December 2018

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events 
Tuesday, December 11th, 7:00 PM
Make tiles with peace quotes or heart ornaments!
Mosaic Art Workshop with Song and Spirit Institute for Peace
4300 Rochester Road, Royal Oak. Contact Ayesha for more information, ayeshakhansemail@gmail.com
Wednesday, Decembr 19th 6:00 PM
Showing of the film “The Breadwinner”
Cranbrook DeSalle Auditorium
See Flyer Below
Sunday, December 2nd at 7:00 PM
Detroit Marriot at the Renaissance Center,
Meet Amma and inspire inner peace.
See Flyer Below
Sunday, February 10th 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM, Adat Shalom Synagogue
29901 Middlebelt Rd., Farmington HIlls, 48334
“And Then They Came For Us” Documentary
Followed by Panel Discussion about immigration
Stay tuned for more information
Thursday, March 14th 7:00 – 9:00 PM at Temple Israel, 5725 Walnut Lake Road, West Bloomfield 48323
Interfaith panel on attracting our young adult population
to their faith traditions!
Stay tuned for more information!!
Sunday, March 24th, 2019 (afternoon)
Celebration of International Women’s Day
1:00 PM to 5:00 PM
Save the Date

Sikhs across the country came to synagogues to support the Jewish Community after the shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Turning her Baha’i faith into precedent, lawyer helps women gain asylum
Layli Miller-Muro, right, founder and CEO of the Tahirih Justice Center, poses with actress Eva Larue, from left, and asylum recipient Aicha Abdoulaye Mahamane at a Tahirih gala fundraiser in Laguna Beach, Calif., in September 2018. Photo by Gabe Sullivan/Tahirih Justice Center
(RNS) – More than 20 years ago, when Layli Miller-Muro was still in law school, her first immigration client was a Muslim woman from Togo who sought asylum in the United States to avoid a forced marriage and female genital mutilation. Instead, the woman, Fauziya Kassindja, spent 17 months in detention before the young law student intervened.
In 1996 the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals granted Kassindja asylum and her case set a precedent establishing gender-based violence as grounds for asylum.
It also changed the course of Miller-Muro’s legal career. After receiving her J.D. from American University in 1996, the following year she created the Tahirih Justice Center, a national nonprofit organization that ever since has worked on behalf of women and girls who are fleeing gender-based violence and seeking asylum in the United States.
A member of the Baha’i religion, Miller-Muro named Tahirih after a 19th-century Persian woman and Baha’i martyr who, facing her execution in 1852 for being an outspoken proponent of women’s rights, proclaimed, “You can kill me as soon as you like, but you will never stop the emancipation of women.”
Layli Miller-Muro, founder and executive director of the the Tahirih Justice Center. Photo courtesy of Tahirih Justice Center
“Representing her (Kassindja) wasn’t an academic exercise, it was a deeply moral obligation that I felt, that certainly came from a spiritual compass,” Miller-Muro told Religion News Service.
Miller-Muro’s own roots in Baha’i begin in the buckle of the Bible Belt. Her grandmother, who left her family farm in Ohio when she was in eighth grade to pursue her education, attended Cornell University and eventually earned a doctorate in nutrition. Paying her own way through school, she took a summer job as a maid during the Masters Tournament in Augusta, Ga., and let a room in a boardinghouse that rented to both white and black women – a wildly countercultural move at the time. The brave woman who owned the boardinghouse (where crosses were burned on her front yard) was an early American convert to Baha’i, said Miller-Muro, who grew up in Georgia.
“Baha’is always believed in interracial marriage, even when it was still illegal,” she said. “They have always stood for racial equality. In fact, in the Baha’i writings, we’re told that racism is the most challenging issue in American society.”
Rising in Persia (now Iran) in the 1860s, Baha’i was introduced to the United States during the Parliament of the World’s Religions in 1893, a year after the death of its founder, Baha’u’llah, who preached the essential unity of all religions and of humankind. Baha’i’s earliest American convert is generally agreed to be Thornton Chase, who served as an officer in the U.S. Colored Troops during the Civil War.
Today, there are about 126,000 Baha’i adherents in the United States, according to a 2010 U.S. Religion Census, the most recent statistics available.
“All of the teachings of the Baha’i faith revolve around helping people who have traditionally been disunified come together, whether it’s issues of racism, equality of women and men, extremes of wealth and poverty, political division,” Miller-Muro said.
The Tahirih Justice Center works with clients of all faith traditions and none, and the vast majority of its staff, and the army of 2,500 attorneys who work pro bono for the organization, are not Baha’i. But its overarching ethos is rooted in the spiritual principles of Baha’i, particularly the belief that the achievement of full equality between women and men is necessary for society to progress, Miller-Muro explained.
The organization’s logo – the outline of a bird in flight – is inspired by a quote from Baha’i scripture: “The world of humanity has two wings – one is women and the other men. Not until both wings are equally developed can the bird fly. Should one wing remain weak, flight is impossible.”
Baha’i teaches that the best decisions should be made consultatively – not by fiat or in a top-down hierarchical manner. It also insists on strict nonpartisanship.
While Baha’is are allowed to vote and are expected to participate in their respective cultures and societies, they are not supposed to belong to any political party or accept political posts. So while Tahirih’s work is enmeshed with the U.S. immigration and legal systems, it is vehemently nonpolitical, Miller-Muro explained.
“We’re nonpartisan, we’re consultative, we’re embracing of men and women in the process of equality – all these different things that we’re trying to apply, those are spiritual solutions above and beyond normal lawyering or a normal legal aid organization and I do think it contributes to our success,” she said.
Since its inception in 1997, Tahirih, with offices near Miller-Muro’s home in Washington, D.C., as well as in Baltimore, Houston, Atlanta and the San Francisco Bay Area, has assisted more than 25,000 immigrants. Last year, the organization provided free legal services to more than 1,800 women and girls, and more than 1,700 of their family members. The organization’s success rate for winning asylum cases is a staggering 99 percent, according to its annual report.
Among those successful asylum cases is that of Aicha Abdoulaye Mahamane, who suffered a litany of horrors for the first 27 years of her life that are as unimaginable as they were relentless: rape, beatings, forced marriage, international sex trafficking, modern-day slavery.
A native of Niger, in Africa, she experienced and witnessed violence from a young age, culminating (after she refused to undergo ritual female genital mutilation) in a forced marriage at age 17 to a violent man more than thrice her age who raped and beat her for months on end.
Aicha Abdoulaye Mahamane, who received asylum in the U.S., speaks at a fundraiser for Tahirih Justice Center in Laguna Beach, Calif., in September 2018. Photo by Gabe Sullivan/Tahirih Justice Center
Fearing for her life, Mahamane fled to an aunt’s home in neighboring Togo, where she lived in constant fear of her abusive husband discovering her whereabouts until her aunt could arrange for her to immigrate to the United States.
But when Mahamane arrived in New York City in 2004, the man who had promised to help her start a new life, instead sexually abused her and kept her a prisoner in his home for five months, until word came that her sister had died, and he allowed her to return to Niger. There she stayed in hiding for almost a year, until her husband learned she was in country. She returned to the States, this time to Maryland.
Once again, the person entrusted with Mahamane’s well-being became her oppressor. “At the time, I didn’t know what human trafficking was, but I knew how I felt – being treated like a slave,” Mahamane said. “I had hoped to get a job, become independent, but this woman made me work for three years as a domestic servant – never paying me, never allowing me to have visitors, never allowing me to leave the house unless it was to go to church on Sundays.”
It was at that church in suburban Maryland, however, that Mahamane, who was reared Muslim before converting to Christianity, first learned about Tahirih.
“Not only did they help me file for my asylum, they also helped me with shelter, with food,” she said. “And the most amazing thing they could have done for me: They helped me with a therapist. She worked with me for three years and it changed everything in my life.”
In June 2014, Mahamane’s asylum petition was approved. She now is happily married and has a young son. “I finally am free from violence and abuse,” she said. “Please don’t underestimate the power you have to make a difference in girls’ lives. Every day there are girls just like me calling Tahirih looking for help.”
Mahamane and many of Tahirih’s clients are “change agents, like my grandmother,” Miller-Muro said. “By their courage and willingness to say no to multigeneration practices, they are changing the trajectory of their cultures and their communities and their families.”

Evacuees pray near tents outside a mosque damaged by the massive earthquake and tsunami in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, on Oct. 5, 2018. Hundreds of survivors in the city of Palu gathered at shattered mosques for Friday prayers, seeking strength to rebuild their lives a week after a powerful earthquake and tsunami killed more than 1,500 people. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Clergywomen numbers increased significantly in two decades, sometimes equaling men
The Rev. Ginger Gaines-Cirelli, center, gives the benediction at Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C., on July 27, 2014. The Rev. Theresa S. Thames, associate pastor, left, and the Rev. Dawn M. Hand, executive pastor, right, joined her. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks
(RNS) – The share of women in the ranks of American clergy has doubled – and sometimes tripled – in some denominations over the last two decades, a new report shows.
“I was really surprised in a way, at how much progress there’s been in 20 years,” said the report’s author, Eileen Campbell-Reed, an associate professor at Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, Tenn. “There’s kind of a circulating idea that, oh well, women in ministry has kind of plateaued and there really hasn’t been lot of growth. And that’s just not true.”
The two traditions with the highest percentages of women clergy were the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ, according to the “State of Clergywomen in the U.S.,” released earlier this month. Fifty-seven percent of UUA clergy were women in 2017, while half of clergy in the UCC were female in 2015. In 1994, women constituted 30 percent of UUA clergy and 25 percent of UCC clergy.
UUA President Susan Frederick-Gray credits the increase to a decision by her denomination’s General Assembly in 1970 to call for more women to serve in ministry and policymaking roles. She noted that as of this year, 60 percent of UUA clergy are women.
“All that work in the ’70s and ’80s made it possible for me, in the early 2000s, to come into ministry and be successful and lead thriving churches,” said Frederick-Gray, “and now be elected as the first female, first woman minister elected to the UUA presidency.”
Campbell-Reed and a research assistant gathered clergywomen statistics that had not been collected across 15 denominations for two decades. The Rev. Barbara Brown Zikmund, who co-authored the 1998 book “Clergy Women: An Uphill Calling,” welcomed the new report as a way to start closing the gap in the research.
“While the experiences of women and the evolution of church life and leadership have changed dramatically over the past two decades, there have been no comprehensive studies on women and church leadership,” she said.
“I was sort of looking around and seeing so many women and remembering that in my years in seminary in the ’60s how few of us there were,” said Crabtree, a trustee and alumna of the theological school. “So it’s definitely a sea change in terms of women’s ordination.”
Campbell-Reed’s research found a tripling of percentages of clergywomen in the Assemblies of God, the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America between 1994 and 2017.

But Campbell-Reed also found that clergywomen – with the exception of Unitarian Universalists – continue to lag behind clergymen in leading their churches. In the UCC, for example, female and male clergy are equal in number, but only 38 percent of UCC pastors are women.
Instead, many clergywomen – as well as clergymen – serve in ministerial roles other than that of pastor, including chaplains, nonprofit staffers and professors.
Paula Nesbitt, president of the Association for the Sociology of Religion, said other researchers have long observed “the persistent clergy gender gap in attainment and compensation.”
For women of color, especially, significant gaps remain, and for women in some conservative churches, ordination is not an option.
Campbell-Reed noted that clergywomen of color “remain a distinct minority” in most mainline denominations. Those who have risen to leadership in the top echelons of their religious groups, she said, have done so after long years of service.
“Some of them are also being recognized for their contributions and their work, like any other person who’s got longevity and wisdom, by being elected as bishops in their various communions,” she said of denominations such as the United Methodist Church and the ELCA.
Women’s Leadership by Denomination. Graphic courtesy of StateofClergywomen.org
Campbell-Reed also pointed out the role of women who serve churches despite being barred from pastoral positions in congregations of the country’s two largest denominations, the Southern Baptist Convention and the Roman Catholic Church.
Former Southern Baptist women like herself have joined the pastoral staffs of breakaway groups such as the Alliance of Baptists, which have women pastoring 40 percent of their congregations. And Catholic women constitute 80 percent of lay ecclesial ministers, who “are running the church on a day-to-day basis,” she said.
To read the rest of this interesting article, go to

Indian women smear vermilion powder on each other during Vijayadashmi celebrations in Mumbai, India, on Oct. 19, 2018. Vijayadashami, also known as Dussehra, commemorates the victory of the Hindu god Rama over demon god Ravana. The festivity is marked with the burning of effigies of Ravana, signifying the victory of good over evil. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)

This Community Is Tearing Itself Apart Over Non-Christians Owning Houses
Bay View, Michigan, is an idyllic place that has been consumed by an unlikely 21st-century debate: Should non-Christians be allowed to vote and buy property?
At its peak in the late 19th and early 20th century, the Chautauqua movement, a Protestant continuing-education initiative characterized by lectures, concerts, and other entertainment, was a cultural force with hundreds of seasonal locations and tens of millions of devotees. The original Chautauqua, in western New York, remains a prominent destination, with its own opera company, golf course, and literary programming; a dozen or so remaining others are also spread around the country. Bay View was founded in 1875 as part of that movement by a group of Michigan Methodists who convinced a railroad company to provide the land. Its early 20th century Victorian-style cottages remain strikingly intact: With a central quad, post office, chapel, auditorium, and other buildings, the community resembles a charming small college campus, and serves as an important cultural center in its own right. Along with various intellectual and vocational courses-Roman cooking, Tai Chi, Chomsky-this past summer’s offerings included a lecture by the Yale constitutional law professor Akhil Amar and a Ben Folds concert.
“It’s got a nice reputation as being a special place,” Larry Massie, a Michigan historian, said, though he added it could also be somewhat insular. “Elitist-I think that’d be a better word than snotty.”
Bay View was clearly established as a Protestant retreat. Members opposed to changing the requirements point to its mission statementoutlining the centrality of Christian values, and to historical documents that suggest the founders’ religious intent. “We did not enter this wilderness to make money, nor build a city of pleasure,” one 1900 brochure reads. “We came to worship God, to establish a center of Christian influence.”
The membership battle is not about prejudice or bigotry, they insist, but about preserving the community’s Christian identity. “It has been a closed community and, more than that, it’s been a place where the spirit of God has been present because His people have been present,” one member, Marcia-Anne Dunbar, said. “That’s what makes Bay View a special place.”
Yet others see an expansion of Bay View’s demographics as a fair and necessary evolution-and believe the movement of Christianity is flexible enough to include even non-believers. “Some of us think that Jesus’s message-the Christian message-is one of openness and inclusiveness,” Duquette said. “And not dividing into smaller and smaller sects.”
Duquette and others collected hundreds of signatures, asking the board to convene a committee on the issue. It was a nonstarter: Amid staunch opposition from a board member, trustees passed a resolution to remain neutral. In 2011 a slim majority voted to keep the Christian requirement. The next spring the board did convene a special committee, which produced a stalemate. A 2013 vote found a slim majority in favor of a change, but not the required two-thirds. So did a 2016 vote. Proponents of change, increasingly dismayed at what they saw as both an immoral and likely illegal stance from their community, filed a complaint with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, then the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. The federal housing discrimination suit, filed in July 2017, was a last resort.
“We didn’t want to embarrass the community. We didn’t want the press,” Duquette said. “We love this place and we want to see it succeed. But eventually we were left with no options-there was no way we were going to get a two-thirds vote.”
The suit, unsurprisingly, thrust private Bay View into a harsh media spotlight; this May, as the case proceeded, the ACLU aligned with the plaintiffs. “Fifty years after the passage of the Fair Housing Act, Bay View’s policies seem stuck in the past, harkening back to an era where blatant and discriminatory restrictions on homeownership were commonplace,” Rebecca Guterman, a paralegal with the organization, wrote in a memo. “Moreover, under state law, Bay View has significant authority akin to a governmental body… and so must honor the Constitution as cities and towns do. It cannot put the government stamp of approval on practicing Christians over all others.”
From the beginning, the saga had consumed the community by the lake. At an early public hearing, Sheaffer recounted, residents packed into Voorhies Hall for an open mic forum that lasted hours. While most spoke respectfully, some residents worried aloud that a synagogue would be built, or that Bay View could end up resembling Dearborn, the Michigan city known for its large Arab and Muslim populations. “That’s the one that just hits you between the eyes,” Sheaffer said. “‘Oh God, here’s what we’re up against.'”
Mostly, though, the battle was intense but civil. The lead-up to each vote resembled a political campaign, with each side dropping fliers and sending email missives. Still, as the dispute wore on, decades-long friendships became strained. Some families, like Sheaffer’s-his cousin is a board member opposed to the change-were also divided.
“We have people-I’m one of ’em-with battle fatigue,” Dick Crossland, who led the group opposed to the change, said. “It’s been going on every summer here for ten years.”
Crossland, a retired lighting company CEO, has visited Bay View every summer except one since he was two years old. He’s still close with friends he made as a kid in the summer club programs, and remembers learning to play bridge in the old rec building and mischievously ringing Bay View’s church bells. When his daughters were growing up, the family moved often, but Bay View was a constant. “This was like home,” he said, rocking slowly on his porch swing on a perfect late summer afternoon. “This was the anchor.”
From Crossland’s perspective, the Christian-only requirements were always transparent. Jews and other non-Christians knew the rules; membership, of course, is voluntary. “If you choose to be another religion, well, why do you want to be part of a Christian community? Why change the community for a few people who changed their faith?”
And where proponents of the change are adamant they’re not trying to take religion out of Bay View, only to make it more inclusive, Crossland sees a slippery slope. “I do not believe they’re malicious,” he said of the group advocating for inclusion. “But I don’t think they’ve thought it through.” Non-Christians could potentially vote down fees that go to Christian worship services, he points out, or take additional legal action. Bay View, he fears, could end up essentially secular, like most other Chautuquas have, or, with increased turnover, lose its unique sense of community altogether.
“It’s not that they’re bad people, but we’re going to change Bay View from what it was,” he said . And once you open the door to change, who knows where it could end up. “I just thought Bay View was unique,” he said of his decision to get involved. “You could break it if you tried to fix it.”
This summer’s vote was billed as a kind of compromise that would finally end the dispute. The “Christian persuasion” and minister-letter requirements would be removed, although a new amendment would require prospective members to agree to “respect the principles of the United Methodist Church” and support Bay View’s Christian mission. It would also add a requirement that a majority of the nine-person board is Methodist. On August 4, 483 members voted in favor, 214 against-a 69 percent majority.
Even change proponents, skeptical that two-thirds of Bay View members could ever agree, were taken aback at the result. “A great deal of relief that there’s a path to leave this to my family,” Sheaffer said of his reaction. “A great deal of relief that 69 percent of the members voted for change… It felt like we’re not alone in this anymore.”
But the new language, the plaintiff group argues, still imposes a religious test on prospective members, only through less explicit language. “Our group endorsed the proposal, because it was moving in the right direction,” Duquette said. “But we said from the very beginning that this would not resolve the lawsuit.
After the vote the court requested an additional briefing; the case remains ongoing. The plaintiffs are optimistic the suit will finally allow Bay View to move towards a long-overdue equality. “I think we’re fighting for the soul of the place,” Duquette said. “I didn’t expect this to take ten years, I must say that. But I have never doubted that this is where Bay View would end up.”
Crossland believes Bay View could come together again after the vote, and says he’s reconciled to the membership change. But the lawsuit, he said, “scares the hell out of me.” He worries the court could impose some unforeseen drastic action, or that the process could bankrupt Bay View. Mostly though, he worries about the future of a community he loves. “We’re just trying to retain the character and the uniqueness of Bay View as a Christian community,” he said. “Maybe you can’t do it. Maybe the culture is going to force itself in, and you’re never going to be able to keep those things the way they were.”

A pumpkin carved with the message ‘Pittsburgh Strong’ sits among flowers outside the Tree of Life synagogue, on Nov. 1, 2018, as part of a makeshift memorial dedicated to those killed while worshipping at the synagogue on Oct. 27 in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

In Pittsburgh, Muslims are eager to join Jews
 in fight against immigrant hate
PITTSBURGH (RNS) – At the end of Jummah prayers at the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh on Friday (Nov. 2), its leaders made an unusual request: Go attend Friday night services at a synagogue near you.
The request came an hour before the funeral of 97-year-old Rose Mallinger, the last of those killed at Tree of Life synagogue to be buried, and as the Jewish community of Squirrel Hill was readying for its first Shabbat after 11 of the synagogue’s congregants died in an anti-Semitic shooting spree last Saturday (Oct. 27).
Politically, American Jews and Muslims have their differences, especially on the issue of Palestinian statehood, but here in Pittsburgh, the two faith groups have cultivated a strong and mutually supportive relationship, one that precedes the terrorist strikes of 9/11.
These days, they also share a common foe: people who demonize immigrants, such as Robert Bowers, the man accused of storming the synagogue with a semi-automatic weapon and shooting indiscriminately.
Bowers was particularly incensed by the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, reportedly posting on social media, “HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people.” He was apparently referring to Muslims. HIAS has taken pride in resettling mostly Muslim refugees from war-torn Syria.
Muslims, like many Jews, understand that a person like Bowers could strike at their faith community, too.
“You go half an hour this way or that way, it’s a different country,” said Mizanoor Biswas, chair of the board of directors of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh. “Immigrant sentiment is very raw. I don’t want to talk politics, but the seed is there. It’s spewing all over.”
For Jews, who are themselves mostly children or grandchildren of immigrants, growing nativism is a serious concern.
“The Jewish story in America is one of the most successful stories of immigration, ever,” said Rabbi Jamie Gibson of Temple Sinai, a large Reform congregation in Squirrel Hill. “People came to this country and often lived in poverty in the first generation but worked very hard to achieve what used to be called the American dream. We do not want that dream all to ourselves.”
Many here in Pittsburgh have noted that the same raw immigrant sentiment was apparently shared by Cesar Sayoc, the Florida man accused of mailing a pipe bomb to George Soros, a Jewish hedge-fund manager turned global philanthropist who was born in Hungary. President Trump’s calling Hispanic immigrants “rapists” and “animals” hits hard in Jewish communities like Squirrel Hill, where the elders especially remember how Jews were taunted in Nazi Germany.
Meanwhile, this week’s funerals have been held as thousands of active-duty soldiers are being sent to the U.S. border with Mexico to bar the efforts of a Central American migrant caravan to seek asylum in the United States.
“There’s this sadness and anger toward the president who keeps pouring oil on the fire,” said Jacob Naveh, an educator who has lived in Squirrel Hill since 1969.
Bowers himself is alleged to have been motivated in part by anti-Semitic agitators who contend that Jews – or at least some prominent Jews like Soros – are behind an effort to replace native-born whites with immigrants. Muslims, no less attuned to the anti-immigrant rhetoric, are taking note of the rising hysteria and working hard to combat it. They were among the groups to raise the most money for victims of the Pittsburgh Jewish community. To date, the Muslims Unite for Pittsburgh Synagogue campaign has raised more than $232,000. Wasi Mohamed, the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh executive director, went beyond a pitch for dollars. “We just want to know what you need,” he told a crowd at a vigil honoring the lives of the shooting victims. “If it’s more money, let us know. If it’s people outside your next service protecting you, let us know – we’ll be there….  If you just need somebody to come to the grocery store because you don’t feel safe in this city, we’ll be there and I’m sure everybody in the room would say the same thing. We’re here for the community.”
Muhammed Haq, another Muslim center board member, said the beauty of America is that it brings different faith groups together.
“It’s interesting how many nationalities I’ve met here that I would never have met in any other nation on earth,” said Haq, who planned to attend a Friday night service at Rodeph Shalom, a Reform synagogue in Pittsburgh. “There are 48 nationalities in this mosque. I can’t travel to all those countries in my lifetime. But here in Allegheny County I can see the beautiful coming together of different cultures and religions.
“That’s what faith does,” Haq said. “Faith unites us; politics often divide us.”

Joining Together
Interfaith vigils offer support
amidst violence and hatred in Pittsburgh.
Jewish News, November 8, 2018
Chaplain Yvonne Fant Moore leads the singing of “We Shall Overcome” at the interfaith service at Beth Shalom in Oak Park.
Photo by Rabbi Matt Zerwekh
Several vigils for the Tree of Life Congregation shooting victims held last week were gatherings of people of many faiths, all saddened by the show of hatred in Pittsburgh. At Temple Beth El on Oct. 30 in Bloomfield Township, 1,200 people of various faiths and backgrounds filled the main sanctuary to mourn and be together. Through solidarity and faith expressed in words and music, they found comfort and hope. The support from non-Jewish neighbors was heartwarming to the Jewish community.
“The first call I received [after the shootings] was from Imam Almasmari. Then I heard from our other [interfaith] partners right away,” said Rabbi Mark Miller, Beth El’s senior rabbi.
Clergy from six local congregations, in addition to Beth El, as well as a representative of state government, provided moving personal and religious perspectives. The vigil closed with the lighting of individual memorial candles for each Tree of Life victim. Members of the participating congregations as well as representatives of Beth El, Jewish Federation and JCRC/AJC pronounced each name along with a specific message of anti-bigotry.
Interfaith vigil at Beth El: Rabbi Steven Rubenstein, Beth Ahm; Rabbi Megan Brudney, Beth El; Rev. Jasmine Smart, Kirk in the Hills; Pastor Aramis Hinds, Breakers Covenant Church International; Father Tony Tocco, St. Hugo’s Parish; Lutheran Bishop Donald Kreiss; Imam Mohamed Almasmari, Muslim Unity Center; Richard Bernstein, Michigan Supreme Court Associate Justice; Rev. Canon Dr. William J. Danaher Jr., Christ Church Cranbrook; and
Rabbi Mark Miller and Cantor Rachel Gottlieb Kalmowitz, Beth El.
Congregation Beth Shalom, along with Temple Emanu-El, hosted an interfaith vigil the same evening that was organized in part by the Interfaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit, the Detroit Interfaith Outreach Network and the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion. The vigil drew 500 people. Members of Beth Shalom and Emanu-El welcomed and thanked participants and encouraged them to light a candle in memory of those murdered.
Before the evening concluded with the singing of “We Shall Overcome,” Beth Shalom’s Rabbi Robert Gamer reminded the crowd of the teachings of Rabbi Hillel: If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?
“We have to be for ourselves, but we have to go outside of ourselves to reach out to those who are different from us, who do not look like us and who do not pray the same as us,” Gamer said. “This evening must mark a beginning and not an end. We have to be for each other not just today, but every day. That is the only way we can change the world. That is the only way we will never have another evening like this.”
In Windsor, hundreds gathered Oct. 30 at Temple Beth El for a multi-faith service. Clergy from Christian, Muslim, Sikh and indigenous faiths talked, prayed and sang during the 90-minute service, which opened with the lighting of Yizkor candles in memory of the 11 Pittsburgh dead. The gathering underlined the goodwill that has long characterized the Windsor faith communities. Bruce Elman, religious vice president of Congregation Shaar HaShomayim and Windsor city hall’s integrity commissioner, called on the local community to respond to the atrocity by reaffirming Judaism and its larger community ties, noting the gathering was a first step.
“We can stand together as a community united against hate,” he said.
Imam Mohamed Mahmoud of the Windsor Islamic Association said the “attack on you is an attack on all of us” and that “we all under the skin are the same.” And he said violence afflicts all groups, pointing to the mass shooting at a mosque in Quebec City in January 2017 that killed six and injured 19.
Beth El Rabbi Lynn Goldstein noted the irony of the killings as the victims “took their last breath in a building named for life.” She implored Jews, in wake of the tragedy, not to hide but “to act.” She said now, more than ever, “we have to reach out to each other with caring and compassion.”
JN Contributing Writers Shari S. Cohen and Stacy Gittleman as well as Ron Stang in Windsor contributed to this report.

Indian vendors arrange marigold flowers and await customers at a flower market ahead of Diwali, the festival of lights, in Hyderabad, India, on Nov. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)
Poll workers Romana Akter, left, and Urrmi Begum give an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man his ballot for the U.S. midterm elections on Nov. 6, 2018, in Brooklyn, N.Y. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

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To Nurture the growth of empathy and spiritual energy that result from our projects and interfaith dialogue.

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WISDOM is a Non-Profit Organization. Get involved with WISDOM!

WISDOM’s challenge is to bring together people from different faith traditions, ethnicities, races, and cultures in an atmosphere of safety and respect to engage in educational and community service projects. Let’s change our world through the positive power of building relationships!