Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events
Sunday, February 9th
WISDOM Visit to the DIA
1:30 PM lunch in Kresge Court Cafe
3:00 Guided Tour
4:00 – 5:00 Optional Tour on your own
Thursday, Februrary 20th 7:00 PM
Song and Spirit Unity Interfaith Music
See Flyer Below
Sunday, March 1st, 4:00 – 6:00 PM
21st Annual World Sabbath Celebration
North Congregational Church in Farmington Hills
See Flyer Below
Coming to America: A Women’s Perspective
A Panel Discussion on Immigration
Sunday March 8th 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM
Bloomfield Township Library
See Flyer Below
Sunday, March 8th 5:00 Muslim Unity Center
Audacity of Spirit
See Flyer Below
May 27th WISDOM General Membership meeting and Installation dinner
Stay tuned for more information
SAVE THE DATE
MAY 27, 2020
WISDOM’s GENERAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING AND INSTALLATION DINNER
Look for Details in the March WISDOM WINDOW
Dinner Registration Beginning April 1
Give Yourself a Great Gift!
Holiday gift money just waiting to be spent?
Searching for a good read for yourself or your book club?
Look no further, purchase “Friendship and Faith”, 2nd edition, by the Women of WISDOM.
This unique collection of stories of women forming friendships with women different than themselves is a fantastic way to start you reading for the new year!
It is available in both print and e-book formats on Amazon.
Our book sales are a major source of program funding for our nonprofit. Your patronage is greatly appreciated.
Help us create a better world through faith and friendship. Buy a copy for yourself, a good friend and recommend it to your book club.
Happy New Year and great reading for 2020.
Peaceful coexistence only possible
with full participation
From the Baha’i World News Service
SOUSSE, Tunisia, How do we address inequalities between women and men on our path to peaceful coexistence? How can we overcome cultural barriers to achieve greater advancement of women?
“These are major questions in our country, but there is little consensus on the issues,” said Mohamed Ben Moussa, a representative of the Tunisian Baha’i community, at a discussion on the advancement of women held last week in Sousse. The gathering, organized by the country’s Baha’i community, brought together some 40 people, including religious and civil society leaders, at a “cultural café”-a new kind of forum emerging in Tunisia in which people from every stratum of society meet to exchange ideas and explore insights about the progress of their society.
“Our country has been held up as an example for the advancement of women in the Arab region,” Mr. Ben Moussa continued, “but many people feel that we have reached a plateau. The laws of our country have advanced, but it is essential for our culture to advance as well. We must examine family structures, how children are educated from an early age, and how we can foster a culture of cooperation among all people, especially between women and men, in all spheres of life.”
The question of the advancement of women has gained prominence in recent years as a new constitution and legal changes have instituted greater protections for women. Representatives of various groups-Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and the indigenous Amazigh people-contributed to the conversation, highlighting how coexistence is only possible when women are able to participate fully in the life of society.
“The oppression of women exists in all fields,” said Sahar Dely, a director of an Amazigh cultural organization. “Oppressive constraints are linked to other matters such as religious, racial, and cultural differences.”
Ms. Dely described stereotypes in society that excuse violence against women and spoke of the achievements that become possible for women when attitudes towards them change, citing stories of female leaders of the past, including Tahirih-a Baha’i heroine and champion of women’s emancipation. “Today, we have to address cultural matters before any legal changes can be realized. If nothing is changed within the collective imagination of Tunisians, the role of women in society will not be transformed.”
An Orthodox Jewish rabbi hosts Syrian refugee families at his Thanksgiving table every year
For one thing, as a vegan family, they serve Tofurky instead of the traditional turkey. But Yanklowitz also makes a point to invite guests he’s never met – and who often don’t even speak the same language.
Spurred by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s call for an “immediate halt in the placement of any new refugees in Arizona” in 2015 and an overall rise in fearful rhetoric regarding foreigners in recent years, the activist rabbi wanted to demonstrate that refugees should be welcome in the US. So he invited them to share a Thanksgiving meal with his family in Scottsdale, and has continued to do so every year.
This will be his fifth time hosting Syrian refugees for Thanksgiving. He hasn’t kept track of how many people he’s hosted over the years, but says it’s somewhere in the dozens.
“In what I have perceived as a moral crisis over the last number of years in how Americans are relating to foreigners, immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, I felt like it was time to take a more expansive approach,” Yanklowitz told Insider. “I saw a lot of demonization and dehumanization of Muslim refugees, and I wanted to be a part of the welcome team.”
According to the Arizona Refugee Resettlement Program, 1,322 Syrian refugees have arrived in Arizona since 1980, 820 of them in 2016. Yanklowitz became connected to the local Syrian community through his human rights work as a commissioner on the Phoenix Human Relations Commission and founder of the activist group Jews for Human Rights in Syria.
“At the center of my Jewish social justice commitment is that we’re not fighting for equality but for equity,” he said. “It’s not that everyone should have the same stuff, but everyone should have what they need. And the way to know what people need is to know them. I’m a big believer that relationships need to precede advocacy.”
Yanklowitz’s standing Thanksgiving invitation is part of this effort. He works with the Syrian American Council to meet newly arrived refugee families and invite them over for Thanksgiving. The guests join him, his wife Shoshana, their four biological children, and a fluctuating number of foster children in their home at any given time.
The adults enlist the help of a translator, but Yanklowitz says the children get along just fine without one.
“The way they play, they figure out how to communicate so easily, and [I] think of them as our teachers in terms of how to connect on a level beyond words,” he said.
The bonds they form last long after the last slice of pie has been eaten. According to the FBI, religion-based hate crimes rose 23% in 2017, and Yanklowitz’s work has helped Jewish and Muslim communities stand in solidarity with each other through tragedy.
“When there have been attacks on Muslims, we’ve shown up for them, and when there were attacks on synagogues last year they showed up,” he said. “That wasn’t the explicit goal, but it’s been an amazing benefit that has emerged.”
And on a happier note, Yanklowitz remembers an enthusiastic, impromptu reunion when he ran into one of the families he’d hosted in a local park. It took us all like 15 seconds to connect the dots,” he said. “And then it was this great reunion that felt like it wasn’t this one-time experience, but that we were building community and building social trust. From the outside, here was a religious Jewish family and a religious Muslim family who hardly spoke English hugging in a park like old friends. But to us, it was this simple human love of what it meant to have a really meaningful meal together and what can emerge from that.”
Cambodian Royal Family
Celebrates Its First Bat Mitzvah
Elior Koroghli, the Jewish great-grandaughter of the late Cambodian King Monivong, celebrated her Bas Mitzvah surrounded by the royal family.
The giant menorah stood proudly overlooking the pool at the plush Raffles Hotel in the bustling heart of the capital city of Cambodia, Phnom Penh. Facing the crowd of well-wishers stood the who’s who of the royal family, guests from around the world and an Israeli-born Chabad rabbi.
They were there to celebrate the belated bat mitzvah of Elior Koroghli of Las Vegas. Her father, Ray (Rahamim), is a Persian Jew, and her mother Susie (Sarah Bracha) is the Washington, D.C.-born granddaughter of HM King Monivong, who ruled Cambodia until his death in 1941.
Elior’s bat mitzvah was the first Jewish milestone ever celebrated by the Cambodian royal family, and the first time many of the royals ever tasted food from a kosher kitchen, catered by Chabad of Cambodia, which was founded by Rabbi Bentzion and Mashie Butman in 2009.
The family celebrated the actual bat mitzvah when Elior turned 12 on the fifth night of Chanukah a year ago, but the official celebration in Cambodia took place this Chanukah, closer to her 13th birthday.
Literally a party for the books, the event will be chronicled in the Royal Palace Record Book.
The celebration was the brainchild of Susie Koroghli, who wanted her children, who live a rich Jewish life in Las Vegas, to know of their royal roots.
After the bat mitzvah party, which included the lighting of a large menorah, speeches and lots of food, the family formally met the current ruler HM King Norodom Sihamoni and the queen mother, HM Norodom Monineath.
The celebration continued on Shabbat at the Chabad House. When the entourage walked to and from the synagogue, they were escorted by an honor guard.
To cater for the event, Chabad invited Chef Kobi Mizrahi, who “took over” the kitchen and guided Chabad’s staff in creating meals that were truly “fit for a king.” In addition, some of the kosher food was prepared in the hotel kitchen under Susie’s watchful eye.
No stranger to preparing meals for large crowds, she and her husband often host as many as 30 guests for a Shabbat meal and many more for Jewish holidays, including 120 that cram their giant sukkah and as many as 500 who attend the Purim party she throws every year.
“She lights up the room wherever she goes,” explains her husband with pride. “People are just drawn to her and are fascinated by her knowledge of Judaism, as well as her actions.”
Susie Koroghli’s journey to Judaism is an unlikely one. Her father served as the Cambodian ambassador to the United States, and she grew up in a Buddhist home.
She met Ray, who had left Iran to study in America
and never returned home due to the 1979 revolution.
Before Rosh Hashanah, he informed her that he would be out of touch for two days due for holiday observance and begrudgingly agreed to take her to services.
She was enthralled by what she encountered and insisted that they return for Shabbat. After experiencing the entire holiday season at Chabad in Las Vegas, she began a journey of self-discovery that resulted in conversion to Judaism.
The couple lives with their three children in Las Vegas, where they form an integral part of the Chabad of Henderson community.
Although she was a member of the royal family, raised with the formalities and expectations of a granddaughter of a king, she never visited Cambodia until 2012, when she represented her mother at the funeral of late king HM Norodom Sihanouk.
It was only then, she says, that she realized that the stories she had been raised on were real-she was truly the child of royalty.
When asked if his wife, a leader in her Jewish community, was technically a Cambodian princess, Ray deflected, saying, “I call her my queen.”
How Helene, a Jewish Holocaust survivor, became Leila, the matriarch of a Palestinian Muslim clan
UMM AL-FAHM, Israel – Leila Jabarin looked every inch the matriarch of the Muslim family that surrounded her on a recent morning, encircled by some of her 36 grandchildren in a living room rich with Arabic chatter and the scent of cardamom-
But Jabarin, her hair covered with a brown headscarf, was talking to visitors in Hebrew, not Arabic, and telling a story that not even her seven children knew until they were grown. She was born not Leila Jabarin, but Helene Berschatzky, not a Muslim but a Jew. Her history began not in this Arab community where she has made her life with the Palestinian man she fell in love with six decades ago, but in a Nazi concentration camp where her Jewish parents had to hide their newborn from the Nazis.
As world leaders – including U.S. Vice President Pence – gather in Jerusalem this week to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Jabarin was sharing a survivor’s memory unlike any other, a history of love and hate that exposes not just the power of transformation, but also the blindness of prejudice.
“First I was persecuted because I was a Jew, and now I am persecuted because I am a Muslim,” said Jabarin, who has watched the recent rise of both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia with alarm.
Jabarin took note of the massacre of 11 worshipers at a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018 and another 51 last year at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. She attributed to both killers the same motivation, a hatred of the other, and is telling her story to show that love for the other is possible as well.
“When I was in school, they taught us that Arabs had tails,” she said, looking around at her Arab husband and her Arab family, as the Muslim call to prayer sounded across the neighborhood outside. “Everyone should know what happened to the Jews because it could happen to the Arabs.”
Among those listening in her living room was Erez Kaganovitz, a Tel Aviv photographer who is crisscrossing Israel to document as many such stories and images he can from the rapidly dwindling number of living Holocaust survivors. Through histories like Jabarin’s, he hopes to keep the knowledge of those horrors from disappearing with those who endured them.
“Ten years from now, what will be the memory of the Holocaust when the last survivor is no longer with us?” asked Kaganovitz. “If well tell the human stories, not just what happened in the camps but how they lived after, they appeal to humans in the way that numbers cannot. Six million Jews killed; it’s too big.”
Kaganovitz launched his project, Humans of the Holocaust, last year in light of research showing Holocaust awareness declining among young people in many countries even as anti-Semitic violence and neo-Nazi movements are on the rise. In the United States, 66 percent of millennials had never heard of Auschwitz, according to a 2019 survey by the Claims Conference, an international survivors advocacy group, and a third of Americans cite the number of Holocaust victims at 2 million, not 6 million.
Racing against mortality, Kaganovitz has interviewed and photographed 25 survivors to date, mostly in their 90s, including a kindergarten teacher who wrote children’s books about the camps and an artist who portrays her lost family in puppets. A traveling exhibit based on the project will begin in Pittsburgh next year.
The trends that motivated Kaganovitz also prompted officials to locate this year’s World Holocaust Forum at Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial and research center, and to focus the event on confronting the ballooning incidents of hatred against Jews.
“We need a moral majority of leaders to come to Jerusalem and say that it is enough and now is the time to stand together and fight anti-Semitism,” said organizer Moshe Kantor, head of the World Holocaust Forum Foundation and the European Jewish Congress.
A sense of urgency is infusing what will be one of the largest international gatherings ever hosted by Israel. Almost 50 delegations will attend, including world leaders like Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron and Britain’s Prince Charles.
For Jabarin, it was decades before she was willing to speak of her own memories: the dark hiding, the “striped pajamas,” the scattered round objects that seemed like balls in her toddler’s recollection but now loom as skulls.
Her welcoming neighbors knew she was Jewish when she arrived in 1960 as a new bride in this Arab city of 55,000 located in Israel, just south of Nazareth, she said. But only her husband, Mohammed, knew of her Holocaust origins. Her six sons and a daughter didn’t understand for decades why she was fascinated by the televised documentaries on the Holocaust, a subject they learned little about in their Arab schools.
“I decided to let the pain stay in my head,” she said, a serene figure on a brocade couch, eyes bright behind heavy glasses, weathered hands folded over the crook of a walking stick. “It’s still difficult. I see the scenes in my head, like a film.”
But in 2012, at a town meeting for pensioners on Israeli insurance benefits, a government staffer heard Jabarin interpreting his Hebrew for her seatmates. He asked her a few questions, was surprised to learn she was raised Jewish and, further, that she was a Holocaust survivor. Eventually, he helped her navigate the bureaucracy that saw her case investigated and registered with Israel’s survivor’s program.
And only then did she tell her children how she came to be their mother.
“It was very difficult to hear her story,” said her son Nadar. “I asked her many questions about the war and about the Holocaust.”
She was born to a Jewish Hungarian mother and Jewish Russian father in a Nazi concentration camp in either Hungary or Austria in either 1942 or 1943. (Her parents didn’t like to talk about their time in the camp, and the family’s archival file at Yad Vashem, reviewed by The Washington Post, is unclear on key points). The camp doctor her mother worked for hid her family in the cellar of his house, she said, and she was outside very little until the camp was liberated in 1945.
With thousands of others, they stayed in a transit camp in Yugoslavia until boarding a ship for Israel in 1948. “They told us it was a Jewish country,” she said.
They landed in Haifa, eventually settled in Tel Aviv, and Helene, as she was known then, had become a teenager when a young construction laborer working near her house caught her eye.
“He was working hard,” she said. “I gave him a lot of water.”
Mohammed Jabarin remembers the kindness still. “She was only a girl,” he said.
When Helene told her father she wanted to marry Mohammed, he was furious. They were not religious, but he wanted her to marry a Jew.
“If you go with him, it will be like going back to Hitler,” she recalled her father saying. But she was determined, and in 1960 they wed.
“Wherever fate takes a person, that is where you have to go,” Jabarin said.
She settled easily into her new home, becoming known as Leila and adding Arabic to the Russian, Hungarian and Hebrew she already knew. She reconciled with her father and remained close to her mother. But in almost every way, she was the mother of a booming Arab family.
It was only after her children were born that she converted to Islam in 1973, but for reasons more practical than spiritual. With a Jewish mother, her sons would be considered Jewish by the government, and they would eventually be required to serve in the Israeli military.
Jabarin decided she had lived with enough war in her life.