August 2017

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events  
Sunday, August 6th, noon to 5:00 PM
DION Interfaith picnic at Belle Isle
See flyer below
Sunday, October 15th, 2017, 5:00 PM – 8:30 PM
Tenth Anniversary Celebration of WISDOM
North Congregational Church
36520 W. 12 Mile Road, Farmington Hills, 48331
See Save the Date Below
August through November, 2017
Exploring Our Religious Landscapes
Christianity Series
See Flyer Below


Sunday, October 15th
5:00 PM – 8:30 PM
36520 W. 12 Mile Road
Farmington Hills, MI 48331
Displays/Vendors, Dinner, and Delightful Entertainment
$50 per person
$75 for a display/vendor table

Learning about religions face to face
Clarkston News Staff Writer
From left, Gail Katz, Judaism; April Cook, Christianity; Ranya Shbeib, Islam.
Top Photo: From left, Emily McPhersen, Hinduism; Hwa Son Josh Plucinski, Buddhism; Raman and Kabeer Singh, Sikhism. Photos by Jessica Steeley
Sashabaw Middle School (SMS) seventh graders learned about religious diversity from worshipers of six different religions during their world religion unit. The Interfaith Leadership Council paired with seventh grade classes to bring in speakers from the three Abrahamic religions and three of the world’s eastern religions. They discussed their scriptures, holidays, beliefs and practices.
“We do lots of panels and interfaith educational events, but we haven’t brought it into the schools yet. This is our kick-off trial to see how it goes,” Interfaith Leadership Council Program Director Meredith Skowronski said.
For many years, SMS has paired with the council to do religious diversity journeys, but only 25 students are able to go on them, said World History Teacher Sue Wilson.
“They spend a whole day at these houses of worship just eating traditional food, asking questions, learning from the religious leaders, interacting with members of the community, just as a way to immerse them in a faith,” Skowronski said. Wilson wanted more students to be given this chance so she contacted Skowronski about bringing speakers in as part of project based learning to teach kids about world religions.
The six religions presented were Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Sikhism, which were also taught in the students’ world history classes, Wilson said.
“I think it’s important kids are exposed to different religions and have a better understanding of it so they can speak more intelligently about it,” she said.
Seventh grader Abby Nellis said the focus of the journeys and presentations was to understand different religions and how they work.
“If you see somebody walking around with a turban or walking around with a head covering, it’s okay to ask questions,” Nellis said. “If you have background knowledge, you don’t have to automatically just jump to conclusions.”
Student Faith Kroll said she learned all the religions believe in treating everyone equally and helping people.
“It’s important because you need to learn how other people feel and how they see things, not just how you see it,” Kroll said.
Skowronski thinks there’s a lot of misunderstandings among different faiths and allowing young students to experience members of other faiths helps break barriers and stereotypes.
“What we do really is try to spread interfaith education and conciliation,” Skowronski said. “We try to teach people about other faiths, we try to teach faiths about themselves and provide resources.”
Emily Walters went on the religious diversity journeys and said the presentations helped clarify questions she had about the different religions.
“Nowadays, especially in the U.S., we are such a diverse population,” Walters said. “We need to be able to be open to other people and know about what they might believe in.”

New Islamic Institute Prioritizes Outreach
By Jeff Karoub, Associated Press
DEARBORN HEIGHTS, Mich. (AP) – When the Islamic Institute of America bought a Baptist church, the plan initially was to remove the pews – until the mosque’s leader objected, in part because he saw keeping the benches as a way of showing Islam’s compatibility with its sister faith.
“We’re sending a message to non-Muslim visitors and friends – particularly our interfaith community and Christians,” Iman Hassan Qazwini, one of the top Shiite Muslim leaders in the U.S., said from what’s now the institute’s lecture hall.
“We use the same benches you sat on. We’re using the same stage your pastor used to disseminate our message, which is not too different from your message,” he added. “The gap that exists between us is not that huge.”
Qazwini said reaching out to Christians, Jews and others has never been more important, with a U.S. president who has said Islam hates the U.S. and polls finding most Americans holding negative views of the faith. He sees education and outreach as the primary missions of the Islamic Institute of America in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn Heights, which has one of the largest and oldest Arab-Muslim communities outside the Middle East. Qazwini, who comes from a family of prominent American Shiite scholars and is of Iraqi descent, said he hopes to quell fears and misunderstandings through regular interfaith gatherings and a media division that will produce short videos and other internet-based programming.
Next year, the center plans to launch a seminary aimed at equipping a new generation of Muslim leaders who can help forge a better understanding of Islam in the West. He said the seminary would not only help produce well-rounded scholars who can engage with the wider world, but also better serve their U.S.-born congregants.
“One of the issues we Muslims face in the country is … the huge gap that exists between leaders coming from the Middle East to lead our Islamic institutions and their congregations. For most of those leaders, including myself, it takes years to adapt with the environment, with the American psyche, mentality and even lifestyle,” he said.
Qazwini’s new institute is just a few miles from the Islamic Center of America, one of North America’s largest mosques and where he served for 18 years before leaving in 2015.
Liyakat Takim, a professor of global Islam at McMaster University in the Canadian city of Hamilton, Ontario, said the U.S. has one or two Islamic educational institutions, but “none with the same vision” offered by Qazwini. “For the longest time, the Muslim community has imported scholars from abroad or sent them abroad to study,” said Takim, who knows Qazwini. “They’re not always conducive to the environment we have in America. This can create a younger generation that can preach a message which is amendable to the American environment.”
Takim said Qazwini is “a man of great vision,” and delivering on his plans for the institute will be “an exceptional feat and a great challenge,” given rising anti-Muslim sentiment.
A Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2014 found Americans view Islam less favorably than other major religions and atheism. Another Pew survey found 38 percent of Americans think Islam is more likely than others to encourage violence among its followers, while 50 percent think it is not more likely.
President Donald Trump’s campaign was marked by anti-Muslim rhetoric and, since being inaugurated, he’s sought to enact a travel ban from several Muslim-majority countries.
Qazwini said perceptions of Islam are hurt by acts of violence or terror committed by people who call themselves Muslim. He criticizes the media for rushing to associate someone’s crime with his religion if that person is or appears to be Muslim. Just because somebody acts “in the name of religion,” it “doesn’t mean the religion is acting,” he said.
Still, he can understand the fears.
“If I put myself in a non-Muslim’s shoes, I fully understand how they feel,” he said. “There’s a massive, massive bombardment of anti-Islamic literature, imagery that leads viewers and readers to believe Islam is not compatible with the 21st century. It is our job as Muslims to change that and to contribute. … Maybe we can’t do it all, but at least we try.”
Qazwini said his institute seeks to educate Muslims and non-Muslims alike, and make them feel comfortable in each other’s company.
“We’re not your enemy,” he said.

Australian Christian school defends Sikh turban whilst another Christian school banned the turban
When I reached my son’s school, I saw the principal and a teacher watching a YouTube video whilst trying to re-tie my son’s patka, which had come off. My heart melted to see so much love for the Sikh turban” – Amarpreet Singh, whose 5-year-old son studies at a Christian school in a Melbourne suburb.
MELBOURNE (Australia): United Sikhs organization and the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara Craigeburn honoured on Sunday the principal and a teacher from the Mother of God Christian school in the Ardeer suburb of Melbourne. They were honoured for showing their Christian spirit on March 24 when they re-tied five-year-old Mansage Singh’s patka, a head wear worn by Sikh children.
This was in sharp contrast to the experience of another five-year-old Sikh student, Sidhak Singh, who was refused admission last year by the Melton Christian College of Melbourne, because he wore a patka. Sidhak Singh’s father, Sagardeep Singh, has filed a complaint, with the Human Rights Division of the Victoria Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT), which is listed for a three-day hearing from July 24. United Sikhs has arranged for legal representation for Sagardeep Singh through the prestigious international law firm of Herbert Smith Freehills LLP. You may read about the patka ban faced by Sidhak Singh here.
“Hello Amar, I am sorry that your son’s turban came off this morning. I did my best re-tying it back by watching many YouTube videos but am missing on the finishing touch. I am just wondering if you can come and tie his turban accordingly. We are really sorry. The boy who took his turban off is autistic. We explained to him why he must not touch the turban again, but he did it by accident,” the principal of the Mother of God School said in a telephone call to Mansage Singh’s father, Amapreet Singh.
The school principal, Gerard Broadfoot, and teacher, Michelle Buckley, received a siropa, a cloth of honour, from the gurdwara in a ceremony on Sunday. They also received a ‘Defender of the Sikh Dastaar’ award from United Sikhs. Mansage Singh was also honoured by United Sikhs and the gurdwara for helping his principal and teacher to re-tie his patka.
“What we did at school with Mansage was to look after him and make him feel safe. We look after each other. We are very honoured to be given this award today,” said Broadfoot.
“I feel very humbled to be here in front of so many people for doing such a small thing. It is something we would do every day with all the children to provide them with respect and care because we are a Catholic school for all people,” said Buckley.
“Sikhs are often in the news for turban removal or discrimination but this school principal and teacher has set an example and showed that humanity is alive, when they re-tied a Sikh student’s patka. The Australian Sikh community is very honoured by their action,” said Gurdeep Singh, President of the Craigeburn Gurdwara, one of the largest gurdwaras in Melbourne.
“The Mother of God School has set the standard for all schools to follow and shown that a child’s education at a school should not be at the expense of a right to practice his or her faith,” said Gurvinder Singh, United Sikhs Director, Melbourne.
“We are very humbled and very proud to know that our son is being educated in a school that respects the beliefs of every culture and religion and it takes care to protect the belief of all students,” said Amarpreet Singh.
“All the school kids have to wear sun hats when they go outside to play but since my son ties a patka he was given an option to not wear the hat. The principal asked our permission for the school logo to be printed on Mansage’s patka,” he added.

Why Interfaith Relations Are in the
DNA of Reform Judaism
By Aron Hirt-Manheimer , 6/08/2017
A conversation with Rabbi A. James Rudin, former head of the American Jewish Committee’s Department of Interreligious Affairs and author of seven books, most recently, Pillar of Fire: A Biography of Stephen S. Wise. When did interfaith relations first become a priority of Reform Judaism?
It was in Reform Judaism’s “DNA” from the very beginning. In 1801, Israel Jacobson established an innovative religious school in Sessen, Germany that included 40 Jewish and 20 Christian students. His “mixed” student policy reflected his hopes, at the dawn of the so-called “Age of Enlightenment,” of a radiant future between Jews and Christians.
Did Reform Jewish leaders who immigrated to the United States in the mid-19th century share Jacobson’s optimism?
Yes. Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, who would emerge as the acknowledged leader of Reform Judaism, published a series of public lectures in 1883 entitled “Judaism and Christianity: Their Agreements and Disagreements.” While forcefully defending the fundamental authenticity and eternal validity of Judaism, Wise never denigrated Christianity in any of its myriad forms of belief or practice; rather, he focused on the centrality of the biblical Sinai revelation that he believed linked the two religions in an inextricable theological and human bond. Two years later, Wise participated in promulgating the Pittsburgh Platform, which would guide Reform Judaism for more than 50 years. Section six includes the words: “…Christianity and Islam, being daughter religions of Judaism, we appreciate their providential mission to aid in the spreading of monotheistic and moral truth.”
How did Reform Jewish clergy talk about Jesus in their interfaith dialogues with Christians? The subject became a flashpoint, when on December 20, 1925, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise (no relation to Isaac Mayer Wise), preached a sermon in Carnegie Hall on the book, Jesus of Nazareth: His Life, Times, and Teaching, by Joseph Klausner of the Hebrew University.
Wise made four points that remain relevant for many Jewish participants in interreligious relations today:
  1. Jesus was a man, not divine or a myth.
  2. Jesus was born, lived and died as a Jew. He was not a Christian.
  3. Jews have not repudiated Jesus the Jew, nor many of his teachings.
  4. Christians have, for the most part, not fully adopted or followed the teachings of Jesus, and have, in Jesus’ name, often mistreated and persecuted the Jewish people.
Many Orthodox rabbis publicly attacked Wise, but he retained the public support of most Reform rabbis.
In 1963, nearly 40 years after Wise’s controversial sermon, Rabbi Maurice N. Eisendrath, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (now Union for Reform Judaism), told a UAHC Biennial convention audience:
Needless to say, Jews never can and never will accept Jesus as the Messiah or as the Son of God, but, despite this constant reality, there is room for improved understanding and openness to change in interpreting Jesus as a positive and prophetic spirit in the stream of the Jewish tradition….
Do you recall any significant rifts separating Jewish and Christian clergy?
One in particular comes to mind. In 1945, Rabbi Roland Gittelsohn, a U.S. Navy chaplain who served with the Marines during the battle of Iwo Jima, was asked to deliver the main memorial address at an interreligious dedication of the military cemetery on the island. Several Christian chaplains objected to a Jew delivering a eulogy over Christian graves, though at least 150 Jewish soldiers died in battle.
As a result, Rabbi Gittelsohn spoke at a Jewish service. In a show of solidarity several of his Christian clergy colleagues attended. Ironically, the powerful eulogy he had originally written for the aborted interreligious service became the best-known sermon of World War II, and is still recited at Memorial and Veterans Day events. An excerpt:
Here lie officers and men, Negroes and Whites, rich men and poor, together. Here are Protestants, Catholics, and Jews together. Here no man prefers another because of his faith or despises him because of his color. Here there are no quotas of how many from each group are admitted or allowed. Among these men there is no discrimination. No prejudices. No hatred. Theirs is the highest and purest democracy…
Whosoever of us lifts his hand in hate against a brother, or who thinks himself superior to those who happen to be in the minority, makes of this ceremony and the bloody sacrifice it commemorates, an empty, hollow mockery….
How has interreligious relations changed in recent decades?
Once limited to Christians and Jews, it now includes Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and members of other faith communities. What has remained constant is the Reform Movement’s commitment to positive engagement across religious lines.

Peace event aimed to bring community together
in Alpena, MI
When it comes to relationships, Janice Boboltz and Leslie Kirchoff would far prefer to see bridges built between people instead of letting differences divide. Troubled by today’s super-charged negative political climate, the two decided to do something positive for the community – hold a modern-day peace event.
With help from a sizable core group, they put together an event called Who Is My Neighbor? It was Saturday,  from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Fletcher Street Depot, and promoted peace, tolerance and community primarily through the arts.
“I think everybody’s clamoring for some positive peaceful interaction,”said Kirchoff. “Everyone is tired of the negativity we’ve been bombarded with these last two years.”
Initially, the organizers were concerned about finding enough activities to engage people for the six-hour time frame of the event. Their worry, however, proved unfounded.
“It just keeps getting bigger and bigger,” Kirchoff said. “When we first started talking about this we were worried about filling up the time slots. Now we’re worried we have too much.”
It’s a good problem to have since so many have expressed a willingness to participate. There was everything from crafts for children, yoga for adults, entertainment by local musicians and dancers from the 4-D 2nd Street Dance Company to informational booths, food truck refreshments and even a chance to purchase peace-themed t-shirts.
Thunder Bay Theatre Artistic Director Jeffrey Mindock served as master of ceremonies for the day. Art in the Loft Gallery Coordinator Justin Christensen-Cooper provided a peace mural that visitors can add their own special touch to with paint and a brush. A visual representation of peace, tolerance and community came through the photographs by Bev Suszek.
“This is not a political event at all,” said Boboltz. “It doesn’t matter who was elected or not. This is just about our shared humanity and celebrating our differences.”
In planning Who Is My Neighbor?, Boboltz and Kirchoff took their cue from previous events held in Alpena and sponsored by Building Bridges, a local group that focuses on bringing programs to Northeast Michigan to educate and inform others about diversity. One such program held in September 2016 revolved around the Interfaith Amigos, who include a Christian pastor, a Jewish rabbi and an iman from the Islamic faith tradition.
“The message the Interfaith Amigos left us with was that of realizing our ‘oneness’ central to Judaism, showing ‘compassion’ essential to the Islamic faith and that of ‘unconditional love’ central to Christianity,”Boboltz said. “In light of all of the hateful rhetoric going on in our world from both political parties during the campaign for presidency of the United States and continuing to the present time, we wanted to promote the message of the Interfaith Amigos.”
As a result of getting to know the Interfaith Amigos and connecting with an interfaith group in Detroit, Boboltz and Kirchoff learned about a new event there called Flip the Script. It’s purpose, they said, also was to focus on love rather than hate.
After kicking around the concept, the two women along with the rest of their committee, decided to hold an event in Alpena.
“Although we do not live in a very diverse community, we do have a wealth of talented people to have a similar event in our area,” Boboltz said. “Thus, the wheels were set in motion to have such a celebration of our oneness, compassion and unconditional love through music, art, dance, speakers, drama, poetry and art- a celebration of our humanity that is nonpartisan and nondenominational.”

Don’t miss this fun article that
appeared during Ramadan
by the Forward Magazine
Muslim-Owned Jewish Deli To Host
Muslim-Jewish Fundraising Dinner
June 1, 2017
by Liza Schoenfein
There is a Jewish Deli in Brooklyn that closes for Ramadan. The reason is simple, if somewhat surprising: The owner of David’s Brisket House and Deli on Nostrand Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant is Riyadh Gazali, a Muslim of Yemini descent.
Next week, Gazali will host a dinner party at David’s along with Breaking Bread NYC, which describes itself as “a project from food tour guides and food lovers aimed at connecting communities through cuisine.” (“It’s always easier to understand the unfamiliar when you sit down and break bread together,” the description on Facebook says.)
The Muslim-Jewish Deli Dinner Party will raise money for the HIASorganization, which was founded in 1881 to assist Jews emigrating from Russia and Eastern Europe, and which helped resettle over 150,000 Jewish refugees after World War II. HIAS now helps place Muslim refugees.
David’s Brisket House, which serves classic (though not kosher) Jewish fare, was opened in the 1930s and sold in 1970s to two Yemini men who owned a bagel shop across the street. One of them was Jewish; the other Muslim. Eventually, the Jewish owner left the picture and the other, Gazali’s uncle, became the sole proprietor. He didn’t change the menu, which consists of classics such as Reubens and pastrami sandwiches.
For the fundraising dinner, a set menu costs $45 per person and consists of pickles, half a pastrami on rye (with mustard on the side); half a brisket on rye (with gravy on the side); half an order of fries; half an order of potato salad; a soda and a slice of cake.
Meanwhile, on June 15, The NYC Muslim-Jewish Solidarity Committee is holding its 3rd-annual Iftar-in-a-Synagogue celebration to break the Ramadan fast, at Temple Emanu-El in Manhattan. There will be food and live music. Tickets cost $20 and proceeds will be used to help fight hunger in New York City. Ramadan runs from May 26-June 24.
Liza Schoenfein is food editor of the Forward. Contact her at or on Twitter, @LifeDeathDinner

Pope, Rabbi Skorka join effort
to promote friendship across faiths
Reaching out to people of other religions can be both challenging and enriching for individuals and is the only hope for true peace in the world, said a variety of religious leaders, including Pope Francis.
The pope and his friend Rabbi Abraham Skorka appear in a video montage and together in their own video as part of the “Make Friends” initiative coordinated by the Elijah Interfaith Institute, which has offices in Israel and in Dallas.
The video series, posted on YouTube June 14, also includes Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran leaders, Jewish rabbis, Sunni and Shiite Muslim clerics, Buddhist monks and nuns, and Hindu and Sikh leaders.
In their video, Francis and Skorka talk about how their own religious convictions led them into conversations with each other, and how those conversations not only increased their understanding of God and formed the basis of a television series and book, but also led to true friendship.
When sending emails back and forth, “because we still have projects going on,” Skorka said, they address each other as “‘Dear brother,’ and it’s not just a saying. We have such open, deep and affectionate conversations. We understand each other.” As they met and held discussions in Buenos Aires, Argentina, “the friendship grew, always retaining our respective identities,” the pope said. “‘Brother and friend’ – those are my feelings for him.”
Explaining the “Make Friends” initiative, the Elijah Interfaith Institute said, “Friendship and getting to know one another are the antidotes to negativity and divisions in society, enhancing understanding and unity.”
Rabbi Alon Goshen-Gottstein is the founder and director of the institute.
To learn more about the Elijah Interfaith Institute and the “Make Friends” initiative, visit

A rabbi, a reverend and an imam have a
plan for peace in middle America

By Dan Simon, CNN
Omaha, Nebraska (CNN)

When most people think of Omaha, they imagine sizzling steaks, billionaire Warren Buffet or even former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning calling out before the snap. (Remember “Omaha-Omaha”?).
But if a group of clergymen have their way, Nebraska’s largest city will soon also be known as the home of interfaith dialogue and peacebuilding. A rabbi, a reverend and an imam (no, it’s not a setup joke) are partners in a decade long quest to bring together the three Abrahamic faiths — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — to share and worship on the same property.  It’s called Tri-Faith Initiative.
The $65 million project, launched in 2006 and funded through donations, may be the first time in US history that the three faiths intentionally build their houses of worship side by side,
The three clergymen leading congregations participating in the Tri-Faith Initiative are (L-R) Temple Israel Rabbi Emeritus Aryeh Azriel, Countryside Community Church Senior Minister Eric Elnes, and American Muslim Institute Imam Mohamad Jamal Daoudi.
“We didn’t create this (project) to tolerate each other. We didn’t create this just to have a dialogue,” explained Rabbi Aryeh Azriel, the former senior rabbi at Omaha’s Temple Israel, whose vision helped drive the project. “We have done all this stuff already. It’s about what are we going to do together. What are we going to do for the betterment of humanity?” The location chosen for the sacred endeavor is the old golf course of Highland Country Club, a “Jewish Club” developed in the 1920s when Jews were excluded from other clubs in the city and around the country. Today, a new synagogue and mosque stand tall on the abandoned greens and fairways, and construction crews are readying to build a new church. Further plans include a Tri-Faith Center, which will be completed in 2019 and serve as a shared community space for interfaith classes and activities.
“The Tri-Faith Center will be a place to act, learn and gather,” says a project brochure. “We will promote policies protecting religions and democracies, and unite our diverse voices to challenge extremism.”
The developers say they’re excited for what the future holds. They’re also proud that a land once formed out of division, has now become a symbol of religious tolerance.
Temple Israel’s new synagogue opened in 2013 and cost more than $21 million to complete. The first of the Tri-Faith project, it’s a modern, 58,000-square foot building that features hand-cut stone imported from Jerusalem, a symbol of the Reform congregation’s connection to the Holy Land. “If you can’t create peace in the Middle East — what about Omaha?” quipped Rabbi Azriel, 67, a polio survivor from Israel.
He likes to share a story from one of his congregants who was initially apprehensive about sharing land with Muslims. The man, who would later become a donor, privately expressed fears about Islamic extremists attacking the synagogue. “What if there’s a live hand grenade rolled in the middle of the aisle during the high holidays,” the man asked. The rabbi answered there were two options. “One is to run away. But as a polio survivor, I can’t run far away,” he said with a mix of sarcasm. “The other one is for me to fall on it.” The answer, Azriel said, brought tears to the man’s eyes. Azriel believes that fear isn’t a strong enough reason to cease the project. In fact, he said the idea was born out of the tragedies of 9/11, when fear was at its highest level and he and some congregants went to defend a local mosque from vandalism.
The gesture, he said, led to new friendships and a dialogue between members of the two faith communities. Years later, when Temple Israel began making plans to relocate its aging synagogue, the rabbi and a handful of others formed Tri-Faith Initiative, and articulated their vision to have three faiths occupy the same 35-acre space.
“It will be a little taste of paradise,” said Azriel.
The American Muslim Institute is a stunning $7 million mosque that opened in June, just in time for Ramadan, Islam’s holiest month. The 15,000-square foot building has all the comforts of a modern-day mosque, including state-of-the-art feet washing stations, classrooms and recreation areas, counting a basketball court.
The centerpiece is the cavernous prayer room, where about 50 people attended on a recent evening. The tranquil sounds of the Imam’s chants echoed throughout the room, which has separate spaces for men and women. Yearning for a new opportunity, Imam Mohamad Jamal Daoudi agreed to lead the congregation after a stint with another mosque in Augusta, Georgia. “Refreshment for my soul. I was very enthusiastic to join the group,” said Daoudi, 52. Imam Mohamad Jamal Daoudi peers out the window of Temple Israel and sees his new mosque.
A Syrian native, Daoudi has been in the United States for 22 years and says it’s the first time he’s seen such an ambitious idea materialize.
The conflict between Jews and Muslims in the Mideast should not be an impediment in making peace in the Midwest, he said.
There are “so many good things as human beings to enjoy and embrace, rather than just focusing on one issue,” Daoudi said.
He concedes, however, that his enthusiasm for the project is not universal among Omaha’s Muslim community, some of whom feel anxious about the mixing of faiths. “Right now they are suspicious, they are hesitant, but very soon they will find out that it’s a good idea,” said Daoudi. He believes some of the apprehension is due to confusion — a perception that people of all faiths will be worshipping in the same sanctuary, shoulder to shoulder. “Our mission is not about compromising anybody’s faith,” he said. “We are here to learn about each other and to live as neighbors with each other.”
Countryside Community Church, part of the United Church of Christ, has a perfectly fine building less than 15 minutes away from the Tri-Faith site. It has served the congregation well for 60 years and could easily have remained for another several decades.
“Almost no congregation in America moves without some outside pressure, like the roof caving in,” said Rev. Eric Elnes, the head pastor.
“We are moving simply because we fell in love with the vision of Tri-Faith.” Elnes, 53, said the vast majority of his congregation voted for the move, despite the inherent challenges in raising the $26 million required to fund the construction of a new church.
Children playfully shovel the dirt after a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Countryside Community Church earlier this month.
The church is designed to provide congregants with a view of the synagogue and mosque. Measuring 65,000 square feet, it will include a traditional narthex, courtyard and numerous shared spaces intended to maximize interaction.
“Tri-Faith would have made sense throughout any of our religious histories, but in this time, it makes more sense than ever,” Elnes said, alluding to recent terrorist attacks in London and elsewhere.
“If you’re risk averse, you are really peace averse at the same time.”
‘A movement that changed the world’ While each of the three congregations will go about their normal worship and activities, campus landscaping will be designed to facilitate interaction. For instance, a bridge running over “hell creek” will connect the entire campus. There’s been chatter about changing the creek’s name, but appropriately the structure will be called “heaven’s bridge.”
The hiring of an executive director will help turn the interfaith vision into practice, the clergymen say.
Omaha, while not as conservative as the rest of deep-red Nebraska, has not been historically progressive or taken bold steps to promote inclusiveness. But the state’s monikers — originally “Nebraska Nice,” but recently changed to “Nebraska. Good Life. Great Opportunity” — capture the state and broader Midwest’s easygoing nature.
That doesn’t mean Tri-Faith Initiative has eluded controversy.
Locally, the most outspoken opponent has been Dr. Mark Christian, executive director of Global Faith Institute. Christian, who converted from Islam to Christianity, believes that the Quran forbids Muslims from becoming friends with Christians and Jews. It’s a controversial and widely admonished assertion that’s commonly propagated by Islamophobes.  Christian has also raised alarm by proclaiming that the Tri-Faith partners could become targets of violence. “I can see it trigger those militant Muslims,” he told CNN. The fearful rhetoric recently spilled over into a city councilman’s election race. Candidate Paul Anderson criticized the mosque’s construction. The Omaha World Herald reported that his website said there should be no mosques in the city. Anderson exited the race in April after being widely rebuked.
Mostly, though, the feedback has been positive, say the clergymen. They’re also hopeful that the initiative will influence other communities to launch similar projects across the United States and beyond.
It’s a sentiment that the Rev. John Dorhauer, general minister and president of the United Church of Christ, shared during this month’s ceremonial ground breaking for the new church.
“Let this be the story we tell our children” — proclaimed Dorhauer — “that once upon a time in a land called Omaha, the Jew, the Muslim and the Christian started a movement that changed the world.”
Dan Simon attended Temple Israel as a child while growing up in Omaha, Nebraska.

July 2017

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events  
Sunday, October 15th, 2017, 5:00 PM – 8:30 PM
Tenth Anniversary Celebration of WISDOM
North Congregational Church
36520 W. 12 Mile Road, Farmington Hills, 48331
See Save the Date Below


Sunday, October 15th
5:00 PM – 8:30 PM
36520 W. 12 Mile Road
Farmington Hills, MI 48331
Displays/Vendors, Dinner, and Delightful Entertainment
$50 per person
$75 for a display/vendor table

Check out this YouTube video “Hijabi by Mona Haydar, Wrap my Hijab)

Clarkston students learn about
Judaism, Christianity, Islam
by Andrea Peck from the Oakland Press
Speakers Ranya Shbeib, April Cook and Gail Katz, (left to right), talked to Sashabaw Middle School students on Friday about world religions. (Andrea Peck/The Oakland Press)
Sashabaw Middle School students learned about world religions on May 5th. The students attended presentations given by representatives of three different religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
Speakers were Gail Katz of Temple Israel, April Cook of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Ranya Shbeib of the Muslim Unity Center. The students heard the presentations as part of their history class unit on world religions. Presenters talked about the history of their religions, how they are celebrated and common foods associated with their religions.
A second set of presentations on May 9 will include Nasy from Bharativa Hindu Temple, Josh Plucinski from Still Point Zen Buddhist Center and Raman Singh from Gurdwara Sahib Ji Mata Tripta.

WISDOM Sisters Attend the Interfaith Iftar Dinner
at the Muslim Unity Center in Bloomfield Hills
on June 13th!
Paula Drewek, WISDOM past president,
spoke about WISDOM to the 200 guests
of many faith traditions
 at this incredibly wonderful coming together!!

Supporters of Chaldeans and Iraqi immigrants 
protest outside Federal Building
By Perry A. Farrell
Detroit FreePress

Gail and Robert Katz Protest
Outside the Federal Courthouse
on June 21, 2017
About 1,000 protesters, some being bused in, gathered outside of the Federal building to give their support to Iraqi’s and Chaldean’s mistreated by the President Donald Trump administration as far as deportation. Homeland Security blocked off both sides of the streets as protesters, mostly dressed in black, held up signs and voiced their displeasure about the mistreatment of immigrants living in the United States. A Homeland Security officer said the streets would be blocked off until 6 or 7 p.m.
“We’ve had wonderful pot lucks together with Jews and Chaldeans,” said Gail Katz of West Bloomfield, who came to the protest with her husband, Robert.  We’re planning a joint event at the newly opened Chaldean Cultural Center in West Bloomfield. “My husband and I really felt that we had to be down here. In a way we’re representing Temple Israel because I’ve been in touch with Rabbi Paul Yedwab about what’s been going on. He very much wanted to be here today.
“I’m horrified (by the treatment). Absolutely horrified. I really feel for the Chaldeans who have family members. The Muslim community is very uptight about what might happen to them. My mother was an immigrant. She came over from Poland. She went through Ellis Island. I really feel the pain that are lot of these people are feeling. It’s horrible what’s going on.”

Writing program for students promotes tolerance
Niraj Warikoo , Detroit Free Press
When a writing program for students started one day in March, the mostly Arab-American Muslim students from Huda School in Franklin gathered on one side of the room, while the mostly Latino and African-American students from Southwest Detroit Community School gathered on the other. But by the end of the writing workshop organized by One Earth Writing, the students were mixed together, working on stories, exchanging phone numbers and promising to keep in touch.
“Our programs are all about finding that commonality,” said Lynne Golodner, founder and CEO of One Earth Writing. “We may have our unique beliefs, but we respect one another and have a humanity that’s universal.”
As the mother of four teenagers, Golodner of Huntington Woods said she was looking for a way to help promote dialogue among youths at a time when their identities are forming. Started last year, One Earth Writing promotes writing among students through free workshops, in schools, and in an Ambassadors program where students apply to work with writers and other students. About 1,000 students have taken part in the effort  since it started in early 2016, said Golodner.
Tonight, One Earth Writing is to hold its first fund-raiser and public event at the Maple Theater in West Bloomfield. It will celebrate its first class of student writer Ambassadors and feature a screening of the movie “Freedom Writers.” This year, One Earth Writing will hold workshops that pair new refugees in metro Detroit with student writers, said Golodner, who often works on refugee issues.
“One Earth Writing uses writing workshops as a way to connect teens from different races, faiths and socioeconomic origins, and we’re seeing a huge need for this in our current political climate,” she said. “We are all more similar than we realized.”
During the March workshop at Huda School in Franklin, the students were asked to “write a letter to the world telling what they need to know about them,” she said. Many wrote about how they felt there was prejudice against their groups.
“The Muslims were saying: ‘Just because I’m Muslim doesn’t mean I’m a terrorist,’ ” she said. “And many of the Latino students were writing: ‘I’m an American, don’t build a wall.’ ” Golodner said she hopes her program can bridge divisions during a tense time.
“I didn’t see it coming,” Golodner said of the tensions over the November election. “I didn’t see our country was so divided. And it really made me sad, because we’re all Americans. … I don’t think we can function as a society if we’re so deeply divided.”

Women form sisterhood to celebrate religious differences
By Sean Quinn on
Photo Courtesy of Sheryl Olitzky
Members of the Essex County chapter of Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom gather at a recent event. The nonprofit organization, founded by Sheryl Olitzky, has grown to more than 150 chapters that bring together Muslim and Jewish women to form bonds and combat intolerance
ESSEX COUNTY, NJ – A national organization dedicated to forming bonds between Jewish and Muslim women is looking to start a few new chapters in Essex County.
The Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom already has one local chapter, but co-founder Sheryl Olitzky said she wants to create two to four more in response to the demand the nonprofit has seen from area women. Olitzky said numerous Jewish women already have their names on the waiting list, though the organization would love to see more Muslim women become involved. And she certainly hopes they will, pointing out that having more women join means more barriers can be broken down between two faiths traditionally thought of as being opposed.
“When you care about someone, it’s really hard to hate them,” Olitzky told EssexNewsDaily in a May 5 phone interview. “My goal was to build these relationships all over the country between Muslim and Jewish women. That’s how we would not only change attitudes, perceptions and negative stereotypes toward each other in our community, but work to stop the hate we see that’s out there. And that’s exactly what we’ve achieved.”
Olitzky said the SOSS has allowed women in its 150 chapters throughout the United States and Canada to form strong friendships with people they might never have met otherwise. On top of that, she said these women are standing together against hate through means such as repairing desecrated synagogues and holding peace vigils. A recent gathering of New Jersey Sisterhood chapters in Chatham saw hundreds of members come together in response to President Donald Trump’s travel ban on several largely Muslim nations.
Clearly the organization has come a long way from the initial group of 12 women Olitzky gathered seven years ago. But the founder has never doubted the Sisterhood’s power. Olitzky, who started the nonprofit organization after seeing the effects of hate during a visit to Holocaust museums in Poland, said being part of the SOSS is simply “electrifying.”
“You’re there with the common goal of wanting to change the world,” Olitzky said. “You feel full of hope. You feel the positive energy when you realize that you share more in common with these women than with many women you have as your friends and you associate with. And you are sharing your stories, your concerns and your experiences in a format that you probably haven’t had a chance to (experience before).”
That format entails the following three aspects: socialization, social justice and dialogue. Socialization occurs through the celebration of holidays, while social justice involves doing charity work. Olitzky said each chapter supports a local cause in addition to helping less fortunate Christians around Christmas time as part of a national SOSS effort.
For dialogue, Olitzky said the Sisterhood provides a curriculum spanning everything from feeling like “the other” to raising children in the modern world to practicing one’s faith in the workplace. She said chapters are asked to wait two years before discussing Israeli-Palestinian relations so that all members will be more likely to listen to one another “with their heart as opposed to their ears.” When that time comes, she said the SOSS provides a curriculum for that topic alone to help guide the conversation.
Of course, the relationships between SOSS members are not limited to the context of discussing major issues during their monthly meetings. Hadiyah Finney, co-chairwoman of the existing Essex County chapter, said her members love to cook together and gather families together. In doing so, Finney said she has seen how similar everyone is despite their different religions. For instance, although she had never sat shiva, the Jewish ritual of mourning, when a Jewish member’s husband died and the member sat shiva, Finney said she was able to connect with her as someone who understands what it means to grieve.
Yet according to Finney, the friendships she has formed with the 15 other women in her chapter should not be defined by what they all have in common, saying their bonds go much deeper than that, to the point that she goes to her chapter for everything from recipes to life advice. And that is something any woman would want, she said.
“It provides so many different (benefits) when you develop a bond with a group of women,” Finney told EssexNewsDaily in a May 5 phone interview. “You just get so much inspiration from being with them, sharing in their experiences, sharing in their knowledge. I don’t think you can get that in another space.”
Fellow chapter member Miniimah Bilal-Shakir agreed that the group has truly lived up to its name as a sisterhood. Bilal-Shakir said she knows the women she has befriended through the organization would help her if she were ever in need, and she would do the same for them. In fact, she said she talks with one of the chapter members more frequently than her own sisters.
Beyond establishing those relationships, Bilal-Shakir said the SOSS has inspired her to speak out in favor of causes she supports. Whereas in the past she would simply become upset at what she saw on television, now she is willing to share her beliefs with others and take action. And she hopes other Jewish and Muslim women feel the same, considering President Donald Trump’s comments about Muslims and the recent bomb threats against Jewish community centers.
“It seems like things are flaring up,” Bilal-Shakir told EssexNewsDaily in a May 8 phone interview. “It’s important for us to stick together as two groups coming together as one. We need to support each other in the faith and in the things we do to make sure that there’s peace among us. Where people may talk negatively about you as a group, we need to make sure to bring out the positive.”
Finney also takes comfort in being part of the SOSS in today’s times. Though her faith has kept her from getting too upset by the president’s rhetoric, she said it is reassuring to be surrounded by friendly faces in the sisterhood.
“It helps to be in a space where you can say ‘There are likeminded people in the world,'” Finney said. “There are people who are fighting to make this a better place and to make our society comfortable and inclusive for everyone. And so having that space is a reminder that there is good in the world.”

Loving the World One Face at a Time
By Amy Morris-Young
I have been on Facebook for about 10 years. I started using the social media site to shamelessly spy on my then-teenaged youngest son, Duncan (now 25). His older sister, Chelsea (now 30), advised me with a jaded tone that if I really wanted to know what was going on with my kid, I should check out what he was doing on Facebook.
I imagine that sharing this lowdown gave Chelsea at least two thrills: she was able to “narc” on her brother, as well as once again “school” her square mother about what was hip and happening, technology-wise.
Just recently, Chelsea clued me in that Facebook is now considered basically passé by her generation; she and her peers now share the moments of their lives almost exclusively via Instagram and Snapchat.
Facebook, she said, seems to be primarily a communication tool for “old people,” meaning baby boomers like me, who use it to share photos of their adorable pets, grandbabies, delicious-looking and amazingly easy recipe videos and, of course, political opinions.
To combat the red and blue ranting, some of my Facebook friends have recently shared those “121 Things I Bet You Didn’t Know About Me” posts, lists of items such as “I have been skydiving. Yes. I have been in a hot air balloon. No.” And so on. They are supposed to be light-hearted and informative about folks we thought we knew everything about, and as a special side bonus, they slam no public figures or policies whatsoever.
Don’t miss a thing. Sign up for emails from NCR.
So here is One Thing I Bet You Didn’t Know About Me: I am a “super-recognizer.”
That means once I see your face, I am biologically designed to remember it. You are unforgettable … to me.
My husband Dan and I were watching the news program “20/20” a couple years ago and saw a segment on face-blindness, or developmental prosopagnosia. It is a brain dysfunction that means someone not only cannot remember faces, they don’t recognize their own family and friends. Not their Mom, Dad, siblings, spouse, children, and sometimes not even themselves in a mirror. Everyone at every moment is brand new, literally a stranger.
At the end of the program, it said that Harvard planned to study folks who had the opposite of face blindness, what they called super recognizers, to research how their brains might function differently, with the ultimate hope of some kind of treatment to help those struggling in a world of perpetual strangers.
As the credits rolled, Dan turned to me and said: “Wow, that is so you. You never forget anybody! You should do this.”
So I did. I went to the Harvard Medical School Research website and filled out a questionnaire. Over the next few months, I received emails that contained tests to complete and send back. About a year later, a nice lady from the university named Sarah showed up at our front door here in Washington State. She spent a long weekend in our living room, taking me through test after test on her laptop computer.
At the end of those three days, Sarah packed up her gear in readiness for departure to visit “the four other super-recognizers” with whom she was working in the United States. The next one was in Florida. She was clearly excited that her next gig was in a warmer locale. It had rained the whole weekend.
Sarah eventually sent me a link to the study in which my data was incorporated, but I have yet to hear how it might be implemented to assist those who have face-blindness.
What I did learn was that not only do I never forget a face, my brain literally loves faces. Each and every one is a blessed artwork to me, revealing the arc of that particular life from infancy through maturity to being elderly. That is, if you are old, I can pick out your baby picture from a pile of photos – 100 percent of the time. Seriously. Yes, I agree; it is kind of spooky. My family now has documented evidence that I am an oddball.
One quick note: Just as having face-blindness does not in any way affect one’s intelligence – for example, the eminent neurologist and author Oliver Sacks suffered from prosopagnosia – being a super-recognizer in no way makes me a super-genius.
The half of my brain that is not stuffed with faces seems to be packed with completely useless song lyrics. If I don’t write it down, I can’t remember a phone number or what I need at the grocery store, and I have stopped counting the times each day I wander into another room, then stand there wondering, “Why on Earth did I come in here!?” In short, I seem to be a one-hit wonder.
Sarah told me this unique passion for faces originates in those first moments as a newborn, when we look at the faces of our caregivers and bond with the details of their eyes, their nose, their ears, their hair and forehead and eyebrows and chin. This is why a baby will cry if someone with different hair color holds them, but seems comfortable enough if the person even slightly resembles their parents. Like baby birds, we imprint those details, and they signify safety and survival. And hopefully, love.
Sarah also explained that face-recognition is a spectrum, and I happen to fall at the very far end, or about 1 percent of those tested.
This helped explain why I was never able to think of people as “us and them.” Since I was little, I never understood when grown-ups talked about “blacks and whites” or “commies and Americans.” I don’t identify people as groups, because I see each person as a distinct face. A baby. A mom. A dad. A brother, sister, aunt, uncle, grandma, grandpa. A friend.
People of other ethnicities do not, as the saying goes, “all look the same to me.” I am only able to see what makes each one unique, face-wise. And somehow, in my head and heart, that immediately links to what makes them loveable.
I truly don’t mean to sound like a Coca Cola commercial here – some musical utopia of happy faces in a Woodstockian field of waving grain – but this is how my brain, and thus my body and spirit, relate to others. To me, there is no such thing as a “faceless horde.”
They say that no two snowflake are the same. Well, to me and my quirky brain, that goes for faces, too. When I met my identical-twin cousins, Sam and Jack, I knew right away who was who. Yes, they look nearly alike, but what jumped out at me first were their differences.
And here’s the intriguing part. What if this is how God sees us? What if this is a glimmer of how there can be billions of us humans, but each one of us is unique and special in God’s eyes?
Because, when I see your face, I not only file it for perpetuity, I instantly wonder about who loves you, from when you were born, and onwards. Because somehow, when I see you, I sort of immediately love you as a person, but only in a non-creepy, I-promise-never-to-stalk-you sort of way.
Just think about how much greater it must be for God, who unconditionally adores us, and who is also probably not so concerned about the stalking thing?
My husband says that I remind him of his Mom, in that “she never met a stranger.” He says she would get in line at the grocery store with a bunch of folks she had never met, and they would all come out of the other side of the check-stand as friends.
That is a great compliment, and I hope it is true.
What I do know is that my brain’s inability to see you as nobody means I always understand that you are somebody. Somebody to someone, if only to God. No matter who you are or what you do.
For example, I have long described myself a “bigot about bigots,” meaning I just don’t understand how people can be such haters. Even if I meet a white supremacist, full of righteous rage against many groups – including me, one of those “bleeding-heart liberal Catholics” – I don’t seem to be able to hate her back.
When I look at her face, I know what she looked like as a baby and what she is going to look like as an old person. She may not see me, because she seems to be only envisioning aspects of the group into which she lumps me, but I see her.
And sort of like Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, I also see the telltale signs of what her choices have done, will do, to her. I see that the only person she is hurting with her hate is ultimately herself. And all I wish for her is to find some compassion. For others, yes. But for herself, too.
Since hate has to be learned, I have to come to consider haters as having a type of acquired face-blindness. How hard must it be to see only strangers out there? How angry and lonely must that feel? How detached from that first moment when we looked up into a face that adored us, that wanted not only for us to survive but to thrive? And, perhaps even more distant from that most understanding and loving face, the doting visage of God?
I suppose it is not accidental that Facebook is called face-book. These are the faces of family and friends. These are the people I love and who love me back. And their pets. And their grandkids. And their recipes. And often, their politics.
In a time of great divides, it is comforting to me that we share this Book of Faces. So, regardless of what the cool kids are doing now, I am going to stick with it.
[Amy Morris-Young graduated from and taught writing at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.]

Menorah exhibit in Rome underlines positive Catholic-Jewish relations

At the center of the first joint exhibit between the Vatican Museums and the Jewish museum in Rome is the Magdala Stone, a large decorated stone block from a first century Galilean synagogue which has shed light on synagogue worship before the destruction of the Second Temple.

The Magdala Stone was found during the excavation of an synagogue on the site of what is believed to be Magdala, the hometown of Mary Magdalene. The 4.2 cubic feet limestone block may have been used as a bema, on which the Torah was read.
It is carved on four sides and its top with decorative symbols, most prominently the Menorah which was found in the Jewish Temple – a seven-branch menorah described in Exodus, distinct from the nine-branch menorah associated with Hannukah and the Maccabees.
The stone is the centerpiece of the exhibit “Menorah: Worship, History, and Legend”, shown simultaneously at the Jewish Museum and the Braccio di Carlo Magno Museum in the Vatican, located under the left colonnade in St. Peter’s Square.
The exhibit runs May 15-July 23 and includes roughly 130 pieces, including menorahs from various periods and depictions of them in paintings, sarcophagi, sculptures, and medieval and Renaissance drawings and manuscripts.
This is the first time the Magdala Stone has left Israel or been displayed publicly, and its presence at the Vatican is just “one more sign of the collapsing of the walls between Christianity and Judaism,” in the opinion of Fr. Juan Solana, L.C., General Director of the Magdala Project.
Fr. Solana told CNA that the stone’s presence at the exhibit marks not only an interreligious effort between the Vatican Museums and the Jewish museums in Rome, but also collaboration between Vatican City and the State of Israel.
“I know that it was a lot of work behind the scenes to make it happen,” he explained. “I think it really shows the importance of interreligious dialogue and especially dialogue and friendship between Catholics and Jews.”
Magdala “is very close to Capernaum, in the old area where Jesus preached and taught and performed many miracles,” Fr. Solana said. “So we believe that Jesus went to Magdala and eventually he went to the synagogue and preached there.”
While they can’t know for sure, it is even possible that Christ used the Magdala Stone himself to display scrolls of the Torah.
The town and synagogue were first discovered in 2009 during excavations in preparation for building a Catholic center in Israel. Stalled by the discovery of the site, the Magdala Center, as it is called, is still in the works.
“We found the whole town of Mary Magdalene,” Fr. Solana said; and the cherry on the top, so-to-speak, was the Magdala Stone.
There are seven synagogues known of from the period of Christ’s life and more or less 50 years before and after, but in no other synagogue have they found this kind of block, he said.
Archaeologists found a total of three stone blocks in Magdala: one from what was probably a school of the synagogue and one which had been reused as a chair of Moses, the place of authority from which the scribes and Pharisees interpreted the Jewish law. The Magdala Stone was at the center of the synagogue.
The stone is considered important for Judaism because Jewish scholars believe it marks a change within Judaism itself, brought about by the influence of Christianity, Fr. Solana explained.
This is because “Jesus destroyed the idea of the Temple as the center of Judaism,” he said, “and it was confirmed by the destruction of the Temple” in AD 70.
The Magdala Stone and the synagogue both pre-date the destruction of the Temple, which has been confirmed by coins found inside which range from AD 5 to 63 – the time of Christ’s life and the first generation of Christians.
Of course, this makes them very important pieces historically, Fr. Solana continued, explaining that the stone itself is a model of the destroyed Temple in Jerusalem. Covered in carvings of Jewish symbols, more even than the Temple itself, it also displays the oldest-known carving of a menorah in Israel.

Muslim Imam Consoles Jewish Woman and
 Melts Heart of Mourning Manchester
A Muslim cleric and an elderly Jewish woman melted the heart of a grieving nation with their poignant embrace at the scene of the Manchester terror attack. Rachel Black, 93, and Sadiq Patel, an imam, came together in grief and worship on Wednesday at a memorial for the 22 people killed and scores wounded in the suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert.
“We’re all the same people. We bleed just like everybody else,” Black told Britain’s Channel 5 News.
“One thing we do definitely know is we’re in this together, we’ll get through this together,” Patel added.
The pair traveled to Manchester together from the gritty industrial town of Blackburn to pay their respects for the victims of the bombing, which has gripped Britain with grief and defiance.
In pictures from the scene, Black pushed herself up from a folding chair to lean on her walker and pray. Overcome with emotion, she was taken in hand by Patel. He helped her walk from the site and carried her chair.
“Renee’s 93. Jewish lady. I’m a Muslim man,” Patel said. “But at this moment in time faith doesn’t mean anything. We don’t know what to say, no words can actually express what we’re going through.
The two are members of Blackburn Darwen Interfaith Forum, a town group focused on mutual understanding.
Black is one of the few Jews in the town, which now has a large population of Muslims, mostly from south Asia.
The Manchester vigil they attended brought together representatives of Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Sikh communities in a show of defiance and unity. Even at 93, Black said she was determined to make her voice heard against hatred, terror, and violence.
“We came to pay our respect to the people who passed away and to hope that they never have anything like this again,” she said. “We try to bring people together and not matter about the colour or creed or whatever you are.

Muslim, Sikh and Hindu leaders gather together to condemn Manchester Arena atrocity
Muslim, Sikh and Hindu leaders gathered together in Fartown to condemn the terrorist attack in Manchester. Candles were lit at the Ahmadiyya mosque in Spaines Road, and a powerful message given out condemning the attack which left 22 people dead and more than 60 in hospital with 23 still in critical care.
Gurdeep Singh Kooner, general secretary of Fartown Sikh Temple, said: “The Sikh community condemns these brutal attacks of violence.
“We extend our prayers and deepest condolences to the families of the victims. Now is the time for communities to come together in care and compassion for each other.”
Kiran Bali, general secretary of the Hindu Society of Kirklees and Calderdale, said “Our healing prayers and thoughts are with all those affected by this horrific terrorist attack. “We deplore this criminal violence perpetrated by hatred and stand in solidarity to oppose extremist ideologies. “Let us redouble our efforts to strengthen the unity of our society based on a profound commitment to mutual respect, resilience and hope.”
Fatihul Haq, president of Ahmadiyya Muslim Association Huddersfield South, said “The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Huddersfield strongly condemns the barbaric attacks in Manchester Arena.

Vigil for Manchester victims by AMA, Spaines Road, Fartown.
“Our sympathies and prayers are with the people of Manchester and all those affected. Such attacks and violence against innocent people can never be justified under any circumstances.”
And Sabhat Karim, regional missionary for the Huddersfield area, said of the victims: “Our heartfelt condolences go to those involved. May God have mercy on them. “This is the time when we need to get together and show solidarity.” He emphasised that it was important that “these attacks can never divide us in any way.”
Huddersfield Muslim group hoping to dispel misconceptions about the Quran. Munir Ahmed, president of Ahmadiyya Muslim Association, added: “I would like to echo what has just been said. Our heartfelt prayers and thoughts are with those people who have lost their lives. The Muslim community must stand up and condemn these actions.”
Children from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association (AMYA) held a minute’s silence in memory of the victims as part of their three mile charity walk at the Baitul Tauhid Mosque in Huddersfield. The walk took place a day before many Muslims began the month of fasting. Four year old Zakariyya planned to walk the three miles for charity and set up a JustGiving campaign which raised over £240 in three hours. Money raised from the walk will go to support Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice in Huddersfield.

June 2017

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events  
March through June, 2017
Exploring Our Religious Landscapes
Immersive Experiences in Religion and Culture
for Adults
See flyer below
Sunday, June 11th 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM
Sounds of the Spirit
IFLC Interfaith Musical event
See flyer below!!
World Views Seminar
June 19th – June 24th
See flyer below!
July 13 – 15th 
Seeking the Sacred at the Saline Church 
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
See flyer below!
Sunday August 6th
Interfaith Suburban Urban Unity Picnic
at Belle Isle
See Flyer Below!
Sunday, October 15th, 2017, 5:00 PM – 8:30 PM
Tenth Anniversary Celebration of WISDOM
North Congregational Church
36520 W. 12 Mile Road, Farmington Hills, 48331
See Save the Date Below

Sounds of the Spirit
Sacred Sounds and Holy Vibrations
All sound is vibration. Vibrations at different frequencies make different sounds or pitches. And this week, we experienced the different frequencies on which faith traditions call out to or praise God. Under the roof of Christ Church Cranbrook, which Rev. Dr. Bill Danaher said was meant to be a house of prayer for all people, we came together in music to share the beauty and meaning of our sacred sounds.
“We can build a community, woven together by empathy, love, compassion, and justice,” said Rev. Dr. Danaher. “When we are engaging in musical offerings, we are pulling them together. Music is meant to pull us together.”
Christopher Wells, the Music Director and Organist at Christ Church Cranbrook helped us understand the mechanism by which the pipe organ creates sound. A wind instrument, originally provided with air manually by bellows, and now electrically, it is played at a console containing 1 – 7 keyboards and 30 or more notes for the feet. The keyboard opens and closes a variety of pipes, which can be in a stand-alone organ or built into the walls of a chamber organ, which might contain thousands of pipes. Wells demonstrated the pipes by blowing into them, and then played for us on a stand-alone organ.
“This, to me, is God,” he said.
In Islamic tradition, God is not portrayed in paintings, sculpture, or any kind of visual image. “Words or poetry, spoken or song,” said Professional Rudolph Ware. “This is how Muslims paint pictures. The poetic tradition is an amplification of the musicality of the Quran, which is a rhythmic and rhyming text.” To demonstrate, and to honor the venue, Professor Ware chose a surra, or verse, on Mary.
“Music and poetic recitation,” said Ware, “make an appeal directly to the heart and bypass reason.” Muslim music is often created with musical instruments, but, said Ware, the primary instrument for the traditional Muslim is the human voice. “Humans were created by God breathing his own breath into the human form,” said Ware, “and you can tap into the holy breath inside.”
The rhythm of drums, he said, can create the condition which moves the self out of the way, so the individual can be closer to God.
The musical group Seven8Six demonstrated the rhythm of the drums, the power of four human voices in Sufi devotional Qawwali call and answer, and the beauty of guitar strings vibrating, with a presentation that had heads bobbing and toes tapping around the room. The first American Muslim boy band, Seven8Six has released two albums with their unique Islamically inspired blend of English pop, Arabic Nasheed, and Urdu Qawwali music.
The first Jewish instrument was the ram’s horn, and Hazzan Steve Klaper used it to kick off a lively lecture on the history of Jewish music, in which he demonstrated thousands of years of Jewish music by singing the explanation in each successive mode and accompanying himself on guitar and tamborine.
“That’s impressive,” remarked an audience member. To which Klaper replied, “My father would be pleased.”
Starting with the pentatonic music believed to be the original mode based on the spacing of the holes of ancient flutes, he moved on to culturally diverse north African Sephardic music and northern European Ashkenazic music, and to the nigun, or wordless chant created by the Jewish mystic the Baal Shem Tov in the 1700s.
“They don’t need any more words in Heaven,” Klaper said the Baal Shem Tov explained, “They need the cry of a broken heart.”
That cry was combined with Slavic folk music to produce klezmer, and eventually with American folk music to produce modern liturgical expressions.
Following up the history, geography, and culture hopping Jewish presentation, classical and jazz musician Bob Schneeweis demonstrated Baha’I music. Like Jewish music, Baha’I music drew from surrounding cultures as the Baha’I faith spread around the world. Schneeweis demonstrated the range with a beautiful orchestral and choral recording of traditional Baha’I music, and a performance of songs from South Africa, where he studied, and the intro to a piece by jazz legend and Baha’I Dizzy Gillespie.
The Baha’u’llah, founder of the Baha’I faith, wrote extensively about the importance of music. Persecuted for his beliefs and thrown into a foul pit to die with some of his followers, he led them in songs of profound love and joy for God, the spiritual light that can come out of the darkness, said Schneeweis.
As many of us followed the suggestion of natural healer Christopher Davis to close our eyes, the light came from the vibration of the four huge gongs that Davis stroked into rumbling vibrational tonal landscapes, walking the room with them, and letting the sounds overlap, trail off, join together and fill the room. It was a sound without words, big and powerful, massaging the atoms of animate and inanimate alike with soothing force as we all assimilated the afternoon’s many magnificent expressions each in our own way.
This session was the first of a two-part series which concludes with Sounds of the Spirit – Dharmic Faiths on Sunday, June 11, 3 – 6 pm at the Mata Tripta Ji Gurdwara Sahib in Plymouth. It will include Native drumming, Sikh Kirtaan, Buddhist music, Hindu Veena, and an encore Sacred Wave Gong Immersion.
See flyer above for registration information!

Sunday, October 15th
5:00 PM – 8:30 PM
36520 W. 12 Mile Road
Farmington Hills, MI 48331
Displays/Vendors, Dinner, and Delightful Entertainment
$50 per person
$75 for a display/vendor table

Seeking the Sacred: A Journey to
the Tabernacle of Moses
A free interfaith event on
Thursday, July 13th at 7 PM at
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
525 E. Woodland Dr.
Saline, MI
See flyer below and register at

Detroit Free Press April 10, 2017
Pastor Aramis Hinds of Bethel Community Transformation Center and Rabbi Ariana Silverman of the Downtown Detroit Synagogue inside Temple Beth El that was designed by Albert Kahn in the 1920’s at 8801 Woodward Avenue in Detroit on Wednesday, April 5, 2017. (Photo: Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Press)
Standing inside the sanctuary of his Detroit church that used to be a historic synagogue, pastor Aramis Hinds glances up and points to a painting of the Ten Commandments in Hebrew on the wall high above the pulpit. Underneath it is engraved a popular Jewish prayer: “Hear Israel, The Lord our God, The Lord is One.”
“The Christian faith is based off that foundation,” said Hinds of Breakers Covenant Church International. “We read the Old and the New Testaments, so we understand the Ten Commandments. When we see ‘Oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One,’ we understand that text because we study and we believe it too. You have these similarities that really help to bring us together. … The values are very similar.”
Hinds’ church is now working together with the Jewish community in metro Detroit to develop a community and interfaith center in the former Temple Beth El  on Woodward Avenue that they hope will be a model of racial and religious cooperation. The remodeled space will be called the Bethel Community Transformation Center,
“I really believe that this is going to be the place for reconciliation across socioeconomic, ethnic, religious walls,” said Hinds, who founded his church 14 years ago in Detroit. Designed by noted architect Albert Kahn, Temple Beth El was the home of Detroit’s first Jewish congregation (founded in the 1850s in another location) in 1922-73. It has striking limestone columns outside and a soaring dome inside with paintings of Jewish life and leaders across the centuries. Seating 1,600 in its main sanctuary, it later transformed into a church, Lighthouse Cathedral, and then other churches were based there, before Hinds purchased it in 2014 for his church.
Local Jews have held services this year inside the church – which still retains the architecture and paintings of the synagogue – and there are ambitious plans to repair the aging, historic space of Detroit’s first Jewish congregation. On Thursday, the church and members of that remaining Jewish congregation in Detroit, Downtown Synagogue, will have a joint Seder meal together in the historic Temple Beth El building for Passover, which starts Monday evening. It’s one way the Jewish community is trying to establish itself again in the city of Detroit, which once had thriving Jewish neighborhoods and 44 synagogues, but now has only one freestanding synagogue. The project helps the Jewish community to reconnect with a historic synagogue and the city.
“This building … is opening up a space for people to continue to have that emotional relationship with the city of Detroit,” Rabbi Arianna Silverman of Downtown Synagogue. “They grew up here. This was a place where their families worshiped, this is the kind of imagery that they recognize from their faith. It’s still here and there’s still the possibility of having a relationship with the city and with its residents. It’s not over. We can do something different.”
Hinds said that Temple Beth El building was left alone during the uprising because it had a good relationship with its neighbors.
“It was honored by everybody in the community, and when a lot of buildings and things were being caught on fire, being vandalized … this space didn’t get touched,” Hinds said.
The center recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $100,000 to make repairs, including fixing the roof, elevator, restrooms, and hiring an architectural firm. Plans include having computer training for local children. Hinds said the center will be “community oriented … to grow and transform lives.” The poverty rate in the neighborhoods around the congregation in Detroit’s north end is about 50%, he said.
“We wanted to bring programming into this space that would help to lift the lives of individuals,” Hinds said.
That aligns with the values of Temple Beth El, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is now based in Bloomfield Hills. On its walls are paintings of Abraham welcoming strangers, Jewish immigrants arriving at Ellis Island gazing at the Statue of Liberty, and Jewish leaders.
“It speaks to a history of refuge, a history of struggle, and also survival for the Jews that initially came to the Detroit region,” said Dr. Ralph Williams II, a member of the church. “You look at their story. You look at the story of African Americans in the city and some of the things that we’re facing now. You look at the revival and the renaissance that is taking place in the city. This is a perfect time to really bridge all of the those gaps and come together and do some great things and really make this like a meeting place where we connect the past to the future.  We can connect across ethnic groups and cultural groups and really tap the pulse of what it means to come together to transform a community.”
Contact Niraj Warikoo:

Interfaith effort aims to revive
iconic Temple Beth El building
Rev, Aramis Hinds                Rabbi Ariana Silverman
On a recent Friday night, the majestic sanctuary of a 95-year-old Detroit synagogue came alive with music, song and Sabbath prayers. It was a momentous occasion. It has been decades since a Jewish congregation called the Temple Beth El building on Woodward Avenue “home.”
The stunning 1922 Albert Kahn structure is noted for its grand entrance-way and Corinthian columns on the outside and cavernous walls and ornate domed ceiling inside. In the 1970s, following the 1967 riot, Temple Beth El moved to its current location on Telegraph Road in West Bloomfield. A non-denominational Christian church, Breakers Covenant Church International, owns the building today.
“The evening was beautiful, with the sunlight slowly fading in the space,” says Justin Wedes of Huntington Woods, a lifelong Temple Beth El member who will marry his fiance, Rachel Rudman, in the sanctuary next month. Two rabbis, Dan Horwitz of The Well and Ben Shalva of Tamarack Camps, led a group of about 100 attendees.
“We sat in a circle surrounded by concentric circles,” Wedes says. “We were right under the dome in the center of the room.”
Wedes is also part of a growing interfaith group working hard to breathe new life into the historic synagogue, now called the Bethel Community Transformation Center. A Kickstarter campaign will go through Friday, April 28; donations for the next $20,000 will be matched dollar for dollar, thanks to generous donors. The goal is to raise $100,000 and begin what will ultimately be a multiyear, multi-million dollar restoration and renovation project. Emblazoned on the outer wall:

“My House Shall Be Called a House of Prayer for All People.”

In a nutshell, organizers want to create a modern performing arts space, worship space and community center that “will create jobs, unite our fractured faith and racial communities, and inspire hope for a better day for Detroit.” “Entering the building brought a flood of memories and emotions,” said Jamie Feldman of Southfield, a photographer and one of the service participants. “Walking through the halls and into the sanctuary, the beauty reached way beyond what I remembered as a child. The magnificence is there despite the disrepair and fallen plaster. I was thrilled to have my camera in hand to capture the splendor.”
Pastor Aramis Hinds of Breakers Covenant Church International is also quite taken with the old temple. He describes the sanctuary as “holy” and “peaceful” and says he has “fallen in love” with the space.
While his church holds weekly Sunday services in an adjacent auditorium, restoration plans include keeping Jewish symbols intact and preserving imagery painted on the walls and ceiling around the sanctuary. There will also be displays honoring Metro Detroit’s Jewish heritage, along with ongoing Jewish Historical Society of Michigan tours and more. “We see this building as a community center that houses our church along with other community programming,” Hinds says. “I can see lectures taking place in here, concerts, graduations, musicals. I see this place as a house of healing for everybody and for me – that’s the vision.” When Hinds first approached the building at the corner of Woodward and Gladstone, he was struck by the words emblazoned on the outer wall: “My House Shall Be Called a House of Prayer for All People.” “When I saw that,” he recalls, “I said this is going to be a place of reconciliation.” While it is in need of significant repairs, the 55,000-square-foot structure is already serving the community. The building features numerous classrooms, offices, a large kitchen, social hall and more. Several organizations utilize the space, including a youth performing arts guild, a computer-learning center and a resource center for homeless youth. Lodging is also provided for volunteers and organizations that take part in local community service projects.
Restoring the temple is a “massive task and a sacred task,” says Rabbi Ariana Silverman of Detroit’s only active, free-standing synagogue, the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue on Griswold. Silverman also serves on the Bethel Community Transformation Center board of directors. She has lived in Detroit for seven years. “We need money to rebuild both the building and to rebuild relationships,” she says.
To read the rest of this article go to:

Temple Israel Hosts Social Justice Seder For
 Diverse Group of Women
At the Passover seder, Jews all over the world celebrate their freedom from Egypt more than 3,000 years ago. At Temple Israel’s Freedom Seder on March 28, more than 100 women expressed wishes that all people enjoy freedom. Using a Haggadah for Justice compiled by Rabbi Jennifer Kaluzny, participants focused on worldwide social justice for all. This was the second Freedom Seder organized by Temple Israel’s Sisterhood. Last year, they invited women from Hartford Memorial Baptist Church in Detroit. This year, in addition to the Hartford women, Sisterhood member Gail Katz invited some Muslim women active in interfaith efforts in Metro Detroit. A representative of Alternatives for Girls, a Detroit nonprofit, also attended. Several guests spoke about their personal struggles for freedom from oppression.
Parwin Anwar of Sterling Heights, a member of the Islamic Organization of North America, described her escape from Russian-occupied Afghanistan to Pakistan more than 20 years ago. Six months pregnant, she, with her husband and two small children, joined a group of 18 who walked 150 miles to safety over mountains. Her third child was born after they arrived in Pakistan. It was eight months before her family could come to the U.S., even though her father and brother had been living here for years.
The Rev. Cecilia Holliday, social pastor at Hartford Memorial, talked about her struggles to overcome racial prejudice. She described an elementary school teacher who would always give her lower grades than her white friend, even when her work was better. One day, she and her friend switched papers and, when the friend again got a higher grade, they told the teacher what they had done. In high school, Holliday had to cope with a teacher who called her and her black classmates “pickaninnies.” The teacher was eventually disciplined.
“I got a B in that class when I earned an A, but I felt OK because I had stood up for myself,” Holliday said. “I had to let the world know that bigots could not control my mind. God made us in his image. By the grace of God, I am what I am.”
Kaluzny’s Haggadah reimagined several parts of the traditional seder to focus on social justice. In describing matzah as the “bread of affliction,” the Haggadah noted that every day, 25,000 people worldwide die from hunger and malnutrition.
The Four Children, traditionally described as wise, defiant, simple and unable to ask, were updated as the Activist child, who asks how to follow God’s command to pursue justice; the Skeptical child, who asks how one can solve problems of such enormity; the Indifferent child who says it’s not her responsibility; and the Uninformed child who does not know how to ask. Guests enjoyed a catered meal augmented by Passover kugels, casseroles and desserts prepared by Sisterhood members. After dinner, they made cards and packed gift bags with donated socks, cosmetics and hair accessories for clients at Alternatives for Girls, an agency on the west side of Detroit that provides shelter and support services for girls and young women ages 15-21. Deena Policicchio, director of outreach and education services, thanked the women for their support. Sue Birndorf, a psychologist who lives in Detroit, said the Haggadah used at the Freedom Seder awakened her to the idea that we need to be more open to other people. “I realized it’s fear [of people unlike ourselves] that drives us apart,” she said. “When I sit next to an amazing woman and hear her speak, my fears just fly away.” Barbara Schultz of Farming-ton Hills also enjoyed meeting diverse women. “We learned about our likenesses and celebrated our differences,” she said. “I’m proud that Temple Israel did such a program.” The Freedom Seder committee included Wendy Kohlenberg, Temple Israel Sisterhood president; Rabbis Ariana Gordon, Marla Hornsten, Jennifer Kaluzny and Jen Lader; Laila Cohen, Gail Katz, Lauren Marcus Johnson, Linda Mickelson, Diane Okun, Randi Sakwa, Marilyn Schelberg and Carolyn Herman.
Barbara Lewis Contributing Writer, Detroit Jewish News

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks on clearing scriptural minefields and building interfaith friendships
Pope Benedict XVI, left, receives a gift by Lord Jonathan Sacks, center, then chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, during a private audience at the Vatican on Dec. 12, 2011. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Osservatore Romano
You’re meeting with clergy this week. Is there any one message you want to convey to them?
Yes. We all have hard texts in our sacred scriptures that have been the source of estrangement, hatred and violence. For the past few centuries we haven’t worried about those texts because for the past few centuries no one has taken religion seriously outside the home and the house of worship. But now religion has become a factor in world politics. We have not yet cleared the mines from the minefields. There are hard texts in each tradition which me must confront and ask ourselves, ‘Can we reinterpret those texts to allow us to live peaceably and respectfully with people of other faiths?’ That is a job only Jews can do for Judaism, only Christians can do for Christianity and only Muslims can do for Islam. But sometimes the sight of someone in one faith wrestling with that faith can empower you to wrestle with another faith.
For me, it was reading about how the Catholic Church wrestled with itself in the 1960s. Pope John XXIII set Nostra Aetate (the Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions) in motion. It changed the relationship between Jews and Catholics. Today Jews and Catholics meet as friends. If you can do that after the longest history of hatred the world has known, that empowers you as a Jew or a Muslim to wrestle with your faith.
What role can interfaith dialogue take?
I distinguish between two kinds of interfaith engagement: what I call face to face and side by side. Face to face is interfaith dialogue. As a religious leader, I encourage even more side by side. When you’ve got Jews and Christians, Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus removing graffiti from buildings or getting drug dealers off the street, that’s side by side. When you do that, you take it from the very elevated level of interfaith dialogue to the street level of neighbors. You get them working side by side and they become friends. Friendship sometimes counts for more than interfaith agreement or understanding. Friendship is deeply human. Let’s say there were, God forbid, riots in Birmingham. The fact that laypeople in that community are friends can stop that from happening very fast. Local friendships are very powerful.

The Baha’i community organizes a series of forums on religion’s role in the public sphere.
BERLIN, 13 April 2017, (BWNS) – With the accelerated movement of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa over the past several years, German society is encountering a changing cultural and religious landscape. These shifts are stimulating profound societal reflection on fundamental issues.
“Thought leaders in Germany are asking foundational questions, especially about religion and its expression in public life,” explains Saba Detweiler, a representative of the German Baha’i community.
These questions are not confined to Germany. Among some in Europe, a longstanding assumption that religion would gradually fade out of the public sphere and become only a private matter has been turned upside down. “People are seeing that religion is an essential part of humanity’s collective life. It is not going away. For this reason, it is important to better understand the nature and contributions of religion and to have a dialogue about its positive expression in society,” explains Ms. Detweiler.
Yet, the Baha’i community has also found that traditional spaces for discussions on religion-primarily interreligious forums-are often not oriented to explore the questions now arising in Europe and elsewhere. “It seems that the conversation needs to move beyond interreligious dialogue, beyond issues of theology and rituals, to allow for a more rich discourse on religion’s contribution to the betterment of society and the common good,” says Ms. Detweiler.
One of the more challenging questions is whether religion can be seen as something more than just groupings of differing sects and denominations at odds with one another. “This is what we are interested in exploring-the idea that religion can be seen as a cohesive force in society and as a system of knowledge that has, together with science, propelled the advancement of civilizations,” she continues.
Part of the reason that German society is now grappling with questions around religion, explains Ingo Hofmann, Director of the Baha’i Office of External Affairs in Germany, is that many Germans are seeing religion practiced in ways that are foreign to them. This has made them more aware of their own religious norms and beliefs, even among those who do not typically associate themselves with organized religion.
Naturally, this process has stimulated curiosity and a quest to build mutual understanding but has also given rise to fears and xenophobia. As national conversations on migration and religion have gained momentum in recent years, the Baha’i community of Germany has been learning how to work side by side with its fellow citizens and various organizations to begin a constructive dialogue on the questions arising from the changing landscape in the country.
Striving to make a meaningful contribution, the Baha’i community has, over the past year, organized a series of forums on religion’s role in the public sphere. These culminated in a conference on 24 March, titled “Further thoughts on Religious Pluralism,” in which some sixty individuals from government, civil society, media, and faith-based groups attended.

While searching for a connection today often means looking for a wi fi connection, Pope Francis said real connections between people are the only hope for the future.
“How wonderful would it be if the growth of scientific and technological innovation would come along with more equality and social inclusion,” he said in a video talk played April 25 for 1,800 people attending TED 2017 in Vancouver, British Columbia, and posted online with subtitles in 20 languages.
“How wonderful would it be, while we discover faraway planets, to rediscover the needs of the brothers and sisters orbiting around us,” the pope said in the talk that TED organizers had been advertising as that of a “surprise guest.”
Francis spoke to the international conference about combating the current “culture of waste” and “techno-economic systems” that prioritize products, money and things over people.
“Good intentions and conventional formulas, so often used to appease our conscience, are not enough,” he said. “Let us help each other, all together, to remember that the other is not a statistic or a number. The other has a face.”
Now, more than ever, we need to inspire action and a belief in the common good. But we need you. Subscribe today!
Many people in the world move along paths “riddled with suffering” with no one to care for them, the pope said. Far too many people who consider themselves “respectable” simply pass by, leaving thousands on “the side of the road.”
“The more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people,” he said, the greater the responsibility one has to act and to do so with humility. “If you don’t, your power will ruin you, and you will ruin the other.”
“There is a saying in Argentina,” he told his audience: “‘Power is like drinking gin on an empty stomach.’ You feel dizzy, you get drunk, you lose your balance, and you will end up hurting yourself and those around you, if you don’t connect your power with humility and tenderness.”
“The future of humankind isn’t exclusively in the hands of politicians, of great leaders, of big companies,” he said, even though they all have power and responsibility. “The future is, most of all, in the hands of those people who recognize the other as a ‘you’ and themselves as part of an ‘us.'”
Francis said that when he visits someone who is sick or in prison or has been forced to flee war, he always asks himself, “Why them and not me?”
Telling the tech-savvy crowd that he wanted to talk about “revolution,” the pope asked people to join a very connected and interconnected “revolution of tenderness.”
Tenderness, he said, is “love that comes close and becomes real,” something that begins in the heart but translates into listening and action, comforting those in pain and caring for others and for “our sick and polluted earth.”
“Tenderness is the path of choice for the strongest, most courageous men and women,” he insisted. “Tenderness is not weakness; it is fortitude. It is the path of solidarity, the path of humility.”
Francis also urged the crowd to hold on to hope, a feeling that does not mean acting “optimistically naive” or ignoring the tragedies facing humanity. Instead, he said, hope is the “virtue of a heart that doesn’t lock itself into darkness.”
“A single individual is enough for hope to exist.” he added. “And that individual can be you. And then there will be another ‘you,’ and another ‘you, and it turns into an ‘us.'”
TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a media organization that posts talks online for free distribution, under the slogan “ideas worth spreading.” TED was founded in February 1984 as a conference, which has been held annually since 1990.

At Ramadan, group pushes positive images of Muslims
By Niraj Warikoo, Detroit Free Press
Dr. Mahmood Hai on Tuesday, May 23, 2017, at his medical practice, Comprehensive Urology, in Westland.
(Photo: Elaine Cromie/Detroit Free Press)
As a medical doctor in Westland, Dr. Mahmood Hai has treated thousands of patients in Michigan and helped develop a new technique with lasers to treat prostate enlargement that has helped more than 1 million patients.
What motivates him is his faith: Islam.
“My religion was my main driving force because in God’s eyes, every human being on this Earth is equal,” said Hai, 70, a urologist. “Whether he’s rich or poor, white or black, African or Indian, whatever, in God’s eyes, they’re all the same.”
Hai is one of many doctors in Michigan who are Muslim and contributing a lot to society, according to a new report released this month by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, a think tank started by Muslims in Michigan with offices in Dearborn and Washington, D.C.
As Ramadan, a holy month of fasting and spiritual reflection, starts today for Muslims around the world, the report seeks to educate the public with stories of success in Michigan. The report estimates the number of Muslim medical doctors in Michigan could be more than 15%, as well as more than 10% of the state’s pharmacists. There are 35 Muslims in Michigan who hold public office, and more than 700 attorneys in the state are Muslim, the report said. It also detailed Muslim contributions in other areas such as business and technology.
“We …  reveal important and oftentimes overlooked contributions by Muslims to the state,” says the report, written by doctoral student Rebecca Karam of the City University of New York.
The study comes during an anxious time when some Muslims and immigrants feel under attack. Hai, an immigrant from India who has lived in the U.S. since 1973, says that many patients speak highly about their personal doctors who happen to be Muslim, but might not make the connection when they hear about Islam and Muslims in general.
“If you ask a lot of patients, they may say, my doctor is phenomenal, he saved my life, and he spends the whole night with me in the ICU saving my life, and he happens to be Muslim,” Hai said. “But when it comes to looking at Islam and Muslims, they forget the guy who spent the whole night saving his life or the one who did his surgery is of the faith of Islam.”
Titled “An Impact Report of Muslim Contributions to Michigan,” the study includes empirical data to showcase Muslim accomplishments, but cautions some of the figures are estimates.
Determining the population percentages of Muslim doctors in Michigan was derived by looking at a database of names of doctors statewide and comparing that to a list of names that sound Muslim, the report says. The list of Muslim names came from Muslim communities and groups, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations. It said the Muslim names were of various ethnicities, including Arab, west African, Eastern European and others. The report cautioned that some doctors with names that sound Muslim could be non-Muslim, and there might be other Muslim doctors without Muslim-sounding names.
Another doctor featured in the report is Dr. Farha Abbasi, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Michigan State University, who works on mental health issues among Muslims. She established the Muslim Mental Health Conference and is managing editor for the Journal of Muslim Mental Health.
“Muslim mental health has become this movement, everybody wants to talk about it,” Abbasi said. But “we are so behind in the research.”
Young Muslims are facing unique stresses because of negative views about them, she said.
“From that young age, you’ve been bombarded by negative messages … you feel this sense of insecurity, uncertainty.”
Abbasi said that some Muslim Americans start to question: “How much of a Muslim can I be? How much of a visible Muslim can I be? How much of a practicing Muslim can I be?”
The report hopes to show that Muslims can be open about their faith while serving their communities.
Hai started doing research in the 1990s for a new technique using lasers to reduce a common condition afflicting men: enlarged prostate gland.
Of the established procedure, known as TURP (transurethral resection of the prostate), Hai said, “I felt it was a very traumatic technique and involved pain, getting hospitalized, with a catheter, bleeding, pain. … I felt that we should do some research to find some better ways. So I started doing research with lasers.”
It eventually got FDA approval and “since then, I’ve been doing the procedures and teaching it around the world. I’ve taught thousands of urologists in nearly 30 different countries.”
Born in India to a medical doctor who once served a former president there, Hai moved to Detroit in 1975 for a medical residency at Wayne State University before starting his urology practice. He said his family has always believed in serving the community where you live.

Secret Life of Muslims” Nominated for Peabody Award
The “The Secret Life of Muslims”, a series of short films featuring a diverse set of American Muslims speaking from their own respective experiences, has been nominated for the prestigious Peabody Award.
AltM’s own EIC Asma Uddin was one of the producers for this ground-breaking series, which has been featured on Vox, The USA Today Network, PRI’s The World, CBS Sunday Morning.
The series included short films featuring American Muslims including Khalid Latif, Linda Sarsour, Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, Reza Aslan, Ibtihaj Muhammad, and Wajahat Ali, and used humor and empathy to showcase the views, lives and interests of American Muslims.  Its aims was to “subvert stereotypes and reveal the truth about American Muslims,” and was directed by Emmy-nominated director Joshua Seftel.
It is a timely and important addition to the media portrayals of Muslims, with rising curiosity and misunderstanding about Muslims in America, and showcases the diversity of views, careers, talents, and accomplishments of the Muslim community.
Check out some of their skits by going to:

May 2017

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events  
March through June, 2017
Exploring Our Religious Landscapes
Immersive Experiences in Religion and Culture
for Adults
See flyer below
Wednesday, May 10th, 7:00 PM
Five Women Five Journeys Presentation
St. Hugo of the Hills Catholic Church
2215 Opdyke Rd., Bloomfield Hills
contact Paula Drewek at
Wednesday, May 17th, 8:00 PM
Showing of the film “Hummus: The Movie”
Berman Center, 6600 W. Maple Rd, West Bloomfield
See Flyer Below
Sunday, October 15th, 2017, 5:00 PM – 8:30 PM
Tenth Anniversary Celebration of WISDOM
North Congregational Church
36520 W. 12 Mile Road, Farmington Hills, 48331
See Flyer below!

The 19th Annual Lenore Marwil
Detroit Jewish Film Festival
Hummus: The Movie
Wednesday, May 17th at 8:00 PM
Berman Center
6600 W. Maple Rd., West Bloomfield, MI
WISDOM will be sponsoring this movie. 

Sunday, October 15th
5:00 PM – 8:30 PM
36520 W. 12 Mile Road
Farmington Hills, MI 48331
Displays/Vendors, Dinner, and Delightful Entertainment
$50 per person
$75 for a display/vendor table

Jewish-Hindu musician sings about Allah in new album for kids
Musician Ben Lee in 2009. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons/Guido van Nispen
(RNS) Here’s a great idea for an album: Get an Australian-born, Jewish-raised, Hindu singer-songwriter with a penchant for banana yellow suits and essential oils and have him sing songs about Islam for kids.
And here it is – “Ben Lee Sings Songs About Islam for the Whole Family,” the newest release from guitarist and singer Ben Lee.
“As my spiritual pursuits became more central to my life, my music naturally became an extension of these interests,” Lee says on his website, where he lounges in yellow and hawks essential oils. “My music has often been both an exploration and a diary of my attempts to open my own heart and mind.”
And that exploration has taken him from his native Sydney, Australia, where he attended a Jewish day school and started singing in a teenage punk band. At the ancient age of 18, he moved to New York, where he first dabbled in Taoism. On a trip to India, he explored Hinduism, and he now follows a guru.
He is best known for his 2005 album “Awake is the New Sleep,” which had several top 40 hits in Australia. 

The new album was initially part of a larger project to explore world religions on several albums. But President Trump’s travel ban and the rise of anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S. prompted Lee to bring out a solo album about Islam first.
“All of this stuff started to happen with the travel ban, and I thought, you know what? Now’s the moment,” Lee told The Guardian. “And if you let these moments go past and you don’t stand up, then they slip away. This album is not a hardcore piece of activism. I’m standing up for ambiguity and poetry.”
All proceeds from the new album will benefit the American Civil Liberties Union.

Metro Detroit churches, synagogues 
become sanctuaries for immigrants
Concerned about the government crackdown on immigration, congregations in Michigan consider becoming sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants
At Central United Methodist, a historic Protestant church in downtown Detroit, the pastor is considering using its large gym to house undocumented immigrants fearing deportation. At First United Methodist Church in Ferndale, members are looking at ways to install showers for immigrants who might live there.
And at the Birmingham Temple, a Jewish synagogue in Farmington Hills, the board voted unanimously last month to be a sanctuary congregation, calling the move “a flag of resistance to bigotry.” Inspired by faith, diverse congregations across metro Detroit are looking for ways to become sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants who fear deportation as the U.S. ramps up immigration enforcement under President Donald Trump.
“In Scripture, it says you were a stranger, and you welcomed me – that’s what Jesus said,” said the Rev. Jill Zundell, senior pastor at Central United Methodist Church, citing a Biblical verse from the Book of Matthew. “We have to look at the higher law.”
From Farmington Hills to Ferndale to Detroit, some churches and synagogues have already declared themselves as sanctuary houses of worship, offering to help immigrants and house them if necessary. For them, acts of civil disobedience are sometimes needed when the overall system is unjust, said their faith leaders.
But other faith leaders are not fully committed to the cause of providing sanctuary for immigrants just yet. Some are discussing the issue with their members, and are wary of taking on an issue that they fear could expose them to legal action.
About 50 church leaders gathered on a Saturday last month at the UAW Local 600 hall in Dearborn to find out how to become sanctuary churches, and the legal ramifications of that designation.
The inspiration comes from the Sanctuary Movement of the 1980s, when churches took in undocumented immigrants     fleeing war in Central America. The Department of Justice under  President Ronald Reagan prosecuted some church members for their activism, a precedent that worries some churches.
At Central United Methodist Church in Detroit, which sits next to Comerica Park, Zundel said their large gym  and a fourth-floor room could be used to house undocumented immigrants. The church has been contacted by two undocumented families seeking refuge. They also are currently housing a family of six from an African country fleeing political persecution who came on visitors visas and have applied for political asylum.

WISDOM Holds a Special Evening Called Family Treasures
On Sunday, March 12th, WISDOM board members came together to pilot a new program called Family Treasures. They presented objects passed down within their families representing something important to their faith or cultural tradition.  Here are some photos of the treasures. (If your congregation or organization is interested in hosting a Family Treasures program for your group, contact WISDOM!!)
Ayesha Khan shared her special jewelry from India.

Delores Lyons shared her buddhas!

Trish Harris displayed her collection of rosaries
and gave us the history of the rosary in the Catholic church.

Gail Katz shared her family’s Shabbat candlesticks
that originally came from the Jewish community
 in Russia in the 1800’s.

Bobbie Lewis brought a spice box
made from a gourd that is used in the Jewish Havdalah service
 at the end of the Sabbath.

Janelle McCammon brought the family’s special dreidle
that is used during Chanukah to play a special holiday game.

Uzma Sharaf brought a very special lotus flower. The calligraphy on the lotus flower (Arabic script) are attributes of God, There are 99 attributes of God that should be manifested in our interaction with others such as mercy, love, and compassion. 

Zaman founder has terse words for Trump,
a hand for refugees
Every time President Donald Trump talks about his immigration ban, Najah Bazzy winces knowing any proclamations will reverberate through the community of people she is helping at Zaman International.
Bazzy, a 56-year-old mother and grandmother, also is a nurse from Dearborn whose family moved to Michigan in 1885. Her father served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War.
She founded the organization – known originally as Bayt Al Zahra  (Arabic for house of hope and light) – in 1996. The name was changed to Zaman in 2004. Bazzy, who is Muslim,  helps immigrants and refugees through Zaman, which is based in Inkster. Her clientele – mostly women, often with children –  face tough times. Many don’t have a roof over their head, or money for food. Her organization is a lifeline.
“We are the anchor for our clients living under $12,000 (annually) or who end up homeless or hungry,” she said. “We stabilize by providing  food, clothing, shelter, then we bring them back for goal setting, work with them to get out of the cycle of poverty, and keep them with us for up to two years,” Bazzy said.
I talked with Bazzy after we taped “Michigan Matters,” airing at 11:30 a.m.  today on CBS 62. She and Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson traded terse words on Trump’s immigration ban and the need for it. Bazzy said her clients are from across our region – 22 cities locally. And the come from many different countries, too.
“Thirteen percent of our clients in 2016 were refugees from Syria, but many are double refugees having fled from the Gulf War in Iraq and since the fall of Saddam Hussein to Syria as refugees and then from Syria to the refugee camps again for several years until they reached the USA,” she said. Lately, her job has also included holding the hands of her clients amid Trump’s tough words on immigration.
“It’s been painful to see them arrive to their new home country and hear the president talk about Syrian refugees like they are all terrorists,” which they are not, she added. “One (client) said her daughter, son-in-law and children were in Jordan and had received their status to come to America. They were at the airport when the ban happened and were not allowed to board. ” “The family is now split up in other countries,” she added. Since its inception, her organization has helped more than 180,000 people locally with its various services.
Bazzy quit her nursing job and began helping women in dire situations
 by collecting furniture, food, clothes and providing shelter
In recent years, her organization has expanded to include non-Muslim women from  Detroit and Inkster and surrounding communities
Over the past five years, Zaman has helped many thousands through many volunteers and community partners like Ford.
“We are in tremendous need of financial donations to keep up with the amount of clients we are seeing,” she said. “In addition, we need a new roof, we have buckets everywhere and finding a donor to help with this would be amazing. Our food pantry always needs food, and community clothing drives are critical.”
Most of her clients today are women who have been “abandoned, abused, divorced, widowed. If there is a man in her life, she is often the caregiver because of a disability or chronic/terminal illness he has. We also see families with children who are severely disabled and these moms really, really struggle.”
She added: “We give them hope. We give them a sense of self, dignity, honor. We believe in them, and because we do, they learn to believe in themselves. We give them confidence.”
To help more people, Bazzy recently hired Michele Ureste, a former supervisor for West Bloomfield Township, as its new chief development officer. “A donor sponsored her hiring,” Bazzy explained.
“I knew we needed a one-stop client service experience to serve the basic needs (of our clientele),” she said. “With our Hope for Humanity Center,  we can now give our clients more dignity because they now have more choice about the food they eat, the clothes they wear, and the furniture and housewares they want.” She said she was inspired in her work by Eleanor Josaitis, the late cofounder of Focus: HOPE. Bazzy toured Focus: HOPE as a teenager and was struck by its incredible work. Bazzy is making an impact in her own way. Knowing a  job is paramount to escaping poverty, Bazzy added vocational training at her facility.

Single mothers living in poverty struggle every day to make ends meet,” she said. Bazzy envisions Zaman expanding to satellite locations elsewhere, maybe Flint, and other places. And she’d like to become a national advocate for the women and families she and Zaman International help. “We are all working to create a culturally congruent organization that has the ability to build human potential and break down barriers in a real way,” she said.
Carol Cain can be reached at 313-222-6732 or She is senior producer/host of “Michigan Matters,” which airs at 11:30 a.m. Sundays on CBS 62. See Matt Simoncini, Brooks Patterson, Denise litch and Najah Bazzy on today’s show.

 3 Muslim American Style Bloggers on How They’re 
Using Fashion to Break Stereotypes
Glamour Fashion
Being Muslim in America-especially in 2017-isn’t easy. By most accounts, hate crimes against Muslim Americans are on the rise, and the current administration seems laser-focused on instituting immigration policies that would disproportionately target Muslims. Still, in spite of that-or maybe because of it-there are a number of hijab-wearing women shattering stereotypes of both the often misunderstood traditional veil and their culture in general, while using fashion to do it.
Nura Afia, a beauty vlogger, was hired as a CoverGirl ambassador last year, the company’s first to wear a hijab, and Halima Aden sported a hijab during a beauty pageant and went on to walk the runway during New York and Paris Fashion Weeks in February

And then there’s the rise of the hijab-wearing fashion blogger and Instagram star, who makes it a point to showcase that wearing one doesn’t mean giving up on personal style, nor does it signify oppression. Three of these women shared with Glamour how they’re using clothing to break stereotypes, along with the very personal reasons they’ve decided to wear a hijab.
Read the rest of this article at:

Jews, Muslims, Indian Americans join hands against hate crimes
From Interfaith Goodnews
People from the Jewish, Muslim, and Indian American communities gathered on the steps of Tifereth Israel Synagogue in northwest Washington and stood in solidarity against rising hate crimes in the US.
“This is about having peace throughout all communities and religions and races,” said Rochelle Berman, who was present at the event on Friday night. The slogan “We Stand Together Against Hate” was held high above the crowd at the top of the synagogue’s steps, reported WJLA news portal, an ABC Television affiliate.
“There should be no discrimination based on race, or gender or skin colour,” said a woman.
This year discrimination across the country fuelled vandalism, bomb threats and murders, such as Indian American Srinivas Kuchibholta who was shot and killed during a Kansas hate crime.
“There are just a lot of challenges out there that basically unity is going to bring us all together,” said another attendant.
Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla was shot dead while another Indian Alok Madasani was injured in Kansas last month in an apparent hate crime.
An Indian-origin girl was racially abused on a train by an African-American man in New York on February 23.
A 43-year-old Indian-origin store owner, Harnish Patel, was shot dead outside his home in Lancaster County, South Carolina earlier in March.
A Sikh man, Deep Rai, an American citizen, was also fired upon in a racial attack earlier this month.
Also, there has been a rise in anti-Semitic threats and vandalism across the country, which included bomb threats at 90 Jewish community centres and the desecration of cemeteries in several US states last month.

April 2017

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events  
March through June, 2017
Exploring Our Religious Landscapes
Immersive Experiences in Religion and Culture
for Adults
See flyer below!
Thursday, April 13, 12-3 pm
Five Women Five Journeys Presentation
Oakland Community college
Highland Lakes Campus
7350 Cooley Lake Rd.
Waterford, MI. 48327
contact Paula Drewek at
Wednesday, April 26, 7 pm
Five Women Five Journeys Presentation
St. John Fisher Chapel
3665 Walton Blvd.
Auburn Hills, Mi.
contact Paula Drewek at
Sunday, April 30th, 3:00 – 6:00 PM
Sounds of the Spirit – a musical performance and discussiion
about music and prayer
Christ Church Cranbrook
470 Church Rd., Bloomfield HIlls
See Flyer Below
Wednesday, May 10th, 7:00 PM
Five Women Five Journeys Presentation
St. Hugo of the Hills Catholic Church
2215 Opdyke Rd., Bloomfield Hills
contact Paula Drewek at
Wednesday, May 17th, 8:00 PM
Showing of the film “Hummus: The Movie”
Berman Center, 6600 W. Maple Rd, West Bloomfield
See Flyer Below
Sunday, October 15th, 2017, 5:00 PM – 8:30 PM
Tenth Anniversary Celebration of WISDOM
North Congregational Church
36520 W. 12 Mile Road, Farmington Hills, 48331
Stay tuned!

On a Sunday in April, the community is invited to the first of a two-part series exploring the place of music in worship across faith traditions. Rev. Dr. William Danaher, Rector of Christ Church Cranbrook will moderate a panel discussion and introduce musical presentations on music in the Abrahamic faiths. Presentations will begin with a sacred wave gong immersion by Christopher Davis a natural healing arts practitioner, whose specialties include using sound therapy and energy medicine for spiritual, mental, emotional and physical healing. This will be followed by organ and Christian music with Christopher Wells.
Hazzan Steve Klaper, spiritual storyteller, minstrel and Jewish teacher, is an ordained Cantor and professional musician, and co-founder and director of the Song and Spirit Institute for Peace in Berkley. His presentation will demonstrate the historical and biblical progression of Jewish music, accompanying himself on guitar, drum, and shofar (ram’s horn).
“The earliest Jewish conception of music is God speaking/chanting the world into existence in the first chapter of Genesis,” says Klaper. “From there, the early primal use of ram’s horn and chant gives way to Temple music, then early liturgical modes, the chanting of Torah.”
Klaper’s presentation will cover early mystical use of melody to alter time and space, which, he says, gave rise to chassidic meditative chant – then the divergent paths of Sephardi music and the European cantors of the 18th and 19th centuries. He will end with the modern liberal (American) experiment of melding Jewish liturgical forms with western folk music.
Among some of the nations of the Orient, music and harmony were not approved of, but according to Abdu’l-Baha, son of Baha’i founder Bahá’u’lláh, “the Manifested Light, Bahá’u’lláh, in this glorious period has revealed in Holy Tablets that singing and music are the spiritual food of the hearts and souls. In this dispensation, music is one of the arts that is highly approved and is considered to be the cause of the exaltation of sad and desponding hearts.”
“I believe that all music reaches its truest form when honored as the expression of the spirit, and as a powerful means by which we come together as one human family,” says Bob Schneeweis, our Baha’i presenter, who is a teacher and performer of both jazz and classical music in the Detroit metro area, and currently a Masters student at Oakland University in piano performance.
Qawwali is the musical traditions of India and Pakistan and will be demonstrated by Seven8Six, the first American Muslim boyband. Seven8Six performs Islamically inspired music in various genres including English pop, Arabic nasheed, and Urdu qawwali music. They have been celebrated for breaking down barriers and stereotypes, and inspiring Muslim youth to define their own identity and express their faith through the arts.
According to Zafar Razzacki, of Seven8Six, “Islamic devotional music is widespread on the Indian subcontinent. The popular qawwali commonly found in this region arose from practices of Islamic mystics, or Sufis. It arose from the fusion of Persian and Indian musical traditions dating back to the 13th century. Just as Detroit is referred to as Motown and said to birthplace of R&B music, the Punjab province of Pakistan is said to be the central hub of qawwali where it has been developed into the mainstream art form that it is today.”
With its elegant thought and poetic expression, qawwali is typically sung passionately and powerfully in either Urdu or Punjabi language. As with most Islamic music, qawwali is commonly sung in praise of God and in remembrance of the Prophet Muhammad and other important historical figures of Islam. Whereas most musical groups are referred to as a “band” a group of qawwali performers is called a “party.” A qawwali party could be considered analogous to a Gospel Church choir, inspiring and motivating its witnesses with its powerful sound and sophisticated language.
Following the Qawwali performance, University of Michigan history professor Rudolph Ware will discuss Islamic devotional music. Professor Ware specializes in premodern West African history, Islam, popular religious culture, and race, and is the author of The Walking Qur’an Islamic Education, Embodied Knowledge, and History in West Africa.
Sounds of the Spirit – Abrahamic Faiths will take place on Sunday, April 30th3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Cost $10 per person. Light Refreshments Available. The program will take place at Christ Church Cranbrook 470 Church Road, Bloomfield Hills MI 48304. Register here or at the door.
Save the Date for part two of this series, “Sounds of the Spirit- the Dharmic Faiths” Sunday, May 21st, 3:00 – 6:00pm. Mata Tripta Ji Gurdwara Sahib: 40600 Schoolcraft Road, Plymouth.

Please print out and sign the Resiliency Statement below and mail to the InterFaith Leadership Council at
10821 Capital Street, Oak Park, MI 48237!!
The IFLC is trying to collect as many signatures as possible to show our “Standing Together” during this difficult time
 of increased prejudice and intolerance!

The 19th Annual Lenore Marwil
Detroit Jewish Film Festival
Hummus: The Movie
Wednesday, May 17th at 8:00 PM
Berman Center
6600 W. Maple Rd., West Bloomfield, MI
WISDOM will be sponsoring this movie. 

First Muslim Is Elected President 
Of The College Chaplains Association
A national organization of university religious leaders elected its first Muslim president last week in a move that could influence college diversity for years.
The National Association of College and University Chaplains recently elected Imam Adeel Zeb to be its next president. Zeb serves as the Muslim chaplain at the Claremont University Consortium in Southern California and will assume the one-year, volunteer position at NACUC this summer.
Courtesy of Adeel Zeb
Imam Adeel Zeb will take over for Rabbi Dena Bodian as president of the National Association of College and University Chaplains this summer.

For Zeb, his election serves not only as a personal milestone but also as one he hopes will inspire other non-Christian religious leaders to enter the field of college chaplaincy.

“When we were being sworn into our new positions, it felt like a civil rights moment,” Zeb told The Huffington Post.

College chaplaincy has traditionally been dominated by Christians. And it still is, with the exception of a handful of non-Christian deans of religious life and top university chaplains around the country.

There are a number of reasons for that lack of diversity. One is that the majority of Americans identify as Christians, though the percentage appears to be dwindling. “So when they’re looking to hire chaplains, universities typically hire Christians,” Zeb said.
Another issue is that colleges frequently have one position that fills the roles of both top spiritual director and minister of the campus chapel. Since many colleges have Protestant roots, that role typically needs to be filled by a minister of that faith.
“It’s important to remember that many of our universities started affiliated to a seminary or with some denomination, all Christian,” Rabbi Dena Bodian, current NACUC president, told HuffPost.

But Bodian added that having non-Christian voices both in campus chaplaincy and in national associations that represent the field “helps to reframe the conversation about campus religious life in really important ways.”

Most research universities and  liberal arts colleges have an office of religious life or an equivalent. One dean or chaplain typically heads up that office. The school may also have an associate dean, as well as a number of other chaplains specific to different faith communities.

Those affiliate chaplain positions aren’t always full-time, salaried positions with the universities. Some are operated on a volunteer basis and others are funded by outside organizations.

Zeb said he knew of roughly 13 full-time Muslim chaplains serving at colleges in the U.S. and Canada. Many of them are paid by outside nonprofits and mosques, he said, and none hold their campus’ top spiritual leadership position.
But campus religious leadership is going through a transition. This academic year, Dartmouth College appointed Rabbi Daveen Litwin to its top chaplaincy position. Another rabbi, David Leipziger Teva, became the founding director of Wesleyan University’s office of religious and spiritual life in 2007. The following year, the University of Southern California hired Varun Soni, a Hindu lawyer and scholar, to head its office of religious life.
The change has been slow. These recent hires are a significant minority, and Soni admitted he has been lonely being one of the few non-Christian deans of religious life in the country.
“As all of us think deeply about diversity in higher education, it’s clear that chaplaincy is pretty far behind the conversation,” Soni told HuffPost.

“We still haven’t seen a Muslim dean of religious life, or a Sikh or Buddhist or humanist one,” he added. “We haven’t seen the kind of diversity in chaplaincy that we see in our student bodies.”

America’s shift away from Christianity and organized religion is happening rapidly on college campuses. Students increasingly identify as religiously unaffiliated and are looking for creative outlets for their spiritual lives, Soni said. In a 2013 survey, two-thirds of college students identified either as secular or more spiritual than religious, according to USA Today.
That doesn’t make the job of campus chaplains any less significant, but it tasks universities with finding spiritual leaders who can cater to the needs of a vastly diverse student body.
“We need university chaplains who are thinking really creatively about how to support students with these perspectives,” Soni said.

As the Muslim chaplain at Claremont, Zeb meets with both Muslim and non-Muslim students. His personal faith doesn’t particularly matter to the students who come seeking counsel, he said. When they arrive in his office, their concerns are usually universal.

“Sometimes I don’t even know what their faith is. The issues the students are facing most of the time are not religious in nature. They’re human in nature, things like family issues, relationships and mental health.”
While faith shifts toward a more spiritual, universal lens on college campuses, it has become increasingly polarized in the political arena. As a Muslim, Zeb belongs to one of the most targeted religious communities in the U.S. But his role with NACUC may inspire other Muslim leaders to push ahead in spite of bias.
“Adeel is also a trailblazer,” Soni said. “I consider him to be a pioneer, and his appointment is significant. He will inspire other Muslim leaders to think about university chaplaincy.”
Zeb said hopes universities will start to pay attention, too. “I do feel that in the future people will start looking at the candidate not because of their faith but because of what impact they can have as ethical leaders for their college campus.”

More than 60 people from different faith traditions enjoyed a docent led tour of the Arab American National Museum organized by WISDOM (Women’s Interfaith Solutions for Dialogue and Outreach in Metro-Detroit) on Sunday afternoon, February 19th. The tour was followed by dinner at a local Middle Eastern restaurant. A big shoutout to WISDOM‘s Sameena Basha and Shama Mehta for organizing this great event. Definitely recommend everyone to visit this historic museum.  We had a great time together!

Jewish Cemetery Desecrated
On the heels of bomb threats and hate crimes against dozens of Jewish community center’s across the United States, a historical Jewish cemetery was vandalized recently when over 170 headstones were damaged. Muslim Americans stood in solidarity with the Jewish-American community to condemn this horrific act of desecration against the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery. They also extended their deepest condolences to all those who have been affected and to the Jewish community at large.
In a campaign organized by Linda Sarsour of MPower Change and Tarek El-Messidi of CelebrateMercy, the Muslim-American community extended their hands to help rebuild this sacred space where Jewish-American families have laid their loved ones to rest since the late 1800’s. Campaign proceeds went directly to the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in light of the recent damage. Any remaining funds – after the cemetery is restored – will be allocated to repair any other vandalized Jewish centers.
Here are words from the Muslim community:
While these senseless acts have filled us with sorrow, we reflect on the message of unity, tolerance, and mutual protection found in the Constitution of Medina: an historic social contract between the Medinan Jews and the first Muslim community. We are also inspired by the example of our Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, who stood up to pay respects for a passing Jewish funeral procession. When questioned on why he stood for a Jewish funeral, he responded, “Is it not a human soul?” [Source: Bukhari].
Through this campaign, we hope to send a united message from the Jewish and Muslim communities that there is no place for this type of hate, desecration, and violence in America. We pray that this restores a sense of security and peace to the Jewish-American community who has undoubtedly been shaken by this event.

Muslim veterans of the US armed forces are offering to guard Jewish cemeteries and synagogues across the country following a wave of
apparently anti-Semitic vandalism.
Hundreds of headstones have been pushed over at two cemeteries in Philadelphia and St Louis while dozens of Jewish community centres have received bomb threats in recent weeks.
Some Muslims have already offered their support by raising money to help repair the damage to graves. Now, others are taking to Twitter to offer their services in trying to prevent further attacks.
Tayyib Rashid, who tweets as @MuslimMarine, wrote on Tuesday: “If your synagogue or Jewish cemetery needs someone to stand guard, count me in.”
His offer prompted dozens more, some from veterans and others from ordinary citizens.
“Houston area Jewish community I spent ten years protecting our country and I will gladly protect Jewish places of worship if you need me!,” tweeted veteran Khalid Whalid.
The offers of support come at a difficult time for minority religions in the United States. A bitterly divisive election and the rise of Donald Trump’s America First philosophy is being blamed for a rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes. At the same time, there has been an epidemic of Swastikas appearing on public buildings. Jewish centres and schools started reporting bomb scares on January 19 when 15 of them received anonymous threats. Since then, three more waves of threatening messages have been sent, bringing the total to 100 spread over 33 states. Mr Trump finally confronted the problem during his address to Congress on Tuesday. “Recent threats targeting Jewish community centres and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms,” he said. Muslim community leaders have reached out to Jewish groups to offer solidarity.
A crowdfunding appeal launched by two high-profile activists to repair damage to a cemetery in St Louis has raised more than US$155,000 in less than two weeks. The appeal had originally aimed to raise $20,000.
Its organisers, Tarek El Messidi and Linda Sarsour, said they wanted both communities to stand united against hate. And the latest offers of help promote a similar message. US veteran and anti-Islamophobia campaigner Nate Terani tweeted: “I’m a Muslim Veteran in Arizona & will readily stand guard at any Jewish Synagogue or Cemetery at ANY hour. #WeAreOne.

A Muslim father and son engrave the headstones at one of India’s oldest Jewish cemeteries
Muhammad Abdul Yaseen sat cross-legged beside a tree, hunched over a smooth marble slab. He moved a metal straightedge into position, making a gentle scraping sound, and drew a small line on the marble with a pencil. He has done this for half a century, carefully etching the stones that mark the final resting places for members of Mumbai’s dwindling Bene Israel Jewish community. Behind him, the small graveyard unfolded across a quiet grove of trees in the city’s central business district. More than 6,500 tombstones, most adorned with the Star of David, rose in neat rows from patches of uneven grass. The blare of car horns and thrum of construction crews, the persistent soundtrack of India’s financial capital, seemed to fade inside the tidy cemetery.
Abdul Yaseen, 76, adjusted his glasses and wiped his brow with the sleeve of a crisp button-down shirt that he wore above a loose-fitting cotton dhoti. A small notebook lay in front of him, a stone holding open the page that bore the English epitaph that a family had asked him to sketch, for an 84-year-old woman who died in January:
“Till memory lives and life departs,
You will live forever in our hearts.”
At the top of the stone Abdul Yaseen had written a brief prayer in Hebrew. As a boy growing up in the northern agricultural state of Uttar Pradesh, he did not learn how to read or write in any language. When he moved to Mumbai in 1968 to look for work, he met Aaron Menasse Navgavikar, a Bene Israel Jew who engraved the community’s tombstones and was looking for an assistant. Working with Navgavikar, Abdul Yaseen learned not only Marathi, the language of Mumbai and its surroundings, but also Hindi, English and Hebrew. When Navgavikar moved to Israel in the 1970s, Abdul Yaseen took over the practice.
He arrives at the cemetery, marked by a blue sign along a metal archway, around 9 a.m. and works until 1 p.m., except on Fridays, when he leaves earlier in order to attend prayers at his mosque. The cemetery in central Mumbai, India, houses the remains of the city’s Bene Israel Jews.  Abdul Yaseen is an unassuming symbol of Mumbai’s polyglot heritage: a Muslim engraving Jewish headstones in a city that, like the rest of the country, is overwhelmingly Hindu. Although tensions between Hindus and Muslims have sometimes devolved into communal violence in India, there is less strife surrounding the smaller Jewish and Christian communities. “India should always be mixed like this,” Abdul Yaseen said. “It doesn’t matter that I am Muslim. It only matters that the community has taken us in and treated us well.” He brought his son, Islam, into the trade. Now it is the younger man, 53, who operates the heavy stone cutter and chisels the stone by hand. Abdul Yaseen’s body has grown frail, though his hands remain steady enough to sketch out the letters, which he does with the precision and concentration of a surgeon. Their work may not pass to another generation. The Bene Israel Jews, who have lived along India’s western coast for two millennia, numbered 20,000 in the 1940s. But with India’s independence in 1947 and the creation of Israel the following year, many began migrating. There are roughly 2,000 Jews left in Mumbai and the surrounding state of Maharashtra, and fewer than 5,000 in all of India.
Islam led a visitor to the oldest grave marker at the cemetery, a simple white slab erected in 1927, and more recently encased in protective concrete. In Hebrew and Marathi, it memorializes Levy Isaac Charikar, who died almost exactly 90 years ago, at the age of 5.
Nowadays, Abdul Yaseen and his son get requests for only two or three headstones every month. Occasionally, a Christian church in one of Mumbai’s suburbs will give them some work. Hindus cremate their dead and Muslim graves rarely feature elaborate markers, so the market for their expertise is limited. Abdul Yaseen, too, has been invited by community members to move to Israel, where he could continue to work. His wife died 15 years ago and his children – another son and two daughters – all have families of their own. But he has not seriously considered leaving. He has never been outside India. These days, his life is confined to his small apartment, the cemetery and a mosque, all just minutes from one another on his bicycle. “I’m as good as retired,” he said. Islam, who joined the trade at age 19, has his father’s fine, slicked back hair and solemn eyes. Sweat gathered on his forehead as he maneuvered the stone cutter, noisily carving the granite into small squares that would adorn the 84-year-old woman’s grave.
His two sons never gave a thought to working at the graveyard. One got into a four-year training program at an outsourcing company that handles technical support for U.S. businesses. Another works as an engineer in Saudi Arabia and was recently married. With pride, Islam said his son had taken his bride on a honeymoon to Singapore and Malaysia. “With his own money,” he said, smiling. “That is what boys these days want to do. We worked with our hands so that we could educate them, but it doesn’t mean we should do this forever.”

Harvard Launches Free Online Class To Promote Religious Literacy Get your questions answered.
Huffington Post
Sales of the Quran skyrocketed in the United States following 9/11. Perhaps it was a search for answers, or a desire to parse out certain stereotypes, that made some people turn to the Muslim holy text. But the increased circulation of the Quran due to the recent Paris attacks and rise of the Islamic State has not always helped people to better understand and respect the faith. If anything, fear and prejudice toward Islam has risen. This is one example of the “widespread illiteracy about religion that spans the globe,” said Diane Moore, director of Harvard Divinity School’s Religious Literacy Project to The Huffington Post.
To combat this illiteracy, Moore and five other religion professors from Harvard University, Harvard Divinity School and Wellesley College are kicking off a free, online series on world religions open to the masses. The courses are being offered via an online learning platform called edX, which Harvard University launched with Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2012. For those interested in earning a certificate of achievement at the end of the series, edX offers a non-audit track for $50. The timing is ripe for such a course, Moore said. Religious illiteracy “fuels bigotry and prejudice and hinders capacities for cooperative endeavors in local, national, and global arenas,” Moore told HuffPost. The edX series will include six classes on different subjects that will each run for four weeks. Moore is teaching the first course in the series on “Religious Literacy: Traditions and Scriptures,” which begins on March 1. The next five will dive into specific faiths, covering Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism and Judaism.
Religious literacy entails more than just knowing the Five Pillars of Islam or Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths, Moore said. Such an approach “reinforces the problematic assumption that religions are internally uniform and ahistorical,” she added. Instead, Moore suggested that religious literacy should include an understanding that religious traditions are “internally diverse,” ever-evolving, and play complex roles in people’s lives. To that end, the course aims to offer participants an understanding of the history and interpretations of religious texts and why some were designated as “sacred.” Students will also dive into contemporary and historical interpretations of the texts to get a feel for just how “internally diverse” the traditions are.
Moore said she and the other facilitators anticipate up to 50,000 people will enroll for the series, given that it is online and free for students who audit the courses. The course is especially aimed at educators, Moore said, as well as members of faith communities interested in multi-faith engagement and dialogue. She added, “I’m excited to provide a platform for more informed discourse about religion.”
Go to this link to see this incredible photo collection in Vogue Magazine about Islam in America – following a handful of American Muslim women in Baltimore for a week and photographing their daily routines!

Muslim students in Florida send flowers to Jewish organizations, synagogues
(JTA) – The Muslim Student Associations of Florida State and Florida A&M universities delivered bouquets of flowers to campus Jewish organizations and local synagogues. The flowers and the accompanying notes were meant to show solidarity at a time when both the Muslim and Jewish communities are under attack. They were delivered to the Chabad and Hillel organizations at Florida State and to Shomrei Torah and Temple Israel synagogues in Tallahassee. The note said: “We are writing this message to extend a hand of friendship. In times of great division, it is important that we stand together in unity so we hope that these flowers can be seen as a symbol of our solidarity.” The gesture comes days after dozens of gravestones were overturned in a Jewish cemetery in the St. Louis area and a day before the discovery of toppled gravestones at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia. It also comes amid a series of bomb threats called in to Jewish community centers and Jewish schools, including in Florida.
“Keeping up with the news lately has shown a plethora of very sad stories and hateful crimes against many minority groups,” FSU Muslim Student Association President Moneba Anees wrote in an email to the Tallahassee-Democrat newspaper. “Although we could not think of a way to help our Jewish friends and peers directly, we decided that we could show them that people are taking note of what is happening and that they have our support, love and prayers.” In December, a hate-filled letter was found in the Shomrei Torah mailbox.

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.