April 2018

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 2018

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

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

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

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

West Bloomfield Synagogue Bible Garden
                       Welcomes Visitors and Tour Groups
     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.