrorist and violent extremist content online. The government committed up to $1 million for a platform to help companies detect and remove extremist content. It also said it would hold a youth summit on countering online extremism, with input from companies like Twitter, Microsoft, Facebook and Google.

Approximately 100 members of the interfaith community gathered in June at the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn to discuss how the actions they take locally, even if it is as perceiveably small as having a conversation with a neighbor of a different faith background, can have a lasting ripple effect globally.
President Raman Singh opened the afternoon with organizational updates, including the expansion of the organization’s cornerstone program: Religious Diversity Journeys. In the coming academic year, RDJ will expand its reach to even more seventh graders in the Detroit Metro area starting in the 2019-2020 academic year. The organization this year will also be hosting a healthcare webinar to discuss health issues that span across the faiths, launch a podcast centering on local issues of faith, and relaunch its website.
Board member Dan Buttry, who has traveled the world on peace-making missions to increase dialogue and harmony across the faiths, and boasts about how he lives in the ethnically and religiously diverse city of Hamtramck, told the gathering there is much work to be done in decreasing the darkness in the world by increasing the ripples of light and hope in his keynote address. Buttry said right now, the world is engaged in a multi-front struggle today between religious extremism on the one hand and understandings of religion and faith that build the community where we love our neighbors whoever they are on the other.
In spite of all the attacks on faith groups – from  Pittsburgh to San Diego to Sri Lanka to New Zealand, Buttry said we have an opportunity to make a global impact every time a member of one faith acknowledges that the purpose of another faith and their own faith is not for war, violence and killing but in how well we treat each other.
“Extremism and violence isn’t the main face of religion. In fact, most of us would say that’s definitely not the true face of our faith.
All these major religions as well as smaller religions have profound teachings about how we live together, how we love our neighbor, how we build community where justice and peace can flourish.”
Buttry concluded his address by giving participants questions for food for thought.

The InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit named Rev. Stancy Adams as its new chairperson. Rev. Adams has served as a minister and religious educator in metropolitan Detroit since 2004. She is associate minister and director of Christian education at Russell Street Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit. Rev. Adams succeeds Robert A. Bruttell, who will serve as the InterFaith Leadership Council’s vice chair. Three other officers will continue in their current roles: Raman Singh as president; Jaspal Neelam as treasurer; and Rev. Dr. Daniel Buttry as secretary.
In 2011, Stancy was ordained by Rev. Dr. DeeDee M. Coleman at Russell Street Missionary Baptist Church; where she serves as an Associate Minister and Director of Christian Education. In 2017 she graduated from Ecumenical Theological Seminary (ETS) with a Master of Divinity
degree. While attending E.T.S., she served two years as President of the Student Council.
Adams is the spiritual advisor for Seasons of Life Ministry and assistant secretary of the Council of Baptist Pastors of Detroit and Vicinity.
She served as Vice-President on the Board of Directors for the Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength (M.O.S.E.S.), a non-profit social justice and leadership development organization known for its grassroots work with Detroit area’s churches, mosques, temples and synagogues. It is also known for its efforts in advocating for the most marginalized segments of the population. In 2014, Adams with MOSES and other grassroots activists questioned why the City of Detroit was suddenly enforcing an ordinance that prohibited organizations from feeding the homeless in downtown Detroit, particularly in the area deemed for the new Redwings hockey stadium.
Adams is a Chaplain at Beaumont-Botsford hospital in Farmington, Michigan. She established a “Brown Bag” bible study in the workplace in 2003, at Deloitte & Touché, with the purpose of leading souls to Christ.
She has developed many institutes, bible studies and workshops for youth, women, young adults and teachers, as well as city and state government agencies, including: “Takin’ it to the Streets;” “Exemplary Service;” Youth Training and Etiquette; Teaching Techniques; and “Preparing for Success.” Her passion and gifts in ministry lie in teaching and providing Pastoral Care; serving others especially women and young adults.  She said the ministry provides a “No judgment” space
while sharing and learning more about the love of God and assisting them in building a relationship with Him and each other.

(The Washington Post)
Religion in school can be complicated.
So teachers went to class.
School was out – and now it was time for the teachers to be quizzed.
More than two dozen Montgomery County public educators furrowed their brows as the questions flashed on the screen. “Which is not one of the Ten Commandments?” More than half of them got it wrong. Then: “What was the religion of Maimonides?” Ten guessed that the sage was Buddhist; seven guessed he was Mormon. Six got the correct answer: Jewish. “When does the Jewish Sabbath begin?” popped up. Again, wrong answers – many of the teachers guessed Saturday. (It’s Friday night.)
“See?” one teacher muttered. “This is why I’m taking this class.” In Montgomery County, these teachers say, the religious diversity of their students often astounds them. Students ask for days off for Diwali and share stories with classmates about celebrating Eid. To educators who aren’t familiar with religion, the multitude of traditions can be overwhelming.  That’s where this summer course comes in. For six days, Montgomery teachers of all grade levels tour some of the Washington area’s religious institutions, from a Muslim mosque to a Sikh gurdwara to a Jewish synagogue. They meet with experts who teach them about the difference between Catholic and Protestant, Sunni and Shiite, atheist and agnostic. They also discuss the thorny question of whether public school teachers should even be talking about religion at all.

The conversations among participants in the course, offered for county school employees who need continuing education credits, are a far cry from the discussions about religion in public schools unfolding elsewhere in the country. In many places, the idea most in vogue right now is teaching the  Bible, not the wide variety of religions studied in Montgomery’s course.
Thanks to a coordinated effort by evangelical activists, 10 state legislatures considered laws this past year encouraging public schools to teach the Christian Bible as an important work of literature and influence on history. These Bible classes, which have withstood court scrutiny in the past, are popular offerings at high schools in many states, despite critics who say teachers might far too easily violate the First Amendment by promoting a religious message as a devotional truth.
Many schools that teach the Bible are located in some of the most heavily Christian areas of the country. While Montgomery County schools don’t ask about families’ religions, they have boasted that students come from more than 157 countries and speak 150 languages at home. About 72 percent are students of color. In the summer course, which concluded this week, three of the educators raised their hands to say they had taught students who wear topknots traditional to Sikh boys; others said they had supported students who were fasting during Ramadan. Stacey Wahrman, an English teacher, said John F. Kennedy High School in Wheaton has become far more diverse than it was when she started teaching there 20 years ago. Wahrman said she needed the primer on religious basics to help walk her students through some of the texts they read in English class, which make more sense to kids who learn how to decipher the religious references. The secret marriage vows that lead to the fatal events of “Romeo and Juliet,” for example? “It’s something they have a hard time wrapping their heads aroun
As a teacher, Wahrman said she needs to better understand her students’ religions. “I feel less comfortable, and it’s one thing I’m hoping this class will help me with, discussing evangelical Christianity,” Wahrman, who is Jewish, said on the first day of the course. She recalled reading the play “A Raisin in the Sun” with students. When some students said, based on a character considering an abortion, “She’s going to hell,” Wahrman felt she didn’t have the religious knowledge to respond confidently.

That’s the type of conversation Christopher Murray, who teaches this course, wants to help teachers get through appropriately. This was the 10th time he taught a teachers’ course on religion, whether as a summer intensive or a 15-week night course during the school year.
Murray is simply a religion nerd. On visiting the many houses of worship that he takes the teachers to throughout the week, he says: “It’s kind of my Disney World.”
Before leaving last year for the private Catholic school Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in search of smaller class sizes and other perks, Murray taught social studies at Walter Johnson High School for 13 years – including an elective course on world religions. When Murray asks the teachers questions about how they can legally teach religion in their schools, most say the subject is murky to them. Several say they believe it’s illegal to teach a class on religion, although it’s not – about half of Montgomery County’s high schools offer such an elective, according to Murray. When Murray says public school teachers can’t lead prayers, according to the Supreme Court, several teachers are surprised. (“Oops,” says one teacher, admitting she has led students who share her Muslim faith in prayer at school before.)

Teachers need this sort of training, argues Diane Moore, director of Harvard University’s Religious Literacy Project, because religion inevitably comes up in their classrooms.
“There are rarely opportunities for teachers themselves to be trained in the academic study of religion, to be able to teach those hot-button, volatile issues well,” Moore said. “The key, and it’s not that profound, is to give teachers … tools to teach religion in a responsible and constitutionally sound way.” Moore’s program at Harvard also provides that training for teachers – although slightly differently. She said she wouldn’t recommend Murray’s approach of bringing teachers into houses of worship, since seeing one example of the practice of a particular faith might cloud their understanding of faith communities that are in fact highly diverse.

But for Joanna Fellows, a theater and film teacher at Seneca Valley High School in Germantown, the whirlwind tour of Washington-area congregations was deeply informative. At a visit to an Episcopal church, one of the final stops of the week-long tour, she revealed she had been gleaning a lot of theology. Her theater class is often a refuge for students struggling with their sexuality, she said. When she talks to parents, they sometimes say their religious beliefs lead them to condemn homosexuality. Now, Fellows is rehearsing an answer steeped in what she has learned in one tour after another: “In Sikhism, they say the creator and the creation are one. In the Torah, we have this idea that God made us in His image. In Buddhism, you have a central concept that there is beauty and there is value in all life,” she said. She said she knew almost nothing about these faiths before this week. She was raised Catholic and has identified with no faith since her teens.
Murray, the leader of the course, also grew up Catholic and then became nonreligious.
He always told his students on the first day of his world religions class that throughout his survey of faith traditions, he wouldn’t tell them what he himself believed in now. They could guess on the last day.
After taking the class, they hardly ever guessed correctly.
The answer? After making a careful study of the world’s religions, Murray eventually converted to Judaism, his wife’s faith, before their second son was born. “It fit all my moral and progressive views,” he says. “I liked the questioning.” He keeps encouraging fellow teachers to ask more questions, too.

Turban-tying services boom
as young Sikhs embrace heritage
(from The Guardian)
Jagdeep Singh Grewal, right, owns a turban-tying company. Photograph: Alecsandra Dragoi/The Guardian
At the height of wedding season, Jagdeep Singh Grewal professionally ties the turbans of four or five grooms a day. He is up before sunrise and often returns home long after dark. While the weddings can blur into each other, one incident has stayed with him.
On a cold October morning in 2018, Grewal arrived at the groom’s house at 5am. The groom’s mother pointed to a picture of a man wearing a turban and asked him to mimic the style. As he got to work, stretching out the fabric, then stitching and tying the turban, Grewal was taken aback by how emotional the groom’s mother and uncle became. The family were moved by the groom’s resemblance to the man in the photo, who Grewal later learned was the groom’s father – a former soldier in the Indian army who had died. “I could relate to it because my dad isn’t around and it was a tough moment,” Grewal says.
The 32-year-old runs Pagh Vala, a turban-tying service in London, with his friend and business partner Barinder Singh Bath. Theirs is part of a growing industry of bespoke turban-tying services in the UK, driven in part by younger members of the Sikh community displaying increasing pride in their roots and the rise of Bollywood stars such as Diljit Dosanjh bringing turbans into the spotlight.
“It’s all about connecting people with their culture and heritage,” Grewal says. “We’ve become more westernised and we don’t know how to tie turbans. And it’s good we have embraced the western culture, but we should remember who we are.” “It used to be family members who tied the groom’s turban, but now you can hardly find a family member to tie a turban,” says Sukhvir Aujla, who runs Tying my Turban, a business based in Wolverhampton, with her husband Taranvir Dhanda.
It’s not just turbans either. There are services for brides who want their saris pinned or gele headwraps professionally tied. Tokunbo Oluderu, a sales associate at Finetex Creatives, which sells fabrics for African headwraps and offers a wrapping service in London, says: “When we opened the shop, we saw a lot of people who came to buy a headwrap, but didn’t know what to do with it.”
While the Highland store, based in London, largely hires and sells kilts to its customers, it is becoming more common to have to show customers how to correctly wear their outfits. “We have people who come here who say their grandad is a McDonald or something like that and they have not worn kilts before,” the sales assistant Monica Zalapicz explains. “We show them how to put the kilt on, which side to wear the kilt pin, and which tartan is most appropriate to their family clan.”
Pete Singh, 39, the founder of Turban Pro, says: “Everyone wants to look good. It’s the main part of the outfit and your face is going to be in pictures, so you have to get the turban right.” He adds that he often works with “diva” grooms who are quite fussy about styles and shapes.
Dr Jasjit Singh of the University of Leeds, who studies religious and cultural transmission, says: “Community elders thought that the younger generation would move away from their heritage, but what we’re seeing is an increasing interest in understanding one’s roots.”
Naroop Jhooti, 38, a London-based photographer and co-author of the book Turbans and Tales, says: “Forty years ago, wearing the turban meant you couldn’t get the job, or could face racial abuse, so the older generation would wear black and didn’t want to be noticed. They wanted to be able to fit in. But times are definitely changing. The younger generation are taking more pride in how their turbans look.”
Singh agrees there is a greater pressure on migrants to conform in the 1960s, but “those born and bred in Britain now are comfortable to say they are British and wearing a turban doesn’t make them any less so. They are less prepared to compromise on their identity.”
Business owners welcome the enthusiasm for professional turban tying, but add that the religious connotations should be respected. Gucci was recently heavily criticised for selling a headpiece resembling a turban.
Kully, 30, who didn’t want to give his last name, hired Turban Pro for his wedding last year, saying he wanted it to look right and respect his culture. It was the first time he had worn one. “It really hurts your head and gives you a headache,” Kully says laughing, but adds that he really enjoyed wearing it. “Everyone complimented it, even the priest,” he says. It was the reaction from his dad, who has worn the turban his whole life, which he savoured the most. “He just looked at me and said: ‘Wow.'”

Singapore is set to welcome its first female president, hijab-wearing Muslim woman named Halimah Yacob.

Yacob was the only candidate to meet the stringent qualifications for presidency set up by Singapore’s Elections Department, the Straits Times reports. That means she’s likely to become president-elect after nominations close on Wednesday, and take her oath of office on Thursday. Since Yacob was the only candidate left standing, she’ll effectively win the presidency without an election, fact that has led to heated criticism from citizens of the city-state about its electoral process.
“I can only say that I promise to do the best that I can to serve the people of Singapore and that doesn’t change whether there is an election or no election,” Yacob said about the news on Monday, according to Channel News Asia.
The 63-year-old politician is the youngest of five children, raised by a single mom who worked as a food cart seller. She graduated from the University of Singapore with a law degree and went on to work for a national trade union organization. Yacob entered local politics in 2001 and rose to the rank of Speaker of Parliament in 2013. She resigned from that post in August. In Singapore, the prime minister is the most powerful political leader, while the president’s role is largely ceremonial. However, the president does have some important responsibilities, such as the ability to block key public-sector appointments, investigate allegations of corruption, and appoint a prime minister.
In 2016, Singapore’s parliament decided that the post of president will be reserved for a candidate from a particular racial group if no one from that group has been president for five continuous terms, or 30 years. That meant that this year’s election was reserved for someone from Singapore’s minority Malay community. The last time Singapore had a Malay president was in 1970.
Presidential hopefuls are required to submit applications to Singapore’s Presidential Elections Committee. Although other candidates submitted applications, the committee announced in a press release that it was only issuing a certificate of eligibility to one candidate. Yacob wasreportedly the only one who met the committee’s requirements, which include either experience in a top public post, or experience managing a private company with a specific minimum in shareholder equity.
Eugene Tan, an associate law professor at Singapore Management University, told The New York Times that there has been a “groundswell” of criticism online about the lack of an election. 
“A contest would have added to her legitimacy,” Tan said.
Although Yacob is set to make history for Singapore as a hijab-wearing woman, the city-state still has bans against hijabs in some government schools and public sector jobs. According to Reuters, Yacob hasn’t often spoken publicly about this ban.
On Monday, Yacob said that she believes the President’s role is to act as a “unifying force.”
“Obviously there is work that I have to do, but the most important thing for me is I would like Singaporeans to work together with me,” she said, according to Channel News Asia. 

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.