November 2018

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events 
 
Thursday, November 1st, 6:30 PM at Thai Basil im Livonia
Sister Circle Get Together
Interested?  Contact Shama Mehta at shama.mehta7@gmail.com 

Monday, November 5th 1:00 – 3:00 PM
WISDOM’s Five Women Five Journeys at SOAR
Adat Shalom Synagogue, 29901 Middlebelt, Farmington HIlls
Wednesday, November 7th, 7-9 Women Confronting Racism Lecture
Civil Discourse – Exploring racism within ourselves and our society.
St. John’s Episcopal Church, 26998 Woodward Ave., Royal Oak
See Flyer Below
Sunday, November 11th 11:00 AM
Jewish Community Center Book Fair WISDOM presentation
of book Friendship and Faith
6600 W. Maple Rd., West Bloomfield
See flyer Below
Sunday, November 11th, 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM
InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit
Panel on “Religious Sensitivities” at st George Antiochian Orthodox Church, 2160 Maple Rd., Troy 48083
See Flyer Below
Thursday, November 14th 7 – 9, Women Confronting Racism Lecture
Examining White Fragility
St. John’s Episcopal Church, 26998 Woodward Ave. Royal Oak
See Flyer Below
Thursday, December 5th  7 – 9, Women Confronting Racism Lecture
The Intersectionality of Culture, Race, and Gender
St. John’s Episcopal Church, 26998 Woodward Ave. Royal Oak
See Flyer Below
Saturday, December 8th 10:00 – 3:00
Mosaic Tile Sale
See Flyer Below
Tuesday, December 11th, 6:30 PM
Mosaic Art Workshop with Song and Spirit Institute for Peace
4300 Rochester Road, Royal Oak
Save the Date
Sunday, March 24th, 2019 (afternoon)
Celebration of International Women’s Day
Save the Date

WISDOM Women will be presenting “Friendship and Faith” 2nd Edition at the Jewish Community Center’s 2018 Book Fair, on November 11th at 11:00 AM. Come join us at the JCC, 6600 W. Maple Road, West Bloomfield, MI 48322
Gail Katz will facilitate and introduce Rabbi Dorit Edut, Najah Bazzy, and Padma Kuppa, who will read excerpts from their stories and respond to questions from the audience.
Purchase our book at the JCC or find it online at Amazon, in both print and e-book formats.
Questions?  Contact Gail at gailkatz@comcast.net

Muslims Raise $146K for Victims in Synagogue
Detroit Free Press
Niraj Warikoo
Muslims have raised more than $146,000 so far through a Detroit-based fundraising site to help the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue attack.
After the attack on Saturday that killed 11 inside the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Muslims mobilized on LaunchGood, an online site headquartered in Detroit  created and led by Muslims since 2013. The site is similar to platforms like GoFundMe.
The effort is focused on raising money to help support shooting victims with short-term needs such as funeral expenses and medical bills, according to LaunchGood. The money is being distributed to the synagogue through the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh.
LaunchGood said the campaign for the synagogue victims was started by two Muslim groups, Celebrate Mercy, which honors Islam’s prophet, and MPower Change, a nonprofit group that mobilizes Muslims on social justice issues.
“It was very sickening to see the synagogue attacked like that,” Subhan Vahora, a manager at Celebrate Mercy, which is based in Philadelphia, told the Free Press. “Our organization teaches about the life of the prophet. Many of his teachings tell us to try and respond to these evil actions with good. And so we thought, what better way to reach out to our Abrahamic cousins and support the Jewish community in hard times.”
Vahora recounted a story in Islam where Prophet Mohammed is said to have stood up to show respect as a Jewish funeral procession passed by. He said that the fundraising is one way that Muslims and Jews can come together. In a statement, LaunchGood said “the Muslim-American community extends its hands to help the shooting victims, whether it is the injured victims or the Jewish families who have lost loved ones.”
“We wish to respond to evil with good, as our faith instructs us, and send a powerful message of compassion through action. Our Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said: ‘Show mercy to those on Earth, and the One in the Heavens will show mercy to you.’ The Quran also teaches us to ‘Repel evil by that which is better.'”
Saturday’s shooting was the deadliest attack on Jewish people in the history of the U.S., according to the Anti-Defamation League. Before he attacked, the shooter had expressed anger about Jewish groups helping migrants and Muslim immigrants.
On Saturday, LaunchGood set a goal of raising $25,000 and quickly reached that. It then increased the goal to $50,000, then $75,000, and now $150,000. LaunchGood has been raising more than $3,000 per hour.
It has now raised $146,985 as of late Monday afternoon with 3,471 supporters donating. “Through this campaign, we hope to send a united message from the Jewish and Muslim communities that there is no place for this type of hate and violence in America,” said LaunchGood. “We pray that this restores a sense of security and peace to the Jewish-American community who has undoubtedly been shaken by this event.  The CEO of LaunchGood, Chris Abdur-Rahman Blauvelt, of Dearborn, helped co-found LaunchGood in 2013. The crowdfunding site said it has raised more than $55 million with more than 5,000 fundraising campaigns.  Last year, it helped raise $162,000 to help repair Jewish cemeteries that were vandalized. 
After the Pittsburgh shooting, LaunchGood featured on its main page a headline that read “Muslims Unite for Pittsburgh Synagogue. Donate to Shooting Victims’ Families.” Vahora, whose group Celebrate Mercy started the fundraising efforts, said the huge response “shows the beauty of humanity and the power we have when we all work together.”
In metro Detroit, other Muslim-American and Arab-American groups have been speaking out about the Pittsburgh shooting. The Arab American Civil Rights League in Dearborn, Imams Council of Michigan, and the Islamic Institute of America in Dearborn Heights, released statements condemning the attack.
“This unfathomable crime should be condemned by all people of faith and conscience,” said the Islamic Institute of America, led by Imam Hassan Qazwini. “United, we send a strong message that no such crime will be tolerated by any individual. Synagogues, churches, mosques and all places of worship are sacred grounds and their sanctities should be preserved.
“… We offer our heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims as our thoughts and prayers are with them during this trying time.”
The Imams Council of Michigan said in a statement on Monday that “Muslims are obliged to protect all houses of worship, as the holy Quran teaches. … Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, and racial discrimination are plaguing our country and they must stop.”

Dear Friend in Faith,

Since 2015, over 400 congregations have received more $500,000 worth of FREE energy efficiency upgrades through Light the Way, a program Michigan IPL offers with Consumers Energy. Until now, this program has only been available to Consumers Energy customers with electric service. Starting this week, houses of worship with Consumers gas service are eligible to sign up!
That’s why I’m reaching out to congregations in Oakland, Livingston, Macomb, Lapeer, Tuscola, Huron, and Van Buren counties, plus a few neighboring communities. So far, participating houses of worship have received an average of $1,300 worth of free upgrades and expect to save $650 each year on energy bills-savings that can go right back into their vital missions. Saving energy is a great way for congregations to put their faith into action-to become better stewards of God’s Creation, while also being better stewards of their own financial resources.
This program is available for a limited time and on a first come, first served basis. For more information and to sign-up, visit our website or contact me at (248) 463-8811 or projectmanager@miipl.org
Best regards,
Jennifer Young
Program Manager

A Muslim, a Jew, and a Christian
walk into a concert hall…
…and treat an audience to an
inspiring night of song, story, and laughter.
Watch the You Tube video by clicking below:
Interfaith Band “Abraham Jam” will be worth the trip to Kalamazoo 7 p.m. Nov. 18, @ congregation of Moses
Congregation of Moses, a member of United Synagogue of America, welcomes Abraham Jam to perform 7 p.m. Nov. 18 , 2501 Stadium Drive Kalamazoo, MI 49008.
Abraham Jam-composed of Billy Jonas, David LaMotte, and Dawud Wharnsby-features three “brothers” from the three Abrahamic faiths. Jonas, LaMotte and Wharnsby have performed extensively over the last few decades in their individual careers.
“Harmony is better than unity,” says David LaMotte, who helped create Abraham Jam. “We don’t have to be singing the same note to cultivate peace, we can sing different notes that are beautiful together.” LaMotte is a well-loved songwriter, with over 3000 concerts on five continents and every state in the U.S. on his musical resumé.
They don’t just take turns sharing songs, but create music together, contributing vocal harmonies, percussion, and instrumentation to each other’s songs.
These three seasoned songwriters, have teamed up to make a convincing case that harmony, where they sing different notes that are beautiful together, To them, this is even better than unity.

‘The church needs women for its salvation’:
One-woman play champions nun’s quest for social justice
By
Linda Stamato
Some 28 years ago, Teri Bays sent a letter to Benedictine nun Joan Chittister. “I wish your words were on my lips,” wrote Bays.
They are now…..with stunning and, at times, shocking, effect.
Joan Chittister: Her Story, My Story, Our Story, created by Bays, a singer, writer and actress from Sedona, AZ, was performed by Bays on Friday at St. Mark Lutheran Church in Harding.
The large and appreciative audience gave Ms. Bays a standing, sustained ovation at the conclusion of her performance.
Joan Chittister is a woman for all seasons. With 60 books, 12 honorary degrees, leadership positions too numerous to count, and a global following, this revered author and speaker has had a lot to say about peace, justice, women’s issues and the role of religious life in the modern world.  She certainly has created a presence.  And Teri Bays, her disciple, “becomes” her to demonstrate through Chittister’s words-and her own-the profound connection between them. She intensifies Chittister’s impact and makes it at once personal and universal. The performance is deeply affecting.
As Bays moves from left to right on the stage, we hear each woman in various times and places, and witness the strands of experience that connect them.  Bays’ mother was in elementary school with Chittister;  both women, as girls, sought refuge from terror in their households that were fueled by their fathers’ alcoholism and abuse.
Seeking freedom from fear, they found solace in books, in their diaries and journals, and in companionship and support in the homes of friends, in Bays’ case, and in Chittister’s, in the Benedictine convent which she joined as a novice in 1952. Their paths diverge and come together as certain themes emerge: Struggling for standing, engaging in protest, embracing non-denominational spirituality, seeking self-understanding in times of change, teaching to embrace social justice, and loving music.
 
Benedictine nun Joan Chittister.
They both experience and resist intolerance, racism and sexism in the church, and, confidently, distance themselves from it.
Seeking to advance morality over religiosity, they take stands for life-more than birth, living free from poverty and duress-they attack the “enemies of our time: Power and profit,” and they assert their equality, resist silencing, and answer the call to leadership, in different ways to be sure.
As Chittister says, “The church needs women for its salvation,” I heard a strong echo from her disciple and supportive murmurs from the audience. Bays’ performance is delivered with a heavy hand-Chittister’s compelling words-but also with a light touch-expressing the great good humor of both of these talented, courageous and resilient women.
Prophets and poets both, they are leading the new way, using public settings, churches, lecture halls and stages to have their voices heard, urging people, as Chittister says, “to live faithfully and to love radically, ” to be public thinkers so as to inspire openness to possibility, resisting retreat to past ways. Billed as “a one woman play for all women,” Joan Chittister: Her Story, is so much more.  It is a play for men too, and especially for those who wear clerical collars; it is for all those who work for change in the church and more, for those who share faith in humanity, peace, spirituality and common purpose.
Bays’ appearance was supported in part by the Sophia Inclusive Catholic Community, whose roots are solidly in the tradition of Vatican II.  Its mission was given a burst of energy and spirit tonight and Sister Joan Chittister and Teri Bays found themselves in good company.

Late in November 2016, people from all over the country gathered in Cambridge, Mass., for an experimental meeting in an austere room at Harvard Divinity School. It was deeply cold outside, and just weeks after the election, many of the participants were feeling shaken.
Around the table where they had gathered were two demographic groups that rarely encounter each other: millennials who describe themselves as having no single religious practice (better known as “nones”); and Catholic women religious, who mostly prefer to be called sisters but will settle for being called nuns.
They had gathered to share experiences of community, spirituality and activism. More quickly than anyone had anticipated, they discovered enough common ground to lead one of the sisters to tell the millennials, “I believe that we are more alike than we are different.”
Although the number of nones is growing, making up nearly 25 percent of the population, according to the Pew Research Center, they are far from apathetic about what religion can offer, and many are self-described spiritual seekers. At the same time, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, the number of sisters is shrinking and aging, with fewer than 50,000 sisters alive today, and nearly 90 percent of those sisters are over the age of 60. But women religious are often the first to tell you that they aren’t experiencing a narrative of decline, because they still have millennia of wisdom and experience to share.
The Nuns and Nones project seeks to bring these two groups together in order to explore new forms of community life, help millennials see models for sustainable activism and create an intergenerational network of connections, what the project’s website describes as “an unlikely alliance across communities of spirit.” Different people emphasized different turning points in the origin of the project, but the sisters and millennials I interviewed all agreed: It began with a gathering, a circle, and it began with conversation.
The Harvard Nuns and Nones gatherings were sponsored by How We Gather, a project led by Casper ter Kuile and Angie Thurston, two postgraduate fellows at Harvard Divinity School. How We Gather explores how millennials are building communities of meaning outside of institutional religious structures.
They were organized by the Rev. Wayne Muller, who is in his mid-60s and was ordained in the United Church of Christ, and Adam Horowitz, 31, who grew up in a secular Jewish family and now runs a nonprofit called the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture.
To read the rest of this interesting article please go to the following site:
https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2018/09/04/what-can-nuns-and-nones-learn-one-another

The rise of the imama: women-led mosques are growing
Negative stereotypes abound of how women are treated under Islam. But there’s a new movement of women-led mosques who are challenging this, and making both Muslims and non-Muslims think differently about the faith.
Sherin Khankan is Denmark’s first female imam, who opened the Mariam mosque in Copenhagen in 2016.
By Sara Miller Llana/The Christian Science Monitor
By Lin TaylorThomson Reuters Foundation
Copenhagen
From Copenhagen to Los Angeles, a handful of female mosques now cater to Muslim women who want their own place of worship, just as men have had through the ages.
“It is possible to change a narrative that has been patriarchal for centuries,” Sherin Khankan, founder of Europe’s first women’s mosque, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Her first-floor mosque – adjacent to a clothes shop – is invisible from the busy Danish shopping street below. But behind its anonymous, grey door, a quiet revolution is brewing.
For the past two years, women have been leading prayers, delivering sermons and running Copenhagen’s Mariam Mosque – though Ms. Khankan says she is not challenging the Koran, just rewriting a male-dominated way of worship.
“We can do that by promoting and disseminating new narratives, with a focus on gender equality. It’s not a reform. We’re going back to the essence of Islam,” she said, draping a red floral shawl across her shoulder. Although men and women are allowed to meet and pray during the week at Mariam Mosque, the mosque’s monthly, collective Friday prayers are for women only, said 43-year-old Khankan.
With a tiny prayer room and simple decor of candles, cushions and rugs, the mosque has about 150 worshippers. It was set up by Khankan with the support of Femimam, a group of female Muslim spiritual leaders in Denmark.
Muslim women’s groups and researchers say there is a lack of female Islamic leaders and dearth of worship spaces for women, since most mosques are gender-segregated and men dominate the main prayer rooms. So, after 15 years in the making, Mariam Mosque joined a handful of female-friendly mosques, including two in Los Angeles, another in the German city of Berlin – which welcomes men and women to Friday prayers – and a new build slated for the northern English city of Bradford, where there are plans to build Britain’s first women-led mosque by 2020.
Women-only mosques have existed for hundreds of years in China, where women have had a long tradition of leading prayers.
Director of Britain’s Muslim Women’s Council Bana Gora, who is spearheading the Bradford project, said mosques had overlooked women and girls for years. Ms. Gora said some women have had to pray in basements of mosques, or use back entrances where there are safety concerns such as a lack of lighting or security.
“Where do women congregate to talk about issues in society? You need a dedicated space where women can convene and talk to people who can help them, and we simply do not have those spaces anywhere,” she said in a telephone interview.
“It’s about women claiming their space in a mosque – there’s nothing wrong with that. I can see this catapulting across different faiths as well over time,” said Gora.
Khankan said the presence of fellow women in a mosque, as well as access to female spiritual leaders, meant women might feel comfortable seeking help for sensitive issues like inter-faith marriage or domestic violence. And for the 200 or so women in Denmark who wear a face veil, their world has grown smaller after a ban on niqab veils and body-length burqas in public spaces, said Khankan.
Denmark’s parliament enacted the ban in May, joining France and some other European Union countries to uphold what some politicians say are secular and democratic values. The justice ministry said the ban would focus on women forced by their families to wear veils.
“If a woman is isolated and forced to wear a burqa or the niqab, by criminalizing it, you will isolate her even more, because she might not be able to go out,” said Khankan, who also runs a domestic violence support group, Exit Circle. “It’s important to fight for any women’s right to wear the hijab or not, to wear the niqab or not – if it’s her own choice and her own free will,” she said.
Khankan said she hopes to see a new generation of female Islamic scholars and worship leaders, or ‘imam’ – a title normally given to men, which Khankan has proudly claimed.
“We are faced with patriarchal structures which we have normalized for decades. As long as they are alive and they are not challenged, we have a problem,” said Khankan.
“We have to state that women are the future of Islam. We have to make it possible for women to have the same possibilities as men,” she added.
The Koran does not directly address whether women can lead congregational prayer, according to many traditional Islamic scholars.
Some argue the Prophet Mohammad gave permission to women to lead any kind of prayer, while others say that he meant to restrict women to leading prayer at home.
Still, many traditionalists do not believe a man should hear a woman’s voice in prayer. But Giulia Liberatore, who is researching female Islamic scholars at the University of Edinburgh, said seeing women reach positions of power in Islam will have positive effects.
“If women see other women striving for the highest form of scholarship, they will start seeing themselves as someone who can do that as well,” she said.
This story was reported by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Global Hindu Gathering Draws Crowd, Protest in Chicago
By Emily McFarlan Miller on September 10th
LOMBARD, Ill. (RNS) – About 2,500 people from 60 countries attended the second World Hindu Congress last weekend near Chicago. The congress – which followed an inaugural gathering four years ago in India – opened Friday (Sept. 7) with a long blast from a conch shell to create good vibrations, a lamp lighting ceremony to dispel darkness, and a mantra calling for unity. There also were messages from world leaders like the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, who sent a video, and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who sent a letter.
The gathering, organized by the World Hindu Foundation, calls itself “a global platform for Hindus to connect, share ideas, inspire one another, and impact the common good.” And, like at many religious gatherings these days, a dispute broke out over religion and politics
A historic gathering The gathering was an historic event for Hindus, coming 125 years, nearly to the day, after a famed speech by Swami Vivekananda to the World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago. That speech “put Hinduism on the global map,”according to Nitika Sharma, spokesperson for the World Hindu Congress.
A towering statue of Swami Vivekananda was unveiled to mark the occasion, and several speakers at the opening plenary referenced his speech, in which he said he was proud to belong to a “religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance.”
“That singular event, that singular act, changed the course of history and paved the way for Hindus to carry their traditions and values with confidence and pride as they traveled and settled in different corners of the world,” said Abhaya Asthana, president of Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America and coordinator of the 2018 congress. “Today, once again, we gather here in Chicago – this time, as a people, to echo and reaffirm the same old message of diversity, universal acceptance and cooperation.”
But not even a faith tradition that cherishes acceptance and cooperation is immune to political and cultural divides.
Panelists in a Friday afternoon session on cultivating political leadership in the United States and other Western democracies noted sponsors and speakers had been targeted with petitions asking them to withdraw from the event.
U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu elected to Congress, reportedlywithdrew months ago, citing “ethical reasons arising from participating in partisan politics of India in America.” Gabbard’s office did not return a call for comment, and organizers did not immediately answer how many panelists or sponsors had dropped out.
The Coalition for the Defense of the Constitution and Democracy also held a news conference in New York City prior to the congress, protesting the involvement of participants from VHPA, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and other groups. The coalition claimed in a press release that those groups are “promoting the agenda of Hindutva fascism under the cover of ‘Hindu resurgence.'”
Sunita Viswanath is co-founder of Sadhana, a group of progressive Hindus that joined other South Asian human rights, Hindu, Dalit, Muslim and secular activist organizations in the coalition. She said the coalition did not object to people gathering in general.
But they were protesting the ideology of some participating speakers and groups, which Viswanath described as “Hindu nationalist, Hindu supremacist.”
“A gathering like the World Hindu Congress seems to be celebrating Hinduism and India at a time when we think what’s urgent is speaking out for peace and nonviolence, for a feeling of brotherhood among people,” she said.
RSS is as an “ideological, nationalist Hindu group” that helped Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party rise to power in India in 2014, Reuters reports. The country’s Muslims and other religious and caste minorities since have pointed to incidents of religious violence and discrimination.
A panel discusses the collective efforts for Hindu resurgence during the World Hindu Congress on Sept. 7, 2018, near Chicago. RNS photo by Emily McFarlan Miller
The congress confirmed several people were arrested Friday after creating a disturbance during a panel discussion on collective efforts for Hindu resurgence that included Mohan Bhagwat, the head of RSS. Chicago South Asians for Justice posted a statement online saying they had staged the “peaceful disruption.” A video posted online showed people surrounding and shouting over protesters holding up a banner.
A ‘core value’ of Hinduism
Despite the protests, congress spokesperson Sharma defended RSS’ participation in the congress. It’s about “creating a proud Hindu identity,” she said, denying claims that made RSS or the congress a nationalist group: “I don’t think it is the correct way to describe us.”
Diversity of thought is “one of the core values of Hindu dharma,” or teaching, which includes a number of schools that can be contradictory but still are united in their fundamental beliefs, according to Sharma.
Because of that, she said, “We do believe that everyone should be free to choose what they believe in. Just like we’re proud to do this, if someone feels strongly against it, they’re free to express their views. … In some sense, some people are taking notice of what we’re doing, as well.”
Vindhya Adapa, a 28-year-old Hindu-American attorney for HIAS, a refugee resettlement agency, in Washington, D.C., said she only was “very, very vaguely” aware of the controversy before attending the event.
During the panel on cultivating political leadership, Adapa took the microphone to say she identified with the Democratic Party and to ask how to work together with other Hindus across party lines. She told Religion News Service she came to the congress “to learn more about my faith and learn more about service opportunities, political opportunities and network with people.”
“At the end of the day, this is a very diverse conference,” she said.
“I’m not going to agree with everyone who’s here, and I didn’t come here to find an echo chamber, so, yes, there may be certain politicians or certain leaders that not everyone agrees with, and perhaps that could be one reason why people thought it safe to avoid this conference. For me, personally speaking, this is an opportunity and a place to foster collaborative Hindu identity and thinking.”
The next World Hindu Congress is planned for 2022 in Bangkok.

October 2018

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events 
 
Ask A Jewish Person
Wednesday, October 3rd, 6:00 – 7:30 PM
Islamic Center of America
19600 Ford Rd., Dearborn MI
See Flyer Below

Wednesday, October 10th 7:00 – 9:00 PM
WISDOM’s Five Women Five Journeys
Muslim Unity Center, 1830 W. Square Lake Rd. Bloomfield Hills
See information below
Thursday, October 11th, Explore the Hindu Festival of Navaratri at the Bharatiya Temple in Troy. 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM
See information below!


Exploring Our Religious Landscapes Series
Sufism on October 18th at 7:00 PM
See Flyer Below
Sunday, October 21st, 2:00 PM
WISDOM Visit to the Hellenic Museum
67 E. Kirby, Detroit 48202
See Flyer Below
Thursday, November 1st, 6:30 PM at Thai Basil in Livonia
Sister Circle Get Together
Interested?  Contact Shama Mehta at shama.mehta7@gmail.com
Monday, November 5th 1:00 – 3:00 PM
WISDOM’s Five Women Five Journeys at SOAR
Society for Active Retirees
Birmingham Temple, 28611 W. 12 Mile Rd.,  Farmington HIlls


Sunday, November 11th 11:00 AM
Jewish Community Center Book Fair WISDOM presentation
of book Friendship and Faith
6600 W. Maple Rd., West Bloomfield
See information below
Sunday, November 11th, 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM
InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit
Panel on “Religious Sensitivities” at st George Antiochian Orthodox Church, 2160 Maple Rd., Troy 48083
See Flyer Below
Sunday, November 18th, 3:30 – 7:00 PM
Jewish Historical Society event at the
Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn.
See Flyer Below
Tuesday, December 11th, 6:30 PM
Mosaic Art Workshop with Song and Spirit Institute for Peace
4300 Rochester Road, Royal Oak
See information below!
Sunday, March 24th, 2019 (afternoon)
Celebration of International Women’s Day
Save the Date

Five-part program examines mysticism
in religious traditions

By Stephanie Preweda Special to Digital First Media

There are those of faith who worship only during holidays and those who worship weekly. Then there are those who take steps to deepen their faith so much it becomes a mystical experience.

The Rev. Charles Packer, lead minister of Pine Hill Congregational Church in West Bloomfield, taught an educational program, Mysticism in Christianity on Sept. 12.
The Rev. Charles Packer, lead minister of Pine Hill Congregational Church in West Bloomfield, hosted an educational program, Mysticism in Christianity, from 7-9 p.m. Sept. 12 at the church, 4160 Middlebelt Road in West Bloomfield Township. This was the first in a a five-part series about mysticism in five major faith-based traditions – Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism and Hinduism – presented by the InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit.
Each educational presentation will be at a different location over the course of four months.
“In each one of our religious traditions, there is a mystical movement,” said Packer. “The mystics, whether they be prophets, saints, gurus or Sufis, had something in common. The mystics tended to be experiential in nature.”
During the program, Parker touched on the earliest known Christian mystics dating from the Middle Ages, such as Saint Catherine of Sienna and Saint Theresa of Abila. Becoming a mystic is not something that can be attained through a series of steps; rather it describes a life-changing experience based on the deepening of one’s faith. People cannot choose to have a mystical experience, he said – rather they are chosen to experience mystical guidance.
Packer explained that those individuals would not have been labeled as a mystic during their time, but is something that was imposed on individuals at a later date.
“Those who we would say or think are mystics were very rooted in their tradition,” he says. “They weren’t necessarily seeking something new, they were simply trying to go deeper in their own various traditions.”
Through history, those who dove deeper in their faith tended to document experiences through their spiritual journeys. These experiences were collected in literature over hundreds of years, detailing phenomena of individuals who who we now call mystics.
These phenomena included visions or dreams so strong they are described as a physical encounter with the Divine. The repetition of dreams and visions guided the individual’s life in a mystical way, Packer says.
“(Mystics) do a lot of writing that is self disclosing, and so they end up sharing their experiences with faith and what we end up with is literature that reflects, for many of us, what would be an unusual expression of faith,” Parker says. “Throughout centuries, this literature has helped us understand how individuals express their faith in different time periods.”
The Kabbalistic Tree of Life with the names of the Sephiroth and paths in Hebrew.  Public Domain
In other traditions, mysticism may be studied as esoteric learnings and interpretations of the holy scriptures. One example that is well known in popular culture is the Kabbalah. Kabbalah has become a buzzword since pop singer Madonna announced that she was studying the ancient mysticism, which rose from Jewish tradition. Kabbalist teachings are said to explain hidden meanings of the Hebrew Bible, known as the Torah, and traditional rabbinic literature.
The Islamic mystical tradition called Sufism, which exists in both Sunni and Shia Islam, is characterized by ascetism and missionary work. It is not a sect, but a way of understanding the religion more deeply. Sufi teachers work to transmit divine light to the heart of the student, and to perfectly follow Divine Law.
* If You Go: Register for individual sessions or the series at at iflc.wufoo.com/forms/r1jo5m5516l79jn/.
Walk-in registration welcome. Suggested donation $20 per program.

October 10th Five Women Five Journeys
at the Muslim Unity Center
This program features personal stories of women of different faith traditions – how their childhood impacted their beliefs today, what challenges are for women in their faith tradition, what parts of their religion is misunderstood, how reaching out to someone from a different faith tradition has enriched their lives.

The program will begin at 7:00 PM and end at 9:00 AM. There will be an opportunity for questions and answers with the panel.  Any questions, please contact Paula Drewek at drewekpau@aol.com or 586-5589-7545

October 11th 6:00 – 10:00 PM, Come to the
Bharatiya Temple in Troy
and learn about the Hindu Festival of Navaratri. Navaratri is the festival of nine nights, when, through folk dance, the Feminine aspect of Divinity is worshiped. This festival is the celebration of the Shakti (The Primoridal Power), the female aspect of creation that gives birth to the entire universe and sustains it. You will meet Shama Mehta, a WISDOM Board Member and Interfaith Chaplain, at 6:00 PM in the prayer hall for a tour of the prayer hall with Q & A, followed by an introduction to Garba, worship through dance, and entry in the Garba Hall. The Garba celebration begins at 7:00 PM and runs until 10:00 PM, but you are free to depart as you schedule necessitates. There will be a nominal fee to enter the Garba Hall.  Bharatiya Temple is located at 6850 N. Adams Rd., Troy, MI 48098. Any questions, please contact Shama Mehta at shama.mehta7@gmail.com

November 11th WISDOM presents “Friendship and Faith,” the second edition at the
Jewish Community Center Bookfair.
Several WISDOM authors will read excerpts from their stories, discuss their story, answer questions and be aviloable to sign all boks that are purchased. The program will run from 11:00 AM until noon at the Jewish Community center, 6600 W. Maple Rd., West Bloomfield MI 48322.  Any questions, please contact Gail Katz at gailkatz@comcast.net or 248-978-6664
December 11th Mosaic workshop
Ever want to make a piece of Mosaic artwork? WISDOM and Song and Spirit Institute for Peace are partnering to give you a chance to create a piece of mosaic artwork for yourself or to give as a holiday gift. Song and Spirit Institute is located at 4300 Rochester Rd., Royal Oak, MI 48073. Check the WISDOM website, www.interfaithwisdom.org for more information as we get closer to December.

WISDOM Women will be presenting “Friendship and Faith” 2nd edition at the Jewish Community Center’s 2018 Book Fair, on November 11th at 11:00 AM. Come join us at the JCC, 6600 W. Maple Road, West Bloomfield, MI 48322.

Gail Katz will facilitate and introduce Rabbi Dorit Edut, Najah Bazzy, and Padma Kuppa, who will read excerpts from their stories and respond to questions from the audience.

Purchase our book at the JCC or find it online at Amazon, in both print and e-book formats.

Questions?  Contact Gail Katz at gailkatz@comcast.net

                             

Heaven on Earth
Hugh Beckman M.D. 1952 (revised 2014)
Jesus, Moses, Mohammed his name
And far and wide was known the fame,
Of this frail man, who lay half dead,
Some say with a halo around his head.
A holy man among holies was he,
The very essence of piety.
And every day you could always see,
Him standing with the Shofar to his lips,
Blowing the Angelus from the Minaret tips.
Chanting: Wa Mohammed, la ilaha il Allah, Sh’ma Yisrael, Ave Maria
To him these words all seemed the same,
For he loved one God who had no name.
Not the same he thought, for many around,
As hatred, greed, and war abound.
Chanting: Wa Mohammed, la ilaha il Allah, Sh’ma Yisrael, Ave Maria
These words of righteous piety,
Often act to tear apart society.
He thought, I”d change them if I can,
To bond man to God, and man to man.
Chanting: Wa Mohammed la ilaha il Allah, Sh’ma Yisrael, Ave Maria
As his eyes last beheld the setting sun,
A Voice above said that he was the one
To change the words, that all may say,
At last for I’ve seen the light of day.
And so , with the Shofar to his lips,
He climbed at the Angelus to the Minaret tips.
And as his failing life expired
He found the words to change; he was inspired
Shalom, Saalam, and Peace be With You;
I bequeath these words, I believe them True:
Now Chanting:
The culmination of One’s life,
The full measure of One’s worth;
Is not just making One’s way to Heaven,
But One’s helping to make Heaven on Earth.

(RNS) – For the collector who has almost everything, there’s a chance this week to claim ownership of a Bible that literally was out of this world.
A Los Angeles auction firm is taking bids on a microform, or photographically reduced, King James Bible that went to the moon on the 1971 Apollo 14 space flight. Similar in appearance to a piece of microfilm, the microform is certified as containing the entire biblical text. Its print is so small that one needs a microscope to read it.
The tiny, space-traveling Bible was one of 11 that left Earth’s atmosphere in the care of landing module commander Edgar Mitchell, who died in 2016 on the eve of the 45th anniversary of that lunar landing. He carried them in a container for personal items. A print Bible would have been too heavy for a space mission, but the lightweight versions posed no obstacle.
Minimum bid for the rarity is $50,000, according to the Nate D. Sanders auction firm, which will close bidding at 5 p.m. Pacific time on Thursday (July 26).
Apollo 14, carrying astronauts Alan Shepard Jr., Stuart Roosa and Edgar Mitchell, lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center on Jan. 31, 1971. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons
According to auction house spokesman Sam Heller, a similar lunar Bible flew along for the famously aborted Apollo 13 mission of 1970, in which mechanical malfunctions forced astronauts back to Earth under hardship conditions. That Bible sold for $62,500 last year despite never having reached the moon. Heller said the firm wouldn’t guess at a final bid for this latest item, which is being offered on consignment by an unnamed collector.
Mitchell’s lunar Bible was the creation of a group known as the Apollo Prayer League, according to the auction house. John Stout, a NASA information scientist and an ordained pastor, started the league after the 1967 launchpad deaths of Apollo 1 astronauts Gus Grissom, Edward White II and Roger Chaffee. Stout was close to White and they often prayed together. Knowing that White wanted to carry a Bible to the moon, Stout devised the microform version as a way to fulfill White’s vision.
Mitchell’s Bible-carrying mission wasn’t the first time religious paraphernalia had reached the lunar surface. Apollo 11 astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, an elder at Webster Presbyterian Church in Houston, brought with him a small piece of bread and miniature chalice. With holy elements in hand, he took Communion on the moon on Sunday, July 20, 1969.
The so-called lunar Bible measures 1.625 inches square. It is centered in a gold and enamel setting measuring 4 inches by 6 inches.
The chance to own it could be tempting for a Bible collector with deep pockets, according to R. Michael Kuykendall, a New Testament studies professor at Gateway Seminary in Vancouver, Wash., and chief editor of the International Society of Bible Collectors’ Bible Review Journal.
“It has a place in Bible collecting,” he said of the lunar Bible. “That’s publicity. That’s an interest.”
While many of his group’s members focus on finding the best-preserved editions of older volumes such as the 16th-century Geneva Bible, there are those interested in finding more “esoteric” editions, such as the moon-landed microform Bible.
“There’s nothing else that would compare to that,” Kuykendall said. However, the $50,000 price tag might put off some buyers.
“I build my own collection $50 at a time,” he said.
Heller suggested a museum might also be interested in the space-launched Bible. The recently opened Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., already has one of the Apollo 14 lunar Bibles. The museum tweetedout a video Tuesday documenting the historic item.

‘One God, One Community’ brings
faiths together in Evansville
In 2017, Bishop Charles Thompson, then of Evansville, Indiana, approached Benedictine Fr. Godfrey Mullen, pastor of St. Benedict Cathedral Parish, to ask the parish to spearhead Catholic participation in “One God, One Community” – Evansville’s interfaith community effort.
There was pushback from some parishioners.
The fear was that Catholic faith would be presented in a wishy-washy way, a milquetoast compendium of beliefs intended to be palatable to a wider community. Thompson was soon off to become archbishop of Indianapolis, and Mullen was left to deal with the anxiety.
Support independent Catholic journalism. Become an NCR Forward member for $5 a month.
They needn’t have worried from the track record of the series of events sponsored by the group over the past year.
“It could not have been more powerful,” said Mullen. Among the four participating congregations – including Evansville’s First PresbyterianTemple Adath B’Nai Israel, a Reform Jewish congregation; and the Evansville Islamic Society – friendships have emerged and discussions, much of the time over ethnic food, have flourished as the diverse religious community of Indiana’s third-largest city gets to better know each other.
“One God, One Community” has offered programs on history, immigration, theology, the role of sacred space, rituals and holidays among the different faiths. While there is much pleasant community-building, the group has not shied away from sensitive issues. The group once sponsored a talk by Christian Picciolini, a former white supremacist. In the process, the congregations have discovered a common core of values, even if clothed in different cultural and historical terms by the three Abrahamic religions.
Rabbi Gary Mazo said his congregation has joined in support for projects – such as the local Habitat for Humanity – with members of the other congregations. “There’s a desire to be part of something bigger than ourselves,” he said.
“People find support. They are not alone. They feel validated,” he said, noting that the small Jewish community in Evansville, which has declined in number over the years, welcomes being part of the wider civic and charitable life in the city.
That affirmation is needed in a difficult time for interfaith relations, Mazo said. Evansville has had its nastier moments, including shots fired at the synagogue – no one was injured – and a car that rammed the Islamic Center soon after 9/11.
Evansville’s Muslims also see the interfaith group as a bridge to the rest of the city, said Mohammad Hussain, a physician and president of the Islamic Center. Each group sponsors particular events, and it was left to the Muslims to provide an Independence Day celebration. The Islamic Center responded with food and fireworks, after an interfaith discussion of the role of religious faith in patriotism.
“We understand we have different faiths but are walking on the same path,” said Hussain.
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Religious leaders said the group has reinforced their own beliefs while creating greater respect for others.
Some in the group cooperate beyond the regular gatherings. For example, Mazo and the Rev. Kevin Fleming, pastor of First Presbyterian, cover for each other on vacations. The church and the congregation have also exchanged pulpits.
While the Catholics are newcomers, the origins of the group grew out of a 2014 comedy tour that came to Evansville featuring a Jew, a Christian and a Muslim gently lampooning differences and commonalities. The Catholic parish’s 3,000 members are the largest of the congregations.
Evansville’s effort can be a model for other cities, the religious leaders said. Each tradition had a variation of the pushback of fear that beliefs would be watered down to accommodate a common denominator. But that hasn’t happened.
“As long as there is respect, and no one resorts to proselytizing, it’s an easy thing to do,” said Mullen.
He said that despite divergent traditions, other religious congregations face similar issues. The personalities in congregations may hold different beliefs, but they are remarkably similar, as religious organizations deal with internal conflicts, fundraising and other practical issues.
While each group is different, in many ways they are very much the same, said Mullen.
[Peter Feuerherd is a correspondent for NCR’s Field Hospital series on parish life and is a professor of journalism at St. John’s University, New York.]

Below is an interesting posting on Facebook about a Jewish woman’s experience in Istanbul!!
One of my friends is spending her summer in Istanbul, Turkey. She just told me about a really interesting experience she had… “A couple days ago we were wandering around the city and it was getting close to shkiah (sunset). I wanted to daven (pray) mincha (the afternoon prayer) and my friend suggested I find a mosque to daven in. I wasn’t so sure at first (mostly I was afraid the people running the mosque would have a problem with it), but he talked me into it (it’s actually preferable according to Jewish law to daven in a mosque rather than out in the street). They were totally fine with it. They gave me a head scarf to wear when I entered because even though I was dressed tznua (modestly) by Jewish standards I wasn’t according to Islam. And the coolest part of the story? From Istanbul, Jerusalem and Mecca are in the same direction, so both Jews and Muslims pray facing the same way. And the mosque was beautiful. I had much more kavanah (spiritual connection and intent) than I would have in the middle of a bustling sidewalk.”

Reinventing religion – with romance novels
By Kimberly Winston
Vanessa Zoltan (Courtesy of Harrison Becker)
Can novels where bodices rip and manhoods throb be considered sacred? The creator of a new podcast says the answer is an emphatic, “Yes! Oh, yes!” “For something to be sacred, the way we think about it, it has to teach you to be better at loving,” said Vanessa Zoltan, the 36-year-old who created the podcast, which will be called – ahem – “Hot and Bothered.” The show encourages listeners to write their own romance novels as a sacred practice.
“This will be a place where people can think out loud about what love is. Romantic love or friendship or hospitality – whatever. It will be a place of imagination, and I think that is a virtuous thing,” she said. Then she added: “And romance novels are more fun to talk about than Leviticus. I have done both and I stand by that.”
The podcast will premiere in October and appear weekly through the end of the year. And while some traditional believers may roll their eyes, Zoltan and the band of 20- and 30-something wannabe writers she has lined up to contribute to “Hot and Bothered” say it is another example of how their millennial generation is breaking with traditional religious practices to create meaning in new ways.

“The church for many people is a gift, but for others, it is a place of trauma, a place where they have been told that not all of their identity is welcome,” said Zoltan, a graduate of Harvard Divinity School. “Those people are leaving the church, and we need to come up with new spiritual technologies.”
Culturally Jewish and a self-identified atheist, Zoltan herself could be a poster child for the new millennial brand of spirituality.
At Harvard, she studied Charlotte Brontë’s “Jane Eyre” as a sacred text. Then she co-founded “Harry Potter and the Sacred Text,” a podcast exploring the meaning of friendship, power, grief, integrity and other themes through the J.K. Rowling novels. It is now one of iTunes’ most popular podcasts, with 9 million downloads a year.

Her new podcast project was born after the 2016 election, when she found herself obsessing over the news to the point of sleeplessness. The only thing that offered relief, she found, was reading romances – novels whose lurid, louche covers open upon worlds in which everyone is beautiful, the good always triumph, the bad are always punished and, above all, love always wins. She read 27 of them in 60 days.
Then she started writing one.
That led to deep conversations with friends about the nature of love, the value of fidelity, the power of sacrifice and more. It wasn’t long before she thought, “This would make a good podcast.”
But can writing a romance be a sacred practice? “In order for something to be sacred it needs three things,” Zoltan said. “It needs faith, rigor and community.” Faith that the act of writing can bring real blessings, rigor in the commitment to write regularly and community in the podcast’s listeners and team.

Brent Plate, who teaches courses on religion and popular culture at Hamilton College, says “Hot and Bothered” is a good example of how millennials are redefining religion for themselves. “Millennials are perhaps the first generation in which a broad swath of them grew up without traditional religious practices,” he said in an email. “This has allowed them to rethink and reimagine the need for a community of people to come together for a common activity and common interest, so they are making communal rituals out of going to music festivals, cosplay, and writing romance novels together. The content has changed, but the form hasn’t.”
Rethinking and reimagining does not mean replacing. Zoltan is not suggesting listeners write steamy scenes instead of going to church, temple or mosque. “I am definitely not saying this should take the place of any spiritual practice people already have,” she said. “But like St. Augustine said, anything that makes you better at loving is a good thing.”

Ariana Nedelman, a 26-year-old Harvard Divinity School graduate who produces the Harry Potter podcast, will produce “Hot and Bothered,” as well. “I think that the loneliness and lostness of my generation means we are looking for a communal life that makes sense of the big questions – where do we go when we die, etc.,” Nedelman said. “Asking questions in community is right for us in a spiritual sense.”
For the podcast, Zoltan will be joined by a team of writers – from bestseller Julia Quinn to novices – who discuss a common romance trope on each episode: love at first sight, marriage of convenience, enemies to lovers and so on. Listeners will be encouraged to write their own romances and to share their writing experience with others in small, local groups. “Our dream is people listen to the podcast and then find each other and partner up,” Zoltan said.
The goal is not to publish but to explore what is sacred about human relationships. “For me, being a spiritual person means being a good person,” said Sejah Patel, a San Francisco-based public interest lawyer who is one of the writers who will be featured in the podcast. She is Hindu, and she is 30,000 words into her novel. “So to me a spiritual practice is simply how am I putting what I consider to be good into the world. And I believe I am putting good in the world because the writing is bringing me joy, the joy is allowing me to do my job, and my job is helping people. I can only do that with enthusiasm and freshness if my soul feels full and happy and not depleted.”
Plate sees “Hot and Bothered” as evidence of the malaise afflicting traditional religious institutions. “The old-school, churchgoing Christians, I think they’re going to have to realize that their stories and rituals no longer meet the bodily and communal needs of people,” he said.
But can writing romance novels, even with faith, rigor and community, serve up the spiritual sustenance of traditional religions such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam? Only if it moves beyond individual fulfillment, Plate thinks. But perhaps it really can.

September 2018

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events 
 
Exploring Our Religious Landscapes – Fall 2018
Understanding Mysticism Across Faith Traditions
See the series below – Series begins September 12th!!

Wednesday, September 26th 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM
WISDOM at Zaman for a Voluntary Culinary Day
26091 Trowbridge St., Inkster, 48141
See Flyer Below


Ask A Jewish Person
Wednesday, October 3rd, 6:00 – 7:30 PM
Islamic Center of America
19600 Ford Rd., Dearborn, MI
See Flyer Below
Wednesday, October 10th 7:00 – 9:00 PM
WISDOM’s Five Women Five Journeys
Muslim Unity Center, 1830 W. Square Lake Rd. Bloomfield Hills


Thursday, October 11th, 6:00 – 10:00 PM
Learn about the Hindu holiday called Navratri
Bharatiya Temple, 6850 N. Adams Road, Troy
Questions?  email Shama Mehta,  shama.mehta7@gmail.com
Monday, November 5th 1:00 – 3:00 PM
WISDOM’s Five Women Five Journeys at SOAR
(Society of Active Retirees)
Birmingham Temple 28611 W. 12 Mile Road,  Farmington HIlls


Sunday, November 11th 11:00 AM
Jewish Community Center Book Fair WISDOM presentation
of book Friendship and Faith
6600 W. Maple Rd., West Bloomfield
Sunday, November 11th, 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM
InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit
Panel on “Religious Sensitivities” at St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church, 2160 Maple Rd., Troy 48083
See Flyer Below!!
Tuesday, December 11th, 6:30 PM
Mosaic Art Workshop with Song and Spirit Institute for Peace
4300 Rochester Road, Royal Oak
Save the Date
Sunday, March 24th, 2019 (afternoon)
Celebration of International Women’s Day
Save the Date

Opinion | Learning a lesson in civility from
Michigan seventh-graders
By Gail Katz
WISDOM Co-Founder
Chair of the IFLC Education Committee
Published in Bridge Michigan July 2018
To be an American today is to live in a world in which people who practice unfamiliar faiths are our next-door neighbors and our fellow classmates. Yet too often, people of different religions are afraid of each other and that fear can lead to prejudice, discrimination and sometimes violence. When we know little or nothing about the religious beliefs of our neighbors and we classify them as the OTHER, they become our enemies.
Our hope is that with Religious Diversity Journeys the OTHER will be replaced by our friend.
In these times of public incivility and intolerance, a Southeast Michigan program is helping seventh-graders learn about their neighbors’ religions by visiting their places of worship.
By learning about what is unfamiliar, our goal is that our seventh-graders will help build bridges among the diverse people of our community and make Metro Detroit a better place. The Religious Diversity Journeys program also helps to prevent the bullying that sometimes occurs in middle schools.
It’s a model that many adults could learn from.
About 700 seventh-graders from public and parochial schools across Metro Detroit study Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Sikhism at local houses of worship. The visits provide a base of knowledge about each faith, including their holidays and traditions, to dispel myths and stereotypes about them.
On each journey, students meet with clergy and congregational leaders who provide an overview of that religion’s beliefs and practices, and answer their questions ranging from marriage customs to religious symbols. They have an opportunity to see religious artifacts and try on some traditional garments-such as turbans worn by some Sikhs and head scarves worn by some women who follow Sikh and Muslim traditions. The young people usually work on a service project together and enjoy a lunch with the traditional food of that religion.
For many students, it is the first visit to a house of worship outside their own faith. Recently, one parent urged her daughter not to attend the session at a mosque but her daughter chose to participate and later reassured her mother that there was nothing to fear from Islam. What they learn provides a basis to stand up to religious stereotypes.
The concluding session each academic year is a visit to the Detroit Institute of Arts to look at religion and art, as well as a trip to the Holocaust Memorial Center to learn what can happen when hate and fear rule.
During the past 15 years, the program has received very positive reviews from students, parents and teachers. One parent said, “Thank you for guiding our daughter through a remarkable activity with the Religious Diversity Journeys experience. She had been very curious about the different religions and traditions. I’m grateful she had this exposure and will do my best to keep this going for our family.”
When participants were asked how they could use their new knowledge to promote greater tolerance at school, one student answered, “If someone is making fun of a religion or making bad comments, I can correct them and use what I know.” Another seventh-grader spoke of being able to “help those who criticize to better understand differences, rather than making fun of them.”
 As the first coordinator of Religious Diversity Journeys, I was surprised and pleased several years ago when a young woman approached me and said, “I was in your Religious Diversity Journeys program a number of years ago, and it changed my life!!” She is now involved in diversity initiatives and is making a difference in our world.

A Little Poland in India – an Amazing Human Interest from the Second World War Days
This is an amazing human interest story that is doing the rounds on the social media. A documentary produced by Aakar Films, directed by Anu Radha and Sumit Osmand Shaw, that deals with an extraordinary topic of a shipload of Polish refugees who landed in India during second world war. To provide a background: During the years preceding World War II, a huge number of Poles were taken away by the Red Army to work at the Soviet-run labour camps in remote parts of North-Eastern USSR and Siberia. When Hitler’s army invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, the USSR announced a general amnesty leading to the release of Polish exiles from labour camps. This was also done with a view to encourage forming a Polish Army unit to fight the German army that was fast advancing into the USSR.
Thus began a great exodus – from the cold parts of the Soviet Union to warmer southern regions of Central Asia. The long and arduous journey stretched over hundreds of kilometres. It was a test of human endurance and suffering in the most difficult situations. Many travellers lost their loved ones en route owing to the cold, hunger, malnutrition and dehydration. The journey stretched across many lands and transit points – Ashkhabad in Turkmenistan, Mashhad, Isfahan and Tehran in Iran, Afghanistan, Quetta, Zahedau and Karachi in present day Pakistan and to India’s western coast.
On 1st September 1939, German troops invaded Poland which marked the beginning of the Second World War. On 17th September 1939, the remaining territory of Poland was attacked by Stalin’s forces.
When Hitler invaded Poland and started World War II, the Polish soldiers left 500 women and 200 children in a ship and told Captain to take them to any country, where they can get shelter. “If we are alive or survive, then we will meet again”.
The ship, filled with five hundred refugees, police, women and two hundred children, reached the harbor port of Iran, there was no permission to shelter anyone not even allowed to land , then they could not get help even in Seychelles, there was no permission even in Aden. Finally, the ship wandering in the sea came to the coast of Jamnagar in Gujarat. Raja Digvijay Singhji of Jamnagar, Gujarat with the Polish refugees Malnourished and exhausted, the refugees had a surprise welcome, when they arrived in Nawanagar, from the Maharaja himself. “Don’t consider yourselves orphans. You are now Nawanagaris and I am Bapu, the father of all Nawanagaris, including yourselves,” he said. Digvijay Singh was the Chancellor of the Council of Princes and member of the Imperial War Cabinet in British India (1939-1945) who opened his province to Polish refugees threatened with annihilation. He knew the officials of the Polish government in exile that operated from London owing to his position in the Imperial War Cabinet. The Maharaja of Jamnagar, “Jham Sahab Digvijay Singh”, not only gave shelter to five hundred women but also gave their children free education in Balachiri an Army School. These refugees stayed in Jamnagar for nine years.
One of the children of those refugee children later became the Prime Minister of Poland, even presently, a few descendants of those refugees, come to Jamnagar every year in remembrance of their ancestors.
The board outside the main gate of a school in Warsaw mentioning the school named after the Maharaja Jam Saheb Digvijay Sinhji.
In Poland, many roads in capital Warsaw are named after Maharaja Jam Sahib; in his name there are many schemes in Poland. Every year Poland newspapers print articles about Maharaja Jam Saheb Digvijay Singh.
The film touches upon great emotional moments – of joy and exultation at the end of the war, ‘My mother, my brother is alive’ or humorous asides from Sainik School, Balachadi of spinach not being eaten by the Polish children or a deeply moving remark: “My father was murdered by the Soviets. In India, Maharaja Jam Saheb became our second father”.
All the refugees from that ship who were joined by others later on, neither had to change their faith or their identity – such is the all inclusive culture of India.

Jew, Christian, Muslim: ‘See the Beloved everywhere’
Nothing in my uber-Catholic background (weekly Mass and confession, memorizing the Baltimore Catechism, strict nun teachers) could have prepared me to participate in a zikr at which Muslim, Jewish and Christian people chanted the name of God, while the imam sang a melodic line over the chant.
Some of the women draped in scarves swayed back and forth, we all felt held by the chanting, and I began to understand why it is a component of much of the world’s worship. The dictionary definition of zikr is a form of remembrance “associated chiefly with Sufism, when the worshiper is absorbed in the rhythmic repetition of God’s name or attributes.”
Much of the imam’s initial talk resonated with what I already believed. “See the Beloved everywhere,” he encouraged. “Be so crazily in love you’re like the besotted 13-year-old who, asked about ice cream, sighs, ‘My favorite flavor is chocolate.’ “
His words about God’s spark within being the source of human dignity touched a familiar chord – as a Catholic, I’d heard that message, named Divine indwelling, often. Muhammad said, “Wherever you turn, there is the face of God.” In the Jewish kabbalah or mystical teaching, God hurled forth the holy in countless sparks at the beginning of time; it whispers to us from all created people and things. When we descend to the deepest underground stream, all religions echo similar truths.
I’ve learned this firsthand from my interfaith group of five Muslim, five Jewish and five Christian women who meet monthly, taking turns in their homes.
A typical gathering starts with a potluck of snacks and informal conversation. Then after prayer, a facilitator (a rotating role) lays groundwork for the theme of the evening. We’ve discussed threads common to all traditions, like various religious holidays, the importance of pilgrimages, communal and individual prayer, action for justice, and environmental protection. There’s strong consensus that we must, in whatever small ways we can, offset the current government’s antipathy to Islam and hostility to refugees. After both January Women’s Marches, we shared our experiences and chortled at our favorite signs.
The cornerstones of all three Abrahamic faiths – love God and neighbor – spill into practical action. When a Presbyterian and her family, sponsored by Catholic Charities, began to foster two Muslim teenaged refugees who escaped Myanmar and Somalia, Muslims helped with advice about diet, local mosques, and what hairpins best hold the hijab in place. When one young refugee encountered anti-Muslim graffiti at her high school, another member’s daughter, a senior at the same school, organized a welcome campaign to counter the hatred. We all asked Congress to halt U.S. funding of the Burmese army engaged in the genocide of Rohingya Muslims. Our “purse project” furnished hundreds of bags filled with donated toiletries and goodies to homeless women in the East Bay area.
We’ve learned not to minimize our differences, but also to celebrate our commonalities. We are all seekers, yearning to see with the eye of the soul and to find the face of God through our own faiths. We are keenly interested in the wisdom of the world’s perennial traditions, especially what we never learned during more narrow youths. We care deeply about our planet, the next generation, offsetting ignorance and fear through education, our sacred texts, and favorite poets like Rumi and Mary Oliver.
Jewish members of our group have explained how it’s vital to their tradition to wrestle with God, not accepting easy answers. Muslim members have taken a break from the meeting and adjourned to another room when it’s time to pray. Those of us from more hierarchical traditions with ordained clergy marvel at how easily one of the women in our group assumes the leadership role, transforming any living room into sacred space. Most of us attended Muslim-Christian retreats at San Damiano, a Franciscan friary, and the local mosque.
Once a year, we lead an Advent service at a Presbyterian church. As always, we’re impressed by the Muslim reverence for Mary (who is mentioned more times in the Quran than in the Gospel) and Jesus, whose name is always followed by the phrase, “Peace be upon him.”
Although Advent didn’t hold great meaning for Jews, they contributed the Tu B’Shvat prayer for creation and the Talmud teaching on repairing our own small pieces of the world. The service concluded with the prayer of an interfaith council that sponsors five circles like ours: “The task is not ours alone to complete. Neither are we free to walk away. O God of blessing, strengthen our hands and our hearts to do Your work.”
After more than two years of membership in this circle, I’m grateful to the women who’ve corrected the self-righteousness of my youth, when I was taught that only my religion possessed truth. What arrogance or insecurity implied that there wasn’t enough abundance in God to overflow onto all the world’s peoples? I’ve appreciated their revealing themselves not only as Muslim, Jewish or Christian, but as women with similar basic concerns: about a daughter going to college, a racist on the local school board, a father after a stroke, a divorce, a project to grow healthy food for children in “food deserts.” And thanks for that recipe of persimmons with goat cheese!
One of the most treasured ornaments on my Christmas tree is a tiny crèche made in Bethlehem that my Muslim friend Maram brought from her native country. Somehow she knew its profound meaning for Christians; somehow she tapped that deep underground stream that bathes us all.

 Why Catholics and Jews dominate at the Supreme Court
Two days after he was nominated by President Trump to the Supreme Court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh ladled mac and cheese into takeout trays outside Catholic Charities in Washington, D.C. That the nominee for the country’s highest bench should pop up in photos volunteering for a Catholic aid group is no surprise at this point. When Trump announced his selection, Kavanaugh talked about being “part of the vibrant Catholic community in the D.C. area … united by a commitment to serve.” He also gave a nod to schooling: “The motto of my Jesuit high school was ‘Men for others.’ I’ve tried to live that creed.”
Kavanaugh’s inclusion on the court would preserve the Catholic majority, with six justices reared and formed in that tradition. (Neil Gorsuch attends an Episcopal Church but grew up Catholic and attended the same Catholic high school as Kavanaugh.) The remaining three justices are Jewish.
The Supreme Court that may yet rule on the current administration’s fractious immigration policies, in other words, is dominated by two religious minorities that came into this country as immigrants in the 19th and early 20th centuries and strained to gain a footing equal to that of the Protestant establishment.
“For a whole lot of Catholic and Jewish immigrants, law school was, in a very pressing way, a ticket to the middle class,” said Richard W. Garnett, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame. In addition, Catholics and Jews both struggled with religious prejudice and may have seen the legal profession as a way to ensure that their rights were protected.
Today, Catholics make up a declining share of Americans – just 20 percent, according to Pew Research (down from 23.9 percent a decade earlier). Jews are a far smaller number – barely 2 percent. The United States has elected only one Catholic president (John F. Kennedy) and one Catholic vice president (Joseph Biden). It has had no Jewish presidents or vice presidents.
So, why their dominance on the court? It may have something to do with the value the two minority faiths place on higher education and the religions’ openness to intellectual inquiry, said John Fea, professor of American history at Messiah College. “Unlike evangelicals who base their entire worldview on the teachings of the Bible, Catholics and Jews seem much more open to engaging in larger principles that will affect not only their own community, but the common good of the republic or of a nation beyond the needs of their particular religious tradition,” Fea said.
For most of America’s history, the court was composed almost entirely of Protestants. The first Catholic to win a seat on the court was Roger Taney in 1836 – nearly 50 years after the court was created. It would take another 58 years for the second Catholic to be elevated to the Supreme Court.  It took 127 years for the first Jew to take a seat on the court. Louis Brandeis, the son of Jewish immigrants from what is now the Czech Republic, was elevated to the position in 1916. There was blatant anti-Semitism during confirmation hearings that lasted six months. Afterward, some justices refused to sit next to him for the official court photo.
“There were all sorts of smears against his character,” said Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, Brandeis’ great-grandson and a senior vice president at Auburn Seminary. “It was an overt anti-Semitism paired with this concern for nativist ideas.”
Seven other Jewish justices followed Brandeis, who was later hailed by President Franklin Roosevelt as his “Isaiah.” There have been 13 Catholics – not counting Gorsuch. During the 20th century, it was assumed there would be a “Catholic seat” and a “Jewish seat” on the court, so that when one retired, or died, another of the same faith would be appointed. But that desire to keep a certain religious diversity on the court is no longer in play.
Ideology and politics seem to play a larger role. Consider that Democratic presidents appointed seven of the eight Jewish justices. (Benjamin Cardozo, the second Jewish justice, was nominated by Herbert Hoover, a Republican.) “Partly that’s reflective of the American Jewish community and its relationship with more liberal or progressive political parties,” said Lauren B. Strauss, professor of Jewish history at American University.
Republican presidents have selected the recent crop of Catholic justices – with the exception of Sonia Sotomayor, an Obama appointee. Those Republican presidents have wanted to shape the judiciary in a more conservative direction. “Part of the story may also be the rise in significance of the abortion question on the court,” said Garnett. “It’s not the whole thing, but part of it.” Many have speculated that if Kavanaugh is confirmed by the Senate, Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling that allowed women the right to an abortion, may be overturned.
Those political or ideological headwinds may partly explain the court’s Catholic-Jewish makeup. Experts say that as more evangelicals gain entry to elite law schools and start clerking for top judges, they too will begin getting nominated to the top court. But the nation’s religious makeup is also changing. Soon the number of religiously unaffiliated Americans is expected to overtake the number of evangelicals in the country. Nearly 23 percent of Americans are now unaffiliated, almost as many as those who are evangelical (25.4 percent).
“We’d like to see a court that’s more reflective of the country and of people who do not hold religious beliefs,” said Alison Gill, legal and policy director for American Atheists. “There are a growing numbers of young people identifying as atheist or agnostic. It’s just a matter of time.”

Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC has it’s annual Interfaith Health Fair on Sunday, August 12th
at Munger Elementary School in Detroit
By Naomi Levine
(Community Relations Associate)
While the scheduling of dates couldn’t have been planned, the juxtaposition of the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC’s annual Interfaith Health Fair with the anniversary of Charlottesville’s Unite the Right rally didn’t go unnoticed. At the health fair, medical professionals from the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh faiths volunteered their time and expertise to provide health care for underserved members of the Detroit community. During slower times, they chatted together and bonded over their shared values and ideals. Emails were shared and plans to get together in the future were made. The volunteers never stopped smiling.
Those who participated at the health fair are aware that the anxiety over the perceived loss of white power and influence, as well as fear of the “other” that is rampant in our country can’t be eliminated overnight. Yet the atmosphere of humanity and generosity to each other and those less fortunate provided much needed hope. Reflecting on what took place last year and comparing it to the big-heartedness of those in our community was so comforting. By sharing this story may the comfort be also shared.

The Annual Association of Baha’i Studies in Atlanta
By Paula Drewek
The Annual Association of Baha’i Studies was held this year in Atlanta. Since I had friends there I found it attractive to submit a proposal: “Friendship and Faith: Women’s Experiences of Reaching Out to the Other.” Trish Harris, one of the founders of WISDOM, and I co-wrote the presentation which was essentially on the 2nd edition of Wisdom’s book, Friendship and Faith: The Wisdom of Women Creating Alliances for Peace. We thought it deserved inclusion in the conference theme of “Building a Spiritualized Civilization.” The theme was taken from a statement by Abdul’-Baha, son of the founder of the Baha’i Faith:
“Material civilization is like unto the lamp, while spiritual civilization is the light of that lamp. If the material and spiritual civilizations become united, then we will have the light and the lamp together, and the outcome will be perfect.” (The Promulgation of Universal Peace).
The Association sees intellectual advancement as central to the renewal of civilization and encourages both young and old to learn to read the social reality of their time, analyze the assumptions and concepts in their fields, and correlate them with Baha’i teachings. Since its establishment in 1975, the Association of Baha’i Studies has endeavored to strengthen the intellectual life of the Baha’i community and provide spaces for learning and collaboration. It has maintained a strong focus on the arts as part of their annual conferences. It also maintains several “working groups” along themes of interest to Baha’i scholars: and provides a youth program for teens and young adults.
Plenary sessions this year were: “Neuroscience, Ethics, and Religion: Moving Beyond Coexistence” which included a group of faculty from Atlanta area universities; “An American Story: Race Amity and the Other Tradition;” Navigating discourse on Race within the Politicized Landscape of Journalism;” with Jesse Washington; and “Building Community with Refugee Populations in Atlanta.” The latter was a panel of participants in “boots on the ground” programs in Clarkston, Ga., a town with the largest number of refugees in the USA, 45% of a population of around 13,000. I also learned that Michigan is one of the top 10 resettlement places in the US with about 2,500 per year. Most refugees come from Syria (more than all others combined), then Columbia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria and Sudan. The panelists spoke of the receptivity of refugee populations including their willingness to participate in a community-building program. Emphasis was on friendship, giving and receiving hospitality, gathering together to pray and the power of the holy word and music . Connecting on a spiritual level often led to social connection even between hostile country immigrants.   One of the panelists was a physician who collaborated with other physicians to form a clinic for those without insurance. They found that the 20-40 patients seen during a day often developed an oasis of support while in the waiting room. Netflix will be producing a documentary on Clarkston.
The Neuroscience panel was of special interest to me since I had learned of the importance of neuroscientific studies of the brain in previous ABS conferences. Questions of how and why we do what we do were posed to panelists. Panelists acknowledged they could explain HOW but not why; religion was better at discerning why. The moderator sought to find common concerns between brain scientists and the teachings of the Baha’i Faith which acknowledge that “science and religion must go hand in hand” to discover truth.
As neuroscience addresses mental health, it’s possible that religion can play a role since it often provides coherence to life. Lack of coherence is often a factor in suicide and addiction. Questions from the audience were the brain’s relation to consciousness. Panelists acknowledged that the brain is the single most complex thing in the universe. You cannot use the same organ (the brain) to understand itself. What would you be trying to measure with consciousness? The answer bridges on ethics. Can we grow parts of the human brain in a dish? How many parts constitute a human subject? Legal brain death is not the same as biological death.
Other questions touched upon justice and trauma. Neuroscientists are often called upon to testify in trials. They use scientific information to confirm already-held beliefs. For instance, brains deprived of nutrition in childhood have fewer resources to cope with everyday stresses. Can we fault brain dysfunction in cases before the courts? Or is personal will always the culprit?
You can see that the plenary sessions provided much food for thought. I was happy to share the value of friendships in reaching across usual boundaries of faith, ethnicity and culture through several stores from our book , Friendship and Faith. Input from the audience was plentiful, as half a dozen attendees also shared their experiences of building connection with those who were very different. That’s what “building community” is all about I think. I was happy to have attended the annual Association of Baha’i Studies in Atlanta.

Being Single In A Marriage-Obsessed Community Is Tough – Whether You’re Jewish, Muslim Or Mormon
In religious communities, the pitied are often easily noticeable.
In some communities, it is distinct to where they live and what positions they hold. In others, what they are allowed to wear. In all, it’s as obvious as a naked finger. “No wedding band,” someone whispers in performative sympathy, fondling her own glittery ring. “Poor dear, single.”
Often, in the Orthodox Jewish community, the term ‘shidduch crisis’ is used to describe a surplus of single community members.
“I find that term deeply offensive,” said Dr. Sharon Weiss-Greenberg, executive director of JOFA, whose Facebook post on the subject garnered hundreds of comments about the hurt and shame singles in religious communities experience, prompting her to devote JOFA resources to initiate conversations about the stigma. In a panel event organized by JOFA this month, experts from across American religious communities gathered to reflect on the stigmas of singlehood in their circles – something common across theological differences.
“It doesn’t matter what you do, how much you accomplish,” said Reverend Khristi Lauren Adams, a Baptist pastor and chaplain, who is the author of The Misinterpreted Gospel of Singleness: A Cultural Critique of Myths Surrounding Singleness in the Christian Community. “You’re lacking completeness without a spouse in tow.”
Tayyaba Bukhari, the CDO of MALIKAH, an organization that works to empower Muslim women leaders, echoed that thought. “Getting married [in Islam] is completing half of your religion…you attain more closeness to God…so it’s very highly encouraged and a very attractive thing to do,” said Bukhari. Bukhari explained that there is often tension between communal expectations and individual’s choice, which is especially fraught for first-generation American Muslims, as they navigate the values with which they were raised by conservative immigrants parents and the American culture that emphasizes personal desire.
And Mormons are no different, explained Dr. Sharon Harris, an assistant professor at Brigham Young University (BYU) who has lived in and studied in the Mormon community. In Mormon doctrine, only married individuals attain the highest level of Heaven. For unmarried individuals, there are “singles wards;” communities for single individuals. “It’s supposed to be optional, and it is technically,” Harris told the crowd. “Except that means most singles move there [to singles wards], so you run the risk of feeling even more on the outskirts if you stay in a conventional congregation. So, I was in singles wards for many years, and there was a period where I was a middle school teacher…and I had the summers off….And I knew they were putting together youth camps, and I thought well, I’ve got some time that could be used to help. I went to the organizer and said, ‘I’m available, I’d be happy to help out.’ Not everyone volunteers to spend a week at youth camp! I thought they’d be excited about it. And she said, ‘Oh you know what? We’re fine. You just stay in the singles ward and date.’ I couldn’t give to the community. It was more important I do whatever they do in the singles ward…[instead of ] the opportunity for the youth to see somebody who’s participating, [who’s] accomplishing, [who’s] professional.”
Rabbi Abigail Sosland, Morah Ruchanit [Spiritual Advisor] of Schechter Westchester High School is recently married, but reflected on her years of being single in the panel discussion. “I have this deep, internalized shame I carried for decades.” She, too, was lectured with the same maxim of “You have free time? Date.” “It took me so long to realize that this wasn’t okay,” she said. Sosland said that she would not be invited for Shabbos meals, the hallmark of Jewish communal life, because hosts feared her presence would make things awkward. At social gatherings, friends would coo over engagements and grandchildren, without any acknowledgment of personal or professional accomplishments of those in the room. Sosland said there is a certain hypocrisy in how singles are treated: “More is demanded of them to give to the community, be it money or time, but they are given less from the community, be it appreciation for their contributions of even acknowledgement.”
Single women, in particular, experience a double standard, over single men. As Sosland described it, it’s the George Clooney versus Jennifer Aniston paradox: The single man breaks hearts while the single woman has her heart broken. For men, taking their time can be admirable: Building up a nest egg, climbing up the career ladder, and all sorts of accomplishments outside the home. Women are still defined so domestically, with marriage presumed to be not only a natural but an inevitable step early in life, preferably as soon as after she completes her schooling. When asked about how to change the conversation, panelists agreed there is a collective responsibility to reexamine faith communities’ mindsets towards singleness. Communities ought to celebrate personal and professional accomplishments beyond marriage and children. Sosland noted how grateful she had been to certain married friends who, when she was single, would make sure to include her in their events and sit alongside her so she would not be alone.
Bukhari said that part of dismantling stigma means empowering women to know their worth: “[Let] a girl, a woman, at any age, know her value does not come from a relationship with a man, but the relationship with herself and her God.”
Harris invoked the Mormon ritual of sealing, which is bonding individuals together eternally. While it most common between couples and between parents and children, Harris pointed out it has been used for friendships and close platonic bonds, emphasizing the importance of valuing non-familial relationships as just as enriching and valuable. Rachel, a member of the LDS Church, was drawn to the panel because she admired Harris and her work in singles wards. “I love all of the research that [Dr. Harris] has done and all she has to say. And I think it’s fascinating to hear about the effect across various religions.” Mohammad, who described himself as an “older single,” said that he found comfort in how the panel addressed the issue. “You can find these niche communities that have these small conversations, but they’re really meaningful and heartwarming.” Another audience member, a young Jewish woman described the panel as reassuring, adding wryly, “I’m only 23 but I’m already starting to feel the pressure.”
“It’s a relief,” said an older single, who asked to not be identified.
“We hope that people will take the lessons and practical suggestions the panelists presented and make change in their communities,” said Rivka Cohen, program manager at JOFA. “As an organization dedicated to the mission of Orthodox feminism, we believe and know firsthand that no change is too small – even just being mindful of how we act and what we say and who we invite to our Shabbat tables can make a world of a difference. Most importantly, we hope that everyone will continue these conversations, both in their own communities and across faith divides.”
Sara G. Marcus is a journalism student in Yeshiva University. She has written for the Forward and the Commercial Observer.

Fighting Discrimination Electronically Digital Storytelling to Advance Peace in Pakistan
by Ruth Broyde Sharone
from The Interfaith Observer
Naveed Hameed
The iconic image of a male storyteller addressing an enraptured audience pressed shoulder to shoulder around a glowing campfire may soon be replaced by hijab and sari-clad young women holding their smart phones.
A group of ambitious and empowered young women in Lahore, Pakistan are primed and eager to tell the stories of their time, their place, and their gender. Their instructor is Naveed Hameed, an accomplished filmmaker, journalist, and peace-builder, named one of 15 emerging young leaders in Pakistan by the U.S. State Department in 2016 and recently selected by the United States Institute of Peace (USIPS) as a Generation Change Fellow.
Naveed formed his own organization, Faiz Resource Foundation, in 2014 to teach young men and women visual storytelling through a variety of information and communication technology (ICT) tools. His long-range goal is to use digital storytelling to build peace in Pakistan, a country where in recent years, as he describes it, “people have witnessed an environment of growing intolerance, vigilantism, and violence against weaker groups.” Hameed is working conscientiously to counter the violence by promoting pluralism, harmony, and diversity among people of very varied heritage, background, ethnicity, faithand language.
The most vulnerable, he says, are young adults, women, transgenders, religious minorities, and human rights defenders “who are terrorized by state institutions and non-state actors, including extremist groups.” Naveed believes the iPhone has the potential to become one the most potent weapons in the struggle against discrimination. His short-term goal is to teach the use of the smartphones and iPhones to provide a voice for minorities and the oppressed, especially women.
Naveed himself is no stranger to discrimination. He was born in a small village to a poor Christian family in a predominantly Muslim country. None of his family could read or write. Naveed’s father worked a low-income job, and he was dead set against Naveed obtaining an advanced education. He believed that – regardless of his son’s future educational achievements – because he was Christian, he was destined to suffer religious discrimination. Even with a college diploma, he thought Naveed could at most only land a janitorial job. In the end, Naveed’s mother took a courageous step – in opposition to her husband’s wishes – to allow her son a chance to continue his studies.
At the age of seven, Naveed moved into a boarding hostel to pursue his studies. Naveed’s mother continued cleaning homes in order to cover his educational expenses until he successfully completed his education. Although in retrospect he understands and appreciates the sacrifice she made on his behalf, at the time he felt cut off from his family “at the very age when I needed them the most.”
In 2009, while Naveed was studying in university, a horrific incident happened in the Christian colony of Gojra, a pivotal incident that would determine his life’s path. More than 75 houses were set on fire in, and eight people were burnt alive. Naveed arrived at the scene of destruction, and while he was recording video interviews of the aftermath, suddenly he heard a young girl cry out: “They are coming! They destroyed my toys and now they’re going to kill me!” The little girl’s grief and consternation had a profound impact on him. He thought back to the pain he himself had faced during his childhood when he was separated from his family and when his Muslim friends refused to play with him unless he agreed to convert.
It was at that moment Naveed made up his mind to do everything in his power to eradicate the religious violence and misunderstandings he had witnessed and experienced. To that end he hoped to bring together – in a collaborative endeavor – Pakistan’s diverse religious communities. And, especially, he wanted to help empower young women.
He launched his digital storytelling initiative named SOCH (in English: THINK) in 2016 and began to recruit young people from the Muslim, Christian, Hindu, and Sikh communities to teach them the skills necessary to create their own peacebuilding media and startups. Pakistan is a third-world country with more than 140 million cellular subscribers, 67 percent of them youth. He knew smartphones and iPhones with Android and ISO technology were destined to play an integral role in the country’s development, replacing traditional desktops, laptops, and cameras. “It’s time to seize future technology as a means to create crucial and innovative alternative media to help shape public opinion,” Naveed emphasized. The digital storytelling intensive training workshop he designed for young people included three modules:
  1. Youth would learn hands-on pre-production basic skills of scripting, still photography and videography by using the smartphone/iPhone Android/ISO technology.
  2. Youth would participate in an in-depth focus group discussion and content development for production. Youth would then go back to their communities to record stories and they would return to the workshop to learn the basics about post production and editing.
  3. A final screening and diversity celebration event would be organized to give the youth an opportunity to present their work. The screenings would be held at different educational institutes and communities around the city. This would also be a golden opportunity to invite policy makers, academia, media, civil society, and politicians to become involved in this “collective journey to peace.”
The project was funded and a total of eight short stories were produced on different issues, each using cell phones. Ultimately, the SOCH program directly benefited 80 diverse youth – particularly marginalized youth and women. Indirectly the program benefitted upwards of 5000 people. More than 2000 were reached through screening events and some 3000 through social media.
The video ‘Women on Wheels’ was produced for SOCH by two participants, Mariam Shahzad and Amir Hameed, and sponsored by the U.S. embassy in Pakistan. Mariam, 20, researched the idea and was involved in all aspects of the film’s production. Her feedback, as a SOCH alumna, provides an illuminating look into the future of digital storytelling used purposefully to empower women in Pakistan and world-wide. She writes …

“Before applying to this peaceful initiative, I had never been a part of a startup that used technological tools in promoting peace and empathy in our community. Coming from a marginalized society, I have always looked for ways in which I can build bridges of peace between different communities. Through the proficient training provided by SOCH for capacity building and use of technology for visual storytelling, I successfully completed a short video called “Women on Wheels.” It highlights women using public modes of transport (as taxi drivers) to create financial means for their families. Thus, the program not only empowered me but also allowed me to empower others through these remarkable inspirational stories of change – all documented with cell phones!”

Naveed believes technology can encourage and prepare anyone to become a storyteller for good, with a built-in global audience. By learning to create compelling digital stories, he predicts the young people of Pakistan will spark social change, transforming the atmosphere of intolerance into respect and, in the process, create an opportunity to celebrate Pakistan’s colorful array of distinctive communities.

Rabbi of Temple Kol Ami Meets with Jews and Muslims promoting Israeli/Palestinian co-existence in ancient Arab village
Published by Stacy Gittleman
Last month on a rabbinical conference in Israel conducted by the pluralistic Shalom Hartman Institute, Rabbi Brent Gutmann of Temple Kol Ami in West Bloomfield, along with a delegation of rabbis from Israel and around the globe visited the Arab village of Husan, located in the Gush Etziyon region of Judea and Samaria (West Bank).
There, they met with grassroots organization of Palestinians and Israelis who are taking up practical causes of co-existence such as protesting against Israel from continuing a section of the security barrier that would bisect the village and potentially harm the Wadi Fakhim, as well as learn about how Israelis and Palestinians can work together to expand medical facilities and services in the area.
A UNESCO world heritage 10 kilometers west of Bethlehem, Husan contains ancient remains dating back to the Iron Age. Other remains date from the post-Babylonian Exile Period and the Middle Ages.[5] The original inhabitants came from the Arabian Peninsula and Yemen in the 3rd century.[4] Ceramics from the Byzantine era have been found.[6].
The Arab villagers there still use agricultural practices of tabled terracing for their farming that date back to ancient times, watered by an ancient wadi.
On his trip, Gutmann learned the Arabs and Jews protesting there also fear that the growing Jewish communities around Husan are putting pressures on this wadi and other natural resources. They also fear a strain on existing infrastructure such as sewerage and drainage systems.
These grassroots organizations over the last 25 years have gone through several changes and names. But at the center has been Zaid Sabateen, a resident of Hasan who as a teen was arrested and imprisoned for five years in Israel after his involvement in the first intifada in the mid 1980’s. After his release following the Oslo accords, Sabateen realized the path to a two-state solution cannot be won through violence but through conversation and peaceful work towards co-exisistence.
He founded the group Path of Hope and Peace with the late Rabbi Menachem Froman, who served as the chief rabbi in the Jewish community of Tekoa in the Judean Hills who believed in working towards peace with the Palestinians even when both sides faced violence, death and terror and extremism.
“It was an unlikely alliance – a settler rabbi – and a former Palestinian terrorist,” said Gutmann, who befriended Sabateen through Facebook before meeting in person this summer. “But the two were willing to talk and engage with anyone who were willing to work for a peaceful solution. “
From this trip, Guttmann saw first-hand how activities as ordinary as cleaning up trash from the side of a road or showing concern for the natural resources of the region are ways Jews and Muslims, Israelis and Palestinians can come together for a common good.”
Another issue that this grassroots organization of Muslims and Jews in the region is taking up is the disparity of healthcare in the region. The life expectancy of Palestinians is on average 10 years less than Israelis.
To improve these statistics, Path to Hope and Peace has worked to bring in more healthcare facilities to improve the lives of the Palestinians. For example, Rabbi Froman before his death worked to build a local health facility near Husan to increase availability of more doctors and specialists. Because of his work with Israelis, Sabatin is able to work through some of the complexities that come with Israel’s tight security measures on Palestinians, such as attaining travel permits to leave the West Bank and enter Israel so that they can visit with sick loved ones who are being treated in Israeli hospitals or even have a visit to swim and play in the ocean.
“The notion of the two-state solution is becoming more and more challenging,” Gutmann said. “But this special trip out to this village made me come to the realization that people on both sides of the conflict can share and find commonalities in everyday interactions. It is possible to come together to talk and try to solve the most immediate and local problems. It is these real person-to-person interactions that bring out each other’s humanity and rarely make the news.”
In a written Facebook message, Sabatin said while the current situation can seem grim as Israeli and Palestinian politicians fight for political survival, it is the everyday people who get lost in the mix.
“The land is holy to Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike, and we must learn to live and share it together. We hiked the land together, sat in joint prayers, and arranged many activities to bring all of our families and friends to meet each other as neighbors and friends. ….The Path of Hope and Peace brings families together in our area of coexistence next to the Green Line, with a special focus on the young Israelis and Palestinians, who are our collective future.

Muslim pilgrims pray on the Jabal al-Rahmah, or the mountain of forgiveness, at Arafat for the annual hajj pilgrimage outside Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on Aug. 20, 2018. More than 2 million Muslims have begun the annual hajj. The five-day pilgrimage represents one of the five pillars of Islam and is required for all able-bodied Muslims once in their lifetime. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)

August 2018

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events 
 
Sunday, August 5th DION Suburban Urban Interfaith picnic
at Belle Isle State Park –

 Go to www.Detroitinterfaith.org for more information.
 
Sunday, August 5th, 1:15 – 4:30 pM
Zoroastrian Film Fest
See article below.
 
Saturday, August 11th 10:00 AM
Kirk in the Hills
1340 West Long Lake Rd, Bloomfield Hills
Discussion on crisis with children on the border
See article below.
 
Friday, August 24th 
Backpack stuffing for the children at Greater New Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit
586 Owen St., Detroit, 48202
Contact Janelle if you would like to help. janelle.mccammon@gmail.com  
 
Wednesday, September 26th 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM

WISDOM at Zaman for a Voluntary Culinary Day
26091 Trowbridge St., Inkster, 48141
See Flyer Below
Wednesday, October 10th 7:00 – 9:00 PM
WISDOM’s Five Women Five Journeys
Muslim Unity Center, 1830 W. Square Lake Rd. Bloomfield Hills
 
Monday, November 5th 1:00 – 3:00 PM
WISDOM’s Five Women Five Journeys at SOAR 
(Society of Active Retirees)
Birmingham Temple 28611 W. 12 Mile Road,  Farmington HIlls
 
Sunday, November 11th 11:00 AM
Jewish Community Center Book Fair WISDOM presentation 
of book Friendship and Faith
6600 W. Maple Rd., West Bloomfield
 
Sunday, November 11th, 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM
InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit
Panel on “Religious Sensitivities” at st George Antiochian Orthodox Church, 2160 Maple Rd., Troy 48083
Stay tuned for upcoming flyer!!  Mark your calendars
 

The Zoroastrian Association of Michigan 
(ZAOM) is proud to present… . 
 
The Zoroastrian Film Festival
 
Date: Sunday August 5th from 1:15PM to 4:30PM 
 
Venue: Farmington Public Library Main Auditorium, 32737 W. Twelve Mile Road, Farmington Hills, MI 48334. 
 
We have specifically picked films that are educational and inspiring to our younger generation so if you are a parent with young children or teenagers do plan on coming. 
 
The main feature film we will be showing is the digitally remastered version of “On Wings Of Fire” Zubin Mehta’s search for his religion and his people, a film odyssey that spans 3,500 years !! Running time 90 mins. The other two films are short documentaries….”Keepers of the Flame” highlights the role early Parsi pioneers played in building India’s industrial landscape and how they had to fight the British bureaucratic system that was stacked against them. Running time 60 mins.
 
“Not Just Milk & Sugar” a short documentary that throws light on the Parsis, their religion & customs, their contributions to the fabric of modern India and the problems they face due to a dwindling population. Running time 16 mins. All are welcome to attend. This is a FREE event but we request you to register if you are planning on attending by emailing  anirani2@yahoo.com   
 
As we have limited screen time, we will have to start the program as soon as set up is complete so please plan to arrive in a timely fashion. Tea & light refreshments will be served. 
 
Hope to see you all at the Z Film Fest !!

On Saturday, August 11, Kirk in the Hills,  1340 West Long Lake Rd,, Bloomfield Hills, will be hosting a discussion on how the crisis with children on the border reaches us here in SE Michigan. We will hear from representatives of Bethany Christian Services and the Mexican Consulate in Detroit share what has happened, how they are responding and how we as faith communities can become involved in this critical issue.
The event will be in St Andrew’s Room at 10am. For more information, contact Pastor Fernando, revfrq@kirkinthehills.org.  Ph: (248) 973-8012

Learning about education:
the experience of Ahdieh Foundation
In the Central African Republic a Baha’i-inspired organization is learning about fostering the emergence of schools from the grassroots, sustained by the local communities themselves. Ahdieh Foundation focuses on efforts to promote community schools, providing teacher training and other support to these community initiatives.
The foundation’s experience sheds light on the capacity and initiative of the people of the Central African Republic, which stands in contrast to the political instability and sectarian violence that are major features of the country’s global image.
“Ahdieh Foundation is part of a network of Baha’i-inspired organizations in Africa that are striving to see how to promote education at the grassroots and how to build capacity in communities to take charge of the education of the younger generation,” explains Nakhjavan Tanyi, the Continental Programme Coordinator for this network.
Like other Baha’i-inspired organizations, Ahdieh Foundation views its work as a process of learning about applying the Baha’i teachings and knowledge accumulated in various fields of human endeavour for the progress of society.
“The work of many Baha’i-inspired organizations focuses a lot on the community level. The long-term vision is how to help a community address all dimensions of its development. Usually it starts with one small effort or one particular dimension, in this case education,” says Mr. Tanyi.
Since its establishment in 2003, Ahdieh Foundation is gaining insights about the role of the teacher, the parents, and the school in a community. These insights, along with principles drawn from the Baha’i writings, shape the way teacher training is approached, how teachers are accompanied, and the functioning of each school in relation to the community.
“Many communities used to think that only teachers have knowledge to educate the children and that as a parent, you bring your child to school, leave the teachers to impart their knowledge and do not get involved,” says Mr. Judicaël Mokole, one of the staff at Ahdieh Foundation.
“Community schools are changing this idea,” he continues. “Parents and community members start seeing the school as an entity through which they can think and reflect and contribute to the education of their children.”
The approach taken by Ahdieh Foundation to starting schools seems to be central to fostering this sense of ownership. “The organization will start a conversation with communities about what they themselves can do to be able to educate their own children,” Mr. Tanyi says. “Where members of a community, and its leaders, show a willingness to participate in that effort, then the idea is introduced of them being able to start a school that would grow organically over time that would start with a preschool. Then, depending not only on the availability of human resources in that community, but also the willingness of the community to continue, that school can grow and add a grade each year.”
“It’s best to start with the simplest thing and then build capacity over time for more complex things,” Mr. Tanyi explains.
The teachers, Mr. Tanyi says, are identified by the community itself.
“The idea is not to get someone from outside. It’s to get someone from within the community, who knows the community, who is familiar with its people, who knows its reality,” Mr. Tanyi explains. “What we see in this individual who arises to start teaching is not just a teacher whose work is limited to a classroom, but someone who can become an agent of change in a community.”
Drawing on the latent capacity of a community allows the schools to operate in a region that has experienced ongoing civil conflict since 2012.
“These community schools were the only schools that continued functioning in many parts of the country during the civil unrest,” states Mr. Mokole. “This was partly because the teachers of the community schools were local to the area. The community they served in was their home. They had nowhere to run to when the rebels came.”
“The content of the teacher’s training also helps them conceive of their work as service. It’s not merely a job they are doing to get money. They are teachers because they are motivated by a desire to prepare the younger generation for the future,” he continues.
The teachers also receive a small stipend, funded by parents and community members, for school supplies and personal expenses, Mr. Mokole explains. “And it will always be like this. Our experience has been that if you come with a salary sourced externally and pay the teacher in this way, from the top down, in the community there is something that is lost, that does not feel right, and the community school slowly crumbles,”  he adds.
Similarly, Mr. Mokole says that when the initiative and resources come primarily from outside, or when the focus is on just providing a school building, communities do not have a sense of responsibility and investment in the school.
“It’s not uncommon to see schools built by outside organizations being used to house sheep and goats, or where people are using the desks and chairs in these buildings for cooking. From this you can see the value of the process starting from within the community, by the villagers themselves,” states Mr. Mokole.
The community members show such love for the simple structures they have built for their schools with their own hands, using materials such as straw, mud or wood, Mr. Mokole adds. From time to time, as schools grow, there may be needs for which the resources available to the community are not sufficient, Mr. Tanyi says. “There will sometimes be needs for funds to come from outside. But we try to think very carefully about at what point we do that. We try to wait until the point when the community has really taken ownership of the project,” he notes.
“By no means are we saying that this is the solution to education at the grassroots,” clarifies Mr. Tanyi, “but we are very hopeful that this approach could help us really think about how to raise people in the community that can be protagonists of change and can spearhead development processes in their community.”
At present, 150 people who have participated in Ahdieh Foundation’s training program are providing education to nearly 4,000 students in 40 community schools, 10 of which offer the complete primary cycle, from kindergarten to grade six.

German Jews, Muslims Ride Tandem
Bikes In Show Of Solidarity
The Berlin bike ride illustrated unity between two groups that have felt increasingly under attack in Germany.
Jews and Muslims gathered in Germany’s capital on Sunday to ride bikes together as a sign of unity amid increasing anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in their country. Jewish participants were paired with Muslim participants on tandem bikes during the interfaith tour of Berlin. The bikers started at Berlin’s imposing Holocaust memorial and wove their way through the city to Bebelplatz, a city square with a dark history. In 1933, Nazis ordered the burning of around 20,000 books in an effort to purge universities of “the un-German spirit” and “Jewish intellectualism.”
About 50 people attended, according to Deutsche Welle (DW), including rabbis, imams and lay members of each religious group. Christians, non-religious Germans, and Berlin politicians also took part in the event. Some participants wore white vests with the words “Jews and Muslims for respect and tolerance.” “I think it’s important that Muslims and Jews, as members of two minorities in Germany, do not allow themselves to be played off one against the other, but instead, together, oppose anti-Semitism and Islamophobia,” Sejfuddin Dizdarevic, a Muslim participant, told Agence-France Presse in a video.
Rabbi Elias Dray, one of the organizers of the event, told The Associated Press that he hopes the joint bike ride helps Muslims and Jews in Berlin get to know one another better.  “There’s often prejudice in places where there’s little contact,” Dray said.
In recent years, members of both religions have been concerned about a rise in anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, and anti-immigrant sentiments in their country. Germany took in more than 1 million immigrants in 2015 and 2016, according to Reuters, including many who were fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.
Backlash to the influx of migrants helped a far-right nationalist party, Alternative for Germany, gain a foothold in the German Parliament last year for the first time. AfD leaders are known for openly anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant stances, the AP reports, and have less frequently expressed anti-Semitic views, as well.
Germany’s Interior Ministry recorded at least 950 hate crimes against Muslims or mosques in the country in 2017, including physical assault, threats, mosque vandalization, and demonstrations against the “Islamization” of Germany.  Adding to the tensions, some of the newer Muslim migrants have expressed anti-Semitic sentiment. In April, a 19-year-old Syrian refugee was caught on tape in broad daylight attacking a man wearing a Jewish skullcap in Berlin. The attack elicited condemnation from both Jewish and Muslim groups and sparked public marches in support of German Jews.
JOHN MACDOUGALL via Getty Images
Imam Osman Oers (front) and Rabbi Akiva Weingarten participate in an interfaith bicycle ride in Berlin on June 24, 2018.
Berlin imam Ender Cetin told the AP that by riding in unity with Jewish Berliners, he’s sending a signal to the Muslim community that “we will not tolerate anti-Semitism.” Cetin and his friend Dray often visit Berlin schools together to teach students about religious tolerance, DW reports. “The majority of Muslims and Jews want to live peacefully together,” Cetin said.
Yael Merlini, a Jewish woman who participated in Sunday’s interfaith bike ride, told AFP that she was happy about the opportunity to get to know her Muslim neighbors.  “I’m happy to get to know Muslims and that they get to know me, and that they understand Jews should not frighten them and the other way around,” Merlini said

WEST BLOOOMFIELD SYNAGOGUE OFFERS YEAR-LONG COURSE IN JEWISH HISTORY:
BLENDED ONLINE AND IN-PERSON LEARNING
Rabbi Steven Rubenstein from Congregation Beth Ahm
In its second year of creative partnership with Hebrew College, one of North America’s flagship centers of lifelong Jewish learning, Cong. Beth Ahm in West Bloomfield (5075 W. Maple, West Bloomfield) is launching a new course for adult learners starting in August 2018 and running through May 2019, taking students on a journey through one of the most transformative periods in Jewish history, when the rabbis of the Talmudic period infused the Judaism of their day with creative interpretations based on the Oral Law, enabling what had been a biblically-based, Temple-centered sacrificial cult to morph into what we now call “the rabbinic tradition” – the source of contemporary Jewish thought and practice.
The course consists of 10 modules featuring engaging video lectures by Prof. Christine Hayes, Rabbi Jane Kanarek, Prof. Jonathan Klawans, and Rabbi Micha’el Rosenberg and will offer probing discussion and immersion in core texts, taking students on a tour through the diverse world of Jewish sects and varying religious practices that flourished in ancient Israel and Babylonia from the aftermath of the Bible to 1st century Judaism.
Students will work their way through the course one module per month, watching the lectures on their home computers or other devices. Rabbi Rubenstein will lead a group online session one Thursday night each month to discuss that month’s video and its related study materials. He will also meet with participants one Shabbat afternoon a month to build upon the material in each module. Thanks to underwriting from Beth Ahm’s Thumin Fund for Jewish Education, tuition for “Rise of the Rabbis” is only $36 for Beth Ahm members and $50 for others.
For more information about “Rise of the Rabbis” including a course syllabus and details about the four distinguished instructors, go to http://www.hebrewcollege.edu/rise-of-the-rabbis.
Registration is through the Hebrew College website: https://register.hebrewcollege/bethahm-registration
During the academic year 2017-2018, Beth Ahm offered another course through Hebrew College entitled “Journey Through the Bible” with Prof. Marc Brettler.
For more information about “The Rise of the Rabbis” and other lifelong Jewish learning opportunities at Beth Ahm, all are welcome to contact Rabbi Rubenstein at (248) 851-6880 or e-mail ravsteven@cbahm.org

Check out this terrific video put together by a rabbi and an imam!
 
Here are some words about the video by Rabbi Esther Hugenhotz!
Click on the link below to see the video!
 
A year ago, Imam Qari Asim and I made this short video for the British civic organization ‘The Great Get Together’. The video went viral.
In light of the increasing polarization and division in our society and the marginalization of immigrants, refugees and religious/ethnic minorities, we need to say this LOUD: We stand with each other.
Next week will be the first time I celebrate the Fourth of July in the United States. I am incredibly privileged as a new immigrant in the United States. This has been an amazing move for my family and myself. I am also incredibly privileged to have the freedom to practice my faith.
This shouldn’t be a privilege; it should be a right extended to all, just as the Torah tells us time after time: ‘you shall have one law for the native-born and the stranger.’

Hungry for Justice (Detroit Jewish News) by Rob Streit
                    Faith leaders meet to voice support for SNAP benefits.
People have a right to eat. That was what an interfaith group of spiritual leaders who met at Greater Baptist Church in Detroit on June 14 said, as they called on Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., to support SNAP benefits in the Farm Bill. Stabenow is the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, which drafts the bill.
The Farm Bill is a sweeping omnibus bill that encompasses all food and agricultural policy in the U.S. Every five years, the bill gets renewed by Congress in an often-contentious process. The bill is up for renewal this year, and lines are being drawn. The House version of the bill calls for recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – or SNAP – to meet new work or job training requirements to receive benefits. The Senate’s version does not include this change to SNAP benefits.
“They are still arguing if people have a right to eat,” said Rev. Charles Christian Adams, presiding pastor of the Hartford Memorial Baptist Church in Detroit. “We will not support any of it – to balance the economy of this country on the backs of the poor. We are determined to support our legislators that are fighting for SNAP.”
Several in the interfaith coalition called Hungry For Justice said that their faiths mandate they help to feed the hungry and assist those in need.
“I give my strong support to SNAP because I believe my faith commands me to do so,” said Rabbi Ariana Silverman of the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue. “God commands 36 times to love strangers and support the needy in the first five books of the bible.” The faith leaders said that the work requirements were draconian and did more harm than good.
“Eighty percent of people who receive food stamps are already working,” said Rev. James Perkins, pastor of Greater Christ Baptist Church in Detroit. “The remaining lack skills or have mental illness or other health issues.”
Perkins said he was disenchanted with the attempt to cut SNAP.
“This administration has demonstrated they’re doing a reverse Robin Hood. They’re simply taking from the poor and giving to the rich; making the rich richer and making the gap between the haves and have-nots wider,” he said.
Community activist Sabrina Cotton was in attendance as well. She highlighted her own struggle with trying to feed her baby after her food assistance benefits were cut. Her daughter is underweight due to the lack of nutrition. Cotton also struggles to feed herself.
“I only have $20 to feed myself after buying my child’s food,” Cotton said.
Cotton is not alone. One in seven people in Michigan relies on SNAP to eat. Food insecurity is widespread throughout the state as well as the nation.
“Sixty-two percent of SNAP recipients are families with children. Forty-seven percent of families have elderly or disabled people. Fifty percent have working members in their family,” said Rev. Steve Bland of Liberty Temple Baptist Church in Detroit. “There are no welfare queens here.”
Silverman spoke of scripture verses where God commands the holy to leave the corners of their fields for the needy when it comes time to reap. “If we fail to do so, we cannot call ourselves holy,” she said.
The Senate Farm Bill was approved in committee in a 20-1 vote. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the full Senate will likely vote on the bill before the July 4 recess. It would then need to be reconciled with the House version.

Multiracial churches increase as blacks,
whites learn to worship together
Religion News Service
For two and a half years, Ja’mel Armstrong and Matt Ness have jointly led One Church, a congregation striving to be diverse in a neighborhood in Louisville, Ky., that is more interracial than most. It’s a work in progress, they acknowledge, but the African-American and white co-pastors say they believe their congregation, which is close to 50 percent black and 50 percent white, is more fulfilling than the more racially segregated churches they used to lead.
“On our own, we just didn’t feel like that’s who we were meant to be,” said Ness, who formerly led a mostly white church. “The picture we believed in was much broader than the local church I was pastoring and the local church Ja’mel was pastoring.”
Matt Ness is a pastor at One Church, an interracial congregation of the Evangelical Covenant Church, in Louisville, Ky. Photo courtesy of One Church
The co-pastors’ congregation is part of the Evangelical Covenant Church – a small denomination that claims to be one of the most diverse in the country. One Church is part of a trend reported by scholars this month: Multiracial churches are on the rise and so is the percentage of U.S. congregants who attend them.
The percentage of U.S. multiracial congregations almost doubled between 1998 and 2012, from 6.4 percent to 12 percent, according to a study published in June in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. In the same period, the percentage of U.S. congregants attending an interracial church has reached almost one in five, advancing from 12.7 percent to 18.3 percent. The 2012 statistics are the latest available. Co-authors Kevin Dougherty, a sociology professor at Baylor University, and Michael Emerson, provost at North Park University, defined multiracial congregations as ones in which no single racial or ethnic group constitutes more than 80 percent of the people in the pews. But the co-authors point out that interracial congregations have long faced a number of challenges. And their recent findings show that while the average percentage of black congregants in multiracial congregations has increased, the percentage of Latinos in those kinds of churches has decreased in the same period.
“When you bring groups, different ethnic groups, together in a congregation, they come with different cultures, and those cultures include all types of expectations,” said Dougherty, citing music styles and food choices. “To help them develop a sense of shared identity above and beyond those cultural differences is a key part of the adaptability necessary for a multiracial congregation to succeed.”
Ness, co-pastor of the Louisville church, alternates preaching with Armstrong. He said before One Church opened its doors, they formulated a nontraditional approach to music. The worship team includes a gospel-style keyboardist, a blues, rock and country guitarist and a jazzy drummer and bassist. Singers represent a range of genres.
“We didn’t want to be defined by a particular style and so we didn’t tell you to stand up. We didn’t tell you to lift your hands. We didn’t tell you how to worship,” said Armstrong. “The goal was: If you are naturally contemplative in your worship style, then you be that. If you are naturally expressive, then you be that.”
It didn’t work for everyone. Armstrong said there was a gradual “mass exodus” from the 250-attendee first service in January 2016, with the congregation dropping to about 50. The congregation has since doubled to 100 after attracting new congregants. The Rev. Michael Davis, the African-American teaching pastor at 10-year-old Downtown Church in Memphis, Tenn., said intentionality is key to multiracial churches. His congregation strives to have leaders of different races regularly preaching and making announcements. The church avoids identifying with political parties and instead seeks to foster an environment where various viewpoints can be aired.
“So nobody is trying to suffocate the identity of any of our minorities,” said Davis, who co-leads the fledging congregation with its white founder, Richard Rieves. “It’s intentionality, it’s empowerment and it’s sacrifice.”
The congregation, which Davis calls a “multiracial/class plant” or offshoot of the mostly white Second Presbyterian Church, meets in Clayborn Temple, a historic church that once housed a predominantly white congregation and later a mostly black one.  But Davis acknowledges that his Evangelical Presbyterian Church congregation that is 70 percent white and 30 percent minority (mostly blacks but including some Asians and Latinos) hasn’t achieved all its milestones toward integration, including among its smaller community groups attended by some of the 300 who worship together on Sunday.
“Are we doing it perfectly?” Davis said. “No. Because there are some times where I have to talk to some of my groups that are predominantly white and say, ‘How do we get more diversity?'”
As they strive for inclusiveness, leaders of multiracial churches say they sometimes feel like they are on their own without many role models.
Ness, 39, who has pastored for 16 years, said, “I feel like I’m brand new at my job when I started this.” Armstrong, 38, agreed that the nontraditional church stands out from others: “We almost feel a lot of times that we’re on an island.”
The Rev. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, a Chicago Theological Seminary professor, informally polled former students and found they have seen evidence of the new survey’s findings about the growth of interracial congregations.
“One woman graduate who identified as white indicated that she had ‘pastored a black church for seven years,'” said Thistlethwaite, whose seminary is affiliated with the United Church of Christ. “A number of graduates emphasized, however, that there have been congregations that have been racially diverse for many years, with racially diverse pastoral leadership.”
Photo courtesy of Downtown Church
The survey, based on data from the National Congregations Study, also found an increase in black clergy leading multiracial congregations, rising from less than 5 percent in both 1998 and 2006 to 17 percent in 2012. The Rev. Cheryl Townsend Gilkes, professor of African-American studies and sociology at Colby College, said the willingness of white congregants to join churches with black pastors is a positive sign, given the long history of segregated Sunday morning services.
“Although white people have always been willing to appropriate style and music from black churches, they have resisted black leadership,” Gilkes said. “This new moment in American religious life could be quite helpful in countering many negative current events in the area of race relations.”
Despite the challenges of interracial cooperation, Davis said, he sees rewards as he helps lead his Memphis congregation.
“I experience the body of Christ more, the wider scope of it, and so it broadens my perspective of who the Lord is,” he said. “Being in a multiracial church, you see the beauty of different cultural backgrounds, different walks of life.”

Bomb Rattles an Afghan Minority
So Small ‘No One Is a Stranger’
New York Times
KABUL, Afghanistan – In downtown Kabul, from a large mural painted on blast walls at the end of a busy shopping street, the piercing eyes of Komal Singh, now a fourth grader, peer out at the narrow junction.
For the past couple of years, the mural has carried an anticorruption message: “Bribetakers are not hidden from the eyes of God and the people.” Now, that mural carries a further, unwritten reminder: Another Afghan child is deprived of a father. On Monday, Komal traveled to the eastern city of Jalalabad with her mother, Preeti, sister Pari and brother Prince to cremate her father, Rawail Singh, who was among the 19 people killed this weekend in a bombing outside a compound where President Ashraf Ghani was holding meetings. Fourteen of the victims, including Mr. Singh, were Sikhs – members of a tiny religious minority in the country – who were just arriving for an audience with the president when a suicide bomber ripped through the crowd. The death of Mr. Singh, who, as part of an activist group of artists had beautified many of the ugly blast walls that have turned Kabul into a maze, devastated friends and activists in the city, where he lived. But the blow was much larger to Afghanistan’s shrinking Sikh population. Years ago, before the country sank into a four-decade war, there were as many as 65,000 Sikh families across Afghanistan, community elders estimated in the absence of official numbers. But decades of war and persecution have shrunk their numbers to about 800 people, according to Charan Singh, a member of the central Sikh temple in Kabul.
“No one is a stranger – everyone is a cousin or a distant relative,” Mr. Singh said. Of the 14 Sikh victims of the blast on Sunday, a dozen were cremated in Jalalabad, including Rawail Singh, a native of the city. All either lived in the city or had roots there.
Two bodies – those of the only Sikh candidate for the Afghan Parliament, and of a shopkeeper who sold herbal medicine – were taken to Kabul. They were mourned by a couple of hundred people gathered at a temple, a nondescript two-story building in the north of the city, before the bodies were taken to be cremated. Rawail Singh, who was in his late 40s, worked at a media company in Kabul and was an active member of the civil society scene. He was also involved in organizing a music festival in Bamian Province, west of Kabul, to promote understanding and empathy. “A couple of years ago, Mr. Singh and I lost a friend who was a doctor in the attack on the 400-bed hospital,” recalled Omaid Sharifi, who leads ArtLords, the group of activist artists. “Mr. Singh said: ‘Omaid, do you know when would be our turn? Today we lost this friend; tomorrow or the day after it would be one of us. Who knows?'”
Mr. Singh had recently enrolled Komal in the prestigious Afghanistan National Institute of Music, where she learned to paint and play music in addition to regular fourth-grade subjects. She had just been accepted into a sitar class, a notable achievement for a student of her age. “I was thinking of calling her father and giving him the good news,” Ahmad Sarmast, the school’s director, said wistfully. Mr. Sarmast, who has lost students in other attacks, said the school was at a loss for how to console Komal. “We don’t know what to tell her,” he said.
The parliamentary candidate who was killed, Avtar Singh Khalsa, had long established his credentials as a community leader. Mr. Ghani’s predecessor, Hamid Karzai, even appointed Mr. Khalsa as a senator. But now the candidate wanted to try his luck at gaining a seat in Parliament through a popular vote.
In interviews after announcing his candidacy, Mr. Khalsa had emphasized how proud he was of not leaving Afghanistan during some of its darkest days – including the early 1990s, when a rocket killed eight members of his family in Gardez, the city where he lived before moving to Kabul. The shopkeeper, Raju Singh, a homeopath, was 27 and married when he was still a teenager. He had four children, the oldest an 8-year-old boy. His father-in-law, Gulbeer Singh, received the call with news of his death on Sunday evening, and rushed to Kabul from the city of Ghazni.
“My daughter is so young, I don’t know how to talk to her,” Gulbeer Singh said at the temple. “I am sick, but still I am alive,” added Mr. Singh, 50, who has diabetes. “My son-in-law is gone. It is not fair at all.”
When the two corpses arrived from Jalalabad, they were briefly unloaded in the temple so that loved ones could say their goodbyes. The funeral procession then made its way through afternoon traffic toward an old corner of the city called Qalacha. The Army ambulances carrying the bodies, and three minibuses carrying the mourners, passed through the Baharistan area, where Raju Singh had his herbal medicine shop. The bodies arrived at a large compound that is used as the crematory, its garden lined with hollyhock flowers. There, final prayers were read – some from memory, others from iPhone screens – and the bodies were scented with rose water and placed on stacked logs. The mourners waited to start the cremation until Mr. Khalsa’s oldest son, Narendar Singh Khalsa, had arrived from Jalalabad, his left hand in a sling, his white clothes covered in blood. He had been wounded in the suicide bombing.
“We are ruined, we are ruined,” he said, smacking his face after his final goodbyes with his father. His friends tried to hold him back.
The cremation logs were lit, the wind fanned the fire. The crowd slowly dispersed. Mr. Khalsa’s sons exited the crematory barefoot. They walked up the pebbled alley that led to the main road, passing a small mosque where a chorus of children repeated their late-afternoon studies.

Muslim girls kicked out of public pool after officials said hijabs would clog filtration system
Tahsiyn Ismaa’eel has been taking children from her Wilmington, Del., summer camp to Foster Brown pool for years. She can see the free public pool from the back of her school, Darul Amaanah Academy, so about 3:30 p.m., the hottest point in the day, they routinely donned their swimming attire and walked over. And just as regularly, Ismaa’eel said, they experienced anti-Islamic harassment. It started the first day Ismaa’eel and about 15 children went to the pool in late June. A staff member told her that her children couldn’t wear “that cotton” to the pool, she said during an interview with The Washington Post.
But “that cotton” included clothes required by their Islamic faith: hijabs for the girls, but also modest dress that typically covered their shoulders and most of their legs – even in the pool. Pool officials spoke of the dangerous weight of wet cotton and said the girls’ religiously required clothing could put a strain on the pool’s filtration system. They cited a vaguely worded, unposted policy.
Ismaa’eel cited the Koran, explaining that the children were required to dress modestly. That’s why many of the little girls in her group wore hijabs and T-shirts and shorts that come down to their knees. The camp director grew up in Wilmington, has swum in that pool before and has been bringing overheated children to splash in it for years. In all that time, she’d never seen anyone wearing cotton asked to leave. But Ismaa’eel said she – and the students at her summer Arabic enrichment program – picked up notes of something more sinister this time.
“We, as a group, were being talked about,” Ismaa’eel said. “One child said they heard the word ‘Muslim.’ ” The conflict reached a climax last week when a pool official tapped several of Ismaa’eel’s hijab-wearing wards on the shoulder and told them they had to leave. “I believe it was discrimination, deep down in my bones,” she told The Post. If there is a policy, it should be posted and applied to everybody, she said. Her students “were not allowed to enjoy a public facility that everyone has access to.”
She was apparently not the only person to feel that way. “All Americans are entitled to reasonable religious accommodations while using public facilities,” said Zainab Chaudry, spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “And it is unlawful to discriminate against members of any group because of their religious attire.” Public outcry ensued as word spread, and Saturday, Mayor Mike Purzycki reaffirmed “the city’s long-standing policy that all people are welcome at city pools.” He faulted not just the city’s handling of the incident but also the justifications it made after the children were kicked out. “We should be held accountable for what happened and how poorly we assessed this incident,”  Purzycki said in a statement. “I apologize to the children who were directed to leave a city pool because of the religious-required clothing they were wearing. We also referred to vaguely-worded pool policies to assess and then justify our poor judgment, and that was also wrong.”
Purzycki said he planned to meet soon with the camp director to address her concerns and apologize in person. Ismaa’eel  said she was happy with the mayor’s apology – at least until she and her kids trekked to the pool on Monday. Sitting there was the same woman who kicked them out last week.
“If she really did do something wrong, why is she still there?” Ismaa’eel said. “That would be the biggest apology.” She didn’t stick around for another “I’m sorry.” Instead she turned the children around, marched back to the school and started the van. A short time later, she went live on Facebook, shooting an image of a little girl in tights, a life jacket and a hijab, wading into a pool.
“When they shut down one pool on you,” Ismaa’eel wrote,  “go have fun in another.”

Interfaith week to bring together different faith groups
An interfaith group stops at the San Diego Mormon Temple near La Jolla as part of a bus tour to various places of worship in the San Diego area.
 (courtesy California Interfaith Association)
 
Interfaith Awareness Week is slated to bring together community members of various faith traditions from throughout San Diego County and across the state. Each day from Aug. 5-11, different faith centers will host an event open to the public.
“The idea is for people from different faith groups to come together and learn from each other,” said the Rev. Stephen Albert, president and co-founder of the Poway Interfaith Team and founder of the California Interfaith Association, which connects interfaith groups across the state.
“Interfaith asks you to believe in your faith so strongly that you want to tell others how much it means to you. At the same time, it asks you to recognize that others may feel just as strongly about their faith and for you to listen to them,” Albert said.
The Interfaith Awareness Week grew out of a five-day interfaith conference last August at UC San Diego – the North American Interfaith Network’s conference, which drew more than 250 people representing 20 faiths. The event was organized by the Poway Interfaith Team formed in 2006 to support interfaith dialogue.

One of the accomplishments of the conference, Albert said, was to get proclamations from 15 of 18 mayors and city councils in San Diego County, stating that the cities would honor and respect all people from all faiths, cultures and backgrounds. In March, the California State Assembly and the governor approved Interfaith Awareness Week as the second week in August each year.

Albert created the California Interfaith Association this year to connect dozens of Interfaith organizations across the state. Currently the group links nearly 60 groups which promote respect among different faith groups.
“The mission of the California Interfaith Association is to highlight the abundance of interfaith activity in our state and to raise awareness that bringing people together in discussion and to socialize as friends is a much more valuable exercise than splitting people apart due to fear and mistrust,” Albert said.

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

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.