February 2018

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

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

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

Calcutta’s Synagogues Are a
 Tanmay Chatterjee

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

Detroit Public Schools Central District 
Invites Faith Groups to Volunteer

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

Area Mormons Mourn the Loss of Leader

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

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

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

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

January 2018

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 2017

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

WISDOM Calendar of Events
 
Sunday, December 3rd, 1:45 PM – 4:00 PM
Creation Revealed at the Detroit Institute of Arts
See Flyer Below!!
 
Wednesday, December 6th, 5:00 PM
Interfaith visit to the Michigan Science Institute
to see 1001 Inventions.  See flyer below!
 
Sunday, March 11th 4:00 – 6:00 PM
The Nineteenth World Sabbath at Christ Church Cranbrook
See Flyer below!

IFLC Creation Series Concludes with Dec. 3 trip to the DIA
By Stacy Gittleman
From the bright geometric patterns of Islamic pottery and carpets to statues depicting Buddha to the soft landscape paintings of Thomas Cole, the Detroit Institute of Art’s collection holds many examples of how mankind has artistically interpreted and interacted with nature and the concept of Creation.
The above works and many others will be the focus of a tailored, docent-led tour, Creation Revealed as the IFLC Creation series concludes 2-4 p.m. Sunday Dec. 3 at the DIA.  The event is free but register to attend by November 30 online at https://iflc.wufoo.com/forms/q19glyg1eff13b/   or call 313.338.9777 X 0.  Participants are encouraged to meet at Prentis Court by 1:45, or they can gather in the DIACafe to have lunch prior to the tour at noon.
Works chosen represent the Native American, Meso-American, African, Chinese, Islamic, European, American and African-American cultural traditions.  Count on two hours to see as many of these cultures as your energy and feet will allow. Docents will lead small groups of 10 so that you will be able to see, hear and interact with the works of art.
The pieces were chosen by Paula Drewek, a retired Arts and Humanities Studies professor who taught at Macomb County Community College for 40 years and now serves on the IFLC education committee.
“We chose a diverse range of works that reflected the artists’ interpretation of the sacred relationship between man and nature,” Drewek said. “Though the Creation theme shines through in some pieces more obviously than others, each was chosen because they depict different religions and rituals and the connection to the environs around us.”
 
Tourgoers will observe ritual objects such as Inuit or raven rattles used by indigenous Americans to divination tools used to connect to ancestors from African tribal cultures. In some instances, the connection will be easy to spot and very explicit such as in the sculpture of Sakyamuni Emerging from the Mountains which captures the transition of Siddhartha Gautama to the Buddha. In other examples the created work draws upon the experience of the sublimity of nature as seen by Thomas Cole.  The beauty and pattern of natural elements is another approach in the work of Henry Moore. Each culture’s uniqueness emerges as we confront the myriad ways artists translate feelings and consciousness of the sacred in their art.

Muslims, Jews gather in Metro Detroit to forge bonds
Artists Dani Katsir, left, 71, of West Bloomfield, and Gail Rosenbloom Kaplan, 63, of Farmington Hills, carry their mosaic through the lobby to its display location onTuesday, October 3rd at at the Northwest Activities Center in northwest Detroit. (Photo: Todd McInturf / The Detroit News
As hate crimes targeting Muslims and Jews rise across the United States, according to advocacy groups, the key to sparking change in Metro Detroit lies in forging ties and fighting back, activists said Tuesday, October 3. “You’ve got to speak up,” said Farooq Kathwari, president/CEO of Ethan Allen Interiors and co-chair of the national Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council. “Silence is not a good option.”
That was the message leaders of the Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council shared with religious and community leaders during a town hall in Dearborn on October 3rd. The invitation-only gathering at The Henry hotel coordinated by the Michigan Muslim Community Council and the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC of Detroit, drew more than 150 from synagogues and mosques as well as community groups.
It capped a day of events for the council, which launched last year and unites business, political and religious leaders to advocate for common concerns, on the group’s first visit to Metro Detroit. Members earlier joined Jewish and Muslim community leaders, visited the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn as well as attended a mosaic project unveiling at Detroit’s Northwest Activities Center.
Since its founding last fall, the panel has met with senior officials in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and called for passage of the bipartisan Protecting Religiously Affiliated Institutions Act.
“As a council, we’re here to work together to combat hate crimes and put forward the reality of America and interfaith collaboration,” board member Arsalan Suleman, former U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, told the gathering.
The council wants to curb incidents such as attacks or threats against houses of worships such as synagogues or mosques.
The Anti-Defamation League found that anti-Semitic incidents in the United States spiked 86 percent in the first quarter of 2017. The group also noted a spate of similar acts across the nation after the Charlottesville, Virginia, white nationalist rally in August that led to violent clashes. The Council on American-Islamic Relations national

 headquarters in Washington, D.C., has noted “an unprecedented spike in hate incidents targeting Muslims and other minority groups” since the 2016 presidential election. The current climate underscores the importance of the council’s push and why members are moving to spread the word “to ensure there’s local engagement to draw attention to the sad increase in hate crimes,” said council co-chair Stanley Bergman, CEO of health care product provider Henry Schein.
“It is important to make sure that local politicians understand us so that ultimately people in Washington will hear about the concerns the local community has. We need to do something and we need to use our platform to make sure the American people understand the impact. If you do not arrest the hate crimes, we have a real challenge in the United States.”
The council was familiar with the strong interfaith collaborations in Metro Detroit and reached out, said David Kurzmann, executive director of the JCRC/AJC. Tuesday’s visit only underscores the success of local initiatives such as Mitzvah Day, through which Jews and Muslims volunteer in place of their Christian neighbors on Christmas Day, he said.
“There could be things we’re doing here in Detroit that leaders in other communities want to take on there, and there are certainly things the council are doing that we could learn from and potentially implement here,” Kurzmann said.
Town hall participants asked about how to address challenges locally on issues ranging from enhancing interfaith work to reaching out to students on college campuses.
The visit inspired Noura Ali, a University of Michigan-Dearborn student, to explore connecting with other peers to create a Muslim-Jewish effort. She also was encouraged by the council’s work. “With this council, I definitely see bounds being made that are going to stir up American politics,” she said.
The focus on issues affecting Muslims and Jews “shows a lot of the commonalities in both communities,” , said Shaffwan Ahmed, a Detroit revitalization fellow who has been active in interfaith and advocacy efforts. “We all have a responsibility in this to make a difference.

A British Muslim man sponsored a synagogue Kiddush luncheon to honor the late Jewish doctor who treated him, The Jewish Chronicle reported.
The Muslim man, who asked to remain anonymous, paid for the post-prayer spread at the Kingston, Surbiton & District Synagogue in south London to honor Dr. Tim Heymann, his gastroenterologist.
The Muslim man first contacted the synagogue earlier this year in order to reconnect with Heymann, only to discover that the doctor had died of a brain tumor a few months prior.
Since then, The Jewish Chronicle reported, the Muslim man “has become a regular at Shabbat and festival services and is studying Hebrew so he can better understand them.” “My father taught me to respect anyone who did good things for me,” he explained. “And I believe in toleration and coexistence among all peoples and religions.” He said that he found the community “warm and friendly” and enjoyed the sound of the Hebrew prayers.
This is the first time a non-Jew has sponsored a Kiddush, synagogue chair Sheila Mann said. “He comes to shul every Shabbat and often says how much he loves attending our services,” she said. “He joined us for the whole of the Yom Kippur service and fasted all day. We are delighted to treat him as part of the communal family.”

Philippine Christian leaders join
 to help rebuild Muslim-majority city
Christian leaders in Philippines have banded together to help rebuild Marawi, a Muslim-majority city in southern Philippines damaged by five months of occupation by terrorists.  

The Christian leaders are calling on smaller Christian groups “and even the monks” to pool their strength toward restoring Marawi, said Jing Henderson, communications and partnership development coordinator of the Philippine bishops’ social justice council and Caritas Philippines. The historically peaceful city is located on central Mindanao Island, a restive part of the country, which for decades experienced insurgency from Muslim rebel groups seeking autonomy.
“For example, our expertise is in disaster risk reduction, psychosocial support; others would have expertise in shelter, livelihood,” Henderson told Catholic News Service. “We would like to share these resources so that when we go on the ground, to these affected communities, then we’ll know what to do, when to provide the response and also how to provide it.”
On Oct. 23, five months after Islamic State loyalists began a sustained siege in Marawi, the Philippines declared the war ended. More than 1,100 people — most of them militant fighters — died in the fighting. Nearly all of Marawi’s 200,000 residents fled the city, along with hundreds of thousands of citizens from surrounding areas. Baptist Bishop Noel Pantoja, head of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, told CNS: “Imagine more than 500,000 people are displaced. So the biggest religious blocks and (nongovernment organizations) are doing their part but … three months ago we came together, all the heads of these organizations and said, ‘What if we put our hands and resources together?’ After the relief operations, there will be rehabilitation.” Pantoja said the three church conferences would build temporary shelters, and each would be responsible for at least 100 houses and providing basic necessities, in addition to giving other support. Henderson said residents have played a crucial part, giving input on how they want their neighborhoods to be rebuilt. Media images of Marawi, a once-thriving city on a lake, show streets lined with what used to be midrise buildings and houses reduced to piles of rubble and twisted metal framework. Several of the city’s mosques lay crumpled with toppled, bullet-riddled minarets and cracked, hole-punched domes.
The Philippine National Defense secretary said in September that rebuilding would cost $1 billion. So far, the three church conferences have put $550,000 — half of it from Caritas Philippines — into their response. Donations from Canada, China, Germany, South Korea and other countries as well as pledges from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the European Union, the World Bank and other entities have started to arrive. The head of Caritas Philippines, Jesuit Father Edwin Gariguez, said the Catholic aid group is supporting a crisis response program started in August by Marawi Bishop Edwin de la Pena and Redemptorist priests. The goal of the Accompanying Marawi program is to “ensure people’s faith and culture are paid attention to and factored into the rebuilding process of the city.” De la Pena told CNS that volunteers — mostly Muslims — are helping with the program, which deals with the psychological toll of war. It provides medical help for physical and mental health problems, peace and reconciliation lessons for children, and promoting peace through dialogue between Muslim and Christian young people. He expressed concern over what he said was a strong sense of ambivalence among the residents who fled.
“To those who were less affected by the crisis… [the end of the fighting] is a very hopeful sign, they’re optimistic about the future,” said de la Pena. “But the others… who have no place to go home to because practically their house is destroyed, that would be another trigger for trauma.” Marc Natan, the Marawi emergency response officer for the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, said it was important to let displaced residents know that Christians supported them in their aspiration for peace and to return to their homes. He said those living far from the conflict zone were happy to go back, but those “in ground zero” who lost their homes would need a lot of support and access to information.
“Christians are in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters so that they will not feel down and forgotten,” he said. Natan said one community of Maranao, the main Muslim tribe in Marawi, “said we didn’t have to bring relief goods as long as we came around to visit regularly and chat with them at their shelters.”
Natan said the faith groups and government agencies were in the process of assessing how many residents would be returning to their homes and how many would remain away. On Oct. 27, the military said a few residents living far from the decimated city center started to return. De la Pena called on more faith groups to join the rebuilding. “Whether Muslim or Christian, people of faith really should be at the forefront of the rehabilitation effort because it is only with people who really believe in the God that they recognize that such a difficult task can by carried out,” he said.

What’s It Like To Be A Muslim-American Today? A Lot Like Being A Jew In The Early 1900s
Tucked away in a small conference room in the basement of the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia, a small group of Muslims and Jews listen quietly, some scribbling notes and eagerly awaiting the Q&A session to come. At the lectern stands an African-American Muslim, an expert from the Pew Research Center, providing thought-provoking, perhaps surprising, data about the U.S. Muslim experience. The lecture was mainly focused on how U.S. Muslims feel about their place in America and how these same Muslims are perceived by American society at-large. The takeaway? U.S. Muslims are, by and large, aligned with fundamental American values and should be acknowledged for their devotion to liberal ideals, especially considering the currently antagonistic political climate that has led to anti-Muslim discrimination and bigotry.
The 2017 Pew statistics break stereotypes and correct misperceptions about the US Muslim community, the majority of whom are first generation Americans (58%). One enlightening statistic is that two-thirds of US Muslims are very concerned about extremism in the name of Islam around the world (66%), compared with about half of the larger public (49%). This suggests that U.S. Muslims are more concerned about extremism in the name of Islam than are non-Muslims. Another elucidating statistic demonstrates that 92% of American Muslims are proud to be American, while another shows that they are far more worried about global extremism in the name of Islam (66%) than the general public (49%). The aforementioned puts to rest the despicable yet unfortunately ubiquitous claims that American Muslims are only loyal to Islam and tacitly support terrorism.
Many U.S. Muslims are liberally minded individuals who support progressive causes. U.S. Muslims reject the targeting and killing of civilians in far greater proportion (76%) than the American public (59%). More than half believe homosexuality should be accepted by society (52%). Finally, a strong majority of U.S. Muslims believe that working for justice and equality in society is an essential part of what being Muslim means to them (69%), a similar result for working to protect the environment (62%). Notably, issues like eating halal foods (48%), dressing modestly (44%), and following the Qur’an and Sunnah scored lower on this question (59%).
The Pew presentation was sponsored by the American Jewish Committee, and specifically, its Circle of Friends interfaith program. The mission of Circle of Friends is to build relationships between current and future leaders of the Muslim and Jewish communities of the Greater Philadelphia area based on mutual respect, understanding, trust and friendship, for the purpose of working together to combat acts of prejudice and bigotry directed at either group and/or its members. Its goals are: To create social forums to promote open dialogue on contemporary issues affecting particularly American Muslim and Jewish communities; To engage in social and civic activities to promote understanding and respect among members of the two communities and stand united to fight hate and discrimination, while creating a culture of respect for equality, religious freedom and inclusion; and to promote and support policies and laws that prevent hate crimes against both communities.
As the lecture continues, the Jews in the room can’t help but notice the myriad comparisons that can be made to the Jewish experience during the early 20th century, when they were still a new immigrant community to the US, viewed with suspicion by some, and themselves struggling with balancing their Jewish and newfound American identities. Anyone present can sense the interfaith bonds strengthening as the lecture transitions to a robust dialogue. It is apparent to all that human contact, engagement with “the other,” is essential to bridge perceived barriers to intercommunal relations. This too, is borne out by Pew data. Results clearly illustrate that favorable feelings towards Muslims are starkly higher for people who know a Muslim. Another Pew statistic evidences the same positive correlation in the context of favorable feelings towards American Jewry. For two communities facing similarly urgent challenges with respect to discrimination, harassment, unjustified scrutiny, and feelings of fear in the Trump era, humanizing each other and establishing trust is the necessary precursor to a more tangible Jewish-Muslim alliance against intolerance and hatred.
The majority of the Pew data justifies the concerns of Muslims: Their experiences with religious discrimination are trending upwards. 48% say they experienced some kind of discrimination in 2017 because they were Muslim. However, there are some positive signs. Between 2014-2017, the percentage of Americans who feel warmly towards Muslims increased from 40% to 48%. Additionally, most Americans see a great deal of discrimination against Muslims (69%). Notwithstanding this somewhat encouraging data, it is unquestionable that the American public needs to be better informed about the precarious situation in which US Muslims now find themselves and more vocal in their opposition to Islamophobia.
The Circle of Friends program provides a forum, and serves a vehicle, for creating and nurturing an interfaith coalition that can make a difference in this regard. The bonds that Circle of Friends has created will ineluctably lead to more powerful advocacy and political action on the collective behalves of Jews and Muslims in America. As one participant, Tarik Khan, noted: “It’s a beautiful thing to have a brotherhood of fellow Muslims and Jewish friends. In a way, our meetings remind me of visiting a mosque and feeling that sense of acceptance, brotherhood, and community… I feel that the connection with the Circle of Friends brothers is as valid and as strong as between members of our own individual faiths.”
US Muslims, now 1% of the US population, are proud, liberal, and moderate Americans who adhere to core American values. It is incumbent upon Jews (and non-Jews) to stand with them as they defend their rights to justice and equality in the land of the free.

Mormon Congregation Attends Jewish
Shabbat Service in Church Meetinghouse
POSTED BY Tracie Cayford Cudworth
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints joined a Jewish group for a Friday night Shabbat service in a Mormon meetinghouse in Irvine, California, Friday, October 13, 2017. It was the last time the Jewish congregation would meet at the Church stake center where it had been meeting for the past year, while its synagogue was undergoing renovation.
“Giving Thanks to Our Mormon Friends” was the title of the Shabbat service sermon by Rabbi Richard Steinberg of the Shir-Ha-Ma’alot (SHM) Jewish congregation. More than 200 Jews and Mormons welcomed each other with expressions of gratitude, handshakes and Shabbat greetings.

President Tait Eyre of the Irvine California Stake heard the Jewish congregation needed a place to meet and offered the Church meetinghouse as an option. “Our purpose for doing this was to strengthen our relationship between our faiths,” said President Eyre.
The Jewish congregation met at the building on Friday nights and Saturday mornings as part of their Jewish Sabbath worship when the facilities were typically not being used. Rabbi Steinberg said the Mormon congregation “opened the door with love and kindness.”
Church leaders would be there to host the Jewish congregation each time they met in the building. Members who came to host would help clean, prepare classrooms and even join in the services.
Throughout the year, Rabbi Steinberg said he had gained a greater understanding of why Mormons want to share the truths they believe. Yet, he said they refrained from proselytizing “in order to achieve a higher religious value.” In his Shabbat sermon, Rabbi Steinberg pointed out that the Mormon missionaries in attendance had even assisted with their High Holy Days.
As an expression of gratitude, Rabbi Steinberg pronounced a blessing upon the Latter-day Saints in attendance. He said SHM plans to dedicate a space in its new synagogue in honor of the Church as a reminder that its “graciousness, hospitality and kindness are a model for all religions.” The Mormon congregation was also invited to attend the grand opening of the new synagogue.
Rabbi Steinberg expressed a hope that “the world around would see the friendship between these two communities as a model.”
“It’s been a remarkable feeling of closeness that has never faded for the entire year,” said Marty Hart from SHM, who attended Shabbat services and Torah study on a regular basis at the meetinghouse.
“I enjoyed it every time I attended,” said Kenny Giuliani, a Mormon who had opportunities to serve as a host. “Even though the way we worship may be a little different, one thing that definitely unites us is love and respect for others’ religious views and beliefs.”
“We all had the opportunity to learn, with appreciation and gratitude, that we have much more in common than many may have suspected and more around which we can unite,” said Larry Gassin, a Latter-day Saint who coordinated the building sharing for the year.
The Shabbat service ended with the congregation interlocking arms.

November 2017

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events  
August through November, 2017
Exploring Our Religious Landscapes
Christianity Series
See Flyer Below
Sunday, November 12th 3:00 – 6:00 PM
IFLC Creation Stories and Our Environment
Temple Beth El, Bloomfield Hills
See flyer Below
Sunday, November 19th, 5:00 PM
Interfaith Thanksgiving Service at
First Presbyterian Church of Birmingham
See Flyer Below!

Living a Green Life: Inspiration from the Creation story:Nov. 12 & Dec. 3
Inspired by their faith’s interpretation of the Creation story, a group of panelists representing Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism will share environmental lessons taken from humanity’s first story and how they bring them to action in the Interfaith Leadership Council’s program: “Creation Stories & Our Environment: Christian, Hindu, Jewish & Muslim Teachings On Environmentally-Conscious Living” 3:00  to 6:00 p.m.Sunday, Nov 12th  at Temple Beth-El; 7400 Telegraph Rd., Bloomfield Hills.
 The panel includes:
  • Juhi Parekh, a high school student who is president of her school’s environmental organization and a member of the Bharatiya Temple
  • Imam Al-Masmari of the Muslim Unity Center
  • Rabbi Ariana Silverman of the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue
  • Dr. Ventra Asana, Elder Clergy member of the 4th Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church
  • John Schleicher, Lutheran Bishop from the Lansing area and member of the Michigan Interfaith Power and Light
Temple Kol Ami’s Rabbi Brent Gutmann, who was involved with ecological interfaith work when he was a rabbi in Auckland, New Zealand and continues his green quest here in Detroit inviting his congregation’s youngest members and their families to get out and explore Judaism through nature, will lead the panelist discussion.
Gutmann said there are deep connections between one’s spirituality and taking care of the Earth.
“Right from Chapter Two of Genesis, we learn the primary purpose of humanity is to be caretakers of the Earth,” said Gutmann. “In Jewish prayer and ritual, we come back to the story of Creation and learn that every day, God continually renews Creation and every moment humans have a new opportunity to fulfill our obligations of caring for the world.”
For 15 years, Dr. Asana has been fulfilling this obligation as an ecological minister. Though she is driven by her love of all cultures and ethnic groups, she is particularly concerned for the environmental state and degradation of the physical environs of her “beloved” African American community. The backbone of this community – churches and mosques – have recently been financially threatened with heavy fees that must be paid to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department for treating storm water runoff from their properties. Recently, Dr. Asana and other Detroit clergy have expressed opposition to increased water and drainage fees that they say are too costly for their congregations to pay and are at a risk of closing their doors.
Dr. Asana teaches congregants of various faiths how to install rain barrels and create gardens and other ecological methods that prevent excessive storm water from overburdening municipal sewer systems.  Her work has also led her to be involved in showing off the city’s hundreds of urban farms and gardens to visitors from around the country who are looking to Detroit as an example of how to revitalize and beautify inner cities.
“Ecological ministry work is not just theoretical but one that is very practical.”
Rev. Schleicher said that caring for God’s creation should be a primary concern for the faithful, and taking actions such as installing LED lighting and practicing other methods of energy efficiency is a sign that humans are partners in taking care of God’s creation.
He also pointed to Pope Francis’s encyclical on ecology, Laudato Si, which says that climate change is real and mainly “a result of human activity.”
“Pope Francis doesn’t pull any punches when he expressed his concern for the dire situation of this planet” said Schleicher.
The second part in the series will take place 1:45 to 4 at the Detroit Institute of Arts where participants will be treated to a free docent led tour of the museum’s pieces that examine the natural world and the human place within the world from African, Islamic, European and American traditions.  (Please gather at: Prentis Court)
It is not necessary to attend both programs, but advance registration is appreciated.
Cost: $10.00 per person – payable at the door
For the December 3 event, Register before November 30th   by calling 313.338.9777 or go to https://iflc.wufoo.com/forms/q19glyg1eff13b/ 
Cost: FREE

Read the article about the WISDOM Tenth Anniversary dinner in the Jewish News and watch the video by clicking on the link below!!
WISDOM stands for Women’s Interfaith Solutions for Dialogue and Outreach in Metro Detroit. It began in 2006, when Gail Katz (Jewish), Trish Harris (Catholic) and Shahina Begg (Muslim) met and decided to continue their conversations over the course of a few months.
Because of the tensions in the Middle East, Iraq and Darfur constantly in the news, these women felt that communities of faith in Metro Detroit were becoming more and more segregated. They felt that maybe women could make a difference, that women had the capacity for empathy and connecting spiritually.
WISDOM became a nonprofit organization in 2007, and for 10 years has been proposing interfaith events to give people the chance to listen to each other, respect each other’s differences and take action toward change.
The women of WISDOM have just completed the second edition of their book, Friendship and Faith, a compilation of many stories by women who have crossed bridges and boundaries to make a friendship with someone of another faith.
WISDOM’s greatest achievement is its panel discussion, “Five Women, Five Journeys,” which has been presented to many houses of worship, schools and organizations.
The group’s challenge is to bring together people from different faith traditions, ethnicities, races and cultures to engage in educational and community service projects.
“The 10-year anniversary celebration at North Congregational Church in Farmington Hills Oct. 15 was an opportunity to shout out to everyone in attendance that WISDOM wants to change our world through the positive power of building relationships, discovering similarities and respecting differences,” Katz said.

She’s Jewish. Her BFF is Muslim.
 And their costumes just won Halloween
By Robbie Couch (In Upworthy)
Last year, best friends Casey Pearlman and Yasmin Idris were chatting about what their two religions have in common during a car ride. Casey is Jewish, and Yasmin is Muslim, and a spectacular new word was born: Juslim. The term – coined by Casey’s dad, Jeff – was a perfect descriptor for any ideas or values that the two faiths share.

Yasmin Idris (left) and Casey Pearlman (right). Photo courtesy of Catherine Pearlman

Fast forward to Halloween 2016, and the two 13-year-olds from California may have just won the holiday by turning the term into an original costume creation. “The delightful thing about their costume is that it was thoughtless,” Casey’s mom, Catherine, said. “It was so authentic to the nature of who they are and their friendship.” Jeff shared a photo of his daughter and Yasmin as the Juslims online. And even for him – a best-selling author with thousands of Twitter followers – the photo took off, going viral overnight. Reactions to the photo have been “absolutely amazing and mind-blowing,” Catharine said, garnering attention from places like Egypt and the U.K. – even landing a coveted retweet from author J.K. Rowling.

“If you’re a kid and you make a fun costume with your friend, and you don’t think anything of it,” she said. “And then there’s people all over the world who are responding to your homemade superhero costume, it’s pretty special.”

Twitter users began chiming in on what the costumes meant to them using the #Juslims hashtag. What’s truly remarkable to Catherine, however, is that her daughter’s friendship with Yasmin couldn’t be more … unremarkable. And that’s probably a reassuring breath of fresh air to many people who’ve been discouraged by a divisive election season.

“To me, their biggest statement is that it wasn’t a statement to them,” Catherine said. “They don’t feel different to each other. They feel like eighth-grade girls.” Their superpower – watching each other’s backs – is another reason why the pair totally owned Halloween 2016. “We’re a super team,” Yasmin told BuzzFeed. “Like, friends forever.”

        Everyone in Michigan should read this
new report on the state’s Muslims
Courtesy the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding
We’ve recently seen the results of a new study called Muslims for American Progress. Commissioned by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, the study is considered the first of its kind, offering a broad look at Muslim contributions to the state of Michigan. It examines the ways Muslims have improved Michiganders’ lives over the last five years in such areas as engineering, civics, economic development, medicine, philanthropy, arts and even sports.

The study found that Muslims constitute about 1 percent of the U.S. population, and about 2.75 percent of Michigan’s. Given the community’s small size, another key finding is understandable: Most Americans say they don’t know a Muslim. And when media content analysis reports that more than 80 percent of U.S. media coverage of Islam and Muslims is negative, the report says this “opens the door for a narrow media image to distort public perceptions of this diverse community.

That’s where this study works to correct many of those misperceptions, especially in our state. In fact, the study’s findings demonstrate a wealth of contributions to the economic, cultural, and political life of Michigan, which has been a magnet not just for Muslims from the Middle East, but from South Asia, West Africa, and Muslim communities from around the world.

Professionally speaking, Michigan’s Muslims punch well above their weight. More than 15 percent of Michigan’s medical doctors are Muslim, as are more than 10 percent of all pharmacists, more than 7 percent of all dentists, 6.9 percent of podiatrists, and 6.1 percent of osteopaths. These Muslim medical professionals provide 1.6 million appointments to patients per year, indirectly support 39,987 jobs, and fill more than 15 million retail drug prescriptions annually.
Michigan Muslims also have a serious philanthropic streak. In 2015, donations from Michigan Muslims to charity totaled more than $177 million of money, 650 tons of food, 45,000 articles of clothing, 14,000 gallons of water, and much more. In fact, The average Michigan Muslim household spent 18 percent more in charity in 2015 than the average U.S. household.

When it comes to the STEM sector, where women are vastly underrepresented, holding only 24 percent of all STEM jobs in the United States, the study finds that Muslim women are leading the way to gender parity. They’re also spurring new developments in their respective areas of expertise, which the study illustrates with profiles of a half-dozen Muslim women working in such areas as highway safety, robotics, computer science, particle physics, and environmental remediation.

Perhaps most interesting to the average Michigander are the statistics on business and economics. The report finds that American Muslims constitute a whopping $5.5 billion of the consumer spending to Michigan’s economy. Compared to the nation generally, in 2015 Michigan Muslim households spent 20 percent more in total, including four times as much on education and twice as much on apparel and services. For that same year, the report finds that Muslims owned at least 35,835 businesses in Michigan, about 4.18 percent of all small businesses in the state, employing approximately 100,000 Michiganders.

The report finds a community that, far from being the threatening caricature often presented in mass media, is not only generous, industrious, creative, and skilled, but also extremely diverse. We spoke at length with Rebecca Karam, who filled the role of primary investigator and report author as part of her doctoral work, and present this abridged version of our chat in advance of her appearance Sept. 20, at the Plymouth Cultural Center.

 for details on her talk and an interesting video!!)

Rohingya Muslims crisis: ‘Guru ka langar’ begins at Bangladesh-Myanmar border, target 35,000 meals per day, On the first day of the langar, Sikh volunteers served cooked rice and vegetables.
Three days after Sikh volunteers from Khalsa Aid (India) arrived in Bangladesh-Myanmar border to begin relief work for Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar, they finally got the go ahead from the Bangladesh government to start the Guru ka langar (community kitchen preparing and serving fresh hot meals) on Thursday.
The Khalsa Aid team, which is camping in the border town of Teknaf, told The Indian Express that the Bangladesh government finally gave all the clearances and permissions required to serve meals to the refugees. The team was initially distributing packed food items and water to the refugees.

Three days after Sikh volunteers from Khalsa Aid (India) arrived in Bangladesh-Myanmar border to begin relief work for Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar, they finally got the go ahead from the Bangladesh government to start the Guru ka langar (community kitchen preparing and serving fresh hot meals) on Thursday.
The Khalsa Aid team, which is camping in the border town of Teknaf, told The Indian Express that the Bangladesh government finally gave all the clearances and permissions required to serve meals to the refugees. The team was initially distributing packed food items and water to the refugees.

The Khalsa Aid team, which is camping in the border town of Teknaf said that the Bangladesh government finally gave all the clearances and permissions required to serve meals to the refugees

On Thursday, the langar sewa began at a spot on Shahpuri Island (also known as Shapuree Island) where the refugees from Myanmar are landing after traveling for days in rickety boats.
Speaking to The Indian Express over phone, Amarpreet Singh, managing director, India for Khalsa Aid, said, “We cooked and served the first langar meals here today. We had purchased raw materials like rice, vegetables and big utensils on Wednesday after getting required permissions from the government of Bangladesh. The initial target is at least 35,000 meals per day. However seeing the increasing number of refugees here, we know it won’t be enough to feed all but we had to start somewhere.”

Sikh volunteers say they will initially serve at least 35,000 meals per day. (Source: Khalsa Aid)

Seeing the ‘miserable state’ of the refugees, especially children who haven’t eaten for days, it was difficult for the team to decide from where langar should start, he added.
“We feared that there might be a stampede seeing food being served here. There are at least 3 lakh refugees here already. But a beginning had to be made though we cannot feed everyone here in a single day. People are in dire need of food here. Children are roaming and begging on roads for food. The condition continues to be miserable,” he said.
On the first day of the langar, Sikh volunteers served cooked rice and vegetables.
However, starting the community kitchen and making all preparations in the border town of Bangladesh, which continues to be flooded with Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, wasn’t easy as the team initially faced some hiccups.
“We went to local markets to purchase utensils and raw materials. But some shopkeepers inflated the rates and quoted double prices seeing that we are outsiders. However many locals also helped us in making arrangements. We managed somehow. Attitude of the locals towards Rohingyas is varying at individual level. Some are really compassionate and trying to help them. They are even coming from far off areas to help them but then some are not. They are seeing them as burden on their country,” said Singh.
Before serving the meals, an ardaas (a prayer) was performed.
On Monday, The Indian Express first reported that a team of Sikh volunteers from India reached Bangladesh- Myanmar border town Teknaf to start relief operations and provide food to the Rohingya Muslim refugees fleeing Myanmar. The team told The Indian Express that the “condition at the border was miserable to say the least” and that their first priority would be to “provide food” to as many persons as possible.
Meanwhile, the Khalsa Aid volunteers back home are organizing fundraisers for the langar sewa at Bangladesh border. Gursahib Singh, a volunteer in Ludhiana said, “The langar there can continue only if we have requisite funds. We request people to donate for the sake of humanity. Please forget about religion barriers and think about the children who are sleeping with empty stomachs. They are also humans.”

Local Bangladeshi Muslims, Sikhs join hands to contribute for Rohingya kitchen
Shahi Imam Habib-ur-Rahman and Gurdwara Dukh Niwaran Sahib Mukh Sewadar Pritpal Singh felicitate functionaries of Khalsa Aid at Jama Masjid in Ludhiana. Photo: Inderjeet Verma
In a humanitarian gesture to Rohingya refugees taking shelter in Bangladesh, members of the local Muslim community have contributed Rs 9.32 lakh, which also include a contribution of Rs 1 Lakh from Pritpal Singh, Mukh Sewadar of Gurdwara Dukh Niwaran Sahib. The money will be donated to Khalsa Aid, a voluntary body, which has been running a langar (community kitchen) for the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. In a function held at Jama Masjid here today, the Shahi Imam of Punjab, Habib-ur-Rahman, felicitated the functionaries of Khalsa Aid for their noble gesture towards humanity. Speaking on the occasion, the Shahi Imam said atrocities being inflicted upon the Rohingyas were an attack on human kind, which the entire world ought to condemn unequivocally. He said Islam religion had always preached communal amity, brotherhood and to extend all possible assistance to victims of excesses irrespective of their caste, creed or religion. He claimed that the Muslim community had always remained at the forefront to take a stand against communal violence and acts of terrorism while at the same time extending help hand during national calamities, border conflicts and serving in the armed forces.

New York City Muslims and Jews March
 to Support the Rohingya
By Kat Moon on October 1, 2017
“Building Bridges” was the theme of the 32nd Annual Muslim Day Parade.

A few hundred people marched down Madison Avenue last Sunday in the 32nd Annual Muslim Day Parade. For the first time in its history, a rabbi served as the honorary grand marshal at the parade. Imam Shamsi Ali, President of the Muslim Foundation of America-the group that organizes the annual event, invited Rabbi Marc Schneier in order to send a message of unity. Imam Ali said that he and Rabbi Schneier, who is the President of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, have had a long working relationship speaking against religious persecution, specifically against Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism. Rabbi Schneier’s presence at the parade reflects the theme of the 32 nd Annual Muslim Day Parade: Building Bridges. Imam Ali urged for communities of different faiths to connect and help fight each other’s battle. “Islamophobia is not my fight, this is his fight,” Imam Ali stated, referring to Rabbi Schneier, “And let me just tell you too, that Anti-Semitism is not his fight, this is my fight.”
At this year’s parade, the Muslim community was fighting for the rights of a specific people: the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. Participants carried signs that read “We Are All Rohingya” and “Stop Genocide,” some of which contained graphic images of murdered Rohingya children. As the participants walked, they chanted, “Break the silence, end the violence.”
Rukayah Alom (middle left), Roaa Ayoub (middle right), and their friends carry signs supporting Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.
Roaa Ayoub, a 17-year old girl from Palestine, carried a self-made sign that read, “Stop the Genocide.” She said she was participating in a parade for the first time in her life, and walked alongside friends who held signs saying, “Rise for Rohingya,” and “Save Rohingya Save Humanity.”
“We’re here to stop the genocide because Burma people are being killed, raped,” Ayoub explained, “And all of that just because they’re Muslims.” The genocide that Ayoub spoke of is what the Human Rights Watch has described as an “ethnic cleansing” of the Rohingyas by the military regime in Myanmar formerly known as Burma. The Rohingyas are a stateless people, predominantly Muslim, living in a Buddhist-majority country. Hundreds of thousands of them have been forced to flee Myanmar because of crackdowns by the government’s security forces-which have involved rape, torture, and murder.
Kaji Uddin, 63, was another participant who attended the parade to stand in solidarity with Rohingya Muslims. Uddin moved from Bangladesh to New York three months ago. In his limited English, he said, “We want peace.” As the Muslim community walked to express their solidarity with the Rohingya people in Myanmar, individuals from other religious groups walked to express their solidarity with the Muslim community. The presence of the Jewish community at the parade extended beyond Rabbi Schneier’s role as a grand marshal. Different Jewish organizations marched alongside Muslim men and women. One of these groups was Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST), a Jewish synagogue that welcomes LGBTQ members.
A representative of CBST, Sabrina Farber, 53, explained that the synagogue’s participation was an outgrowth of a relationship with the mosque that developed after the November, 2016 presidential election. “We wanted them to feel like they were not alone,” she said. “We feel that Muslims are an important part of our community, an important part of our country. We refuse to let the administration in Washington change those realities.”At the end of his speech, Imam Ali thanked Mayor Bill de Blasio (who did not attend) for having declared that “New York is one New York.” “It’s not only white New Yorkers, it’s not only black New Yorkers,” Imam Ali said, “it’s one New York.”

Bahais mark 200th birthday of their messenger,
whose focus on equality resonates today
The Bahai faith is one of the youngest world religions – on Sunday, it will celebrate the birthday of its messenger, Baha’u’llah, who was born just 200 years ago. But to the kids bouncing off the purple-painted walls on 14th Street, that’s ancient history.
“My name is Baha’u’llah Junior!” Menkem Sium calls out jokingly. “My dad is 200 years old!” Baha’u’llah, who was born in Tehran in 1817, might not recognize the religion based on his teachings today, in its vibrant form in the District. Fourteen youth groups teach crafts and games and vocabulary to about 120 teenagers, including the enthusiastic Sium. About 190 younger children participate in 20 Bahai children’s classes. All over the city, Bahai devotees and other curious adults gather in private homes and a stately 16th Street NW worship center, each night of the week, for 35 different regular study circles and 45 devotional meetings.
On Sunday, local followers of the faith will congregate for an extravaganza of artistic performances in English and Spanish, and plenty of food, to celebrate the 200th birthday of the visionary leader behind it all. Their celebration will focus on racial unity: one of Baha’u’llah’s foremost goals, which remains elusive and just as relevant today.
Baha’u’llah was born two years before a man who eventually came to call himself the Bab. The Bab announced in 1844, at age 25, that he had come to proclaim the arrival of the next great messenger, a man who would follow in the tradition of earlier religious messengers – Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, Krishna, and so on. Hundreds of people became followers of the Bab, before he was executed for his beliefs in 1850.
Thirteen years later, Baha’u’llah revealed himself: He was the messenger whom the Bab had promised. He too was imprisoned and harassed for much of the next 40 years, while he wrote the works that became the basis of the Bahai faith. The religion places a heavy emphasis on equality, and Baha’u’llah’s writings taught about harmony among men and women, people of all races, science and religion, and all forms of faith.
Today, gorgeous Bahai temples stand on each continent but Antarctica, as architectural icons in places from Cambodia to Uganda to the suburbs of Chicago. Bahai communities – some still persecuted in the Middle East, many thriving in tolerant nations – gather for worship in almost every country. And here in Columbia Heights, a raucous group of teenagers is learning to pray.
“Oh Lord,” Anais Basora, 11, reads aloud. “Confer thy bounty. …”
Navid Shahidinejad, the leader of this Bahai youth group meeting at the Rita Bright Community Center, prods Basora, “Do you know what ‘bounty’ means?” Basora isn’t Bahai. Most of the teenagers in the “junior youth empowerment” groups run by Bahai believers in the District are not members of the faith, based on the Bahai tenet of treating equally people of all religions.
“When I look at the revelation of Baha’u’llah and its purpose to unify mankind, I find that this revelation is for everybody, and all are welcome to participate,” said Maryam Esmaeili, a leader in the District’s Bahai community. She runs her own youth group using the same Bahai curriculum at a second location in Columbia Heights; this week, she helped out in Shahidinejad’s group as well. “Universal participation is absolutely necessary to build a better world. It’s not in the hands of only Bahais.” Esmaeili and Shahidinejad said the intent of opening these youth groups to nonbelievers isn’t to convert the teenagers; after all, their faith preaches that all religions are equal. That being said, they encourage children and parents who are interested in Bahai practices to learn more outside the youth group. The Bahai focus on racial equality is often what interests parents, who sometimes start learning the prayers with their kids and check out events at the 16th Street center.
The religion is too small for the Pew Research Center or other polling groups to have gathered much data on it, but the Bahai International Community says there are more than 5 million adherents worldwide and about 340 in the District, with additional Bahai communities in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs. On Sunday, the community will host its major celebration of Baha’u’llah’s 200th birthday at Woodrow Wilson High School.
Abdul Hill, the athletics manager at the Rita Bright Community Center, said he likes having the Bahai youth group there since it introduces the children to another culture and since the education on how to pray helps them deepen their own faith, whatever their religion might be. “A lot of them don’t go to church,” Hill said. “Something like this is very big for them, just having that structure as a human being on Earth.”
On Thursday night, after the teenagers practiced memorizing a prayer drawn from Baha’u’llah’s writings and played an energetic name game, they sat down in a circle to think up ideas for their next service project, a core part of the Bahai curriculum.
The kids have decided that they want to visit children with cancer. Shahidinejad mostly lets them think through their ideas on their own.
“I know that they like the jello and the pudding,” Sium, 13, says. One teen suggests that they bring video games to the patients, and Basora suggests bringing teddy bears. “I’ve got a bunch,” she says, then she thinks better of it. “No, I’m not giving them.”
One of the adults suggests writing cards, and Basora says, “No, that’s for the vegetarians.”
There’s a rare moment of silence. All the kids stare at her for a moment, then figure out what she meant: veterans. Good-natured giggles ripple around the circle. This process is central to the curriculum, which focuses on social justice. “The revelation of Baha’u’llah, which talks about the oneness of mankind, is so grand in itself,” Esmaeili said. “That is where this idea of unity becomes more possible: just being able to support youth and middle-schoolers in developing an understanding of their twofold moral purpose, that they have qualities that can be used to serve others.” Esmaeili, who grew up in a Bahai home in El Salvador, said she often meets people who are surprised to learn about the Bahai community running so many programs for people of all ages in the District and many other American cities. One of the first assignments in the adult-study circles is to visit a friend and share a prayer with him or her, she said. “Sometimes that sounds very odd, in a city like D.C., that people are actually doing this,” she said. But the kids in the youth group don’t seem to find it odd at all.

Highlighting innovations and technologies that were the hallmark of Islam’s Golden Age of Civilization and which also gave way to modern marvels such as Global Positioning Systems and the development of coffee as the world’s most sipped beverage, The Michigan Science Center along with a diverse partnership of sponsors welcomed the exhibit 1001 Inventions to Detroit which will run now through Jan. 7, 2018.
Detroit is only the fourth U.S. city to host this exhibit and its stay at the Michigan Science Center marks its first time back in the country in five years. The exhibit is free to visitors with their general museum admission. For details about the exhibit, go to mi-sci.org
1001 Inventions showcases the diverse spectrum of bold thinkers and new technologies that were nurtured during the Golden Age of Muslim Civilization which started in the 7th Century and led through the era leading up to the European Renaissance, an era often referred to as the “Dark Ages” in Europe.
Visitors will be guided through seven interactive exhibit zones covering 9,000 square feet where they will learn how inventions in the Ancient Islamic world were introduced to modern civilization via inventors of various ethnicities, cultures, and religions including but not limited to architecture, library systems, astronomy and medicine among other studies.
“As an engineer, I have been passionate about innovation, science, technology, and invention for as long as I can remember,” said Dr. Dima El-Gamal, Friends of 1001 Inventions Michigan Chair during the exhibit’s opening earlier in October. “Therefore, having an admiration for the 1001 Inventions came naturally. As a woman, I was fascinated by the contributions of Women to STEM during the Golden Age of Civilization. “
Dr. El-Gamal said the exhibit was made possible by the dedication of The Friends of 1001 Inventions Michigan – a diverse group of supporters comprised of over 200 dedicated families, businesses, institutions, and organizations from across Michigan and Ohio – who recognized that the Golden Age “mirrors the diversity and creativity found within the metro Detroit area.”
For further exploration, the Science Museum invites visitors to participate in special Wednesday night programs Oct. 18 – Dec. 27 that will delve into individual aspects of the exhibit, such as learning about the origins of the number zero, brushing up on your chess or astronomy skills, or celebrating the accomplishments of women in STEM. These evenings are $10, advance registration is requested. For more information, visit mi-sci.org or call (313) 577-8400

Jews and Chaldeans come together at the newly opened Chaldean Cultural Center in West Bloomfield.
On October 4th, 2017 about 20 Jews and Chaldeans met to view the newly opened Chaldean Cultural Center. Mary Romaya, Director at the Chaldean Cultural Center, took us on a wonderful tour of the museum. After more than decade of curating artifacts and replicas, the museum at the Shenandoah Country Club in West Bloomfield opened last May. Representing thousands of years of history, the museum consists of five galleries ranging from ancient Chaldean culture, faith, and church, village life, the journey to America, and Chaldean culture today. Chaldeans have been living in Detroit for more than five generations. The Chaldean culture originates from Iraq and Syria (originally Mesopotamia), and today there are about 500,000 Chaldeans in the United States, with about 150,000 of whom live in metro Detroit.  Call 248-681-5050 to check their hours, and to see if you can connect with a docent when you make your visit!

October 2017

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events  
Sunday, October 15th, 2017, 5:00 PM – 8:30 PM
Tenth Anniversary Celebration of WISDOM
North Congregational Church
See Save the Date Below
August through November, 2017
Exploring Our Religious Landscapes
Christianity Series
See Flyer Below
November 12, 2017 3:00 – 6:00 PM
IFLC interfaith panel on Creation
See flyer Below
WISDOM’S TENTH ANNIVERSARY YEAR
CELEBRATION!
Sunday, October 15th
5:00 PM – 8:30 PM
AT NORTH CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH
Displays/Vendors, Dinner, and Delightful Entertainment
$50 per person
Register now on the WISDOM website!
See below!
$75 for a display/vendor table
WISDOM

 

First-ever Shabbat Salaam Focuses on Food, Faith and Friends
By Maayan Hoffman
eJewish Philanthropy
Two women – one Sephardic Jewish, one Egyptian Muslim – sat together, sharing a dish of Arabic fattoush salad. They laughed together, excited by the discovery that despite their different religions they have much in common, including their favorite foods.
It sounds like a scene out of a fairy tale, given the recent unrest on and around the Temple Mount and the gruesome terror attack that struck a West Bank town over Shabbat. But according to those who spearheaded the first-ever Shabbat Salaam in San Francisco, this connection was neither contrived nor isolated.
More than 65 Muslims, Jews, Christians and atheists came together on Fridaynight, July 21, for a pop-up dinner experience at which attendees dined and conversed about the parallels that exist between all Abrahamic faiths, specifically Judaism and Islam.
“People were reminded they are far more similar than different,” said Mohammad Modarres, who planned the evening on behalf of Interfaith Ventures, in partnership with OneTable’s Bay area hub manager Analucia Lopezrevoredo. He said Reform, Conservative and Orthodox Jews attended, as well as Shia and Sunni Muslims.
The event began at 7 p.m. with a social hour and finger foods – Turkish dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), finger potato knishes, khraime (Moroccan salmon) – and drinks, which prepared attendees to ask questions about faith, community and all things humanity, according to Modarres.
OneTable’s Al Rosenberg, director of communications, said the organization decided to financially back Shabbat Salaam because OneTable saw the event as both “strategic and intentional,” and aligned with its mission of presenting Shabbat as a “beautiful, purposeful and intentional practice that can benefit everyone and can bring peace and rest.”
Rosenberg said, “We want [Shabbat meal] hosts to feel comfortable celebrating Shabbat with whoever – and to feel empowered to bring a little bit of their culture to their friends and community.”
This was the first time OneTable partnered directly with a non-Jewish organization.
Opening remarks were followed by a three-course meal, curated by a local Sephardic-Jewish chef. The highlight of the meal was the main course, Persian choresht e-sabzi (herb stew) and Lebanese kousa mahshi (stuffed squash), made with the first-ever Glatt kosher and halal “interfaith meat.”
“It was the very best meat – black belly lamb, grass fed, free range,” said Modarres, who worked for more than a year to make such a ritual slaughter take place. “It was a logistics nightmare.”
Modarres said the lamb was slaughtered the Monday before the event at an Oregon farm owned by a devout Christian. The first lamb they slaughtered did not turn out to meet Glatt standards and so it was distributed to people in need. The second one hit the mark.
“There we were, three farmers, me, the rabbi-shochet (ritual slaughterer) and the Muslim slaughterer. And the rabbi checks the animal. And when he tells us it passes as Glatt kosher, we were excited knowing that we had created interfaith meat and we all high-five each other,” Modarres said.
Aside from the meat, each dish – from tahini to challah to baklava – was steeped in tradition. The chef came out to explain each course and its significance to her and her family as Jewish, American, Iranian, Israeli Jews – as humans. The Interfaith Ventures website refers to how Muslim and Jewish food roots tango with one another for a multitude of reasons, including economic trade, environmental sacristy and social mobility, and these intertwined histories shape the cultural foods of today. Participants paid $45 per person.
Jewish ritual and Muslim culture was also factored into the experience. Lopezrevoredo, who worked directly with Modarres on the dinner since February 2017, provided ritual cards that explained candle lighting, Kiddush and the blessing over bread. She invited participants to join her in these rituals before the meal. After dinner, participants enjoyed a Muslim-led Sufi performance.
Lopezrevoredo, who grew up in an interfaith family, got involved because she was struck by the growth of Islamophobia since 9/11. During the last presidential election, she felt that those fears became more covert and “because of my personal convictions, history and relations with people that are part of the Islamic faith, I just cannot stand for it.”
Modarres grew up on an “interfaith street” in New Jersey, with Jewish, Christian and Buddhist neighbors, among others. As he grew older he realized that writing cards to Jewish friends on Yom Kippur and Chanukah, or sharing Ramadan dinner with a pastor’s son and daughter, was not commonplace. The negative experiences his family faced after 9/11, which he, too, felt came to the forefront during the last election “left a sour taste in my mouth.”
“You can either pick up a pitch fork and be angry or you can try to create a narrative and space for people to realize their similarities and how they outweigh any differences,” said Modarres.
Modarres and Lopezrevoredo were brought together by a mutual colleague and friend and then they started planning. OneTable’s Rosenberg said the organization braced for backlash. “Anytime you try to bring peace, there are people who want to fight that for some reason,” said Rosenberg.
But in the end, there wasn’t any push back. Rather, participants left the meal with ideas of local volunteer opportunities they could do with their new friends. And Rosenberg said she sees Shabbat Salaam as a prototype that could be replicated in other cities. There is already a Shabbat Salaam planned for Los Angeles and discussions are underway about dinners in Atlanta, Chicago, Washington, D.C., New York and Colorado.
“It really came together,” said Modarres. “I don’t know how else to describe it, except there were Higher Powers that really wanted this.”

A Narrow Bridge
By Rabbi Barry Block
Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav[i] taught: “All the world is a very narrow bridge; the key is not to be paralyzed by fear.”
I have been on a narrow bridge. The Capilano Suspension Bridge in Vancouver, Canada is only wide enough for single file, spanning its 230 feet, hanging 460 feet above a river gorge. Not afraid of heights, I wasn’t scared when I crossed, enjoying magnificent scenery. Trusting that engineering had permitted millions to cross before me, I never considered the possibility of not arriving safely on the other side.
Our world, though, is full of less secure, narrower bridges.
When a devastating hurricane drops four feet of rain or threatens deadly winds, a person’s world can suddenly become a frighteningly narrow bridge – from security to survival, from a roof over one’s head to the peril of homelessness.
When armed white supremacists march in the thousands, people of color rightly fear for their lives. Is America a safe home?
When we hear the phrase, “Muslim ban,” America may quickly become precarious foreign land, even for a citizen.
When thousands, perhaps millions, cheer a border wall, we may ask: Why is America narrowing its bridge to the world?
When Charlottesville marchers shout, “Jews will not replace it,” American Jews wonder: “Will we have to get on a narrow bridge again, hoping to arrive safely at our next land of refuge?”
When young immigrants – who know America as their only home; and who have lived honest, productive lives in this land of opportunity – nevertheless face the prospect of deportation, they need look no further than their parents to see the narrow bridge that life in this country can be.
When a Black-majority school board is replaced by one white man, sixty years after the hard-fought but minimal desegregation of Little Rock Central High School, we may be frightened by the answer to the question: What temporal power is keeping this bridge from collapsing?
When LGBTQ Americans in many states can legally lose their jobs solely because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, the supports on the bridge of LGBTQ life in this country, which seemed to be strengthening, may become wobblier yet again.
When the white working class sees industry change along with culture, they wonder if the sturdy highway of their lives has become a rickety bridge.
When millions upon millions of Americans, and billions around the globe, do not have access to adequate quantities of nutritious food or to excellent medical care, living paycheck to paycheck, if there’s a paycheck at all, then the slightest unexpected misfortune can destroy the bridge of life beneath one’s feet.
When climate change is denied, even as historically devastating storms rage, Rabbi Nachman’s words seem particularly prescient: The whole world is on a very narrow bridge, between a healthy environment and global self-destruction.
We who are on this bridge – and make no mistake, we are all on it – live in fear, and not because we are afraid of heights. We know about people who have crossed these bridges in the past. Too many did fall to their deaths. We cannot be secure about the engineering of the bridge we must walk to traverse oppression.
Tonight, we have come together to push the bridges’ boundaries, to make each one less narrow, and to shore up the infrastructure.
If an undocumented immigrant links arms with a Muslim, then the Muslim is not alone when her people are maligned, and the immigrant may imagine refuge rather than deportation.
If a cisgender woman of color brings a transgender woman with her into the restroom, then the transgender woman may feel more secure in her place of vulnerability, and the person of color will know she’s not the only target of white supremacists’ slogans.
If a white working class American and a descendant of slaves share their anxieties about our nation’s future, each may build a better future with the other.
If the wealthy nations of the world, beginning with our own, will take responsibility for reducing humanity’s carbon footprint, then we may all take responsibility for defeating the climate injustice whose victims are disproportionately the poorest people on Earth.
If the person of faith and the unbeliever share the diverse sources of their comfort, perhaps we can hearten one another.
We do not know what the months and the years ahead may require of us. Perhaps churches will need to transform parish halls into sanctuaries from deportation. Perhaps a synagogue will need to shelter threatened Muslims. Every single one of us will have to decide: Am I going to collaborate with oppression? Am I going to remain silent, imagining there’s nothing I can do? Or am I going to use my body and soul, my voice and any power I have, to stand in the way of injustice?
We do know this: All the world is a very narrow bridge, and the only way to conquer fear is to emulate the Children of Israel at the Red Sea, “joining hands, marching together,” to a Land of Promise.
We do know this: In order to fight injustice, we must be disturbed by it. If we are not personally suffering, then we are obligated to summon empathy for those who are. We must know the heart of the stranger, for all of us have been strangers in one Egypt or another.
Nearly two millennia ago, the rabbis of the Talmud made a decree about those who live in a community beset by suffering, a world like our own, on a very narrow bridge. Hear now the rabbis’ teaching: “When the community is immersed in suffering, a person may not say: I will go to my home and I will eat and drink, and peace be upon you, my soul. . . Rather, a person should be distressed together with the community. . . And anyone who is distressed together with the community will merit seeing the consolation of the community.”[ii]
A task lies before us. Let me suggest that each of us seek to sit down for a meal with a person different from ourselves, a person we may not know well, a person who may be afflicted during these difficult days in ways that we are not. May we enjoy one another’s company, but let us also hear each other’s pain. Let the bread we break together also be our bread of shared affliction. Then, may we build a bridge – a strong, broad bridge – and may we be consoled, together.
Amen.
Rabbi Barry Block serves Congregation B’nai Israel in Little Rock, Arkansas.

They came to celebrate diversity, take a stand against hate and intolerance and strive for a safe, inclusive community. Residents from Canton and beyond gathered Tuesday evening in Heritage Park for a combined National Night Out and Not In Our Town event, both dedicated to building strong communities and making neighborhoods safer, better places to live. Representatives of the Muslim Community of Western Suburbs came from the Canton Mosque, serving up potato samosas and dates, providing henna art and a calligraphy station where visitors could see what their names look like spelled in Arabic.
Sana Soubani, a teacher at Crescent Academy International at the mosque, brought son Ammar Nusier, 9, to the event and, like other Muslims, she talked with visitors.
“Islam teaches us that all people are created equal. There is no difference between race and gender and background,” Soubani said. “All people are the same. We are here (at the event) because we like to put our faith in action. We are proactive. This is rooted in our religion from the beginning of time.”
Not far away, the Hindu youth group Yuva Bharathi welcomed visitors while, in a separate booth, Crime Stoppers of Michigan volunteer Mary Groat explained how witnesses can report crimes anonymously by calling 800-SPEAK-UP or by logging onto http://www.1800speakup.org. “You don’t have to appear in court or anything like that,” Groat, a Wyandotte resident, said, adding that tips leading to a conviction can bring rewards. “You can get $2,500 or more.”
Crime Stoppers has what Groat called “a fantastic partnership” with the Canton Public Safety Department, which also had police and fire representatives at the event. As a child took his turn getting on a police motorcycle, Deputy Police Chief Craig Wilsher said the gathering was a good way to interact with residents in a non-emergency situation and build community relations.
Police canine Hoss, accompanied by Officer Bryan Szostak, sure commanded his share of attention, with several children petting him simultaneously at times and others waiting their turn. “They love the dog, especially kids who don’t have pets at home,” Szostak said. Kristine Wiley brought children Curtis, 9, and Kaidyn, 8, to the event. She wanted Curtis, in particular, to have positive interactions with police officers, saying he is fearful of them. With face painting, arts and crafts, a bounce house, live musicians and other offerings, Curtis wasn’t sure when asked what he liked most about National Night Out. “I want to see everything,” he said.
Mohammed Rahman, 22, came from Detroit as a community organizer of Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote-Michigan. He hoped to bring attention to the group and encourage more people within the Asian-American community to get involved in efforts such as voting. “Our goal is to get Asian Americans more civically engaged,” Rahman said, whether by voting, organizing candidate forums, contacting elected officials or other activities.
“It’s really important for us to tell our elected officials what is important to us,” he added.
The two-hour National Night Out and Not In Our Town gathering was organized by the Canton Police Department, Canton Public Library, Canton Response to Hate Crimes Coalition and Canton Leisure Services. Library Director Eva Davis worked at a booth where passersby stopped to sign a banner to promote tolerance. “They are pledging to support a safe, inclusive community,” she said.
Organizers said the event was coordinated by the Canton Response To Hate Crimes Coalition, which is a group of law enforcement officials, faith-based organizations, public schools and community representatives committed to raising awareness of hate crimes, bias incidents and bullying. The coalition also offers support to victims and works to restore a sense of community when incidents do occur.
National Night Out is part of a nationwide effort that involves thousands communities in the United States, U.S. territories, Canadian cities and military bases. It is in its 33rd year. For more, go to https://natw.org/.
Not In Our Town is nationwide effort to stop hate and bullying while building safe, inclusive communities. For more, go to https://www.niot.org/

A peaceful, persistent response to injustice
BIC GENEVA – Thirty years ago, the Baha’i community of Iran embarked on a remarkable endeavor. Denied access to formal education by the country’s authorities after their numerous appeals, they set up an informal program of higher education in basements and living rooms throughout the country with the help of Baha’i professors and academics that had been fired from their posts because of their faith. This gradually came to be known as the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE).
Since its inception, BIHE has helped educate thousands of individuals, many of whom have been accepted into nearly 100 universities around the world to pursue graduate studies. Many BIHE graduates that complete their post-graduate studies abroad will return to Iran to serve their communities. Thanks to advances in technology, BIHE’s students are now taught by professors from across the globe. Those who offer their expertise and knowledge to the education of Baha’i youth in Iran, have witnessed first-hand the students’ high ideals and commitment to the pursuit of knowledge.
“The Baha’i response to injustice is neither to succumb in resignation nor to take on the characteristics of the oppressor,” explained Diane Ala’i, representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations in Geneva, quoting a letter from the Universal House of Justice.
“This,” she said, “is the fundamental definition of constructive resilience.”
“Of course, the Baha’is are not the only ones that have responded non-violently and positively to oppression, but they are finding a different way of doing that, which is more focused on their role in serving the community around them together with others,” said Ms. Ala’i.
Despite efforts by the Iranian authorities to disrupt BIHE’s operation by raiding hundreds of Baha’i homes and offices associated with it, confiscating study materials, and arresting and imprisoning dozens of lecturers, it has grown significantly over the past three decades. It relies on a variety of knowledgeable individuals both in and outside of Iran to enable youth to study a growing number of topics in the sciences, social sciences, and arts. Overall, not only has BIHE survived thirty years, it has thrived. Studying at BIHE is not easy. Because it’s not a public university, there is no funding available, and many students hold down full-time jobs. It is common to travel across the country to go to monthly classes in Tehran. Sometimes, students will have to commute from a home on one side of the city to the other in the middle of the day, because these are the only spaces available to hold classes. Despite these logistical challenges, students meet high academic standards.
“I have talked to BIHE students who said when their teacher was arrested and put in jail and all their materials were confiscated, they would get together for class just the same,” said Saleem Vaillancourt, the coordinator of the Education is Not a Crime campaign, which brings attention to the issue of denial of education to the Baha’is in Iran. “These students continued studying together, despite the fact that they didn’t have a teacher. This was their attitude, it didn’t seem remarkable to them. They just said this is what we have to do, because they had a commitment to the process.”
Universal education is a core belief of the Baha’i Faith, and when the authorities in Iran sought to deny Baha’i students this critical and fundamental right, the Baha’i community pursued a peaceful solution-never for a moment conceding their ideals, never surrendering to their oppressor, and never opposing the government. Instead, for decades, it has been seeking constructive solutions, a show of its longstanding resilience. In Iran, persecution of the Baha’is is official state policy. A 1991 memorandum approved by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei states clearly that Baha’is “must be expelled from universities, either in the admission process or during the course of their studies, once it becomes known that they are Baha’is.” Other forms of persecution torment the Baha’is in Iran as well. An open letter dated 6 September 2016 to Iran’s President from the BIC draws his attention to the economic oppression faced by the Baha’is there. The letter highlights the stark contradiction between statements espoused by the Iranian government regarding economic justice, equality for all, and reducing unemployment on the one hand, and the unrelenting efforts to impoverish a section of its own citizens on the other. “The Baha’i community in Iran wasn’t going to let itself go quietly into the night. It wasn’t going to allow itself to be suffocated in this way,” said Mr. Vaillancourt.
A distinctly non-adversarial approach to oppression fundamentally characterizes the Baha’i attitude towards social change. The Baha’i response to oppression draws on a conviction in the oneness of humanity. It recognizes the need for coherence between the spiritual and material dimensions of life. It is based on a long-term perspective characterized by faith, patience, and perseverance. It at once calls for obedience to the law and a commitment to meet hatred and persecution with love and kindness. And, ultimately, this posture has at its very center an emphasis on service to the welfare of one’s fellow human beings. “I think we see in the world today the breakdown of communities that people would not have thought could happen so easily. We’ve come to realize that living side by side is not enough. We need to live together and know one another, and the best way to know one another is to start working for the betterment of society,” said Ms. Ala’i.
“As the Baha’is in Iran have begun to do this in a more conscious way, other Iranians have come to know their Baha’i neighbors and understand that much of what they had heard about the Baha’is from the government and clergy were lies. As they have become more involved in the life of the communities where they live, the Baha’is have witnessed an immense change in the attitude of other Iranians towards them.”
The Baha’i response to oppression is not oppositional and ultimately strives toward higher degrees of unity. Its emphasis is not only on collective action, but on inner transformation.
This strategy is a conscious one employed by the Baha’i community. Going beyond the tendency to react to oppression, war, or natural disaster with apathy or anger, the Baha’i response counters inhumanity with patience, deception with truthfulness, cruelty with good will, and keeps its attention on long-term, beneficial, and productive action.
The Baha’i Institute for Higher Education embodies all of these elements.
“BIHE is an extraordinary achievement,” commented Mr. Vaillancourt. “Perhaps the least known, longest-running, and most successful form of peacefully answering oppression that history has ever seen. It sets the best example I know of for this particular Baha’i attitude to answering persecution or answering the challenging forces of our time, where we try to have an attitude, posture, and response of constructive resilience.”

All The Swastikas And Broken Glass
Since Charlottesville
In the two weeks since white supremacists marched
on Charlottesville, more than two dozen anti-Semitic incidents have occurred across the U.S.
By Christopher Mathias
On Aug. 14 – two days after the nation watched in horror as hundreds of well-armed neo-Nazis and other white supremacists held a violent rally in Charlottesville, Virginia – a 17-year-old boy in downtown Boston allegedly picked up a rock and threw it through one of the six tall glass towers that make up the New England Holocaust Memorial. Each tower is made of 22 glass panels and engraved with thousands of numbers representing the 6 million Jews murdered by Nazis during World War II. The rock reduced one of those panels to tiny glass shards strewn across the sidewalk, later swept into dustpans by city workers.
A day later, an unknown person shattered the glass doors at the K’hal Adas Yereim synagogue in Queens, New York – just hours after the nation watched in disbelief as the president of the United States described the white supremacists in Charlottesville as “fine people.” The synagogue is less than 3 miles from the president’s childhood home.
A K’hal Adas Yereim member sent a photo of the shattered doors to the Documenting Hate project, a partnership between ProPublica and numerous news outlets, including HuffPost. A New York City Police Department spokesperson says the department is investigating the incident, but won’t say whether a suspect has been identified.
Across the country in Alameda, California, on Aug. 17, a security camera captured another unidentified vandal throwing rocks at Temple Israel, shattering multiple windows.  Since the rally in Charlottesville, the Anti-Defamation League has tracked dozens of anti-Semitic incidents across the United States. It’s the sight of shattered glass at places of Jewish remembrance and worship, though, that is fraught with a terrifying poignance.
On the night of Nov. 9, 1938, and into the next day, mobs in Germany massacred nearly 100 Jews and smashed the windows of Jewish businesses and synagogues. The night became known as Kristallnacht,  “The Night of Broken Glass”, and was a preview of the Nazi effort to exterminate Jews from the Earth. At the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville two weeks ago, HuffPost witnessed Americans celebrating this Nazi legacy, proudly waving swastika flags and wearing T-shirts quoting Adolf Hitler. They chanted “Jews will not replace us!” and the Third Reich slogan “Blood and soil!” They carried signs with messages like “The Jewish Media Is Going Down” and “The Goyim Know.”
Worshippers at Charlottesville’s Congregation Beth Israel watched in terror as neo-Nazis paraded by screaming “There’s the synagogue!” and “Sieg Heil!” Online threats to burn down the synagogue forced congregants to remove Torahs, including a Holocaust scroll, from the building as a precaution.
“This is 2017 in the United States of America,” the congregation’s president, Alan Zimmerman, later wrote on ReformJudaism.org.
The anti-Semitic aims of the rally – which the Anti-Defamation League has called the largest of its kind in over a decade – were apparent the day before it started, when organizer and white nationalist leader Richard Spencer published his “Charlottesville statement.” This malevolent manifesto described Jews as an “ethno-religious people distinct from Europeans” who are resistant to assimilation and are hostile to non-Jews.
Now, the Anti-Defamation League is concerned that the large display of hatred in Charlottesville “could inspire copycat incidents or acts of hate against Jews or Jewish institutions in other parts of the country,” the group said in a statement.
The ADL provided a lengthy list to HuffPost of anti-Semitic incidents over the past two weeks. A spokesman for the group says the number of incidents is “higher than usual” when compared with other recent two-week periods.
  • On Aug. 13, a man made an obscene gesture to a security camera outside a Philadelphia synagogue. He then urinated on the synagogue.
  • On Aug. 13, someone drew a swastika on the door of a woman’s home in Manistee County, Michigan.
  • On Aug. 14, a 17-year-old boy allegedly threw a rock at the New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston, shattering one of the memorial’s glass panels. (In June, a 21-year-old man was arrested for doing the same thing.)
  • On Aug. 15, a 37-year-old man was arrested for damaging flowers that had been left at the memorial.
  • On Aug. 15, the anti-Semitic slur “KIKE” was spray-painted on a building in Washington, D.C.
  • On Aug. 15, a swastika and the words “WAR IS COMING!” were spray-painted on a wooden neighborhood fence in Bakersfield, California.
  • On Aug. 15, a swastika was found painted on a high school in Santa Rosa, California.
  • On Aug. 15 or 16, someone spray-painted swastikas on the driveway of a home in Lakewood, Ohio. Earlier that week, someone smashed in the windows of that family’s car.
  • On Aug. 15, someone shattered the glass doors at a synagogue in Queens.
  • On Aug. 16, a swastika and the initials “SS” were spray-painted on palm trees in Miami.
  • On Aug. 16, a large swastika and the word “Trump” were spray-painted near Goleta, California.
  • On Aug. 16, a swastika was painted on a restaurant in New Milford, Connecticut.
  • On Aug. 17, an unidentified vandal threw rocks at the glass windows of a synagogue in Alameda, California, shattering them.
  • On Aug. 18, a swastika was discovered on a sign in a park in Conejo Valley, California.
  • On Aug. 18, a neo-Nazi hung banners reading “UnJew Humanity” and “Jewish Financing Available” from a highway overpass near Springfield, Oregon.
  • On Aug. 18, 15 swastikas and messages including “Jews die” were found spray-painted at a skate park in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
  • On Aug. 18, swastikas were spray-painted on a sidewalk near a bus stop in Bellevue, Washington.
  • On Aug. 19, swastikas and the word “Trump” were spray-painted on a street in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
  • On Aug. 19 or 20, someone spray-painted a swastika on a sidewalk outside an Orthodox synagogue in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
  • On Aug. 19 or 20, anti-Semitic flyers bearing the name of the white supremacist group American Vanguard were posted at multiple locations in Asbury Park, New Jersey.
  • On Aug. 20, a family in Westerville, Ohio, discovered the word “Jew” written in shaving cream near their driveway. Their neighbors also found Nazi flyers in their front lawns.
  • On Aug. 21, a swastika was found carved into the green at a golf course in Lakeville, Minnesota.
  • On Aug. 21, a swastika was painted on a sidewalk near an elementary school in Las Vegas.
  • On Aug. 21, swastikas and a bomb threat were discovered carved into the walls of a Washington State University dormitory in Pullman, Washington, prompting an evacuation.
  • On Aug. 22, a 24-year-old man was arrested for spray-painting swastikas, “Heil Hitler” and other messages specifically targeting Jews and blacks at multiple locations in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. The man claimed to be associated with white supremacist groups.
The ADL cautions that it is impossible to directly link these anti-Semitic incidents to what happened in Charlottesville “without knowing the full motives of the perpetrators behind the attacks.”
Still, the past two weeks have brought rising American anti-Semitism into focus. The ADL says anti-Semitic incidents surged by 34 percent in 2016 compared with the previous year. In the first quarter of 2017, the number of incidents jumped 86 percent compared with the same period in 2016.
The FBI also maintains data on hate crimes and, while its figures are incomplete, they show that Jews were the most-targeted religious minority in the U.S. between 2010 and 2015.
And Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the ADL, told HuffPost this week that his organization has also tracked a rise in recruitment and membership among white supremacist organizations.
“One of the most significant things about Charlottesville is that it showed there’s a young generation of white supremacists willing to openly display their hate and anti-Semitism in public and in full view,” he said.
“It’s alarming to see a younger generation that’s not aged Klansmen hiding behind white hoods,” he continued, adding that “the majority of attendees appeared to be young, in their 20s and unafraid to show their faces.”
These young white supremacists, he said, have been “emboldened by this climate in the country, in an environment where the president essentially validated them and the ‘fine people’ among their ranks.”
Donald Trump won the presidency despite racist comments throughout his campaign. As a candidate and now as president, he has routinely signaled his support of white nationalism and been slow to condemn terror committed by white, right-wing extremists.  The Charlottesville rally also concluded with a terror attack. Twenty-year-old James Alex Fields Jr., a member of the white supremacist group Vanguard America, is accused of driving a car through a crowd of counterprotesters. The attack killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injured 19 others. In an interview with ABC News in the following days, two of Fields’ former classmates recalled visiting a Nazi concentration camp in Dachau, Germany, with him in 2015.  Standing in a place where Nazis had systematically murdered at least 28,000 people, most of them Jews, Fields’ friends recalled him issuing a chilling statement: “This is where the magic happened.”

Clergy march in Washington against white supremacy

WASHINGTON (RNS) – From Protestant preachers to Jewish cantors to Catholic nuns, religious leaders of a range of faiths demonstrated in the nation’s capital for racial justice, criticizing the silence of some within their own ranks on the subject of white supremacy and questioning the morality of Trump administration policies.  

Wearing stoles, robes and yarmulkes, the participants proceeded Monday (Aug. 28) on a 1.7-mile route from the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial to the Justice Department. Organizers estimated close to 3,000 ministers took part, a larger turnout than suggested by the title of the event: “One Thousand Ministers March for Justice.”

 

“We wanted to say this nation is in moral trouble,” the Rev. Al Sharpton told those assembled at the King memorial.
One protester carried a sign saying “Repeal and Replace Trump Pence,” a reference to the efforts to halt the Affordable Care Act signed into law during the Obama administration. Another’s sign said “Black Lives Matter To This Rabbi.”
The march was originally planned to protest increased hate crimes, mass incarceration and discrimination and to call on the Trump administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to address those issues.
But the recent violence in Charlottesville, Va., where neo-Nazi, white supremacist and white nationalist protesters clashed with anti-racism activists, prompted increased interest in the gathering.
Sister Patricia Chappell, executive director of Pax Christi USA, decried white supremacy but said, as a black Catholic nun, she believes “even our institutional church is racist” and needs to address some of its policies and practices.
Sharpton’s National Action Network spearheaded the march on the 54th anniversary of the March on Washington. Many of the people – from Buddhists to Baptists- had planned to be at the march before the Charlottesville events spurred more to join them. Some speakers ticked off a number of other issues that concern them, such as criminal justice, voter suppression and health care reform.
“You’re going to see the victims of Nazism, the victims of white supremacy march today to the Justice Department,” Sharpton said just before leading the march through downtown Washington. “And say we don’t care what party’s in. We are not going to be out.”
Sharpton said many of the people – from Buddhists to Baptists- had planned to be at the march before the Charlottesville events spurred more to join them.
The Rev. Jamal-Harrison Bryant, an African Methodist Episcopal pastor from Baltimore, criticized evangelical ministers who support and advise the president “and declare erroneously an outright lie – that Donald Trump is a man of God.” “He is not God’s man,” Bryant said. “They do not reflect the body of Christ at large.”
The Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners magazine and social justice organization, said the demonstration was “theological” because “the soul of the nation and the integrity of faith” were at stake. He called on clergy to speak out against white supremacy.
“We have to preach from every pulpit in America that racism is America’s original sin,” he said.
Wallis added that Trump should repent for pardoning former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of criminal contempt for his treatment of undocumented immigrants.
The interfaith crowd took part in a call-and-response conversation with speakers who urged them to sing, recite Scripture and high-five each other in shows of unity.
“Let me tell all the white supremacists and KKK and everybody that America is a multifaith country – Do you all agree?” said Sikh leader Rajwant Singh, who was greeted by cheers. “America belongs to all of us.”
Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, recalled that Jews marched 5,000 years ago “out of Pharaoh’s slavery and bondage in Egypt.”
“And we know today that we do have the power to break the bondage of the modern pharaoh,” he said.
The National Action Network, a predominantly black, Christian organization, also was an organizer of a 50th anniversary commemoration of the March on Washington that was held in 2013 and drew throngs to the National Mall to remember the event that featured King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Monday’s march originally focused on clergy but some groups encouraged all people of faith to attend.
Some clergy who have supported or advised Trump gathered at the National Press Club instead of at the King Memorial and issued a statement about the need for the government and religious officials to do more to bridge racial divides.
“Naturally, we need government, business, law enforcement, and community stakeholders to partner with us,” their statement read. “The glue that will keep our nation together, though, is the Church and faith leaders.”

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.