May 2018

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events 
 
Exloring Religious Landscapes, Spring 2018
Prayer Across Faith Traditions
See Flyer Below
Thursday, May 3, 7:00 – 9:00 PM
WISDOM Book Friendship and Faith Discussion


Sunday, May 6, 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM
Destination Hope Mother’s Day Brunch for Zaman International
Crystal Gardens Banquet Center
See Flyer Below


Saturday, May 12th, 7:00 PM
Christ Church Cranbrook, Bloomfield Hills
Lamentations for the Forsaken
See Flyer Below


Monday, May 14th, 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Zaman International Boost End of Year Celebration
Henry Ford Centennial Library Auditorium
Sponsored by WISDOM
See flyer below
Tuesday, June 5th 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM
Interfaith Health and Hope Coalition Lunch and Learn
See Flyer Below

Zaman International, an Inkster-based humanitarian organization that provides urgent needs and job skills training for impoverished women with children, will host a Mother’s Day “Destination Hope Brunch” on Sunday, May 6, at Crystal Gardens in Southgate to raise money for its programs. The annual women-only event, which goes from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., will feature a raffle for more than 90 gift baskets, and a “marketplace” to shop for locally made products.
Highlights of the annual brunch are the raffle baskets, filled with kitchen items, spa experiences, home décor, children’s games, and more. Guests can purchase $1 raffle tickets to win baskets valued up to $400 or $5 tickets to win baskets worth more than $400. Guests can also purchase $10 raffle tickets to vie for the grand prize.
“Women are so important to the work that Zaman does, and this is the perfect opportunity to celebrate them,” said Monica Boomer, director of community engagement and volunteerism for Zaman. “We are encouraging mothers, daughters, grandmothers, nieces, aunts and all the other special women in our community to treat themselves to this fun and relaxing event.”
This year, the event will spotlight Zaman’s BOOST (Building Ongoing Opportunities through Skills Training) program, which provides women with classes in literacy, sewing and the culinary arts, in order to equip them with the skills necessary to enter the job market or start a small business.  As part of this focus, WISDOM will be recognized as a key partner that has contributed significantly to the success of this program.  Throughout the past two years, WISDOM has served as a recurring sponsor of BOOST’s annual graduation ceremony and provided key in-kind donations to enhance the sewing program.  WISDOM’s members even collaborated with BOOST students to create wheelchair caddies for a local physical rehabilitation facility.
According to Boomer, “Zaman truly values our partnership with the women of WISDOM.  It is a perfect demonstration of what can happen when women support one another.”
Tickets for the brunch are $50 per person and can be purchased at zamaninternational.org. All proceeds benefit Zaman’s programs, which include the provision of food, clothing and furniture to high-need families, sewing, literacy and culinary instruction, and dignified infant burial.

Easter and Passover: A rabbi, a priest and a pastor
walk into …
By AMY MORGAN
Contributing Columnist
A rabbi, a priest, a Unitarian Universalist minister, and a Presbyterian pastor all walk into a recording studio. That sounds like a bad start to a bad joke, but it was a wonderful start to a rich conversation. Rabbi Hillel Katzir of Temple Or Hadash in Ft. Collins, CO, invited this group together for a conversation on his weekly radio show on KRFC 88.9, “Faith in Progress.” He wanted us to explore the convergence of Passover with Holy Week and Easter. (Note: You can listen to the entire podcast via iTunes.) Together we discussed how both holidays are celebrations of rebirth. For Jews, Passover represents the rebirth of a people. In the resurrection of Jesus, Christians celebrate the God who brings life out of death and the birth of a new life in Christ. While not all Unitarian Universalists celebrate Passover or Easter, their faith tradition draws from Jewish and Christian themes and earth-centered traditions that recognize the cycle of death and rebirth in the seasons of the year.
Throughout the conversation, the Jewish roots of Christianity were emphasized and explored, along with the ways Unitarian Universalism draws from both traditions. Jesus was an observant Jew who certainly celebrated Passover. In the synoptic gospels of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), the Last Supper is depicted as a Passover meal. Some atonement theories utilize the concept of ritual sacrifice found in first-century Jewish practice to explain the effect of Jesus’ death on the cross. Other views of atonement understand Jesus’ death as the ultimate expression of God’s love for the world.
The theme of liberation runs through both holidays as well. The Jewish celebration of Israel’s liberation from slavery is paralleled in the Christian affirmation that the resurrection signifies our liberation from sin and death. This thread of liberation surfaces in the Unitarian Universalist commitment to justice and liberation for all people. Rabbi Hillel reflected that Jewish eschatology insists that until all are free, the end will not come. The Christian hope is that the resurrection of Jesus was just the beginning of God’s unfolding plan to free all the world from slavery. These beliefs are reflected in Jewish and Christian commitments to working for social justice.
The discussion closed with the recognition that Jews and Christians are called to observe the holidays year after year, remembering again the hope of rebirth, the promise of liberation, and the meaningful connections between our faith traditions.
.
The Rev. Amy Morgan is pastor of First United Presbyterian Church in Loveland, CO. Most recently, she contributed to the second edition of

a collection of women’s stories about crossing religious and cultural divides to form friendships. She currently serves as Vice-President of the board of Yucatan Peninsula Missions and on the Committee on Preparation for Ministry for the Presbytery of Plains and Peaks. Amy and her husband, Jason, have a son, Dean. They love hiking in the mountains and biking around town.

Coalition for Black and Jewish Unity
More than 150 members of the Black and Jewish communities recently gathered at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History for the kickoff of the Coalition for Black and Jewish Unity. A new partnership organized by the Council of Baptist Pastors of Detroit and Vicinity and JCRC/AJC, it is dedicated to promoting solidarity between the two communities, while also speaking out against racism and anti-Semitism.

The Michigan town where only
Christians are allowed to buy houses
Bay View is for many an idyllic community –
 but a lawsuit will test its rule that
only practicing Christians can own property
Tucked away in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, somewhere along the winding roads that hug Great Lakes shores, is an idyllic town named Bay View. For more than a century, generations of “Bay Viewers” have congregated here to share in summer activities. What started out as a modest camping ground for Methodist families 140 years ago has quietly developed into a stunning vacation spot for people who can afford the upkeep of a second home. Streets named Moss, Fern and Maple are dotted with impeccably maintained century-old gingerbread cottages. Over the horizon, residents can watch lifelong friends sail their boats across the water. But this paradise is not open to all. In Bay View, only practicing Christians are allowed to buy houses, or even inherit them.
Prospective homeowners, according to a bylaw introduced in 1947 and strengthened in 1986, are required to produce evidence of their faith by providing among other things a letter from a Christian minister testifying to their active participation in a church.
Last summer, a dozen current and former resident members filed a federal lawsuit against the town, its ruling Bay View Association and a real estate company, claiming the Christian litmus test was illegal and unconstitutional. Is Bay View a religious community simply seeking to practice its own beliefs, in peace, as it has always desired? Or is it, as the lawsuit claims, a community in clear violation of constitutional, civil and religious rights – to say nothing of federal housing rights?
Sophie McGee, an 80-year-old yoga lover with a PhD, proudly shows me around her 1887 Bay View waterfront summer home, which she shared for decades with her late husband. The cottage boasts four fireplaces and has a creaky yet polished quality to it. Over the years, family and friends have filled the home with warmth and laughter. McGee tells me that her father, a Greek Orthodox immigrant, was denied membership at his local golf club, which is how, searching for community and recreation, he started heading north in the summertime to Bay View.
Here, he and his family were welcomed as members. That Bay View excludes people based on their religious affiliation – the very behavior that brought McGee’s family here in the first place – is one reason why McGee believes the resort town’s membership policies should be updated, and the opportunity to buy properties opened up to non-Christians. But not all her friends agree, she says. McGee takes me on a tour of Bay View in early autumn, a season that suits it well.
One of the few remaining Chautauquas – a name given to late 19th-century Methodist communities who formalized summer camping grounds with arts, education, religious and recreational programs – Bay View’s 447 homes have been deemed so special that they have earned a position on the National Register of Historic Places. The town feels like the place of America’s definitive apple pie recipe – and indeed it very well may be: this is where Irma Rombauer summered, creating and perfecting recipes that eventually led to the publication of the Joy of Cooking, the American culinary bible that sits, well worn, in millions of household kitchens. As McGee and I make our way through the streets, the few, mostly retired residents who are still here after Labor Day shout out warm greetings. A woman accompanied by her pedigree dog vigorously waves at us. It is Betty Stevens, McGee tells me.
Betty and her husband, Glenn, a former Bay View Association board member, do not believe the membership rules should change, although Betty is quick to point out that the town gladly accepts non-Christian tenants and visitors, adding that they themselves had a Muslim woman stay with them over the summer. “This place was founded with a purpose. People were coming to a camp meeting ground to participate in a Christian spiritual reawakening,” Glenn Stevens tells me from the porch of his late mother’s house, where Ernest Hemingway once partied.
He argues the rules for current members have always been the same, requiring active affiliation with a Christian church. Joining is a voluntary act, he says. To change your mind about these rules once you become a member, as indicated by the lawsuit, is disingenuous. Jon Butler, a historian of religion and a professor emeritus at Yale University, says the existence of these rules is not entirely abnormal; many Americans still live in homes that have restrictive covenants inscribed into their deeds. They are just not usually enforced. What is surprising, he says, is “that the association being sued is defending itself”.
Can there be a religious exemption to discrimination? Early Bay View documents dating up until the beginning of the 20th century show that although the resort community has always had a Christian mission, the original membership requirements were being over 21 and of “good moral character”. The Christian exclusionary component was introduced in the 1940s. This was a time of heightened racial anxiety and antisemitism in the US, with swaths of Jewish refugees denied asylum from Europe – an act supported by a majority of the American public. The Christian-only clause was introduced together with a white-only clause, which the association eliminated the following decade. Catholics were given a 10% quota, which was eventually dropped. Over the years, however, the Christian-only requirement was, if anything, reinforced. The lawsuit charges that Bay View Association, although private (some private entities including gentlemen’s clubs or the Boy Scouts, for example, historically have been able to discriminate), acts in effect as a governmental entity, endowed with the powers to police and enforce laws. As such, the lawsuit claims, it is engaging in religious discrimination in violation of the US and Michigan constitutions, Michigan’s civil rights act and the Fair Housing Act.
Mike Steinberg, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, believes the lawsuit is an “open-and-shut case”. “This is pure discrimination by a governmental entity. Bay View is clearly one and governmental entities cannot favor one religion over another, or religion over no religion.” The federal lawsuit is only in its first steps, though, having failed in mediation at the end of January. And under the Trump presidency, with a rightwing-dominated supreme court sympathetic to religious arguments, times feel uncertain.
Late last year, the supreme court heard a case about a baker in Colorado who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, justifying his denial of services as based on sincerely held religious belief. The question at the heart of this as yet undecided case was: can there be a religious exemption to discrimination?
He can’t will his property to his Jewish wife. This very question has become a painful issue for Jeremy Sheaffer, a fifth-generation Bay Viewer. Sheaffer, 50, spent his summers in Bay View. He forged lifelong friendships here and has always considered it the place where he had roots, particularly as his family moved a lot when he was growing up.
But the environmental NGO worker says his relationship with the place he calls “home base” has reached a crisis point. “I have no way to legally will my cottage to my wife or my children,” says Sheaffer of his summer home. Sheaffer, who defines himself as culturally Christian, is married to a Jewish woman who cannot inherit his home because of her religion. Under the existing rules, their two children, aged 11 and 14, themselves sixth-generation Bay Viewers, would also be barred from inheriting their father’s property because of their mixed religious makeup. Undeniably, religious self-segregation is at the core of the everyday practice of many faiths.
The wish to assemble with like-minded religious folk, maintain tradition and provide a steady Christian perspective in a changing world appears to be at the heart of the arguments levied by Bay View residents who believe the rules should stay intact. The first amendment prohibits the establishment of a religion by government, but within the same paragraph also provides for the right of people to freely assemble. This could appear confusing in this case. But Bay View is not simply a Christian club, or a church. While the governing Bay View association enjoys 501(C)(3), or charity, status through an affiliation with the Methodist church, the homes on its land are sold at a profit by individuals on the marketplace. Four percent of all Bay View home sales are directed to association coffers, and current properties are listed between $120,000 and $1m. In the first half of the 20th century, racially and religiously restrictive covenants (which restricted home sales to specific groups) were created not just to maintain cultural hegemony in predominantly white, Protestant American neighborhoods, but also to protect the financial value of houses. This was based on the government-backed, racist idea that the influx of non-whites would bring property value down. Racially restrictive covenants were ruled unenforceable by the supreme court in 1948, almost exactly 70 years ago, kicking off an era of civil rights legal change.
But should religious restrictive covenant be interpreted any differently?
Historically, religious exclusion has repeatedly gone hand-in-hand with racial exclusion in the US. It is difficult to know what the exact motivations of voting board members were in the 1940s when the Christian requirement was first introduced. What was first uncovered through archival research by the then Bay View member David Krause is that through a series of calculated tweaks in bylaws between 1942 and 1947, the board, led by a lawyer from Indiana, seemingly violated its own articles of association and introduced new membership requirements, stipulating that members should be “of the white race and the Christian persuasion”.
Ralph Jernegan, the lawyer leading the charge, doggedly worked over five years to have the Christian-only and white-only clauses written into Bay View rules. Jernegan headed his own law practice and was a prominent member of his Indiana community of Mishawaka.
Matt Pehl, a professor of history at Augustana University, says he is not surprised to hear about the introduction of such policies in Bay View during this time. Racist as well as anti-Jewish and anti-Catholic viewpoints were espoused openly by respected members of the community throughout the midwest, he says. Indiana as well as Michigan were hotbeds for the Ku Klux Klan starting in the 1920s, he says, and Henry Ford, the great local industrialist, was a renowned antisemite.
“The Klan at this point would talk about ‘the threat on white civilization’. What’s important in that phrase is not just the white part, it’s the civilization part. What they mean by threat on civilization is a threat on Protestant civilization,” Pehl says. Jernegan’s community, Mishawaka, was home to a Ku Klux Klan chapter starting in 1927. At the very least, this means that Jernegan lived ina cultural context where, as Pehl puts it, KKK beliefs and concerns were “widely shared and strongly endorsed”. As some members in the 1940s were fighting to make Bay View more closed, others were putting time and effort into helping Jewish Europeans escape and emigrate to the US.
Glenn Stevens, still speaking to me on his porch, when challenged by his friend Sophie McGee about the racial component of the original exclusionary bylaw, responds that history corrects those kinds of wrongdoings, separating out the two forms of exclusion as falling on a right and a wrong side. Nevertheless, documents from the time reveal a spirit of white, Protestant safeguarding. Employees or servants of all backgrounds were allowed to stay, but anybody else not fitting the white, Christian stipulations was given one night before being sent on their way. Sheaffer, who now faces a conundrum based on his own immediate family’s mixed religious makeup, says he always knew about the rules excluding non-Christians but never imagined they would be upheld. “Everyone knew about it. It was viewed as one of those arcane laws put on the books way back when. I think there was a sense that it would just take care of itself.”
Dick Crossland, a retired consultant who has been a leading voice for the preservation of membership rules, says he is saddened by the way in which the opposing group has portrayed the association and its board as bigoted. “We accept anyone that wants to join the same way that Christ accepts anyone as Christian. We don’t discriminate against anything that you can’t change,” he says. The debate has been hurting the community, says Crossland, who added he would have been willing to work on a “legacy solution” for Sheaffer’s family’s case – but not for the broader public. Crossland says he has visited other Chautauquas that have opened up to non-Christians, and such communities have suffered as a result, with increasing numbers of houses purchased as rentals, resulting in a more transient community that frays its fundamental makeup. “It’s always been some place apart,” says Crossland, who is opposed to removing the “core foundation”. “There are a lot of other places where if you want a more secular resort, a place that looks more like the United Nations, then God bless you if you want to go.”
Mandela Sheaffer, Jeremy Sheaffer’s nephew, 26, has “only fond memories” of growing up in Bay View. “Time stops in Bay View. Everything you go back to is the same. It’s like a time capsule.”
But as he’s grown older, he says, it’s become harder to digest the exclusion of non-Christians by the community. As a biracial kid, Sheaffer was one of the very few non-white children to attend Bay View’s campus every year. Well aware that up until the late 1950s he wouldn’t have been allowed to stay there, Sheaffer says even if they got rid of the white-only policy a while ago, it is no coincidence the community has remained almost entirely white. Tisa Wenger, a professor of American religious history at Yale University, explains that it is difficult to tease out the religious and racial components of this case.
She says much of the mid-century history of Bay View matches national trends, with racial segregation ending and white people doubling down on religious restrictions and creating private organizations in which they could control membership intake. “They don’t have to be Trump voters to be wanting to protect a certain enclave. A lot of white Americans are deliberately blind to this,” she says.
Wenger explains that research for her recent book on religious freedom revealed that “appeals made by white American Christians for religious liberty often end up being ways in which to advance white privilege”.
William Crawford, a professor and third-generation Bay Viewer in his 50s and who became a member so that his children could benefit, says he is embarrassed about the membership policy. He says Bay View’s “dirty little secret” is that many members and their families are not actually practicing Christians. This is confirmed to me by other members as I visit Bay View. Crawford speculates that many people “like the idea of tradition” more than they care about their neighbors being proven active Christians. He ponders whether what is going on is “not just a spiritual issue, it’s a socioeconomic issue”. “The cottages used to be cheap. It wasn’t a place for wealthy people. That’s changed. Now it is cost-prohibitive to be up there. You are not allowed to be up there past a certain time in the year. To keep a second home is not feasible for most people.”
Sitting in front of his old piano, Glenn Stevens, who does not believe in changing policies, bursts into song. The melody is Smiles, which I am later told was written in Bay View. Sophie McGee – his lifelong friend who wants to change the policy – spontaneously joins in the singing.
The song sounds almost painfully nostalgic, and for a moment, it feels like the three of us are transported to another time. Months after I first talk to him, as Michigan has been covered in a thick blanket of snow, Jeremy Sheaffer calls me in early February. He tells me his parents have both died since we last spoke, making the issue of whether he should maintain ties (and ownership of property) in Bay View ever more pressing. He reminds me of a public letter his mother wrote, aged 87, this July – during what turned out to be her last summer. The letter reads:
One hundred summers have come and gone and I, now at 87, know firsthand that change does indeed come as surely as the seasons and twice as quick.
Change and Bay View have been the two constants in my family for a century. So, the Bay View Association membership question, for me, comes down to a very simple question: if my grandchildren, Earl and Anna Child’s great-grandchildren, can be denied membership based solely on their religion or lack of religion, isn’t something wrong?

Anti-Semitism Raises its Head Again in Ontario

B’nai Brith Canada is appalled after learning Wednesday morning, March 21, 2018 that a synagogue in Thornhill, Ont. has been targeted by antisemitic vandalism. On Wednesday at about 9:40 a.m., a vandal smashed the glass doors of Chabad at Flamingo with a rock, according to Chabad Rabbi Mendel Kaplan. York Regional Police have been contacted and are on the scene.
At 11 a.m., Rabbi Kaplan shared information about the incident to his Facebook page. “ANTISEMITIC ATTACK IN THORNHILL!!!” he wrote. “Our cameras show a man walking by our shul… stopping multiple times looking for rocks – and then running back TWICE to hatefully smash the glass doors. York Regional Police are on the scene and a manhunt is underway. I will post the video shortly.”
Chabad at Flamingo contacted B’nai Brith shortly after the incident. B’nai Brith has offered its full support and assistance.
“It is both despicable and lamentable that someone would feel the need to resort to such vile behaviour,” said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith Canada. “We trust that police will investigate this matter seriously.”

Downtown Synagogue shared its pre-seder with community partners.
Rabbi Ariana Silverman
Why is this night different from all other nights? The Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue (IADS) grappled with the question anew this y
ear when they learned the Tigers Opening Day landed on the same day as the synagogue’s traditional second-night community seder. The popular game meant impossible parking and difficulty getting to the synagogue, a few blocks from Comerica Park.
But the ever-resilient congregation, led by Rabbi Ariana Silverman, turned the problem into an opportunity to rethink how to celebrate Passover with their Detroit partners. They decided to conduct a pre-seder from 4-6 p.m. Sunday, March 25, and divert from their traditional Maxwell House Haggadah. This year, the synagogue invited members of Detroit’s Bethel Community Transformational Center (BCTC), where the synagogue held its last High Holiday services, to be guests and to take part in the planning process.
“Our focus this year,” Silverman says, “is what the seder as a ritual tells us about who we are as Jews and who we interact with in the world.”
The powerful Passover story is about leaving oppression and going to a place of freedom, she says. “We’re taking parts of the haggadah and looking at it through an interfaith lens. We’ll talk about how we were slaves and became free. But what do slavery and freedom mean to our African-American partners” still struggling for freeddom.
Synagogue Program Director Vicki Sitron, 37, says the synagogue’s stated values guiding the seder are to be good neighbors with the Detroit community as well as the Metro Detroit Jewish community.
The growing support from the Jewish community is unique, Silverman says. While they have a 300-person membership, which is free, their High Holiday database indicates 2,500 participants.
David Kurzmann, executive director of JCRC/AJC, explains why his organization is the other partner of the IADS seder. He personally was moved by the 2017 High Holiday services held at BCTC. Although he’s a third-generation Detroiter, he says he’d never davened in the city until that service. And, from a historic viewpoint, BCTC is housed in the former home of Temple Beth El, now in Bloomfield Township.
Kurzmann believes the Downtown Synagogue is an important hub for Jewish life in Detroit and a good fit for JCRC/AJC support.
“With the rise of anti-Semitism and racism, our community relations work is more important than ever,” he says, especially in its quest to find common ground.
As more young Jews return to the city, he adds, JCRC/AJC’s work with IADS will deepen its programmatic outreach “to help people understand the Jewish community and what we’re about.”

BCTC Partnership

 
                                          Pastor Aramis Hinds
In terms of the partnership with Pastor Aramis Hinds, who heads BCTC and Breakers Covenant Church International, Kurzmann adds, “Pastor Hinds is a very impressive and a worthy partner. The pastor truly believes his calling is to connect other religions and renew the black-Jewish relationship.
“While this church is not the only one in Detroit in an old synagogue,” Kurzmann says, “Pastor Hinds embraces the connection to the Jewish community, which is not the norm.”
Church member Sondra Jenkins of Detroit and executive director of Organizational Development at the Detroit Institute of Arts, agrees.
“Pastor Hinds is bold and unique,” she says. He has courage to build partnerships because he is comfortable with differences. “The heart of our congregation’s identity is community and reconciliation … Unlike many Christian churches, we recognize our responsibility as a church is to impact lives.”
Jenkins explains the relationship between Hinds’ church and Bethel Community Transformational Center, a nonprofit with its own board of directors (including Silverman). The center hosts a wide-range of programs and services, including Hinds’ church. Other programs in the building, Jenkins says, include the Detroit Phoenix Center for homeless and displaced youth, an emergency temporary shelter, two community theaters and, recently, Detroit Jews for Justice.
“It’s important that we’re involved in the seder because we consider ourselves friends of the Downtown Synagogue and of Rabbi Silverman,” Jenkins says. “We look to more programs together with shared goals of reconciliation and social justice.”
She adds that she respects the Jewish roots of Christianity so “it’s an honor and a privilege to be a part of these events to help us understand our roots.”
The value of participating in the seder, Jenkins says, became apparent at a recent meeting when synagogue and church members discussed slavery and freedom. “It’s an act of worship and respect to recall the work and the promise of deliverance,” Jenkins says. “We all have stories of coming from a ‘stuck place.'”
“Our focus this year is what the seder as a ritual tells us about who we are as Jews and who we interact with in the world.”
-Rabbi Ariana Silverman
This phrase refers to Silverman’s discussion on the meaning of the Hebrew word for Egypt, Mitzrayim, which Silverman says also means “a stuck place.”
This year, the seder will include storytelling by several church and synagogue members about being in a stuck place, Sitron says, like depression, and rising above it.


Both Sitron and Jenkins emphasize that the ability to have difficult conversations between church and synagogue members takes hard work and trust.
“This is not a one-and-done relationship,” Sitron says. Since last year’s High Holidays, the two congregations have shared a variety of events, from Motor City Karaoke to a community conversation called “Detroit 2067.” Conducted by Wayne State University professor Peter Hammer, director of the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights, the group shared its vision for the future of Detroit.
Each gathering, Jenkins says, is an opportunity “to break down barriers and set the stage for the hard conversations and building trust.”
When people show up and continue these conversations, she adds, “it increases the opportunity to make a lasting difference in our world.”
At press time, the synagogue has reached capacity for the community seder.

Hindus chant to ‘purify’ former
Nazi concentration camps
PARIS (RNS) – There are few places on earth more haunted by evil than the memorial sites at former Nazi concentration camps. Visitors who tour their headquarters, barracks and ovens are constantly confronted with the memorials’ main lesson – “Never Again!”
A new Hindu movement based in Germany has come up with a different approach to dealing with the camps’ sinister legacy.
The group, called Bhakti Marga, organizes sessions of followers calmly chanting “om,” the sacred mantra of Hinduism, to “purify” the sites by turning their negativity into positive energy.
Whenever it applies for permission to chant at a memorial, the same questions arise.
Is this simply a religious ceremony like the prayers that Christian and Jewish groups regularly hold at these sites? Or does the ritual somehow aim to whitewash history, an agenda the memorials are all too familiar with from neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers?
Officials at the memorials, German Jewish groups, historians and other intellectuals have debated the issue, with responses ranging from an enthusiastic embrace of perceived allies against racism to outrage over efforts seen as a whitewashing and denial of history. Bhakti Marga, whose name means “path of devotion” after an ancient Hindu devotional rite it practices, held a chanting session this month in the memorial at Buchenwald, with support from the administration of the camp memorial and the local Jewish community. Last year, it held similar om chantings at the memorial in Mauthausen, the largest concentration camp in Austria, and Terezin (Theresienstadt) in the Czech Republic, which Nazi propaganda used to portray as a model wartime internment camp.
“What happened in these places is still happening in the etheric and astral realms. Only om has the power to heal these places,” said the group’s 39-year-old swami from Mauritius, Paramahamsa Vishwananda, referring to states of consciousness in Hindu philosophy.
Bhakti Marga swami Paramahamsa Vishwananda in 2016. Photo courtesy of Bhakti Marga
Bhakti Marga, which has its main ashram in the countryside near the western German city of Wiesbaden, says its followers held chantings at negatively energized sites in Austria, Croatia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, Japan, Belgium and the United States on Feb. 24. Its main ashram could not give details. Founded in 2005, the group says it has followers in 52 countries and 30 temples in 19 of them and argues that its chantings are purely religious.
“Om Chanting is a free group practice that uses the transformational power of Om to activate the self-healing potential of participants,” it explains on its website. The chanting, which can be heard on SoundCloud, “generates a vibrational frequency that releases negativity, transforms it and showers participants with positive energy. The vibrational waves created by the circle spread out in a 2-kilometre radius, creating a harmonious, peaceful environment and a unity between humans and nature.” The negative vibrations at these Nazi sites are palpable, the group claims.
When about three dozen followers recently went to chant in Hadamar, the site of a Nazi euthanasia center not far from the ashram, they reported that two of them vomited along the way because the negative energy was too strong. When another group of about three dozen chanted in Mauthausen last December, its newsletter said several participants were so moved they broke into tears. “Many of us could hear beautiful voices like angels singing; one devotee could hear an old airplane with falling bombs,” it said. “Some of us saw energy which was released and beings saying thank you to the group and flying away through the chimney. This place is famous for the fact that no birds sing there. After the Om Chanting, we could see many birds flying around and singing.”
Administrators at concentration camp memorials routinely grant requests from Christian and Jewish groups to pray on their premises, but Bhakti Marga has confronted them with a very different religious tradition. “We’re used to Protestant, Catholic and Jewish groups. We’re not used to Hindu groups but we see no reason to ban the Hindus from doing this,” Rikola-Gunnar Lüttgenau, spokesman for the Buchenwald memorial, told the local television station MDR during the rite there on March 17. “We have investigated to see if the history of the place is being negated. That is not the case. We’ve looked to see if they take this place seriously. That is the case,” he said.
“They take a tour, they watch a film, there is a conversation with the local Jewish community. So we approved it as a normal event, like those from groups of other faiths.” Reinhard Schramm, head of the Jewish community in Thuringia state, had no problem meeting the Hindus.
“If people knowingly want to visit a memorial site where 56,000 people were murdered, and want to help prevent that from ever happening again, then that’s reason enough for me to speak with them,” he told DLF radio. “These are people fighting against racism and xenophobia – they’re my partners!”
In Austria, the interior ministry responsible for memorial sites says they are open to anyone who respects “the dignity of the place.”
Willi Mernyi, chairman of the Mauthausen Committee that oversees the memorial there, said he saw the om chanting session as one of many ways to pay respect and he did not want to judge the chanters.
But asked whether chanting could purify the site, he said: “If it were that simple, I’d join them.” The memorial at Flossenbürg in northern Bavaria – the camp where the Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Adm. Wilhelm Canaris were executed in April 1945 for plotting to kill Hitler – turned down a Bhakti Marga request to chant there last month.
Its director, Jörg Skriebeleit, said the group’s request led to a long discussion with administrators of other memorials in Bavaria and the final decision to deny permission.
“The goal of ‘purifying the site’ and ‘healing the past’ is in our view an inappropriate manipulation of the site and an inappropriate exploitation of the fate of every single victim,” he wrote in his reply.
The chanters replied by saying he would have decided differently if he had “opened his heart,” a comment Skriebeleit said he found “esoteric.”
At Buchenwald, four members of the local Socialist youth group protested outside the chanting session, holding a banner saying “Education and anti-fascism instead of OMinous historical healing.”
“This is an ineffective method that replaces education and enlightenment, which is what the memorials are actually for and what they do every day,” said Jan Schneider, one of four young people braving a snowstorm to hold their protest.
The Antisemitism Research and Information Center in Berlin also had its reservations about the rite. “The chantings do not deal with the specific history of these places,” its spokesman Alexander Rasumny told the daily Die Welt, noting the list of places the group wants to “purify” ranges from concentration camp memorials to sites where American Indians were massacred. “This is a mixture of different events that aims to relativize the Holocaust.” Heike Beck, a minister for interfaith relations in the Protestant church district where the Bhakti Marga ashram is located, said the fact the group always used the same ritual at sites marked by different kinds of tragedies did not seem right to her.
“History is denied and plays no role anymore,” she told DLF radio. “There has to be a confrontation with history so one can see the structures that made these things possible.”

Gathering to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr
Detroit News, April 5, 2018
April 4, 1968, is a day written into history.
It was then that an assassin fatally shot Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, where he had been supporting striking sanitation workers.
The preacher and civil rights icon has become synonymous with social justice. So to mark the 50th anniversary of his slaying Wednesday, Metro Detroit interfaith officials and activists hosted an event placing King’s life, views and impact at center stage. And to them, the ultimate goal was not only to recall the historic figure’s work in pushing change but extending those efforts in 2018.
“The dream is not only a dream but a dream of action,” said Donnell White, executive director of the Detroit Branch NAACP.
Balancing memorializing King while calling for justice anchored the evening gathering at Detroit’s Greater New Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church. Presented by the church and the InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit as well as coinciding with other observances across the country, the program drew Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh followers to highlight King’s role in the national push toward civil rights.
Many reminded the diverse crowd seated in the pews that a half-century after his slaying, King’s quotes, stances and mission remain a clarion call for activists.
“The message he preached is universal,” said Imam Sayed Hassan Qazwini, who leads the Islamic Institute of America in Dearborn Heights. “And that will make him eternal.”
Others recognized that though King, whose final speech was broadcast during the ceremony, often is remembered for working to improve race relations, his final years revolved around human rights.
“He came to see himself as an advocate for the poor and oppressed, wherever they were,” said the Rev. Fran Hayes, pastor at Littlefield Presbyterian Church in Dearborn. “… He stayed steadfast in his commitment to confront unjust power structures.”
Though scores still revere the icon, many of the issues King fought to address – including poverty, discrimination and economic inequality – linger today, said the Rev. Kenneth Flowers, pastor at Greater New Mount Moriah. The deaths of African-American men in police encounters, including Stephon Clark in California last month, underscores that point, he said. “If Dr. King were here tonight, he would still be marching in the streets, against the police violence around this nation,” he told the guests from the pulpit. “If Dr. King were here tonight, he would be talking about the man that sits in the White House because of how he’s tearing up the nation. If Dr. King were here tonight, he would let America and the world know now is the time for us to stand tall … recognizing that we must work together, pray together, struggle together, stand up for freedom and justice together, knowing one day we shall be free.”
In that spirit, the audience solemnly sat as Flowers rang a bell 39 times – once for each year of King’s life – then linked arms to sing “We Shall Overcome.” The scene encouraged Dorian Tyus of Detroit, who brought his nearly 2-year-old son, Jasaan. “It’s extremely important because it’s basically a snapshot of what the civil rights movement was all about,” he said. “In this current climate, it’s important to speak truth to injustice, racism and anti-Semitism and show unity.”
The Rev. Sharon Buttry, a pastor and social worker who frequently quotes King in her interfaith work, also relished congregating with like-minded supporters. “My heart is broken for how far we have to go in recognizing King’s dream,” she said. “We don’t get peace without justice.”
Honoring King’s legacy attracted Gloria Cooper, who is originally from Alabama and still recalls pained surprise learning about the death of a man so well regarded. “It’s part of our history,” she said. “Everybody should know about it. He was a good man.”

‘Punish a Muslim Day’ 
blasted by metro Detroit religious and political leaders
Niraj Warikoo, Detroit Free Press
Dearborn Police Chief Ron Haddad speaks at the Islamic House of Wisdom, a Dearborn Heights mosque, on April 3, 2018, condemning the “Punish A Muslim Day” flyers in the U.K. To his right is the Rev. Ed Rowe of Detroit and to Haddad’s left is Imam Mohammad Elahi, the leader of the mosque. (Photo: Niraj Warikoo)
Imam Mohammad Elahi spoke on April 3, 2018, in his Dearborn Heights mosque, Islamic House of Wisdom, against the so-called Punish a Muslim Day fliers that called for violence against Muslims on April 3. Elahi was joined by Religious leaders, Dearborn Police Chief Ron Haddad and a Republican leader and they gathered in a Dearborn Heights mosque to condemn flyers that call for violence against Muslims.
At the Islamic House of Wisdom, they spoke out against so-called “Punish A Muslim Day,” which was promoted by flyers initially mailed in the U.K., according to British media reports. The flyers, which award points to people for various types of violent action against Muslims, then spread by social media to other places, including in metro Detroit, scaring Muslims.
“We, the members of the interfaith community gather here … to condemn this cowardly campaign, a campaign of fear, pain and persecution of the innocent” said Imam Mohammad Elahi, head of the Islamic House of Wisdom. “In 2014, we all stood in front of Dearborn City Hall and raised our voice against ISIS. … Today, we are meeting here … to say we, Muslims and Christians, are against hate-mongering, fear-mongering.”
Dearborn Police Chief said they’re not responding to anything locally since there haven’t been any reported threats of actions.
“As a rule, I would not typically recognize or honor or dignify the types of threats that we’ve seen generated in the U.K., but given the potential danger and intimidation and terror they would put on our community and other communities, I’m here to tell you: We stand with the interfaith model here to make sure our city is well-protected. We’re not responding, but we stand ready.”
Haddad urged people to call 911 if they see or face any threats, saying that police are “prepared as a community to ensure the safety of everyone.” Ron Dwyer, 11th Congressional District Republican Committeeman, attended the interfaith gathering, condemning anti-Muslim bigotry and other types of racism.
“This behavior, this threat online is 1,000% unacceptable,” Dwyer said. “If you feel that you are being threatened … you do not have to put up with it. … Whether you’re Jew, Christian, or Muslim, we all worship the same God. And in Arabic, Allah is the word for God.”
Arif Huskic, of Common Word Alliance, an interfaith group in Hamtramck, said he escaped genocide in Bosnia years ago. He worried about the effects of the flyers on Muslim youths.
“We must protect our kids, that they don’t live in fear,” Huskic said.
Elahi and others also mentioned the 50th anniversary on Wednesday of Dr. Martin Luther King  Jr.’s assassination, linking his message to their message against Islamophobia.
Elahi also condemned the police shooting of Stephon Clark in California and 17 Palestinians who died last week in clashes with the Israeli military.
“God calls on us to love Muslims and Christians,” said the Rev David Kasbow of Michigan Family Church in Warren. “Love your neighbors as yourself.”
Several Methodist pastors attended the event to stand with Muslims.
“I’m here to lend my support,” said the Rev. David Huseltine of Franklin Community Church in Franklin.”I’m here to stand in solidarity.”
The Rev. Ed Rowe of Detroit spoke of the message of King, saying that it’s important for people to stand in solidarity with groups outside their own.
Imam Elahi said the prophets of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam shared a similar message.
“Those great messengers, they stood against hate,” Elahi said.

There’s No Seder Like a ShowBiz Seder
The New York Times

Why was this Passover Seder different from all other Passover Seders? Well, for one, it took place on Monday night, the fourth night of the holiday and not one on which the traditional dinner is called for. But that’s showbiz: Some of the 100 guests, and most of the evening’s performers, were Broadway actors, composers, producers – and Mondays are when Broadway theaters are dark, meaning casts and crews are available for socializing. It took place in a large downtown apartment in a prewar building, decorated with billowing scarves, bright pillows and hanging palm branches to replicate a Bedouin tent. The usual holiday prayers and songs, which commemorate the biblical exodus of Jews from slavery, were replaced by a high-caliber revue of poetic and musical performances from stars of some of the biggest current Broadway shows, including “Hamilton,” “Dear Evan Hansen” and “Frozen.”
The story of exodus that was told over the course of the night was not of Moses and the ancient Jews’ sojourn eastward across the Red Sea, but of a man named Mohammed Al Samawi, who escaped a near-certain death in his home country, Yemen, by traveling westward over the Red Sea on what happened to be the second night of Passover in 2015.
“Unleavened,” as this night was billed, was organized by Adam Kantor, an actor appearing in “The Band’s Visit“; Benj Pasek, the lyricist of “La La Land,” “Dear Evan Hansen” and “The Greatest Showman”; and four other friends, all of whom are interested in contemporizing Judaism and making it relevant in an increasingly secularized climate.
“The idea is to look at the Passover story about the passage from slavery to freedom and to contextualize it for 2018,” Mr. Kantor said.
The cost of the interior design, lighting and dinner was underwritten in part by Reboot, a cultural organization for young Jewish adults who work in creative professions that encourages its members to rethink and express religious identity. As guests (of many ethnicities and faiths) arrived, they found small round tables, like tree stumps in a pillow forest, on which small dishes of olives, horseradish and parsley were set by stacks of matzo. Around the periphery of the room, jazz singers, piano players and Broadway performers were stationed, ready. But for what?
“I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do here,” said Katie Couric, when she walked into the room, red wine imported from the Galilee region of Israel in a plastic cup in her hand.
Ronan Farrow, a reporter for The New Yorker, was equally perplexed. “I feel like this is an Agatha Christie novel we’ve all walked into and someone is not going to be able to leave,” he said. The guests settled onto their pillows, and Cécile McLorin Salvant, whose “Dreams and Daggers” won the 2018 Grammy for best vocal jazz album, soon brought chatter to a halt with her rendition of “Go Down Moses,” sung a cappella.
Then Amichai Lau-Lavie, the founding rabbi of Lab/Shul, an experimental synagogue, welcomed everyone to the Jewish Passover Seder, which he called, “the most complicated dinner party in history.”
This one may have been the best programmed. After settling in many months ago on Mr. Al Samawi’s story as “the clothing line” that would extend throughout the night, Mr. Kantor said before the Seder began, “we have been talking about what we can drape from it.” One performance was by Daniel J. Watts, an actor and writer who appeared on Broadway in “Hamilton.” He said he was asked by the organizers to create a piece about the concept of enemies. He wrote his poem, “Inimicus,” the morning of the Seder. When it was his turn, he stood with a microphone in his hand and spoke while turning himself slowly in full revolution. His audience was mesmerized.

Escape, Then and Now

They were also captivated by Rachel Bay Jones, who won a 2017 Tony for her role as Heidi Hansen in “Dear Evan Hansen” and Caissie Levy, who plays Elsa in the new Broadway production of “Frozen,” singing “Over the Rainbow” in two parts, sandwiching a reading from NPR’s Ari Shapiro about the song’s history and context.
Mr. Shapiro told the assembled that “The Wizard of Oz” came out just after Kristallnacht, the pogroms in Germany and Austria that were a precursor to the Holocaust, and that the movie’s best-known song was written by two Jewish immigrants to America. “Hear the lyrics in their Jewish context and suddenly the words are no longer about wizards and Oz,” he said, quoting Simcha Jacobovici, a filmmaker and journalist, “but about Jewish survival.”
The evening concluded with the singing of “Dayenu,” led by, among others, the actors Adam Kantor, center left, and Benj Pasek, center right.CreditKarsten Moran for The New York Times
For the final performance, the singer and songwriter Shaina Taub sat at a piano and sang her forthcoming song “Huddled Masses,” which was inspired by a protest poster that quoted from Emma Lazarus’s poem “The New Colossus,” which she noticed at Kennedy Airport after President Trump first proposed restrictions upon travelers from certain countries, including Yemen.
“That was very powerful, and very special,” said Jeffrey Richards, a producer who has helped stage plays including the 2015 revival of “Fiddler on the Roof,” in which Mr. Kantor played the role of Motel the tailor. Each of the Seder performances connected to Mr. Al Samawi’s story, which was told by him and Daniel Pincus, 39, a Jewish businessman and philanthropist who helped him escape Yemen, and whose apartment was the setting for the dinner.
Mr. Al Samawi was raised a Muslim, and taught to hate Jews, Christians and Americans. He eventually committed himself to multifaith advocacy and found himself in grave danger amid violence in Yemen brought on by Al Qaeda and other extremist groups. Three years ago, Mr. Al Samawi hid alone in a bathroom, posting about his plight on Facebook. Four virtual American strangers responded and spent the next two weeks trying to save a man they barely knew. “Jews and Christians saved my life,” he said. Mr. Al Samawi has written a memoir about the experience, “The Fox Hunt,” which will be published by William Morrow next week. The film rights have been optioned by Marc Platt, who produced “La La Land,” and Mr. Pasek will also be a producer. (Becky Sweren, Mr. Pincus’s wife, is Mr. Al Samawi’s literary agent.)
By 9:30, a kosher dinner of Persian jeweled rice and pomegranate and walnut stew was served, prepared by Behzad Jamshidi, a child of Iranian refugees. A microphone was passed around for impromptu interpretations of “Moses Song,” guests congratulated performers and snapped selfies, and Mr. Al Samawi tried to take it all in.
“I was hiding in a small bathroom waiting to be killed and now I’m here,” he said.

April 2018

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events 
 
Exloring Religious Landscapes, Spring 2018
Prayer Across Faith Traditions
See Flyer Below
 
Thursday, April 5th 5:00 PM
Rochester College, Rochester Hills
Women and Political Turmoil in the Middle East
Sponsored by the Turkish American Society of Michigan
See Flyer below
 
Thursday, April 12, 7:00 PM
Ask A Native American
Unity of Royal Oak Church
See Flyer Below
 
Friday, April 13, 6:00 – 8:00 PM
C.A.U.T.I.O.N. Training
See Flyer Below
 
Sunday, April 22, 3:00 – 5:00 PM
Examining Compassion
At Repair the World, 2701 Bagley Ave., Detroit
See Flyer Below for registration
Monday April 23rd 11:00 AM Temple Israel Sisterhood Luncheon
Five Women Five Journeys WISDOM Presentation
Contact Gail Katz for more information 248-978-6664
Thursday, April 26th, 6:00 PM
Song and Spirit Tales of Holy Foolery
See Flyer Below
 
Thursday, April 26th 6:30 PM
Open Forum on Supporting our Children, Youth, and Families
in Foster Care
First Presbyterian Church of Birmingham
See Flyer Below
 
Sunday, April 29th 4:00 PM
Five Women Five Journeys WISDOM Presentation
St. Anne’s Catholic Church
Contact Paula Drewek for more information Drewekpau@aol.com 
 
Thursday, May 3, 7:00 – 9:00 PM
WISDOM Book Friendship and Faith Discussion
See Flyer Below
 
Sunday, May 6, 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM
Destination Hope Mother’s Day Brunch for Zaman International
Crystal Gardens Banquet Center
See Flyer Below
 
Friday, May 11th 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Confronting Racism Within: History, Systems, Community and Self
Baker College – Auburn Hills, 1500 University Drive
To Register, go to confrontingracism.eventbrite.com 
See Flyer Below

Michigan State Police Seek faith leaders for training session in Public Safety April 13
 Michigan State Police officials are seeking leaders from all faiths for a program aimed at fostering trust and improving public safety.
“Community Action United Team In Our Neighborhood.” or CAUTION is being expanded by MSP and it is seeking faith-based volunteers who can train to serve as a “quick response team for critical incidents” and a link between officers and residents.
The C.A.U.T.I.O.N training will be on
6 to 8 p.m. April 13 at
Metro North Post
Interested individuals can contact Trooper Richardson the Community Service Trooper for the Metro North Post at Richardsona12@michigan.gov or 248-217-1581.
A program with its roots in Flint, CAUTION started in 2012 has been part of the “Secure Cities” effort to reduce violent crime.
CAUTION members attend local meetings, work with MSP personnel at public engagement events, including assisting the Community Service Troopers, respond to criminal incidents where they can assist victims and their community with emotional support and assist on diversionary activities, such as jointly speaking with enforcement personnel at local juvenile detention facilities.
Volunteers will also receive training in areas including “ministering in a pluralistic environment” and “incident response and diffusing.”

Women and Political Turmoil in the Middle East
by Dr. Sophia Pandya
California State University – Long Beach
Dear Friend,

On April 5th, 2018 our topic will be “Women and Political Turmoil in the Middle East” presented by California State University’s Dr. Sophia Pandya. Her focus will be the impact upon women of the political chaos in Yemen, Bahrain, and Turkey since the 2011 “Arab Spring”.  Women are particularly vulnerable during political conflict, especially in patriarchal societies. They witness violence, sexual abuse, displacement, poverty, unemployment, disruption of education, and mental illness. Nonetheless, many Middle Eastern women are engaged in public activism, transforming, family and social dynamics in highly patriarchal countries.

 
Date:    Thursday, April 5
Time:    5PM
Venue: Rochester College
Ennis & Nancy Ham building, Room 112
800 W Avon Rd, Rochester Hills, MI 48307

Sophia Pandya is a full professor at California State University at Long Beach, in the Department of Religious Studies. Winner of the 2016 Advancement of Women Award at CSULB from the President’s Commission on the Status of Women, she received her BA from UC Berkeley in Near Eastern Studies/Arabic, and her MA and PhD from UC Santa Barbara in Religious Studies.  A Fulbright Scholar, she specializes in women and Islam, and more broadly in contemporary movements within Islam. Dr. Pandya has authored a book (2012), Muslim Women and Islamic Resurgence: Religion, Education, and Identity Politics in Bahrain, on Bahraini women and the ways in which globalization and modern education impacted their religious activities. Having carried out research in Turkey on several occasions, she is also the co-editor of a second published volume (2012), The Gülen Hizmet Movement and its Transnational Activities: Case Studies on Charitable Activism.

 

The Nineteenth Annual World Sabbath,
by Gail Katz, World Sabbath Chairperson
The Nineteenth Annual World Sabbath took place on March 11th, 2018 at Christ Church Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills. The mission of the World Sabbath is to teach our diverse population in Metro Detroit that the work of building a community of justice, equality, respect and peace is a calling that we all share – all of us, no matter what our faith tradition might be. But most important is the fact that we are impacting our children, our teens, and our young adults.
Our World Sabbath processional included children of many faith traditions, proudly waving the peace banners that they decorated themselves. These children came together to sing the song “We Are Children of Peace.” Every year we honor someone with the World Sabbath Peace Award – someone who is making a difference in the interfaith world, bringing people together to build community.  This year Imam Mohamed Almasmari was honored for the work he has done bringing Jews, Christians, and Muslims together at the Muslim Unity Center in Bloomfield Hills.
The World Sabbath began with Abraham Miller from Temple Beth El blowing the shofar, Ehsun Karimi from the Islamic House of Wisdom chanting the Muslim Call to Prayer, and Vishal Kumar Chandu blowing the Conch shell, a Hindu tradition. Prayers were also given in the Sikh and Zoroastrian traditions. This beautiful Interfaith service featured youth choirs from Christ Church Cranbrook, the Baha’i Community, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Temple Beth El, as well as Hindu drummers and Jain dancers.
Clergy of many faith participated in the World Sabbath service, and the 60 clergy present got called up to read the “Commitment to Be Resilient” together about building the “Beloved Community” – a world of tolerance, justice, faithfulness, and peace.
What a uplifting celebration of our diversity and our commonality!!
Stay tuned for the 20th annual World Sabbath celebration to be held for the first time at a mosque – the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights on March 3, 2019!!
The Rev. Dr. William Danaher passes the Peace Banner to Imam Mohammed Elahi of the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights
where the 2020 World Sabbath will be held!

Young Nepalese girls sit in chairs as they wait during the selection of a new living goddess, locally known as “Kumari”, outside a Hindu temple in Patan, Lalitpur, Nepal, on Feb. 5, 2018. Five-year-old Nihira Bajracharya, second from right, was appointed the new “Kumari.” Nepal’s living goddesses are young pre-pubescent girls considered by devotees to be incarnations of a Hindu goddess. Selected as pre-schoolers, living goddesses usually keep their positions until they reach puberty. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha) 

Iceland could become first country
to ban male circumcision
(USA Today) – Iceland could become the first country in Europe to ban male circumcision, prompting criticism from religious groups about the ritual practiced in both Judaism and Islam. The legislation being debated by Iceland’s Parliament would impose a six-year jail term on anyone who “removes part or all of (a child’s) sexual organs” for nonmedical reasons.
“It’s an attack on freedom of religion,” Ahmad Seddeeq, the Egyptian-born imam of the Islamic Cultural Center of Iceland, said Monday (Feb. 19).
Silja Dögg Gunnarsdóttir, a lawmaker from the center-right Progressive Party, said she proposed the measure after realizing the country’s ban on female genital mutilation had no equivalent to prevent male circumcision. Iceland outlawed female genital mutilation in 2005, in line with other nations, to prevent procedures that intentionally alter or injure female genital organs for nonmedical reasons. “We are talking about children’s rights, not about freedom of belief,” she said when she introduced the bill in early February. “Everyone has the right to believe in what they want, but the rights of children come above the right to believe.”
About 336,000 people live in Iceland, including 250 Jews and 1,500 Muslims, according to government statistics and Seddeeq.
This Nordic island nation is known for progressive legislation on gender equality. Last month, the government made it illegal for companies to pay women less than men – another world first. The religious ritual of male circumcision, or removing the foreskin from the penis, generally occurs shortly after birth, during childhood or around puberty as a rite of passage. Jews and Muslims typically circumcise their sons to confirm or mark their relationship with God. While the practice is often associated with Judaism, a 2007 report by the World Health Organization said Muslims are the largest religious group to perform male circumcision. An estimated 30 percent of all males globally are circumcised, and about two-thirds of them are Muslim, the organization said.
In the United States, 98 percent of Jewish men are circumcised, according to the world agency. The organization also said there is substantial evidence that male circumcision protects against diseases, such as urinary tract infections, syphilis, invasive penile cancer and HIV.
In Iceland, Gunnarsdóttir’s draft law has political support in Parliament and popular backing. But religious leaders around Europe worry that Iceland’s quest to protect children is trampling on religious practices and could amount to anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
“Protecting the health of children is a legitimate goal of every society, but in this case (it is being used) without any scientific basis, to stigmatize certain religious communities,” said Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the Brussels-based Catholic Church in the European Union.
Milah U.K., a British group that protects the Jewish community’s right carry out religious circumcision, said, “For a country such as Iceland, that considers itself a liberal democracy, to ban it, thus making sustainable Jewish life in the country impossible, is extremely concerning.”
Seddeeq pointed out that native-born Icelanders do not get circumcised, and he is not aware of any medical specialists in the country trained to perform the procedure. He took his own 3-year-old son to Egypt to have it done. “What’s the point in banning something that doesn’t really exist?” he said.

VIDEO: “Muslim & Jewish Women Fight Hatred Together”
by Deena Yellin
In the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, during which there was an increase of hate crimes, a shell shocked Arwen Kuttner sought a way to take positive action.
“I didn’t want Muslims or immigrants feeling we were all against them,” said the Englewood resident, who teaches at a yeshiva day school in Paramus. “Nor did I want people turning against Jews. I felt we needed each other so that we weren’t treated as outsiders.”
Then she heard about Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, a national, New-Jersey-based group that seeks to build bridges among Muslim and Jewish women. Group leaders were inundated with e-mails and calls from others who apparently felt the same way as Kuttner. Some were from Bergen County, where there was no chapter.
Kuttner contacted other local women who had expressed an interest in the group.
“I said `Let’s all get together at my place,’ ” she said.
She’s now co-leader of the 12-plus member Bergen County Chapter of Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom whose goal is to form friendships and wage peace across religious and cultural lines.
The group is one of a growing crop of Muslim-Jewish interfaith collaborations, such as the Syrian Supper Club, where Jewish congregants invite Syrians to their home to cook and share a meal and, in turn, the diners make a donation to support the Syrian families. Other Jewish communities have raised money for damaged mosques or offered their own facilities as prayer spaces and Muslims across the U.S. have raised money in online campaigns to repair Jewish cemeteries that were vandalized.

Check out this incredible video!!  Thousands of Jews and Muslims sing “One Day” in perfect harmony. On February 14, 2018 Koolulam invited 3,000 people who had never met before to sing in Haifa, in 3 languages, in celebration of co-existence!!  It look just one hour for the Jews and Muslim to learn all the parts.  Click on the link below to see the heart-warming result!!

Sikhs welcome students on religious diversity journey
published March 1, 2018
Raman Singh, addressing a diverse group of seventh-graders visiting a Sikh place of worship in Plymouth Township, had a strong message of religious unity. Sikhs, Hindus, Christians, Muslims and Jews may worship in different ways, but their similarities – their yearning for a better world – outweigh their differences. “There should be no barriers between us,” Singh said. People of all faiths should vow to better understand one another, to improve the world and to help others “without discrimination,” she said.
Singh’s message is at the core of Religious Diversity Journeys, a project of the InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit, of which Singh is president. A program Tuesday brought 150 seventh-graders from seven schools to the Sikh Gurdwara Sahib Mata Tripta Ji (Hidden Falls).
In all this school year, 700 seventh-graders from 11 public school districts and seven private schools are participating, along with teachers and parents, in an initiative Singh said began 15 years ago. Their journeys also teach them about Judaism, Islam, Christianity and Hinduism as they visit synagogues, mosques, churches and temples.
Nevaeha Roberts, 12, who came from Holbrook Elementary in Hamtramck, reflected on her journeys Tuesday as students took a lunch break at Hidden Falls to sample Sikh cuisine such as cholay, made with chickpeas and spices, and naan flatbread. “You can learn a lot about other religions,” she said, adding that students have opportunities to ask questions about the different faiths. Students tour houses of worship, enjoy a meal with those of different faiths, have an opportunity to ask questions of clergy and meet peers their age.
Naseem Alhalimi of Kosciuszko Middle School in Hamtramck was among the students who learned that Sikh men grow their hair and wear turbans because gurus teach it as a way to show respect and love toward God. He learned about iron bracelets, or kada, worn by Sikhs.
“They wear it to do good things for other people,” Naseem said. “They want to protect people.”
Religious Diversity Journeys was started through a grant obtained by the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion. Now, the IFLC oversees the project, which has reached an estimated 2,500 students, along with their teachers and 150-200 parents. Atekeh Qazweeni, who teaches religious studies and social studies, accompanied students from an Islamic school, Wise Academy in Dearborn Heights. She said Islam teaches followers that they should work to understand other religions.
“We’re all human,” she said, “and we have to learn from each other.”
Qazweeni said Religious Diversity Journeys helps to dispel misconceptions and stereotypes.
Harminder Singh, Sunday school principal at Hidden Falls, said the program can help seventh-graders learn why Sikhs wear turbans and grow their hair and beards due to religious teachings. He wore on his arm several of the bracelets, or kada, that Naseem had mentioned.
Raman Singh said Religious Diversity Journeys gives students a chance to immerse themselves in other religions and learn firsthand that all faiths should not be divisive, but uniting. She is hopeful the effort can help dispel misconceptions that youngsters learn, often in their own homes, and enrich them with knowledge. “They can take it back to their schools and share,” she said. “This breaks down barriers and builds bridges. It opens hearts. It opens minds.” Singh said the project, which also has a separate adult component, also can help to reduce bullying as seventh-graders learn respect toward peers of other cultures.
“A lot of them come from homogeneous school districts,” she said. “They get to experience this diversity and religious diversity as a positive thing.” Parent Susan Bryant accompanied her son Ethan from the Waterford Montessori Academy. “I think this program has broken down a lot of barriers,” she said. “It dispels a lot of misconceptions. It’s a very good program.”
Wendy Miller Gamer, IFLC program director, said students each year also take a field trip to other places, including the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills. Other schools participating were Hilbert Middle School from the Redford Union district, Clifford Smart Middle School from Walled Lake and the Islamic Beverly Hills Academy.
For more information about the InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit and its programs, go to https://detroitinterfaithcouncil.com/.

March 2018

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events 
 
Sunday March 11th, 4:00 PM
Nineteenth Annual World Sabbath
Christ Church Cranbrook, Bloomfield Hills
See Flyer Below
 
Exploring Religious Landscapes Spring 2018
Prayer Across Faith Traditions
See Flyer Below for schedule
 
Thursday, April 12, 7:00 PM
Unity of Royal Oak Church
Ask A Native American
See Flyer Below
Monday April 23rd 11:00 AM Temple Israel Sisterhood Luncheon
Five Women Five Journeys WISDOM Presentation
Contact Gail Katz for more information 248-978-6664
Thursday, April 26th, 6:00 PM
Song and Spirit Tales of Holy Foolery
See Flyer Below
 
Sunday, April 29th 4:00 PM
Five Women Five Journeys WISDOM Presentation
St. Anne’s Catholic Church
Contact Paula Drewek for more information Drewekpau@aol.com 

Many seventh graders had the special opportunity to visit the Sikh Gurdwara in February in Canton, MI to learn about Sikhism,  This is part of the Religious Diversity Journeys run by the InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit. This educational program is a perfect fit for the Seventh Grade World Religions curriculum.  Fabulous program!

Pope denounces Holocaust ‘indifference’ amid Polish uproar
Pope Francis walks through a gate with the words “Arbeit macht frei” (Work sets you free) at the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland, on July 29, 2016. Photo by Kacper Pempel/Reuters
VATICAN CITY (AP) – Pope Francis said Jan. 29 that countries have a responsibility to fight anti-Semitism and the “virus of indifference” that threatens to erase the memory of the Holocaust.
Francis’ comments to an international conference on anti-Semitism came as the largely Roman Catholic Poland considers legislation that would outlaw blaming Poles for the crimes of the Holocaust. The proposed legislation has sparked an outcry in Israel.
Francis didn’t mention the dispute but he did speak of his 2016 visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in German-occupied Poland, saying he remembered “the roar of the deafening silence” that left room for only tears, prayer and requests for forgiveness.
He called for Christians and Jews to build a “common memory” of the Holocaust, saying “it is our responsibility to hand it on in a dignified way to young generations.”
“The enemy against which we fight is not only hatred in all of its forms, but even more fundamentally indifference, for it is indifference that paralyzes and impedes us from doing what is right even when we know that it is right,” he said.
The anti-Semitism conference, hosted by the Italian foreign ministry in cooperation with the OSCE and Italy’s Jewish communities, was timed to correspond to International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
On the eve of the commemoration, Poland’s lower house parliament approved a bill calling for prison time for referring to “Polish death camps” and criminalizes the mention of Polish complicity in the Holocaust.
Many Poles believe such phrasing implies that Poles had a role in running the camps. But critics worry it could be used to stifle research and debate on topics that are anathema to Poland’s nationalistic authorities, particularly the painful issue of Poles who blackmailed Jews or denounced them to the Nazis during the war.
In his remarks, Francis called for a “culture of responsibility” among nations to establish an “alliance against indifference” about the Holocaust.
“We need urgently to educate young generations to be actively involved in the struggle against hatred and discrimination, but also in overcoming conflicting positions in the past, and never grow tired of seeking out the other,” he said.

West Bloomfield Synagogue Bible Garden
                       Welcomes Visitors and Tour Groups
     

The Louis and Fay Woll Memorial Bible Garden, located at 5075 West Maple Road, West Bloomfield, on the campus of Congregation Beth Ahm, will soon be in full spring bloom, and people of all faiths are welcome to visit for learning and reflection. The Garden is available for group tours as well as for informal individual visitation. Group tours can be arranged to take place any day of the week with the exception of Shabbat (Saturday). The Garden is open in the summer, fall and spring, from sunrise to sunset.

Bible gardens usually contain plants mentioned in the Bible or use plants to recreate themes from the Bible. The Louis and Fay Woll Memorial Bible Garden does both and serves many purposes. It is meant to serve as a place of inner reflection, as a place of education, as a place for social and community gatherings, as a place to celebrate special things in our lives, and as a place to understand and appreciate the beauty and continuity of nature and its connection to the Jewish people and to the Divine.

There are a number of Bible gardens in various locations around the United States, but the Louis and Fay Memorial Bible Garden is believed to be the only one in Michigan and is one of very few in the world that are sponsored by a synagogue. Almost all other Bible gardens to date have been created by Christian houses of worship. The Louis and Fay Woll Memorial Bible Garden was created by Drs. Douglas and Margo Woll in 2010 to honor the memory of Doug’s parents, who believed in and exemplified the principles of goodness, caring and generosity. The Bible Garden was designed by Gary Roberts of Great Oaks Landscaping and features ceramic artwork by Carol Roberts of Tucson, AZ.

If your group would like to tour the garden with a synagogue docent and also have the opportunity to visit the Beth Ahm sanctuary and learn more about Judaism, please contact Rabbi Steven Rubenstein by phone (248) 851-6880 ext. 17 or by e-mailravsteven@cbahm.org to schedule your visit. There is no charge to visit the Woll Memorial Bible Garden, either on an individual basis or for group tours. Donations are welcome to help support the ongoing maintenance and enhancement of the Bible Garden.
All are welcome to find enjoyment, beauty and peaceful reflection in the experience of exploring the Louis and Fay Memorial Bible Garden in person or online. For more information, including photos of the Garden, visit http://www.wollbiblegarden.org/ or http://www.cbahm.org/woll-bible-garden

The InterFaith Leadership Council
ran an “Ask A Sikh” program in early February.
Rabbi Brent Gutmann, Isha Singh, Jas Sokhal and Rev. Dr. Charles Packer
Their central religious value is selfless community service. There are almost 20,000 Sikhs living in southeast Michigan and there are 246 congregations – called gurdwaras – in the United States. Yet amongst the general American population they are often seen as outsiders and have even been violently persecuted since Sept. 11, 2001.
To bridge the gap, the IFLC in partnership with the Gurdwara Mata Tripta of Plymouth and Temple Kol Ami (TKA) of West Bloomfield continued its “Ask A…” series and focused on Sikhism on Tuesday, Feb. 6, at Temple Kol Ami, 5085 Walnut Lake Road in West Bloomfield Township.
The Speakers were Jas Sokhal and Isha Singh, who are members of the Plymouth Sikh congregation Gurdwara Mata Tripta. They discussed and answered questions about their religion. Sokhal is director of Information systems at the Kidney Epidemiology and Cost Center at the University of Michigan and Singh is a speech pathologist at Heartland. Both have lived in West Bloomfield for 25 years and have three children.
In his encounters with Sikhs when he served as a rabbi and worked with an interfaith council in Aukland, New Zealand, TKA Rabbi Brent Gutmann noted similarities between Judaism and Sikhism: people are required to cover their heads as part of religious observance, they pray from a holy book and their religion is based not on a single theology but rather based on practice and conduct and treating others with mutual respect.
“I was struck by cultural similarities between Judaism and Sikhism,” Gutmann said. “As Jews, it is important to cultivate an awareness of the practices of other religions and understand the diversity that exists in and outside of our West Bloomfield community. Entering a different house of worship or learning about another religion also helps to strengthen and solidify your own religious identity by invigorating new authentic ways of relating to one’s own faith.”

Ending Poverty
Ending poverty demands more than modifications in social and economic policies, no matter how skillfully conceived and executed these may be. It requires a profound rethinking of how the issue of poverty is understood and approached. This idea was at the heart of the remarks of a representative of the Baha’i International Community that opened the 56th UN Commission for Social Development on 29 January 2018.
“Humanity’s collective life suffers when any one group thinks of its own well-being in isolation from that of its neighbors,” said Daniel Perell, BIC representative and chairperson of the NGO Committee for Social Development, during the opening session of the conference in New York City.
“Rejection of this foundational truth leads to ills that are all too familiar,” continued Mr. Perell. “Self-interest prevails at the expense of the common good. Unconscionable quantities of wealth are amassed, mirrored by reprehensible depths of destitution.”
The 56th session of the Commission for Social Development, which concludes on 7 February, focuses on strategies for eradicating poverty. It explores many dimensions of this complex and vexing issue, including the necessity of realizing the equality of women and men, the promise and potential pitfalls of technology, issues of disability and inclusion, as well as the special role of families, communities, and youth.
The BIC prepared a statement for the Commission calling for a profound shift in thinking. Referring to the Commission’s aim of “eradicating poverty to achieve sustainable development for all,” the statement explains that it “is not simply a matter of expanding access to material resources, challenging as that can be. Rather, it is an endeavor of structural and social transformation on scales never attempted before. And the magnitude of that work calls for new ways of understanding individual human beings and society as a whole.”
The statement goes on to challenge the largely unquestioned assumption that a major obstacle to addressing poverty is a scarcity of material resources in the world.
“[A]t the systemic level, the assumption that ‘there isn’t enough money’ fundamentally misreads the relevant realities of the world. Financial resources are becoming increasingly concentrated in certain segments of society,” writes the BIC in its statement. “The challenge, then, is not one of scarcity, but rather the choices and values that must inform the allocation of resources.”
Beyond the question of financial resources, the BIC statement highlights the vast capacity latent in humanity to transform the world and ultimately solve its most perplexing challenges. To move in this direction, however, implies a new paradigm of thought, in which all people are seen as reservoirs of capacity that, when enabled, can contribute to the betterment of the world.
Many other organizations and individuals at the Commission are similarly questioning the prevailing patterns of thinking and action in efforts to end poverty. Former Director-General of the International Labour Organization and keynote speaker Juan Somavía, for example, spoke during the Commission about the need to revisit how people living in poverty are perceived. “Empowering people to be part of the process is not a mechanical thing, because you respect people, you understand that the dignity and the value of the human being is absolutely essential,” he said. “They have not lost their dignity because of the situation in which they find themselves, and they do not see themselves as a statistic.”
Speaking on the event, Mr. Perell commented, “the Commission continues to have great potential. It is a pleasure to be among so many government and civil society representatives who are proactively searching for new solutions and increasingly questioning the consequences of current structures. The test will be the degree to which these conversations can be further advanced at the international level and, perhaps more importantly, can begin reshaping thinking and practice at the national and local community levels.”

UK minister: Dialogue and respect
 to combat religious intolerance
Pope Francis talks with Grand Imam Ahmed el-Tayeb of al-Azhar university in Cairo  (Ossevatore Romano)
Lord Ahmad met with top Vatican officials and addressed a conference at the Pontifical Gregorian University.
‘Why it matters to be intolerant of intolerance’ was the title of a conference held at Rome’s Gregorian University this week, highlighting the need for closer cooperation in the fight against violent extremism. Key speakers at the event were Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, head of the Congregation for Oriental Churches and Tariq Ahmad, a British government minister of state for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, tasked with issues of counter-terrorism and freedom of religion. Lord Ahmad, who also serves as the Prime Minister’s special representative on preventing sexual violence in conflict, focused on the efforts of the British government to combat religious intolerance, through education, advocacy or interfaith engagement. During his visit to Rome Lord Ahmad also held talks with top Vatican officials, including the Holy See’s foreign minister, Archbishop Paul Gallagher. As a Muslim, whose children attend Catholic schools, Ahmad believes that inclusivity and mutual respect are the hallmarks of a stable society. But he told Susy Hodges he is concerned that intolerance and religious persecution are on the rise worldwide.
Lord Ahmad says religion is being used as a weapon by extremist groups therefore “it is important that like-minded organisations, countries and communities come together to raise voices, to ensure the protection of minority faiths wherever they find persecution occurring in the world”. The British government minister praises Pope Francis as “a trailblazer in terms of his advocacy for the rights of all faith communities”, welcoming in particular his recent words  on behalf of the Rohinga minority in Myanmar who are victims of religious and ethnic persecution.
Britain today, Ahmad says, is stronger and more stable because of its “rich tapestry” of religious diversity. While extremist groups still manage to infiltrate and influence vulnerable young minds through social media, he says the response to recent terror attacks showcased how “people of all faiths and none came together” in defiance of those who seek to divide and sow fear in society.
He highlights efforts taken by the UK, France and Italy to persuade social media providers to take responsibility for the content of their sites and notes that in the year leading up to August 2017 Twitter removed almost a million accounts because they were “espousing unacceptable views”.

February 2018

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events 
 
Tuesday, February 6th 7:00 – 8:30 PM
Ask a Sikh at Temple Kol Ami, West Bloomfield
See Flyer Below!
 
Sunday, March 11th 4:00 – 6:00 PM
Nineteenth Annual World Sabbath at Christ Church Cranbrook
See Flyer Below!
 
Monday April 23rd 11:00 AM Temple Israel Sisterhood Luncheon
Five Women Five Journeys WISDOM Presentation
Contact Gail Katz for more information 248-978-6664

Fund Some Fun and Further WISDOM’s Mission
Available on Amazon, paperback $20, e-book $9.99. Books may also be purchased at any of our events.
Have you ever been to or sponsored a book signing? If not, here is your chance! WISDOM will come to your venue (home, place of business, house of worship etc.) to read from, and talk about our new book, Friendship and Faith, 2nd Edition. It is a very personal way to learn about the book, the authors, and have your book autographed onsite.
The program includes at least three of the authors reading from their stories, responding to audience questions and signing books. It requires the pre-purchase of a minimum of 20 books.
Your sponsorship of this program will provide a rather unique experience for your group, help spread the message of the power and potential of relationship in the process of change and transformation, and help fund WISDOM programs.
So Fund Some Fun and further WISDOM’s mission!
Contact Trish Harris at tharrismsq@att.net or 248 335-0964 for questions or to schedule a book signing.

Calcutta’s Synagogues Are a
 Tanmay Chatterjee

Once home to a sizable Jewish community founded by Iraqi Jews in the 18th century, Calcutta now has only twenty-three Jews. Yet three of the city’s historic synagogues, two of which were recently restored, are maintained by local Muslims. Tanmay Chatterjee writes:
At Magen David, built in 1884 and South Asia’s biggest Jewish prayer building, featuring a 165-feet-high steeple, Rabbul Khan represents the third generation of a family of “caretakers” hailing from the adjoining state of Odisha. At Nave Shalom, [Calcutta’s oldest synagogue], thirty-five-year-old Masood Hussain, also from Odisha, is the newest among the caretakers but never forgets to offer skullcaps to visitors.
“Miyazan Khan, my grandfather, worked here all his life and my father Ibrahim Khan served for 50 years,” says Rabbul Khan as he tends to some glass candelabra inside the prayer hall. . . . Don’t his friends and family object to his working at a synagogue? “Nobody ever uttered a word. We all live like family here,” comes a firm reply.
Muslims on the payroll of the Jewish trusts that run the synagogues practice their own faith and share a warm relationship with the people of the neighborhood in central Calcutta. At the Jewish Girls’ School on Park Street, the students Zeba Shamim, a Muslim, and Subhosmita Majumdar, a Bengali Hindu, feel proud to be part of a choir that sang Shalom Aleykhem at the Beth El synagogue, built in 1856, for the first time before members of the Jewish community who arrived from Israel and other parts of the world to witness the restoration. Israel’s ambassador to India, Daniel Carmon, figured among the guests.
Students from Elias Meyer Talmud Torah School, the Jewish boys’ school, also took part in the celebrations at Magen David synagogue. Oseh Shalom, a Jewish prayer for peace, was performed solo by a Muslim boy, Suharnuddin Ahmed. He was trained by his teacher, S. Nayak, a Hindu.

Detroit Public Schools Central District 
Invites Faith Groups to Volunteer

As the Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) continues its vital work of restoring and rebuilding educational resources for Detroit’s 50,000 families with schoolchildren, Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti, is seeking stronger ties with the Detroit Metro area’s faith-based community to help in its efforts and is unveiling this week plans of creating a new initiative called the Faith Based Council.
District officials will present its strategic plan for Faith Based Council to focus on ensuring every Detroit Public School has a partner. Area houses of faith will have the opportunity to partner with nearby schools and work with families and children throughout the Detroit community.
The partnership between the faith-based community and DPSCD will provide a platform for congregation members from all houses of worship who want to make a difference supporting families right where they are. The district is seeking help and ministry in their work of ensuring the success of its students and is looking to local clergy to seek involvement from their congregations in assisting with students’ basic needs, academic support, volunteers and generally promoting the successes of students across the District. DPSCD will also provide training and support for a designated liaison to ensure a successful partnership with the schools.
To receive additional information please text/call Yolanda Eddins at313.674.1010 or email her at yolanda.eddins@detroitk12.org.

Area Mormons Mourn the Loss of Leader

Thomas S. Monson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, died Tuesday at his home in Salt Lake City, Utah, according to a statement from the organization. He was 90. Funeral services for President Thomas S. Monson, leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be held in the Conference Center on Temple Square Friday, January 12, 2018, at 12:00 p.m. MST. The funeral will be open to the public ages 8 and older. A public viewing open to all ages will take place Thursday, January 11, from 9:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. in the Conference Center.
Born in Salt Lake City in 1927.  Monson served in the US Navy near the close of World War II, according to his church biography. After the war, he graduated from the University of Utah and started a career in publishing.
Monson became president of the church in 2008, and served in that capacity until his death. According to his obituary in the Washington Post, Monson became church bishop at the age of 22, the youngest church apostle ever in 1963 at the age of 36. He served as a counselor for three church presidents before assuming the role of the top leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in February 2008.
As president of the nearly 16-million-member faith, Monson was considered a prophet who led the church through revelation from God in collaboration with two top counselors and members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
The next president was not immediately named, but the job is expected to go to the next longest-tenured member of the church’s governing Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Russell M. Nelson, per church protocol.
Mormon Presidents serve for their entire life. When they die, an eight-step transition process takes place in choosing a new leader.  It starts with dissolving The First Presidency – the two most senior appointed advisors to the President.
During the transition between appointing Presidents, The Quorum of Twelve Apostles – a group of leaders and advisors regarded by Mormons as prophets and seers, assume Church leadership. They spend their time teaching and travelling around the world, addressing and encouraging large congregations of members and interested nonmembers, as well as meeting with local leaders.
Since the Church was formally organized on 6 April 1830, there have been 16 presidents, including President Thomas S. Monson.
“President Monson served as either a member of the Twelve Apostles, in the General Presidency or as President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout my entire life,” said April Cook, IFLC Board Secretary and Area Assistant Director of Public Affairs, Michigan, LDS Church  “My church memories are filled with his wonderful kindness, his desire to do good and uplift, his efforts to serve and lead. I have often been inspired by him to be a better person and show loving kindness more readily.
“Monson said, ‘Unless we lose ourselves in service to others there is little purpose to our own lives.’ My efforts to make a difference as a board member of the IFLC and an advocate forJustServe.org have been influenced by words like these.” “His name forever will be linked to compassionate endeavors, service to others and a strong desire to help those who are helpless, nourish those who are weak and lift those who suffer various afflictions. He demonstrated that service most effectively on a one-to-one basis,” said Local Area Seventy, Elder Daniel F. Dunnigan.

The Rising Generation of Leaders
Reimagining the Interfaith Movement
by Tahil Sharma and Megan Anderson
(Article from the December Interfaith Observer)

Interfaith leaders counter-protesting at the Untied the Right rally in Charlottesville VG – Photo: Facebook
2017 has shaped the interfaith movement and clearly shown us the growing need for religious and secular pluralism and understanding. From clergy at the front lines of demonstrations against white supremacy and the drastic changes being made to the healthcare system, to community members standing against hatred through letter campaigns and fundraising, interfaith cooperation is becoming the social norm  during times of flagrant injustice. Yet interfaith organizers, educators, and bridge builders can only work for more united and resilient networks when they overcome the difficult task of being radically inclusive in their own movement.
We are at a moment in world history where collaboration across lines of difference is imperative to our survival. While interfaith gatherings strive for diversity and inclusion, many times they have a tendency to create homogeneous and monolithic communities that have an older age bracket, show themes of a common faith and ethnicity, and possess “tokens” of minority religious community members.
Although the interfaith movement is growing in number, we are not necessarily growing in inclusion. Often, both new and long existing interfaith groups do not reflect genuine diverse representation of people and communities imperative to the conversation. How often is the minority voice lost in interfaith protests against the increasing systemic oppression and discrimination against minority communities? How often are the innovative ideas younger generations are kept at arm’s length from “seasoned” activists or clergy in leadership positions? In some cases we are limited by the diversity of the context itself, but more often than not we simply don’t put enough intentionality into finding and welcoming these communities into the conversation.
In order for this groundswell movement to survive the ethical crises of our time, we must gather together our diverse journeys, stories, and wisdom as we commit ourselves to greater social action. Individuals and grassroots organizations around the world are already committed to the service required of our growing collective, but it’s time to take it to the next level and get everyone involved.
Now comes a coalition bringing these conversations to the forefront. Through the co-sponsorship of numerous diverse organizations, including The Interfaith Observer, Religions for Peace-USA, Shoulder-to-Shoulder, United Religions Initiative-North America, World Congress of Faith, the Interfaith Funders Group, the International Association for Religious Freedom and multiple faith communities, Reimagining Interfaith is being planned. Reimagining Interfaith is an event this summer focused on skill-building, networking, and organizing for grassroots activists and interfaith peacebuilders from around the world. It aims to bring us to the point where we can truly make our global interfaith community all-encompassing. This gathering will focus on the practical aspects of interreligious and intersectional encounters and equip activists with the skills to work across lines of difference, break down barriers, and create lasting relationships. Programming will be focused on five skill-building program areas: (1) Cultivating Welcoming Communities in the Face of Discrimination; (2) Community Organizing: Initiating and Sustaining Social Change Movements; (3) Staying “Woke”: Recognizing Privilege, Challenging Systematic Oppression; (4) Interfaith Organizing in a Changing Spiritual Landscape; and (5) Making a Movement: Building Skills to Bring Interfaith to the Next Level. There will also be a track for children and blocks of time set aside for open networking, dialogue groups, cultural activities, and participant-driven programming.
This is where you come in. We need you to be a part of the courageous leadership that will make interfaith work more powerful than ever before. We need you to teach us what we may not know about how the interfaith movement can be better. We are talking to all those who have felt uncomfortable or marginalized by our movement. We are talking to those who feel called to act against injustice. We are talking to the numerous religious, spiritual, and secular adherents who deserve to speak their truth to power.
And, we are talking to ourselves – the ones who need to listen, change, and empower new leaders.
Visit www.reimagineinterfaith.org and join us in this unique opportunity!

RIT professor launches table-top games to enhance people’s understanding of religion
Dec. 11, 2017
by Vienna McGrain
(Rochester Institute of Technology)
A team of interdisciplinary researchers, designers and developers led by Owen Gottlieb, an assistant professor of interactive games and media at Rochester Institute of Technology, has produced two first-of-their-kind table-top games that aim to promote and enhance the public understanding of religion and law.
The first two entries in the game series, Lost & Found and Lost & Found: Order in the Court – the Party Game, are available for purchase. According to Gottlieb, the games give players and educators a unique perspective of 12th-century Cairo and teach about medieval religious legal codes. Gottlieb says the purpose of the series is to change the discourse about religious legal systems, enhance people’s understanding of religion, improve discussion surrounding religious legal systems and increase awareness of the pro-social aspects of religious legal systems, including collaboration and cooperation.
“At a time when there is a great deal of divide in the country, as well as a lack of understanding of people’s cultures and what it means to be of a religious tradition that has a legal system, this competitive and collaborative game is one way to begin discovering how we might bridge the divide,” said Gottlieb, of the strategy game. “The legal systems that are being taught in this game are about governance, caring for your neighbors and building sustainable communities.”
In Lost & Found, players take on the role of villagers who must balance personal needs with the needs of the community, all while navigating medieval religious sacred law systems. The game centers on laws that help solve community problems and were handed down over hundreds and sometimes thousands of years of legal tradition. The initial model of the game teaches Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah, a medieval Jewish law code. In the future, the team plans to build out the game to incorporate Islamic and potentially other religious law systems.
“I first began thinking about developing games for the understanding of religious law back in 2011,” said Gottlieb. “I recognized the potential and studied this religious law in rabbinical school. While I was studying the texts, I even began to find agricultural illustrations that looked like a game board. The texts also used law cases and built hypothetical situations around them. You see, legal codes are based on rule-based systems, and games are based on rule-based systems. Upon close examination, the parallels are evident. Rather than focusing on arcane, hard-to-read texts in our teaching of these ruled-based systems, what if we made these law cases quickly tangible, engaging and engrossing through the medium of contemporary games?”
The second game in the series, Order in the Court – The Party Game, uses the party-game genre to have players compete by creating stories about possible reasons behind the formation of medieval laws. Played for humor, the game generates curiosity about the law and quickly moves players into discussing the possible reasons for and meaning of the laws.
The games, available at lostandfoundthegame.com, are distributed through RIT’s MAGIC Spell Studios. Lost & Found is available for $38.99 and is geared toward high school and college-aged students due to its level of strategic complexity. The second, Order in the Court – the Party Game, is available for $35.99 and is accessible for junior high students as well as older teens and adults.
The games are the result of nearly four years of research and development with help from graduate and undergraduate students, and faculty in RIT’s School of Interactive Games and Media and the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences. Professor Ian Schreiber of RIT’s School of Interactive Games and Media is core mechanics designer for the games. Gottlieb says the intricate details and architectural patterns drawn on the cards by RIT students are representative of 12th- century North Africa, and he views the games as teaching tools for universities, high schools, libraries and museums.
“Games are incredibly difficult to make,” added Gottlieb. “There were times when our development team, including visual artists, designers, historians and game developers, would work until midnight or beyond reading the laws and trying to figure out how to translate the laws into a playable game system. In terms of a board game that examines legal reasoning, legal thought, legal implications and even history, there are limitless opportunities for educators to adapt it to their curricula. An upcoming project for our team is drawing from research to develop curricula for these games.”
The project was developed in collaboration with the Initiative in Religion, Culture and Policy @MAGIC, housed within RIT’s Center for Media, Arts, Games, Interaction and Creativity (MAGIC). Gottlieb is the founder and lead research faculty of the initiative, which cultivates new research focused on games, religious literacy, the acquisition of cultural practices and the implications on policy and politics. Also credited in the production of both games are the B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences and RIT’s Office of the Vice President for Research. The digital prototype version of Lost & Found was supported and funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

January 2018

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Start the New Year Write
Let Women’s Voices be Heard
Yes, “write” is right! Now that you have purchased and read the new and expanded Friendship and Faith, we need you to write a review on Amazon. Our book that is brimming with hope and inspiration can only live up to its potential to do good if it is purchased and read. This is where you can make a difference.
One of the most valuable boosts our book can receive is a helpful review on its Amazon page, describing our book and explaining why it appealed to you. A helpful review says more than simply, “Loved this book!” Point out an example or two from the book that really moved you. If you are puzzling over the “star ratings,”  we do know that Amazon really does value the 5-star review. When Amazon sees helpful reviews popping up over a period of time, then Amazon more frequently suggests our book to customers.
As of Autumn 2017, Amazon does not allow authors or co-authors to review their own books. Other than that limitation, Amazon only requires that that a potential reviewer be a past customer (defined as having spent $50 on past orders).
Help us share the message of connection, friendship, and hope with people in places we will never visit. Please write a review and help us make a difference. What? You haven’t purchased a book yet?? May we suggest you purchase not one, but two, one for you and one for a friend. Have fun reading the book together, sharing your favorite stories and then writing reviews.

Exploring Feminism and Faith
One Earth Writing, a nonprofit that uses writing to empower teens with confidence, leadership, and voice across racial, religious, and socioeconomic lines, invites women and teen girls to register for One Faithful World, an exploration of the role of females in faith.
Sponsored by First United Methodist Church of Royal Oak, the Muslim Unity Center, and Temple Israel, One Faithful World uses writing to explore the role of females in faith. The program is led by OEW instructors Maureen Dunphy and Joy Gaines-Friedler and includes guest speakers on topics of fashion, food and leadership. Brenna Lane, principal of Detroit Denim Co., will be the first speaker, addressing fashion.
The program’s goal is to find commonality and shared values across religions, building camaraderie and friendship among women and girls from different faith communities.
Each two-hour session begins with conversations and writing workshops, followed by expert speakers. The final session on April 12 will celebrate the writing generated during the program.

These Women Are Bringing The Muslim And Jewish Communities Together Despite Their Differences
By Erica Euse
Sheryl Olitzky and Atiya Aftab hope
their unlikely friendship will inspire others.
Sheryl Olitzky and Atiya Aftab are working to change the world one interfaith relationship at a time. As a Muslim woman and a Jewish woman, they seem like an unlikely pair from the outside. They live according to two religions that have historically found themselves at war, but their friendship is proof that their communities can still come together. We partnered with National Geographic’s The Story of Us With Morgan Freeman, a new six-part series about the common humanity in us all, to share how Olitzky and Aftab put aside their differences to create a better future for everyone.
Olitzky was first inspired to start her interfaith organization during a trip to Poland in 2010. She had planned to visit Auschwitz to bring attention to the power of anti-Jewish sentiment and hate, but once she was there she realized that the struggles of Jewish people were shared by so many other religions, including Muslims.
“It was at that point when I said I cannot change the past, but I can change the future,” Olitzky told Huffpost. “When I came home I realized that there was a moderately sized Muslim and Jewish community in my backyard. There was nothing overtly negative between both communities, but there was nothing. I decided to change that.”
Olitzky reached out to the religious director at a local mosque in South Brunswick, New Jersey, who told her to contact Aftab. Aftab was an attorney and activist, who was also a chairwoman at the mosque.
“Sheryl was super persistent in trying to meet me,” recalled Aftab. “When we ended up meeting, we really hit it off. We agreed there was something we should do because we have to work together as minority groups. We have to speak up for each other.” Olitzky and Aftab made a plan to bring together a group of Muslim and Jewish women. Their goal was to foster more intimate relationships with the hope that it would build a better understanding between them. After a month of recruiting, they invited five Jewish and five Muslim women to meet at Aftab’s home. Some were apprehensive to join, but they took the risk. “We ended up sending emails to each other to say how electric the room was [during that first meeting],” said Aftab. “It was just so impactful to all of us to get to know each other. We talked a little bit about family, a little bit about career. It eased into the challenges of being a Jewish woman and the challenges of being a Muslim woman.”
The women in the group quickly realized that they had a lot in common, particularly their difficulties navigating a life of faith in a majority Christian country. Olitzky and Aftab decided to keep the conversation going and started planning meetings each month. Eventually, other women were contacting them wanting to join the group, too. As the interest continued to grow, they started to encourage other women to start their own chapters.
“It started growing organically and then Sheryl had this idea to have a national organization to foster the creation of these groups of Muslim and Jewish women around the country,” explained Aftab. In 2014, they officially became a non-profit called the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom.
Despite the organization’s successful expansion, the founders have been criticized for bringing the two faiths together. Olitzky admits that she has lost friendships over what they are doing. The ongoing clash between Muslims and Jews in Israel-Palestine has been a major point of contention for those who disapprove. Most don’t understand why these religions would work together. While Aftab and Olitzky do have differing opinions on the conflict, they aren’t letting that keep them apart.
“Three summers ago when there was the bombing going on in Gaza, it was the month of Ramadan and one of our women hosted an iftar [a meal] to break the fast together,” Aftab shared. “One of the Jewish women knocked on the door and a Muslim answered and said ‘I really want to hate you right now because of what’s going on, but I can’t hate you because you’re my friend.'” Aftab said that mentality is at the heart of the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom. Over the years they have not only worked to bring these women face to face, but create meaningful relationships between them. The premise came from the “contact hypothesis,” a theory that found the best way to get rid of prejudice between groups is to have interpersonal interaction. Along with the chapter meetings, the Sisterhood also hosts an annual convention and group trip. Through these relationship building events the women become like sisters.
“These are women that you wouldn’t expect to have these intimate relationships,” Olitzky explained. “These are women that are calling each other in the middle of the night because there was a death in the family or they need advice on their job. I am talking about major roles they are playing, as if they are truly part of a family.”
Olitzky and Aftab are the perfect example of this bond. When Olitzky’s husband became critically ill three years ago, it was Aftab’s husband who spent five hours saving him. “The only person I wanted by my side was Atiya,” said Olitzky. Since founding the organization three years ago, the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom has expanded to 100 chapters around the country. They currently have several thousand women still waiting to join, and are in the process of starting 40 new chapters.
As reported hate crimes have risen in the current political climate, the founders feel that these two groups coming together has taken on even more significance.
“Women are realizing that all we have to do is get rid of the ignorance and get to know each other,” said Olitzky. “Not only are you standing up when you hear hate against each other, you are standing up when you hear hate against each other’s communities. Through those relationships, you are influencing others and the greater community of folks who are of another faith group other than Islam and Judaism.”
The Sisterhood continues to get hate mail because of what they are doing, but the pair said that they won’t let that stop them.
“Ultimately, we are one humanity, but it’s not about the ‘Kumbaya’ of saying we are one humanity,” said Aftab. “When you get to know someone on a personal level you have a face behind that concept. Maybe they feel hostile, maybe they feel uncomfortable, but they are taking that chance to know somebody who they think is very different.”
People around the world like Olitzky and Aftab are accepting each other’s differing beliefs in the hope of making a better future for everyone. The Story of Us With Morgan Freeman, a six-part series by National Geographic, will put the spotlight on transcendent journeys like these and the unexpected people who come together to drive humanity forward around the world.
The Story of Us With Morgan Freeman Wednesdays @ 9/8c on National Geographic. Go to natgeotv.com/StoryofUs for more information.

 Jewish, Hindu communities unite for first joint Hanukkah-Diwali celebration in Michigan
David Kurzmann, executive director of the Jewish Community Council of metro Detroit/American Jewish Committee explains the meaning of the Jewish holiday Hanukkah. He’s joined on stage by Padma Kuppa and Fred Stella of the Hindu American Foundation.
Inside a Hindu temple in Troy, the priests recited in Sanskrit an opening prayer calling for peace: “Om shanti, shanti, shanti.”
Moments later, a rabbi recited in Hebrew prayers for Hanukkah as another Jewish leader lit a menorah candle.
The scene inside the Bharatiya Temple in Troy Thursday night was part of what organizers say was the first-ever joint celebration of Hanukkhah and Diwali, the Jewish and Hindu holidays celebrated late in the year. About 250 gathered inside a prayer hall in the Hindu temple to sing, pray and nosh on Jewish and Indian food — potato latkes and jelly donuts representing Hanukkah delights and samosas and sweets for the Indian side — followed by a panel discussion about the meaning of the holidays for the two minority communities.
“There’s a need for dialogue across various barriers,” Nasy Sankagiri, a temple member of Bloomfield Hills, said to the predominantly Jewish crowd. “We thought this is a great idea to come together, celebrating the lighting of the lamps.”
For both Diwali, which fell on Oct 19 this year, and Hanukkah, which starts in two weeks, lamps are lit, symbolizing the triumph of good over evil rulers.
The event was organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council of metro Detroit/American Jewish Committee and the Hindu American Foundation, which have been trying to increase ties between the two communities. Hindu-American leaders say they can learn from the Jewish community about how to advocate and get involved in interfaith dialogue and activism.
Metro Detroit has a well-established Jewish community of about 65,000. There are more than 90,000 Indian-Americans in Michigan, according to Census figures. Many of them are Hindu, and there are also Hindus in metro Detroit with roots in Bangladesh, Pakistan and other countries.
The turnout Thursday night was larger than expected and organizers hope to make this an annual event, providing tours of the temple for Jewish visitors.
“Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of the light in the temple lasting eight days,” said Alicia Chandler, president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of metro Detroit/American Jewish Committee. “Diwali is also a celebration of light, so both holidays are that celebration of light. Light is a wonderful metaphor for what we can bring into the world.”
Several years ago, Padma Kuppa of Troy, a board member with the Hindu American Foundation and the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, celebrated Hanukkah and Diwali together in a Jewish home. They thought it would be good to have a public event highlighting the two faiths. “It’s really a great opportunity for us to share our traditions and draw the communities closer together based on our common pursuit of social justice,” Kuppa said. “We have a lot in common in being very education oriented and being committed to the idea of pluralism.”
At the event, visitors were greeted with tables of menorahs, Ganesh statues, and diyas, which are lamps lit during Diwali. On stage behind the panelists was a big “Om,” a word symbolizing peace in Hinduism.
David Kurzmann, executive director of the Jewish Comunity Council of metro Detroit/American Jewish Committee, spoke to the crowd about the meaning of Hanukkah and and how his group speaks out against hatred, a concern shared by both communities amid increased anxiety about bias crimes. In October, the Jewish Council held an interfaith event with the Muslim community to build bridges.
This brings our communities closer and is an opportunity for learning and sharing each other’s faith traditions,” he said.
Fred Stella, a Hindu advocate from Grand Rapids with the Hindu American Foundation, spoke of the commonalities between the groups and also the growing ties between Israel and India.
Stella joked about the Jewish-American tradition of eating at Chinese restaurants on Christmas.
“We want to replace Chinese restaurants with Indian restaurants as the go-to place for Christmas dinners,” Stella said as the crowd laughed.
Later, the crowd held hands as Rabbi Aura Ahuvia of Congregation Shir Tikvah in Troy and Sankagiri led them in singing “We Shall Overcome” in English, Hebrew, and Hindi.
Contact Niraj Warikoo: nwarikoo@freepress.com or 313-223-4792. Follow him on Twitter @nwarikoo

In schools, a growing push to recognize
Muslim and Jewish holidays
By Debbie Truong – The Washington Post
When her daughters were children, Khadija Athman packed the major Islamic holidays, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, with celebration.
They opened gifts and covered their hands in henna. After prayer, they had breakfast at a pancake house before spending the day at the movies and Chuck E. Cheese’s. “Eid is like our Christmas,” Athman said, her face brightening as she recalled the family’s traditions. “I grew up being so excited about Eid, and I wanted to raise my kids with that same excitement.”
But for her daughters, the warm memories faded each time schoolmates in Prince William County, in suburban Northern Virginia, were awarded per­fect-attendance certificates. The honor eluded Athman’s daughters, Nusaybah and Sumayyah, who were resentful because they missed school each year for the Muslim holidays, their mother said.
Muslim and Jewish students in Fairfax and Prince William counties have long had to decide whether to observe a religious holiday or attend school, a choice some parents and students say they shouldn’t have to make.
In September 2010, Khadija Athman and her daughters Nusaybah, 9, and Sumayyah, 7, and husband Rutrell Yasin celebrated Eid al-Fitr at a friend’s home. When the girls observed the Eid holidays, they missed school in Prince William County. It’s a struggle diverse communities throughout the country have encountered as they seek to accommodate students from different religious backgrounds. In some cases, students feel they are compelled to choose between faith and school. “They don’t want to observe the holiday with their family because they don’t want to miss school,” said Meryl Paskow, a volunteer with the interfaith group Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement. Earlier this year, the interfaith group persuaded school leaders in Northern Virginia to be more forgiving of students who miss tests because of a religious holiday. The Fairfax and Prince William superintendents agreed to keep tests and major school events from falling the day before or after major Muslim and Jewish holidays, but school remains in session on those holidays.
The change brings the two Northern Virginia school districts in closer alignment with other diverse school systems in the country, including several in Maryland, New York and New Jersey. In Prince William, school absences for religious holidays are no longer counted against a student’s attendance record. That option would have provided Athman relief years ago. “I want them to be proud of their heritage, to be proud of their religion,” the mother said. “It feels more like a competition when it shouldn’t be a competition. You should be able to practice your religion without having to compete with school.” More than a year ago, the interfaith group – which addresses issues including affordable housing, health care and immigrant rights – adopted school religious holidays as a cause. “These are great students,” said Rabbi Michael G. Holzman, with the Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation. “They don’t want to miss a test.”
The interfaith group made a request – no tests, major assignments or school events on Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and the first night of Passover, as well as Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.

They delivered the request to Steven Lockard, then interim superintendent in Fairfax, and Steven Walts, superintendent in Prince William. Fairfax teachers were directed not to schedule tests on certain religious holidays, and the district sends principals quarterly reminders, district spokesman John Torre said in an email. In Prince William

school district regulations were updated during the summer to say that students who miss school for religious observances would be allowed to make up work and tests. Some school districts elsewhere in the country have made religious accommodations for decades by giving students the holiday off or excusing absences.
In New York, schoolchildren have been given Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur off since the 1960s, school district spokesman Michael Aciman said in an email. Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha were added in the 2015-2016 school year. “These school holidays help ensure that a significant number of NYC families and staff do not have to choose between observing a religious holiday and attending school,” Aciman said.

In Paterson, N.J., schools close for only one holiday for each major religion, schools spokeswoman Terry Corallo said in an email.For example, students have class off for only one of the Eid holidays, a decision the district makes in consultation with faith leaders.
Closing for all religious holidays would prevent the racially diverse district of about 28,000 students from reaching the number of school days mandated by the state, she said. Montgomery County schools, in suburban Maryland, are closed on Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah and, after years of lobbying from local proponents, the school board voted in 2015 to give students the day off on Eid al-Adha. About the same time, Howard County Public Schools in Maryland added days off on Eid ­al-Adha, the eve of Lunar New Year and the Hindu holiday of Diwali.
Rabbi Ronald Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, said school systems in communities with large Jewish populations generally show a greater sensitivity to the holidays. The Jewish population in Fairfax, he said, has grown substantially in the past two decades. If the school system examined the number of Muslim and Jewish students, Halber said, “they might be surprised.” Despite the commitments in Northern Virginia, leaders with the interfaith group are not convinced that all teachers are following the directives. Students at Holzman’s congregation in Reston reported that they had academic conflicts on Rosh Hashanah earlier this school year, as they had previously, he said. “I thoroughly believe that our leaders at the county level are committed to solving these problems,” he said. “I also thoroughly believe that the message is not getting to the classroom level.”
Eli Sporn, 16, notches nearly straight As. He’s enrolled in Advanced Placement and honors classes at McLean High School, plays soccer and basketball, and participates in theater. He also spends time Sundaymornings as a teacher’s assistant at Temple Rodef Shalom and belongs to its youth group. Each year, he misses school for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. His teachers are understanding, but the specter of schoolwork still looms. His mother, Melissa Sporn, added: “We think it’s obligatory. It’s part of being Jewish.”
Before she graduated from Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Hanan Seid would be seized by a familiar anxiety as she approached teachers each year for permission to make up assignments or tests that fell on Eid. Seid has always prioritized her faith, but that did little to ease the worry of having to ask teachers for accommodations. “You’re asking a teacher not to give you a test. You’re not sick,” Seid said. “For kids sometimes, it feels like they’re asking for too much.” Seid said she attended school once on Eid al-Adha, known as the festival of sacrifice, because she had a test. Dressed in full makeup and an abaya – a loose-­fitting cloak – she felt out of place. “It was the oddest feeling, because it doesn’t feel like it’s your holiday,” said Seid, who works at Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center, a mosque in Falls Church. School districts should go further, she said, and give students the day off on religious holidays. During Christmastime, she said, “you can feel the spirit in this country” – not so for Muslim holidays. To her, having the day off would symbolize a broader acceptance of Islam. It would convey the message, Seid said, that “they do like us here. They do understand. They do accept us, and they’re willing to learn.”

AJC/JCRC Executive Director David Kurzmann urges congress to “Push away Darkness” in Church’s
“Creating Welcoming Community” series
Jewish Community Relations Council/American Jewish Committee
From L to R: Pastor Manisha Dostert, Pastor Joyce Matthews, David Kurzmann, Pastor Imogen Rhodenhiser, Fr. Bill Danaher.
Executive David Kurzmann spoke on Sunday, Dec. 3 on the value that the Interfaith Leadership Council has added to his community outreach work and of pushing away the darkness of marginalization with the light of hospitality as part of Christ Cranbrook Church’s yearlong “Creating a Welcoming Community” series. The speaker series, a long-standing tradition at Christ Cranbrook Church, invites a guest speaker to address the first Sunday evensong service of each month.  In addition to Kurzmann, the church this year has already hosted Joe Summers, a local Catholic who has championed LGBTQ rights, and the Rev. Dr. Niklaus (Nik) C. Schillack who serves as the Director of Congregational Engagement for social services non-profit Samaritas.
Upcoming guest speakers this year at Christ Cranbrook Church include:
January 7          Jack Krasula, host of the weekly WJR-760 AM Radio show, Anything is Possible, which features guests who share stories of overcoming simple beginnings and many obstacles in their life to achieve their goals.
February 4        Dominic Demarco, President of Cranbrook Educational Community
March 4            Christopher Johnson, Rector- All Saints Pontiac
April 8               Chris Skellenger, founder of Buckets of Rain, an organization that wishes to bring nutritional resources to inner-city Detroit through urban gardening.
Christ Church Cranbrook’s Father Bill Danaher said his congregants look forward to hearing the guest speakers every month, where they can also chat with them at a post-service reception.  Like all services, these monthly Evensong services are open to the public. “All our guests are stellar in their work of promoting inclusivity and strengthening the wider  Detroit community, as well as being engaging and engrossing speakers.” said Father Danaher.
As he addressed the congregation of 152 attendees on this first Evensong of Advent, Kurzmann reflected on his Jewish upbringing and how it led him to his work in community relations within and outside the Jewish community.
“I grew up in sort of a Jewish bubble. I went to high school and college and then in my early professional life surrounded myself with mostly Jewish friends and associates. I’ve been to Israel 10 times without even visiting a non-Jewish holy site,” said Kurzmann to the congregation. “It was not until I led a group of mostly non-Jewish college-aged leaders to Israel and visited places like The Church of the Holy Sepulcher and Capernaum did I see the importance of this land through a different lens. It is what led me to my work in community outreach.”
Speaking upon the messages of Chanukah – overcoming darkness with light and rededication (of the Holy Temple of Jerusalem) – Kurzmann said it is incumbent on all of Detroit’s residents to not be complacent in a time of rising hatred towards minorities and other ethnic groups.
JCRC/AJC carries the dual responsibility of reflecting the Jewish community’s consensus while providing leadership in pursuit of traditional and contemporary Jewish values. It is both a gathering of activists and a platform for advocacy, agents of social change and stewards of conscience. JCRC/AJC serves as a catalyst to heighten community awareness, encourages civic and social involvement, and provides a forum to deliberate key issues of importance to the Jewish community.
“The message of Chanukah is Rededication. At a time when hate acts are on the rise towards many minority and ethnic groups and suspicions rise against the newcomer and the refugee, we at this time of year, when we celebrate the holidays of our many faiths, have to ask ourselves:  How will we in the coming year rededicate ourselves to the importance of strengthening the value of creating community? “JCRC/AJC is a constituent agency of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. JCRC/AJC is also an affiliate of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, which serves as the national representative voice of Jewish community relations councils.

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.