July 2018

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

8th Annual Suburban-Urban Interfaith Unity
     PICNIC AT BELLE ISLE STATE PARK
       Sunday, Aug. 5, 2018
      Noon – 5pm
AREA 6B        (note new site – off Central Ave and Inselruhe)
Sponsored by DION, IONA, Metro Family Church, IFLC, CrimeStoppers, UMC’s Commission on Inter-religious Relationships, CWA, Bridging 8 Mile, and others.
Potluck Lunch ( we supply the kosher hot dogs, halal chicken, veggie burgers, hamburgers and water). Please bring a dish to share and label ingredients on a note card and NO PEANUTS:          LAST NAMES:
A- L = Salads or Veggies         M-Z = Fruit or Desserts
Singing – Dancing -Drumming     GAMES FOR KIDS AND ADULTS
 New Friends
More info: 248-556-6316 or mutzim@aol.com

Five Women, Five Journeys
Sharing the Wisdom of Friendship & Faith
Vivian Henoch, Editor myJewishDetroit
They started as three women of different faiths with a singular belief: that they could come together to share their stories and traditions, listen to one another and then build bridges among faith communities. They were Gail Katz, a Jew; Shahina Begg, a Muslim; and Trish Harris, a Catholic; and together they brought other women into their circle and, out of those first connections, WISDOM was born.
“Friendship is richer when we discover it on the other side of a barrier we did not expect to cross.”
Now in its 11th year, WISDOM (Women’s Interfaith Solutions for Dialogue and Outreach in MetroDetroit) is a 501(c) non-profit corporation comprised of women from eight different religions on its Board of Directors and more than 800 subscribers to their newsletter. Over the years, women of WISDOM have grown together and touched thousands of lives in Metro Detroit through their social action and educational programs, their interfaith work and their shared stories published in two editions of their book, Friendship & Faith: The Wisdom of Women Creating Alliances for Peace.
Welcome to the Journey
WISDOM maintains a robust calendar of interfaith activities
and events including its signature program, Five Women, Five Journeys – a panel discussion format presented to dozens of schools, houses of worship and organizations each year. In April, five panelists drawn from WISDOM’s diverse roster of members were the guests at the Temple Israel’s Sisterhood Board Installation Luncheon hosted at Temple Israel in West Bloomfield. The panel included:
Gail Katz (Jewish): Co-Founder and President of WISDOM; retired ESL teacher and Diversity Club Sponsor in the Berkley School District, Education Chair of the InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit, and Social Action Committee member of the Temple Israel Sisterhood Board.
Paula Drewek (Bahá’í): Past President, WISDOM, retired Professor of Humanities and Comparative Religion, Macomb Community College; Fulbright scholar, now devoting much of her time to interfaith work.
Parwin Anwar (Muslim): Multilingual educator in the Macomb Intermediate School District and lecturer with more than 22 years of experience specializing in international relations. A graduate of Kabul University, Parwin emigrated from Afghanistan to Pakistan having survived a harrowing escape from her war-torn homeland.
Raj Chehl (Sikh): Psychotherapist and Founder of WiseLife LLC, Raj is a mom, yoga instructor, speaker, author, entrepreneur and co-host of the online radio show “Living Life Powerfully.”
Maryann Schlie (Unity): Wisdom Board Member, consultant to business and houses of worship in areas of leadership and systems thinking. Certified in programs including Lombard to train trainers.
Moderator: Teri Weingarden (Jewish) WISDOM Board Treasurer, what follows are brief excerpts from a fascinating discussion.
Women of WISDOM at Temple Israel: standing from left, moderator Teri Weingarden  and immediate Past President, Peggy Dahlberg. Panel, seated from the left, Gail Katz, Paul Drewek, Parwin Anwar, Raj Chehl and Maryann Schlie.
On Traditions and Religious Upbringing
Teri: How did your childhood experiences impact where you are today in understanding and practicing your faith?
Gail: I spent my elementary school years in Silver Spring, Maryland, in a secular Jewish household, in a relatively non-Jewish neighborhood. Until 6th grade, I was the only Jew in my class. Every morning, we’d bow our heads and say the Lord’s Prayer, Our Father who art in heaven hallowed be thy name – I could say it in my sleep.
There was always the December dilemma, the Christmas pageants, the carols that I knew were not my songs. I was part of the assembly, but always asked to bring in a menorah to talk about that “Jewish Christmas” called Chanukah.
In the 60s, my life changed when my father got a job at Ford Motor and bang, we moved to Oak Park. Now my classroom was about 85% Jewish.  As the new kid, I was really nerdy, got all A’s.  I was bullied by the girls for not being cool. This underscored the foundation for my teaching career working with immigrant children who were the other. My grandfather, an Orthodox Russian Jew-moved in with us when I was about 14. Suddenly from a secular household we became Kosher and observant.
So I spent my teens hearing about the Eastern European Jews, the family he left behind, and those who were murdered in the Holocaust. I yearned to be as connected to my Judaism as my grandfather. And that started my journey . . .
Parwin:  As a child, I was always in love with nature – I would spend hours outdoors, thinking about the beauty of nature. I remember standing out on the balcony of our home, watching the sunset behind the mountain. I was filled with so many thoughts, I got dizzy, wondering why are we here and then gone, what is our purpose. Those thoughts brought me closer to God, made me a writer, an observer of life . . . and an observant Muslim. That is who I am today – knowing that we are here to worship God and delight in the task . . . and beyond that, to do good deeds.
Paula: I was raised in Kokomo, Indiana, and had an upbringing in both the Bahá’í faith and Christianity. I remember learning my religion mostly through prayers and songs. My mother would play on the piano and we three kids would sing. And then we had the prayers before bedtime, always with this recitation: Oh God, guide me – followed by several aphorisms like “As ye have faith, so shall your powers and blessings be.” So, I think these influences in my first five or seven years were very important because they implanted the seed of spiritual growth which I think is the heart of all religions.
A strong influence in my religious education was the simple fact that we were a Bahá’í home in Kokomo – and a rarity at that time – and traveling teachers from around the world would come and stay at our house. That included visits from my great aunt Josephine, who was considered a Bahá’í pioneer to Cuba and Finland. Together, all their teachings brought the world closer and religion alive to me.
Another important influence was the practice, itself – we call it consultation. Bahá’ís don’t have clergy, so we do things in groups and we need some kind of process for that.   There’s a Bahá’í song for children that teaches the concept well and it goes like this (sings): “Consultation means finding out  what everybody is thinking about-you listen to them and they listen to you, then you all do what most of you want to do.”
Bahá’í is a group thing. One that prepared me for working in groups as an adult. And this WISDOM group is a very dear one to my heart.
Raj: I want to share a story about what really stands out for me in my childhood as an influence in who I am today. . . I was born in India – in the northern state of Punjab, and I remember coming home from school one day, and I was crying. So, my grandmother asked, “Why are you crying?” I told her that the children were making fun of my name, saying that “Bryvinder” was actually a boy’s name.  “Why did you name me that,” I asked, “I don’t like my name!” And then my grandmother sat down with me and she explained that our names are interchangeable, because we’re all the same. Boy or girl, we’re all the same. And that was such a powerful message for me, because it’s like wow, I’m equal to everyone.
Another message that has followed me through life is to learn how to see the light in people. As a child, I always wondered, why, why, why was there so much pain and suffering in the world – why was there a war going on, why was life so hard? And my grandmother would say, “You know, you’ll live as an owl, and will never have more wisdom than a bird, unless you learn to see the light in whatever is there to see.”
Those two lessons have always stayed with me: number one, we are all one. And two:  to seek the light wherever I go and find the wisdom to see how we are all connected.
Maryann: We are indeed one. My mom did the absolute unpardonable when she married my dad: not only did she marry a divorced man; she married someone who was not Catholic. So, Mom was excommunicated, we had to find another faith and the answer became Episcopalian. I grew up Episcopalian, but I pushed the limits, asking questions where I should have been silent. Like Raj, I too wanted to know why, or even why not?  I was baptized too young to know the difference, learned by rote what was expected of me, and by the time I was confirmed, I could rattle off all the requirements.  I could check all the boxes, but I was not grounded in what was underneath there.
And so, I am thrilled to now be part of what’s called “practical Christianity” – Unity principles.   I’m just going to share that there are five, very simple concepts that will give you context for the rest:
#1: God is all good, active in everything everywhere. #2:  I am naturally good, because God’s divinity is in me – and in everyone. #3: I create my own experience by virtue of my thinking. #4: Affirmative I am, and affirmative prayer and meditation is connecting with God of my understanding. #5: Most important of all is living the truth that we know.  What good is it to be grounded in your faith tradition, if you are not living it from the inside out? That’s Unity in a nutshell.
On Common Misunderstandings
Teri: What do you think is the most misunderstood part of your religion and how have you personally dealt with that?
Gail: People are still spreading the myth that there’s a Jewish conspiracy – a Jewish monolith – that we are in cahoots with one another and that we are trying to take over the world, the banks, the media – Hollywood.
The fact that the Torah says Jews are the chosen people is frequently misunderstood and we all know the message doesn’t mean that Jews are better or smarter; it  simply means Jews are expected to set an example –  as “a light unto the nations,” of the world, about  how to behave to our fellow man. We are commanded by God to take care of one another. In other words, Jews are judged by their actions, more than their beliefs.
So, I like to think of Judaism not as a noun, but as an action verb.
Paula: I don’t know that the Bahá’í faith is old enough to have a lot of misunderstandings. We’re 174 years old, so if any group is going to know about the faith, it’s Jewish people, because we share a holy land. Our world center is in Haifa, Israel.
I think when people ask you about your religion, they really want to know how it relates to their own religion. I have a very simple explanation – the elevator speech:  The Bahá’í faith is religion renewed.  It’s not altogether different from any other faith. Because we accept the validity of all the world religions. They are all part of the process of God’s connection with humanity. For a Bahá’í, that connection never ends. And so the Baha’u’llah, the founder of Bahá’í, is but the latest stage in that growth and development.
We celebrate our oneness – the oneness of God, the oneness of religion and the oneness of humanity.
Parwin: Most of the misunderstanding of Islam comes from Islamic extremism – what many associate now with terrorism.  Islam means peace. And I don’t believe there is any religion in the world that originated from violence. The words that we hear today – “Islamic terrorists” or extremist Islam . . . those are wrong.  Islam is our religion – not a nation.
I’m sure you’ve heard that women in Islam are not allowed to be educated. If that were true, I would not be here. Education is encouraged for both genders, especially for a woman because they are the first teachers of the children.
Raj: “Sikh.” Most people are unfamiliar with the word. People ask what religion are you, and I say “I’m Sikh,” they respond, “You’re sick?”   No, Sikh… S.I.K.H.   So that’s the first misunderstanding, I almost always have to deal with that.
Often people think that Sikhism is either a sect of Hinduism or Islam. It’s not. It is its own revealed religion. We have ten gurus – people that led us from the darkness to the light- and we have our own scriptures and holidays.
Then there’s the turban myth; the turban is misunderstood to be Muslim. In the US, 99% of the men wearing turbans are Sikh, not Muslim. The turban is worn to cover the unshorn hair men maintain as an article of faith and is regarded as sacred and a revered part of Sikh identity – much like the kippah in Judaism.
Maryann: Most misunderstood about Unity – it’s a cult.  And since we don’t proselytize, we know that what you say about us is none of our business.  My business, your business, God’s business.
On Religious Stereotyping
Teri: What stereotypes of your faith have you encountered?
Paula:  Stereotypes for Bahá’ís? There aren’t too many circulating.  One I heard of is that Bahá’ís are synchronistic – that we must be a “put-together” religion. I think that comes out of the fact that we accept the foundations and basic teachings of all world religions.  We have our own founder – Bahá’u’lláh – our own scriptures, our own dramatic history. Bahá’ís not a particular ethnic group.  Bahá’ís are found in just about every country in the world.  We don’t dress in any particular way.  I would say the Bahá’ís in your midst are fairly invisible.
Parwin: One thing we often hear:  All Muslims are Arabs.  No: Fewer than 20% of Muslims live in the Arab World.  And nearly half of all Muslims live in South and Southeast Asia.   The largest population of Islam is in Indonesia. Another stereotype: Muslim women have to wear black.  No, we wear every color.  In fact, so we love colors. On holidays, you’ll see how we dress up in every color imaginable.
Gail:  “Jews are rich or greedy” – that’s a common anti-Semitic stereotype that runs through history and it’s surprising how it still comes up.  At an interfaith event downtown, I was seated with a woman who  told me, “You know, my mother taught me never to talk to a Jew because all they were concerned about was money.”  She was surprised when I told her I was Jewish and then told me that I was actually the first Jew she said she had ever met. We connected, we talked and by the end of the evening, I actually gave her a big hug and I told her, I was so glad to be the first Jew she ever met. I still believe we can make a difference, one person at a time.
Raj:  Stereotyping is the first line of defense for someone who is unaware and fearful.  I haven’t personally experienced stereotyping, but I would say I’ve experienced micro aggressions.  At work, for example, I had a boss who wanted to convert me to his religion.
Unfortunately, after 9-11, many Sikhs, along with Muslims, have experienced profiling and stereotyping. In reality, the Sikh community is a small minority, here in the US, as well as in India where we are only about 2% of the population.
Maryann: Personally, I have never experienced stereotyping around my faith tradition.  The only stereotyping would have to do when I was 213 pounds.  (But that’s a different story!)  It makes me happy to know that we are a house of worship open to all and all are welcome.
Questions?  To learn more about WISDOM or to inquire about a Five Women Five Journeys Program for your organization, contact Paula Drewek at Drewekpau@aol.com.

Najah Bazzy
WINNER: ALLIED PRACTITIONER

Crain’s Detroit Business

For more than 20 years, Najah Bazzy – the CEO of Zaman International, an Inkster-based nonprofit that helps single women and children pull themselves out of poverty and despair – has been helping families struggling to raise kids, take care of dying parents, family members or simply join the workforce to lift themselves out of poverty and find hope.
Back in 1996, Bazzy, a registered nurse specializing in transcultural issues, was working at the old Oakwood Hospital and Medical Center in Dearborn, now Beaumont Dearborn.
There was an Iraqi family who had already lost one of their two baby twins in the hospital’s neonatal ICU. Administrators and doctors had determined the second twin could not be saved and wanted to withdraw ventilator and feeding support. The family objected.
Bazzy became their de facto advocate. In a subsequent medical ethics hearing, she was able to negotiate a way for the baby to go home with a ventilator and feeding tubes. But when she went to the home for a visit she was shocked at what she encountered.
“The home was bare. There was only carpet on the floor, where all the family members slept. They brought the baby to me in a laundry basket for a crib,” said Bazzy.
“I was shocked. I had not seen such poverty in the community,” said Bazzy, who grew up in the lower income area of South Dearborn, the daughter of a U.S. Army Korean War veteran. “We didn’t have much but we didn’t know it at the time. This was different.”
Bazzy went home and told her mother to gather up all of the extra furniture, pots, pans and appliances they could spare to bring to the family. They loaded everything into a truck and delivered it to the family. “They were overwhelmed with gratitude,” she said. “We started it out that way.”
Such was the beginning of what is now Zaman International.
“We give people their dignity back. We call it ‘one-stop hope,'” said Bazzy, who is CEO, chief fundraiser and traveling minister for preventive care and medical education.
From 1996 to 2010, Bazzy and her family worked out of their home, rented out trucks, picked up donated furniture, housing items, food and clothing and delivered it to needy families with income less than $12,000 in metro Detroit. Originally founded as Bayt Al Zahra, which is Arabic for house of hope and light, Bazzy changed the name to Zaman in 2004 when it became an non-governmental organization and 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization.
“We couldn’t keep up with demand and needed to expand,” she said.
In 2016, Zaman moved to a new 40,500 square-foot building at 26091 Trowbridge St. The Hope For Humanity Center building has eight times more space as its previous locations. Supported by donors, more than 450 community partner organizations and 6,000 volunteers, Zaman serves more than 25,000 people in metro Detroit and 22 communities. The agency started out serving Iraqi refugees, but now serves Syrian and many needy single women and children. Zaman’s outreach initiatives now include crisis assistance, infant burial, literacy and job skills training, international and domestic orphan sponsorship, a summer meals program for members, disaster relief partnerships, a resale shop and a Gleaners-affiliated food pantry.
In December, Zaman opened its Culinary Arts Training Center two years ahead of schedule because of donations from the community. The center is offering nutrition and culinary classes as well as meals for client families and members. Zaman also offers vocational training and tutoring to show clients they can do more if they try.
“Some women have adjusted to this life. They shouldn’t settle. We are focusing on women with children who really have a dream. We can help them manage the goals they set. It takes a lot of energy to set goals, but we see them improving and we encourage them. We restore hope,” Bazzy said.
While Zaman has no exact statistics, Bazzy estimated that about 45 percent of the women who seek help at the agency use the vocational and educational services. This year, Bazzy wants to begin raising funds to open a preventive health clinic by 2021. She hopes to work with medical partners to support having two medical students and possibly residents and professional medical volunteers to staff the two- or three-day-a-week clinic.
“Prevention is very important because poverty really affects your health – obesity, depression,” she said. “We hope to get the program started this year and maybe open in three years.”
Over the next two years, Bazzy said she wants to add child care and transportation programs. “Child care will be easier to do. Transportation is so complicated, but it is important because when they miss an appointment it is because of a lack of transportation,” she said. Bazzy said she started out with dreams of becoming a doctor, as her brother had muscular dystrophy and she learned at an early age about disabilities. She took the nursing career path but still views her work with Zaman as preventive health. In keeping with her teaching passion, Bazzy travels around Detroit and the country to give speeches and offer training on how to integrate culturally competent and spiritually sensitive care. She works with medical and nursing students, social workers, chaplains, hospices and executives at hospitals around the country.

Bay View Shouldn’t Be For Christians Only

The Jewish News By Rebecca Guterman
The community of Bay View, Mich., sits along the shores of Lake Michigan, a picturesque summer resort destination for families across the country. Full of historic buildings and Victorian cottages, Bay View boasts that it is one of the “prettiest painted places” in the United States.
Yet behind its pristine facade, Bay View hides a shameful past of discrimination that continues today. Around 1942, Bay View started to limit renters and owners to those “of the white race” and Christian faith, later restricting Roman Catholic membership to 10 percent or less. The race restriction faded out by 1959, but the religious one persists. Today, Bay View home buyers must not only be Christian, they must also have a minister’s letter to prove it. In other words: Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, atheists and many others – including Christians who don’t attend or belong to a church – need not apply.
Fifty years after the passage of the federal Fair Housing Act, Bay View’s policies seem stuck in the past, harkening back to an era where blatant and discriminatory restrictions on homeownership were commonplace. Luckily, some in Bay View object to this practice – and sued to stop it.
The ADL filed a brief supporting them, arguing that Bay View’s policy cannot stand under fair housing principles enshrined in federal and state law. Moreover, under state law, Bay View has significant authority akin to a governmental body – like appointing a marshal to arrest and imprison those who violate its bylaws – and so must honor the Constitution as cities and towns do. It cannot put the government stamp of approval on practicing Christians over all others.
Bay View’s policy does not exist in a void. Rather it operates alongside decades of religious and racial discrimination in housing, both in Michigan and across the nation, where Catholics, Jews and other minorities were kept out to maintain a neighborhood’s image.
In Grosse Pointe, for instance, real estate agents in the late 1940s and ’50s used a rigged points system to exclude those who were not considered “American” enough because of their country of origin, occupation, friends, appearance, accent, education, religion or a number of other factors. While most buyers needed only 50 points to make the cut, those of Polish descent needed 55, southern Europeans needed 75 and Jews needed 85 (later raised to 90). Blacks, Asians, and Mexicans were flat-out denied.
When Congress passed the Fair Housing Act in 1968, followed promptly by the Michigan Legislature’s fair housing law, lawmakers formally recognized what was already common sense – that these discriminatory practices should have no place in our society. Fifty years later, the United States is more religiously diverse than ever before. According to the Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscape Study, a growing portion of the population (22.8 percent) identifies as unaffiliated or as a member of a non-Christian faith (5.9 percent). Michigan’s population, in particular, has set milestones in religious diversity. Congressman Sander Levin, who represents suburban Detroit, is the longest-serving Jewish member of Congress, and Hamtramck became the first known city in the United States to have a majority-Muslim city council.
But with this diversity has come increased targeting of people based on their religion, national origin or other protected characteristics. Hate crimes against Muslims and Jews increased in 2016, according to FBI data, as did hate crimes overall. There is evidence suggesting that such bias has spilled over into the housing realm, with Muslims significantly more likely to experience housing discrimination than their non-Muslim counterparts. In light of this data, it is ever more important to eradicate discriminatory practices like Bay View’s and ensure that the Fair Housing Act and the Constitution remain bulwarks against them. As the Michigan Legislature said upon celebrating the Fair Housing Act anniversary, “[d]iversity creates stronger communities and provides Michigan[ders] the best opportunity to achieve the American dream[.]”
We hope Bay View will soon live up to these ideals and realize that religious diversity will strengthen, not harm, the beauty of their community.

B’nai Brith Condemns Antisemitic
 Posters in Midtown Toronto
TORONTO – B’nai Brith Canada is deeply concerned by the spread of neo-Nazi and antisemitic posters in midtown Toronto over the past week.
On Monday morning, a local resident alerted B’nai Brith to neo-Nazi propaganda posted on public property in Wells Hill Park, located in the Forest Hill neighbourhood. The stickers claim that “The Nazi youth are here” and present the Jewish Star of David as a symbol of “degeneracy.” Some of the stickers also contain links to neo-Nazi websites.
The owner of Dave’s on St. Clair, a local restaurant, told B’nai Brith that a similar poster was placed in the establishment’s bathroom on Saturday night. She added that she suspected a group of four men who she did not recognize were responsible, and that the restaurant’s management and customer base were resolutely opposed to the message behind the poster.
Last week, B’nai Brith received numerous complaints from the nearby Davisville area about posters urging residents to boycott the Aroma coffee chain, which is based in Israel. The anonymous posters go on to provide false statistics about the Jewish State, and call for a boycott of other Israeli products.
In both cases, local residents have complained to police about the posters.
“The public promotion of antisemitic messages in the heart of this country’s biggest city is totally unacceptable,” said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith Canada. “These posters are part of a perverse attempt to target Jewish and Israeli Canadians and ostracize them in their own neighbourhoods.
“We expect the police to treat this matter with the seriousness that it deserves, and for local residents to reject this antisemitic propaganda.”
B’nai Brith’s 2017 Audit of Antisemitic Incidents observed that antisemitic vandalism tends to increase during elections, with prominent examples from B.C. and Nova Scotia last year. Ontarians go the polls in a provincial election on June 7.

 Interfaith Koololam Event
(Mass Singing) at the Tower of David
In Jerusalem
The Elijah Interfaith Institute was proud to collaborate in promoting an extraordinary interfaith event that took place on June 14, 2018, the last day of the month of Ramadan, between midnight and 3:00 am, at the Tower of David in Jerusalem: Koololam – the social project for mass singing.
The event was being held in honor of the Jerusalem visit of Kyai Haji Yahya Cholil Staquf, the Secretary-General of the world’s largest Muslim organization-Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama with more than 60 million members-some of whom attended along with other faith leaders. It was held in cooperation with the Tower of David Museum, Jerusalem.com, The Interfaith Encounter Association, Coexistence in the Middle East Program, Tiyul-Rihla and others.
Koololam is a social musical project created to bring together people from all walks of life in the Israeli social spectrum through a joint musical creation. For each event a well-known song is chosen, which is given new musical processing in vocal harmonies.
At midnight, with the breathtaking view of the Old City, hundreds of strangers from various religions and sectors gathered in the Tower of David, the Museum of the History of Jerusalem, symbolizing Jerusalem and its charm and a gateway to the Old City, its cultures, and traditions. The participants took part in the inspiring activity of Koololam when they learned an innovative musical processing for a song in three languages and three voices.

Hindu invocation delivered
 for first time in Mich. Legislature
Niraj Warikoo, Detroit Free Press
Fred Stella, 63, of Grand Rapids (on the left), spoke Nov. 30 at the Bharatiya Temple in Troy. Stella is with the national leadership council of the Hindu American Foundation and is outreach minister at the West Michigan Hindu Temple in Ada, Michigan. To his right is Padma Kuppa of Hindu American Foundation, Alicia Chandler, president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of metro Detroit/American Jewish Committee, David Kurzmann, executive director of the Jewish Community Council of metro Detroit/American Jewish Committee. (Photo: Niraj Warikoo)
The first ever Hindu invocation in the Michigan Legislature was delivered Tuesday afternoon by a Grand Rapids minister who hopes his message of peace can help encourage civility and collaboration.
Fred Stella, 63, the pracharak, or outreach minister, at the West Michigan Hindu Temple in Ada, opened the State House this afternoon by quoting from Hindu scriptures.
“I’m excited to be able to do this because it’s just one more way the Hindu community is being represented in a mainstream context,” Stella said. “We identify as people who are patriotic, who appreciate our democratic systems, and feel that we need to be part of the scene, and so this is one way of doing it.”
Stella said he’s “someone who believes in a separation of church and state,” but since there’s a tradition of clergy giving an invocation in the State House, he says “it should be be as broad and diverse as possible.”
There have been Christian, Jewish, and Muslim invocations before in the Michigan State House. And there have been Hindu invocations in the U.S. House of Representatives, but none in the State House until Tuesday.
Stella’s invocation came about after he contacted the representative of his district, State Rep. David LaGrand (D-Grand Rapids), about delivering an invocation. Each State Reps. is allowed to invite one clergyman per year to give an invocation.
Stella said his invocation quoted from the Bhagavad Gita, citing a verse about restoring virtue as righteousness declines. In his invocation, Stella said the verse is “a call to each of us individually, to be expressions of integrity and high mindedness.  It is in this spirit that we gather today, knowing all of us, whether elected officials or ordinary citizens, should be inspired to act for the greater good.
“So we appeal to that One beloved source of all that is holy to let  us feel its Divine Presence today in this august chamber, where daily men and women of good faith are called upon to exercise compassion, discipline, honesty, loyalty and restraint,” Stella said, according to a transcript he provided. “May they all be inspired to act in the noblest way; in a spirit of mutual collaboration and civility.”
“Oh Spirit, lead us from darkness to light, from ignorance to wisdom, from that which is temporary to that which is eternal,” Stella recited. “Om. Peace. Amen.”
Tuesday’s invocation comes as the Hindu population increases in Michigan, with about 30 Hindu temples and centers in the state. According to the U.S. Census, there are more than 112,000 Indian-Americans in Michigan, many of them Hindu. There are also Hindus in Michigan rooted in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and other countries. And there are those like Stella, raised Catholic, who came into Hinduism later in their lives.
Stella today is with the national leadership council of the Hindu American Foundation and often speaks about Hinduism.
“I embraced the dharma later in life,” said Stella, referring to Hindu teachings and practices. “I’ve self-identified as Hindu for over 30 years.”
After the invocation, Stella told the Free Press: “It was such an honor and privilege. It’s more opportunity for Hindus to really become part of the mainstream in such a public way.”
Contact Niraj Warikoo: nwarikoo@freepress.com or 313-223-4792. Follow him on Twitter @nwarikoo

June 2018

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events 
 
Exloring Religious Landscapes, Spring 2018
Prayer Across Faith Traditions
See Flyer Below
 
Tuesday, June 5th, 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM
Interfaith Health and Hope Coalition Lunch and Learn
See Flyer Below
 
Sunday June 10th 1:00 PM
Five Women Five Journeys at First Baptist Church of Birmingham
300 Willits Street, Birmingham, MI
For more information, contact Paula Drewek at drewekpau@aol.com   

WISDOM Celebrates its Annual Dinner
and Installation of Board Members
At Saffron Indian Restaurant
on May 11, 2018
WISDOM installed two new board members and everyone lit a candle to symbolize their time on the board for the new 2018-2019 year!!  WISDOM’s board now has a new president, Bobbie Lewis!  The board is made up of 10 Executive board members, 9 general board members and 7 Advisory Board members. The board’s faith traditions include members of the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Baha’i, Hindu, and Buddhist faith communities. We are all looking forward to an exciting and productive year!!

CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR 2018-2019 WISDOM BOARD OF DIRECTORS!!
Executive Board
President – Bobbie Lewis
Vice Presidents of Programming – Peggy Dahlberg and Ayesha Khan
Vice President of Board Development – Maryann Schlie
Vice President of Membership – Raquel Garcia
Secretaries – Paula Drewek and Sameena Basha
Treasurer – Teri Weingarden
Co-Founders – Gail Katz and Trish Harris
General Board
Rev. Dr. Rose Cooper, Shama Mehta, Janelle McCammon, Erin O’Connor, Jeanne Salerno, Sheri Schiff, Uzma Sharaf
New General Board Members
Sumaiya Sheikh and Padma Sanam
Advisory Board
Parwin Anwar, Sharon Buttry, Ellen Ehrlich, Fran Hildebrandt, Delores Lyons, Brenda Rosenberg, Gigi Salka
Welcome to New WISDOM Members for the month of May!!
Farrah Ansari
J.E. Donohue
Amy Keyzer
Sharona Shapiro
Ann Wanetik

Serving Muslims on Ramadan Made Me a Better Rabbi
By Marc Schneier (Newsweek)
I have been an Orthodox rabbi for more than 35 years, serving a large and affluent congregation in the Hamptons. I would like to believe I have made a positive difference in the lives of my congregants, and a meaningful contribution to my community and society. And yet, as we enter the season of Ramadan, I am moved to share a transcendent experience I had at a Ramadan iftar (fast-breaking meal) last June in Los Angeles that gave me a precious opportunity to serve others and to experience the sanctity and joy of human fellowship in a way I had never before experienced.
In fact, I have attended many iftars in recent years. I have come to relish the infectiously convivial spirit at these occasions, as Muslim families who have abstained from food and water for the preceding day come together to break bread together as a community. As I walked into the iftar dinner at the ornate King Fahad Mosque in the Culver City section of Los Angeles, to which I had been invited as the guest speaker, one of the organizers asked me if I would not only offer remarks, but also serve dinner to participants. He explained that having a rabbi serve food at the event would be a tangible expression of Jewish-Muslim solidarity.
It turned out to be much more than that. Following my remarks, I left my place on the dais and headed over to a long serving table, where a large crowd of congregants had already begun to gather with plates in hand. I donned an apron and took my place alongside several other servers; sensing as I did so a palpable stirring of surprise and appreciation among those in line that a rabbi was giving meaning to his words of unity from the podium by humbly taking his place at the serving table. Soon I was ladling out food-spicy lamb, cooked vegetables, salad, fruit and baklava pastries-to hundreds of people, men, women and children-and bantering happily with many of them, especially the adorable children. When people asked whether I would be eating myself, I explained that I would not, because my faith does not allow me to consume non-kosher food. Yet the fact that I was serving non-kosher food as a gesture of support with the Muslim community was a manifestation of the long road I have travelled from the person I was 15 years ago; someone who had never entered a mosque or Muslim venue and who feared and demonized Muslims. Indeed, I remember that after accepting an invitation in 2005 to speak to students at a Muslim high school in Queens, New York, I had second thoughts as I was walking to the school building, beset by paranoia concerning my safety.
Yet as I stood there at the King Fahad Mosque gazing into the eyes of those I was serving, I realized at that moment that humbly serving food to this group of American Muslims was affording me a precious opportunity to feel their humanity, and my connectedness to them in a more profound way than ever before. For years, I had referred to Muslims in speeches and op-ed articles as my “brothers and sisters.” Now, I felt I was experiencing the underlying meaning of those words for the very first time. While I had interacted at that point with many Imams and other Muslim community leaders, this was really the first time I had the chance to speak, learn and even joke with just regular congregants. Each of them had a story and each impressed me with their sincerity, love and kindness. As Muslim Americans, their concerns and issues were not unlike those of Jewish Americans, and that was both refreshing and inspiring to me. It reaffirmed my long contention that as children of Abraham, we have more in common between our faiths than our differences.
So, why did I have my sublime moment of human connection in a mosque? I believe the answer can be found in the fact that the Torah enjoins us to “Love the stranger 36 times,” rather than “Love thy neighbor.” In other words, that it is a higher calling to love someone different from oneself than to love one’s own. Of course, it is a good and right thing for me to love a fellow Jew, but it is far easier for me to do that than to reach out and embrace a Muslim-just as it is easier for a Muslim to connect with a co-religionist than it is for him to reach out and embrace me.
In any case, it took a Ramadan iftar to fully take me beyond my earlier reserve, and, for the first time, share the humanity of Muslims as deeply as I do that of my fellow Jews. My experience at the LA iftar has made me a more open and giving person with enhanced capability to serve both my fellow Jews, my Muslim friends and people of all backgrounds.
Rabbi Marc Schneier is the Founding Rabbi of The Hampton Synagogue and President of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and co-author with Imam Shamsi Ali of Sons of Abraham: A Candid Conversation about the Issues That Divide and Unite Jews and Muslims

PROJECT RUNWAY’S MUSLIM MODEST FASHION INSPIRED MY ORTHODOX JEWISH STYLE
Ayana Ife, a contestant on the 16th season of Project Runway, competed with a mission: to fulfill each challenge with a modest garment. Ayana’s appearance telegraphed a young Muslim woman full of personality, a hard worker, and above all, commitment.
When I first started watching Project Runway, I was growing up Orthodox Jewish and dressing modestly. In my community, that meant skirts below the knees, shirts above the collarbone, and sleeves past the elbow, occasionally with some knee socks thrown in. The show in those early days filled me with wonder. What would it be like if I could wear any of these clothes? What would I be like if I could wear any of these clothes? Project Runway made design possibilities feel accessible and immediate; I could witness talented creators make them right before my eyes.
But what if they all had to make modest clothes? Would the beautiful talent and variety on display diminish in any way, or would the designers rise to the challenge I was working with every day?
It’s not easy to find modest clothes. I used to look at common fashion from the ’50s and ’60s with envy, when secular and religious fashionistas alike dressed in tailored suits and dresses that satisfied all of the modesty requirements. The ’90s weren’t too bad, since floor-length jean skirts and raglan tees were in at the time. Then the ’00s hit. Say hello to spaghetti strap tank tops, pleated miniskirts, and Britney Spears’s cleavage. Taboo looks were walking the red carpet and the options for modest dress became less and less available. I remember when Old Navy would put out a maxi skirt with a cute print, everyone in my Orthodox Jewish high school would be wearing it. It felt like such a treat to find wearable clothing in mainstream stores, in contrast to religious brand names that wanted to conceal my body rather than celebrate it.
Ayana advanced through the usual gauntlet of Project Runway challenges, excelling in most. In the unconventional materials challenge she struggled to find enough “fabric” to cover her model. She often made corresponding headgear to match her garment, many of which would suit married Orthodox women who cover their hair. Perhaps most intriguing was her ability to keep her designs sassy, shaped, and sometimes even sexy, while covering up her models’ skin. Ultimately she placed second in the competition, after showing a modest collection at Fashion Week.
Other than a few minor differences – they can wear pants; our single women can show our hair – Muslim and Jewish fashion have a lot in common. It’s rare to see that exemplified in the same room, though, not only because of political tensions but also due to the fact that both religions feel the need to sequester their communities from the outside world. That’s been gradually changing. The head wrap enthusiasts over in the Wrapunzel community consist of Jewish and Muslim women who share a desire to cover their hair artistically. Modest swimsuit companies are moving away from terms like “burqinis” or “shvimkleids,” which might alienate otherwise like-minded consumers, in favor of more neutral language to attract women of all walks. Online retailers like eShakti, who offer customizable sizes, hemlines, necklines, and sleeve lengths for a flat price, are popular across the board with modest dressers.
After Ayana’s season ended, I went to check her out online and discovered she had an Etsy store. Not only that, a black version of her warrior woman look, my favorite piece from the season, was on sale for $100. I couldn’t decide what was more precious – that she was on Etsy or that I could actually afford clothes from a Project Runway alum. (Less precious was when it took three months to receive my order, but I took deep breaths and kept rooting for her anyway.)
I imagined that by wearing the blouse, I’d be making a statement – one of support, surely, for a designer who gave voice to modest dressers everywhere on a national platform. But I imagined a bigger picture, too. I imagined that perhaps, as a Jewish woman wearing a garment designed by a Muslim woman, I was adding a brick to the bridge that should and someday could stretch between our cultures. Not as an exception, but as the rule.
When I opened the package containing my new dress shirt, it didn’t feel like a political statement. It just felt like a beautiful, elaborate piece of clothing. It wasn’t going to give me the power to break down borders or walls by wearing it. Slowly, it dawned on me that I’d been trying to fulfill tikkun olam – healing the world – with consumerism, which now seems absurd. How had I misplaced my attempt to be subversive? Was I confusing this feeling with a longing for representation on a favorite show? Had I projected onto Ayana somehow, when the clothes she was creating weren’t intended for those purposes? She had a mission, yes, but maybe that had nothing to do with me.
Examining fashion from the perspective of art, though, I have the right. After all, that’s why I watch Project Runway: for the fashion, for the art. (Lord knows there isn’t enough drama to keep me there.) For the first time, thanks to Ayana’s blouse, I have the ability to interact with it. Consumerism and ownership aside, I can wear and interpret the blouse as superficially as I like, making it a personal experience by definition.
Which is how I choose to see it. Whatever Ayana’s intentions were, I choose to wear her clothes in celebration of a modest designer in a secular environment. So forgive me. If you see me in a ruffled asymmetrical black shirt, strutting across the room and feeling like a million bucks, know that it’s not because I’m part of the solution to world peace. It’s because I’m wearing living art, created by a Muslim woman, for me.
Alisa Ungar-Sargon received her MFA from Northwestern University. For more on the storytelling aspects of pop culture, visit her website at www.alisaus.com and follow her on Twitter at @_alisaus.

Saudi Prince Meets New York Rabbis
in Rare Interfaith Gesture
By
Vivian Nereim
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman met a group of religious leaders in New York, including two rabbis, a rare interfaith gesture for the de facto ruler of the conservative Islamic kingdom that allows negligible religious freedoms.
The 32-year-old heir to the throne was on a three-week tour of the U.S., met two Roman Catholic and three Jewish figures, the Saudi embassy in Washington said in a statement. Saudi Arabiaenforces an austere interpretation of Sunni Islam, but Prince Mohammed has said he wants to ease the country toward “moderate Islam, open to the world and all religions.” “The meeting emphasized the common bond among all people, particularly people of faith, which stresses the importance of tolerance, coexistence, and working together for a better future for all of humanity,” the embassy said. Although Prince Mohammed had recently met Christian figures, it marks the first time he’s announced a meeting with a Jewish religious leader.
While foreigners of other religions can worship privately in Saudi Arabia, there are no public churches, temples or synagogues. Importing crosses and other non-Islamic religious imagery — including the six-pointed Star of David — is banned, according to the Saudi customs website, and the kingdom’s minority Shiite Muslims complain of discrimination. There are some signs restrictions are softening: Christmas trees were displayed openly in some shops in the capital, Riyadh, for the first time last year.
Prince Mohammed’s meeting included Rabbi Richard Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism; Rabbi Steven Wernick, head of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism; and Allen Fagin, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union, the embassy said.
It’s not the first time a Saudi royal has met a rabbi; the late King Abdullah was photographed multiple times with New York-based Rabbi Marc Schneier.

Interfaith’s Foundational Document:
A Brief History
by Marcus Braybrooke
The Global Ethic, adopted at the 1993 Parliament of World Religions, is clear evidence that the coming together of people of faith is not an end in itself but part of the search for a more just and peaceful world. Indeed one of the objectives for the 1893 Parliament, in the words of its President Charles Bonney, was “to make the Golden Rule the basis” for cooperation among people of different religions. “Only then,” he said, “will the nations of the earth yield to the spirit of concord and learn war no more.” Over the years, several interfaith conferences have issued declarations emphasizing the values that they share – some of which I collected in Stepping Stones to a Global Ethic(1992).
The search for an agreed basis for interfaith action for a better world was given a new impetus in 1992 with the publication of Hans Küng’s Global Responsibility. His argument was summarized in the now well-known mantra:
No human life without a world ethic for the nations;
No peace among the nations without peace among the religions;
No peace among the religions without dialogue among the religions.
Then in 1992, Daniel Gómez-Ibáñez, the Parliament’s first executive director, invited Hans Küng to produce a paper that the Parliament could use as the basis for ‘A Global Ethic,’ which would be the Parliament’s message to the world. It is not always clear in subsequent books on the Global Ethic, whether they refer to Küng’s scholarly study or the Chicago Declaration.
Hans Küng’s starting-point was that the world was experiencing a fundamental crisis in global economy, global ecology, and global politics, together with the lack of a “grand vision.” Moreover, he said, religion was often used to incite aggression and fanaticism. (Both, sadly, are even truer today). A global ethic, by which Küng meant “a minimal fundamental consensus concerning binding values, irrevocable standards and fundamental attitudes” was, therefore, urgent. It was to be based on the premise that “every human being must be treated humanely.”
Küng argued that the Golden Rule, “Do to others what you would want them to do to you,” which most religions teach in differing wording, implies four broad ancient guidelines, which he labels “four irrevocable directives.” They are:
  • Commitment to a culture of non-violence and respect for life.
  • Commitment to a culture of solidarity and a just economic order.
  • Commitment to a culture of tolerance and a life of truthfulness.
  • Commitment to a culture of equal rights and partnership between men and women.
These provide the framework for the Parliament’s Declaration, which was much shorter than Küng’s text and has an almost poetic feel.
The Parliament Declaration begins with the assertion, “The world is in agony.” It then condemns the abuse of Earth’s ecosystems, the poverty from which so many people suffer and die, and the violence, hatred, and aggression, which afflicts much of the world. This agony, the Declaration insists “need not be, because the basis for an ethic already exists, ancient guidelines … in the core values of all religions, which offer the possibility of a better individual and global order, and lead individuals away from despair and societies away from chaos.”
The authors of the Declaration then commit themselves to live in accordance with these ancient guidelines and briefly explain what they would involve today.
At the close of the Assembly, participants, in a memorable moment, signed the Declaration. This is important as the Declaration is not a matter of some remote religious leaders telling other people what to do, but an expression of their own personal commitment and their appeal to “all people, whether religious or not, to do the same.”

Worldwide representatives gathered for 12th International Baha’i Convention

 
BAHA’I WORLD CENTRE, 25 April 2018, (BWNS) – Some 1,300 delegates representing more than 160 countries have arrived in Haifa to participate in the 12th International Baha’i Convention.
 
The International Convention is a unique gathering held every five years in Haifa, the administrative and spiritual center of the Baha’i world community. Delegates hail from virtually every nation. Over the course of the convention, they participate in a series of consultative sessions and elect the Faith’s international governing body, the Universal House of Justice.
 
The consultations at International Convention are generally concerned with the development of the Baha’i Faith and the contributions of Baha’i communities to the progress of society. One of the primary areas of discussion is how Baha’u’llah’s teachings-such as the oneness of humankind, the equality of women and men, the harmony of science and religion, and the independent investigation of truth-are finding expression in a vast array of social settings, from the remotest of villages to large urban centers, and across diverse cultural realities.
The delegates attending this year’s International Convention are members of the annually-elected governing Baha’i councils of their countries. Referred to as National Spiritual Assemblies, these institutions guide and support the activities of the Baha’i community within their respective jurisdictions.
 
On 29 April, the delegates will gather to elect the nine members of the Universal House of Justice, a task that is undertaken as both a sacred duty and a privilege.
 
Delegates have a period of spiritual preparation before participating in the Convention. This entails time to pray and meditate in the Sacred Shrines in Haifa and Akka as well as to visit historical Baha’i holy places.
 

More than a headscarf: Forum takes aim at misconceptions about Muslims
Omar Abdel-Baqui, Detroit Free Press


 

Sameena Zahoor has been wearing a hijab since she was in college studying to be a doctor and she is aware that non-Muslims often have questions – and misconceptions – about the headscarf commonly worn by Muslim women. Zahoor, a family physician from Canton, said it is not much different than coverings donned by nuns or members of religions outside of Islam. 
“Yes, my experience being a Muslim woman has a lot to do with me wearing a headscarf,” Zahoor said. “No, I don’t think I’m a better Muslim because I cover – versus a person who does not cover. Yes, I do have hair underneath (my hijab). No, I don’t wear it when I go home, sleep in it or shower in it. Yes, it makes me feel hot and sweaty when I wear it in the summer. No, I was not forced to wear it and no I am not oppressed.” 
It was that kind of open discussion – intended to break down barriers and spread understanding of Islam – that highlighted the Building Bridges: Getting To Know Our Muslim Neighbors event hosted Sunday by The Waterford Refugee Welcome Alliance and held at the Christ Lutheran Church in Waterford. 
 
John Negele, a member of the Waterford Refugee Alliance and pastor of the Christ Lutheran Church, said the goal of the program was for attendees to leave “with some new learning and new insight, and maybe some new connection that they didn’t have before, that can continue to be built on.” 
“One of the first steps that is needed to build bridges – whether it’s between two people or two communities – is to get to know one another. And that’s what we are here to do today,” Negele said. 
The event began with members of the Islamic Networks Group explaining the history of Islam, the beliefs and practices of Muslims and common misconceptions many Americans may have about the religion and its followers. Islamic Networks Group speaker Amin Varis vocalized that Islam is an Abrahamic faith –  similarly to Judaism and Christianity. He explained some of Islam’s fundamental principles such as the belief in one God, fasting, praying, donating and hajj –  the pilgrimage to Mecca.
Zahoor, who is also an Islamic Networks Group speaker, said the nonprofit’s purpose is to “dispel myths and misunderstandings of Islam, and to get people to understand that the struggle of Muslims is not much different than the struggles of other minority groups.”
“Being able to allow others to ask questions can open conversation that may change people’s hearts,” she added. “We are not much different. Our ideas, our goals and what we want for each other is very similar to those of (non-Muslims). We are all on the same team.”
Mayar Zamzam, a junior at the International Academy Bloomfield Hills and a youth member of the Islamic Networks Group, said she has encountered people who have directed slurs at her, without even knowing her.
“I was completely in shock,” she said about a specific instance in which she was called a terrorist by a stranger. “I don’t understand why he would call me that. I thought to myself, ‘is this really how other people view Muslims?'”
Zamzam said she loves when people ask her questions about Islam and said she feels excited telling people about her religion.
She added that many people don’t understand why some Muslim women wear a headscarf.
“I wear the hijab because my religion provides me the opportunity to be modest about my looks and outspoken about my personality,” she said. 
Zamzam said although she has encountered several acts of hate earlier in her life, she can see them slowly turning into questions, as people seek to educate themselves. 
Zahoor said media plays a significant role in the negative perception of Muslims in the U.S. 
“What people see on TV is what they believe,” she said. “When I tell people from California I’m from Detroit, they say ‘What? That’s the murder capital of the world!’ It’s important to look beyond a TV screen for information.” 
In addition to speeches, there were presentations of art and comedy, a question and answer session, and lunch for the attendees and event organizers – where the conversation continued.  Waterford resident Al Kuehm, 70, said the event was a great opportunity to learn and expand his knowledge of the religion. 
“There are a lot of misconceptions of Islam and we need to address them. We need to get smart,” Kuehm said. ” I wish we had something like this every month.”
Negele, the pastor, said Mahatma Gandhi was once quoted saying “The only problem with Christianity is Christians” after visiting a church. 
“Maybe Islam is the same way,” Negele said

                  IFLC and Repair the World Detroit,
Encourage Others to Grow Compassion
By Bernadette Beach
 

 
The Interfaith Leadership Council of Detroit in collaboration with Repair the World hosted “Grow Compassion”on April 22, 2018. 
 
Repair the World is working to make an impact one person at a time by mobilizing volunteers to serve in partnership with the Detroit communities and to grow the capacity of service organizations.
A panel of four speakers discussed Compassion from their faith tradition. Brother Al Mascia, Rabbi Rachel Shere, William Boyle, and Najah Bazzy made up the panel and shared the various ways compassion shows up in the world today. Compassion literally means “to suffer together” and is defined as the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering. 
 
 
COMPASSION REQUIRES ACTION. 
Following the panel, two short activities were done by the attendees to set their intention to grow compassion, such as “I will be more mindful to live and speak compassionately”, and “listen to others-seeking to understand, not judge” were written on ribbons and woven into a large Grow Compassion banner. banner. Small clay pots were also decorated as a reminder for each participant. 
 
A big thank you to Savorfull and Costco for their generous donations. 
 
Bernadette Beach, RN, BSN, MSN, is Community Health Educator at Rekindle the Spirit. She received extensive training over the years to enhance her holistic practice. Trained at the Omega Institute and through the Living School of Action and Contemplation in meditation, as well as being a certified holistic stress management educator she is an experienced presenter on these topics.
 
 

The Poor People’s Campaign –
A National call for Moral Revival
There are still training sessions available
in June!!!  See link below to sign up!
Thank you for your interest in the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.  We want to share with you more details of the plans currently being made for 40 days of Non Violent Moral Fusion Direct Action starting May 14, 2018 at numerous state capitols throughout the nation, including Lansing, Michigan. We are organizing for collective action to show national unity across lines of division.
The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is uniting tens of thousands of people across the country to challenge the evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation and the nation’s distorted morality. We need you to step up and join our efforts.
The communities you serve are among many in Michigan where significant numbers of people live in poverty, and are impacted by the evils addressed in this campaign.  We are looking to you to help organize members of your congregation and local community to join the campaign.  We need help in the form of participation in direct action, donations, and a wide variety of logistical support needs (i.e. transportation, food, phone banks) from faith and community organizations.
Mass meetings and small group gatherings are being held around the state to introduce the campaign,  and mandatory initial direct-action training sessions are being scheduled for those who are considering involvement as moral witnesses during the 40 days of action.  We have materials and templates that you can use to hold meetings in your community and congregation.
The weekly days of direct action will take place on Mondays from 10 am until 4 pm with themes as follows:
  1. May 14 – Women / Youth / Disabled / Children / Right To Education
  2. May 21 – Connecting Systematic Racism / Economic Justice with Voting Rights and Just Immigration
  3. May 28 – Veterans, War Economy, Militarism
  4. June 4 – Right To Health – Ecology, Justice In Health, Water, Extreme Extraction (Fracking), Climate Change, Health Care
  5. June 11 – “Everybody’s Got A Right To Live” – Living Wages, Guaranteed Income, Housing, Social Services
  6. June 18 – “New / Unsettling Force” – Challenging Nation’s Moral Narrative – Fusion Movement Rising Up
Each day’s events will include:
  • Gathering / Registration – 10 am
  • Pre-action Training Session 2  –  11:00 am – noon
  • Lunch and Relationship Building – noon – 1 pm
  • Preparations for Weekly Direct Action – 1-2 pm
  • Direct Action 2 – 4 pm
State subcommittees need your participation and those of your congregations / communities. People can sign up here
to work on subcommittees, and can register for upcoming training sessions throughout the coming weeks.
We are grateful for your support and look forward to Moving Together with you – Not One Step Back!
Sincerely,
Rev. Gerald Cardwell – Michigan Tri-Chair
Rabbi Alana Alpert – Michigan Faith Subcommittee Co-Chair
Rev. Kevin Johnson – Michigan Faith subcommittee Co-chair
Rev. Bill Wylie-Kellermann – Michigan Faith Subcommittee Co-Chair

Enlarging the Interfaith Tent – from The Interfaith Observer
Even interfaith activists sometimes harbor prejudiced stereotypes about unfamiliar groups. Reservations may include the perceived “threat” of polytheistic worldviews and a plurality of deities. New religious movements (NRMs) may be similarly feared, so that newly created spiritual identities such as Wicca or reconstructed once-dormant traditions such as Druidry or Ásatrú are kept out.  Though Native indigenous traditions often are absent from the table, less present than most, my sense is that there is a great openness to having them join the interfaith community. The 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Salt Lake City featured an “Indigenous Peoples Program” as central to the gathering. The upcoming Parliament in Toronto this November also features Indigenous representation and speakers. In fact, the historic 1993 centenary Parliament of the World’s Religions was the first international interfaith event to welcome Pagan and indigenous traditions, and they have remained presenters at all the modern Parliaments. Nevertheless, the interfaith movement has a long way to go before all feel welcome.”

South America Temple bridges two eras
SANTIAGO, Chile, 11 May 2018, (BWNS) – On the edge of Santiago in the foothills of the Andes, the continental Baha’i House of Worship for South America has been illuminating the mountainside for over a year and a half. In that time it has attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors to its radiant edifice, which has received multiple prestigious architecture awards.
Since its dedication in October 2016, the Temple has been a recipient of an International Architecture Award as well as awards for structural artistry from the Institution of Structural Engineers, for innovation in architecture from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, for innovation from the American Institute of Architects, for design excellence from the Ontario Association of Architects, for “Best in Americas, Civil Buildings,” from World Architecture News, and for Architectural and Cultural design from American Architecture Prize. But the Temple’s impact has been much more than that. It has also impacted the hearts and minds of the people in Santiago and beyond.
“People understand that the House of Worship is here to help with the spiritual development of our society,” explained Rocio Montoya, from the public affairs office of the Chilean Baha’i community.
“There are many families that are coming to the Temple. Religious groups come to pray together. Many people in their advanced years also come for hours and sit at the picnic tables and enjoy fellowship. People here see the House of Worship more and more as their Temple.”

May 2018

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Anti-Semitism Raises its Head Again in Ontario

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

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

BCTC Partnership

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Escape, Then and Now

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

April 2018

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 2018

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

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

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

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

West Bloomfield Synagogue Bible Garden
                       Welcomes Visitors and Tour Groups
     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.