February 2019

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events 

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
See Flyer below
Sunday, March 3rd 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM
The 20th Annual World Sabbath
Islamic House of WISDOM, Dearborn Heights
See Flyer Below
Monday, March 4, 6:30-8:00 PM,  

Western Wayne/Oakland Counties
 Faith Communities Coalition on Foster Care
See Flyer below
Five Women Five Journeys at Oakland University -Oakland Center,  Founders Ballroom D
Tuesday, March 12th between 12:00 PM and 1:30 PM
Contact Paula Drewek for more information, drewekpau@aol.com
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!
See article below
Sunday, March 24th, 2019 (afternoon)
Celebration of International Women’s Day
Save the Date – More information below!
Sunday, April 7th  12:30 – 1:30 PM
WISDOM Women Tell Their Stories at the Hadassah Retreat
Stay tuned for more information

Women Who Inspire: An Interfaith Celebration of International Women’s Day
Sunday, March 24, 2019 – Afternoon
Metro Detroit Venue TBD
Stay tuned for venue, exact time
and sign up ability on the WISDOM website
* National Council of Jewish Women – Michigan
* National Council of Negro Women, Inc.
* Zaman International
* Birmingham Race Relations and Diversity Task Force
Program Elements & Goals
Educational – Celebrating diversity while honoring the beauty, strength, and resilience of women in all forms; women from diverse backgrounds and walks of life will share about a woman who has inspired them (family member or friend, activist, artist, female figure from one’s culture or faith tradition/sacred text)
Social – Light refreshments served and opportunities to socialize and build relationships among diverse groups of women
Service – Online registration for guests prior to event. A suggested donation of $10 at the event. All proceeds will benefit Alternatives for Girls – a local organization in Detroit that serves girls & women through prevention, shelter, and outreach programming.
Speaker/Storyteller Guidelines
Time limit per speaker: 7 minutes
Theme: Select a woman who has inspired you and share this woman’s positive impact with the audience. This could be someone you know personally, such as a family member or friend, or it could be an inspirational figure you admire and who has touched you in some way, whether an artist, activist, or female figure from your culture or faith tradition. You may speak, tell a story, recite poetry, incorporate music, and/or share an image or special item… any mode that will allow you to authentically express the way she has inspired you. We are celebrating women of all colors, faiths, and countries of origin in honor of International Women’s Day while bringing together diverse audience members, fostering intercultural and interfaith relationships, and raising funds for an organization that directly serves women in our local communities.

Hear the Honorable Frank Szymanski
of the Juvenile Court of the Third Circuit Court, Wayne County
present the Community Alliance for Wrap Around Services
This is a new model on ways that congregations
of all faiths can partner together
to support children, youth and families
that come before the courts.
All are welcome to meet him on Monday, March 4, 6:30- 8:00 PM,
Western Wayne/Oakland Counties
 Faith Communities Coalition on Foster Care
First Presbyterian Church, 701 Church St, Plymouth, MI 48170
Contact: Peggy Fisher-Kmieciak, pfk75@hotmail.com;
Sheila Henderson, rjsah@sbcglobal.net

December Religious Diversity Journey takes Seventh Graders to learn about Christianity at St. Mary’s Orthodox Antiochian Church in Livonia!  
Fantastic experience for clergy, teachers and students!!

The Coalition for Black and Jewish Unity held its first annual holiday party in December at Otus Supply in Ferndale. The event was fun, festive and musical – just as we knew it would be!
Hazzan Dan Gross lead a Hanukkah sing-a-long including tunes from a variety of genres including Yiddish, the classics and fun parodies (“Hanukkah in Santa Monica” and “Shavuas in East St. Louis”!). With song sheets in hand, the crowd was happy to join in, although the Yiddish words were hysterically botched up by most everyone but Hazzan Gross.

Next, Dr. Pauline Plummer, an acclaimed gospel singer, pastor and wife of Executive Committee Member Dr. Glenn Plummer, led attendees in a set of beautiful, upbeat and interactive Christmas and holiday songs. Dr. Plummer is truly a poised, polished professional with an angelic voice.

It’s always a fun, special night when you see pastors singing and clapping to “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel” and rabbi’s jamming to “Jingle Bells!” But that was the feel of the whole evening – just a nice, fun, Black and Jewish solidarity love-fest where people could meet new friends and strengthen existing relationships…and that is kind of the whole point of our Coalition – we create bonds of friendship and, together, take on the struggle against hatred and injustice facing the Black and Jewish communities.

There will, of course, be much to do in 2019 and we will do it together, as friends and partners.

The MAYA School held their annual Religious Diversity Journey at the Islamic Center of America.
The MAYA School held their annual Religious Diversity Journey  at the Islamic Center of America. Over 200 students, teachers, and parents from school districts such as Plymouth, Walled Lake, Bloomfield Hills, Farmington, and Birmingham attended the beautiful event. The MAYA staff, students, and distinguished speakers, taught about Islam to students of all kinds of faiths. Their goal was to dispel any misconceptions about Islam. Guests ended the day with a very positive impression of Muslims and were very happy to have had this opportunity to gain so much knowledge about Islam. In commemoration of the Abbas Family, the students created donation boxes to raise money for MADD, and they also signed condolence cards for the family, ICA, and the Muslim community.

‘You belong’: Threatened Muslim child receives 500 interfaith letters of support
BOSTON (RNS) – When a 10-year-old Muslim girl looked in her classroom cubby one Friday morning last month, she found a note there with the words, “You’re a terrorist,” scribbled in childish, all-capital letters. The next week, a message appeared, saying, “I will kill you.”
“She was visibly upset – she was crying,” her uncle Jamaal Siddiqui told CBS Boston. “Just the thought of that makes me feel sick to my stomach.
The letters stopped after Hemenway Elementary School officials and police in Framingham, Mass., began investigating the possible hate crime.  After the threatening notes were discovered, civil rights advocates from the Massachusetts chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations had asked the public – particularly interfaith allies – to rally in support of the young student by sending encouraging messages.
Now, two weeks after receiving the threat, the fifth-grade student at Hemenway Elementary in Framingham, Mass., has stacks upon stacks of letters of support from all over the country, waiting to be read.
“Dear young sister, assalam ‘alaikum!” one letter with a colorful heart began. “May you have peace in your heart, a smile on your face, and every good thing in this life and the next.”
“Hi friend!” another read. “A Jewish family from Maryland is sending you love and support. You are wonderful.” “People of all religions should be freinds [sic],” a 6-year-old child named Sophie wrote above a colorful illustration of a young girl in a red hijab holding hands with a blond-haired girl.
In all there are more than 500 letters from more than 20 states.
“No child deserves to feel afraid at school because of their faith,” said Sumaiya Zama, director of community advocacy and education for CAIR’s Massachusetts branch. “We’re incredibly heartened by the wider community’s support for this young Muslim student, particularly by the powerful messages from the interfaith community.”
Last month, the FBI reported that hate crimes rose 17 percent nationwide last year from 2016 and 9 percent in Massachusetts. A reportthis fall from the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding noted that 42 percent of Muslim parents reported that at least one of their children had been bullied in the past year because of their religion. “Despite the climate of animosity and fear that so many Muslims face today, it’s clear that we have allies,” Zama noted.bMany emphasized solidarity and support, and “a significant number” came from Jewish allies who wrote that they had faced hate and discrimination, too.
More than half of the letters came from fellow students, while others came from as far away as Hawaii, CAIR officials said. They plan to bring the letters, which they collected at their own address to protect the girl’s security, to the girl’s home early next week.
Hemenway principal Liz Simon also asked students to send notes showing they “stand against” such hatred, explaining that such acts could constitute hate crimes. An art teacher at Hemenway said her students responded by creating artwork filled with messages of love and acceptance.

            Can being nice to cows save the world?
 A Hindu man in the Poconos would like to believe so.
STROUDSBURG, Pa. – Every day, a joyful man in dung-covered boots tries to balance the world’s karma by dishing out love, compassion, and the occasional fried Indian delight to his ragtag herd of cows. Sankar Sastri loves Sri, the shaggy Scottish highlander with eyes like jewels, and adores Lakshmi, a little black Brahman with horns pointing north and south. The mighty Krishna, a tall and hefty Angus, appears to be a favorite, but Sastri said each of his 23 cows is equally beloved at his Poconos sanctuary.
“Ah, Krishna, look at how big you are. You are the boss, Krishna,” Sastri said to the cow on a recent cold November morning. Sastri, 78, is wiry, bespectacled, and constantly smiling, and wears a blazer over his farm clothes while he walks around his 90-acre Lakshmi Cow Sanctuary in Monroe County. Sastri still resembles a college professor, albeit one who fell in mud. He grew up in Chidambaram, by the Bay of Bengal in Southern India, moved to the United States in 1964 for grad school, and spent 28 years teaching engineering  at New York City College of Technology in Brooklyn.
“I loved that job very much,” he said. As the millennium approached, however, Sastri, a devout Hindu, began to ponder his next life and wonder if he’d done enough good deeds. He wasn’t just thinking about a life after retirement.
“The Hindu philosophy says whatever karma you have done in the past, in this life, follows you,” he explained. “You and I, this is not the first time we are meeting. We have met many times in trillions of years in this universe.”
Sastri decided in 2000 that saving cows was his way forward and traded a  Brooklyn brownstone and academic life for pickup trucks on life support and a farm in Northampton County, and eventually a 90-acre spread in Jackson Township, Monroe County, with a ramshackle farmhouse. The goal of the Lakshmi Cow Sanctuary, a nonprofit, is to save cows destined for the slaughterhouse, but Sastri has also taken in animals other kindhearted people had kept as pets. Sri, the Scottish cow, came from an elderly widow who’d been diagnosed with cancer.
“If you look at all the living beings in this world, the most loving and compassionate animal is the cow,” Sastri said. “They give and give and give.”
Sastri sells his herd’s dung patties for $6.50 a pound, as a fuel source for religious ceremonies. He said he manages to operate on about $1,000 a week but would like to bring in more so he can hire more help. He lets people who are down on their luck live in his farmhouse in exchange for labor.
“Right now. we’re really at the limit of how many cows we can take in,” he said.
Sastri gets visitors, mostly “Hindus, vegans, and animal lovers,” but also the occasional Poconos tourist from a ski resort on the other side of the mountain behind his farm. One Hindu woman was coming from Albany, N.Y., to “feed the cows,” a common prescription for all of life’s ailments, Sastri said. He tells them to bring pakora, a fried dough, as a treat.
Cows are sacred in the Hindu religion, not a food source. In 2016, two Tannersville residents left a severed cow’s head on his property. Police initially investigated the incident as a hate crime, but Sastri said some people, including the two suspects, were mostly just mad he had blocked off access to old ATV trails on his property. The duo apologized to Sastri, and he claims he hasn’t had issues since then. “I went to court and I didn’t say anything, and they got probation,” he said.
All the cows follow Sastri’s every move while he walks beyond the fence, and not just because he tosses them apples. They know they are safe here, he said, and loved. One black and white cow, named Maruti, runs to him like a horse.
“I gave him that name after a monkey god in India, and he runs like him,” Sastri says, laughing at the connection. “He’s a real runner. Maruti!” Sastri speaks to his cows daily, calling out their names and praising their beauty. “Look at her eyes, they are beautiful,” he said to Sri.  But he also talks about real estate, the weather, really whatever’s on his mind. They’ve taught him much more than he imagined, out in the mud and mountains and in his old, red book-filled barn.
“They accept the way of life,” he said in the barn as cows downstairs mooed. “We are called human beings, you know, but we just don’t be. We are always becoming. ‘I want to become a doctor. I want to become rich.’ We just don’t be. Cows, they just be, no matter what it is.”

As one historically black Episcopal church closes, others face strong headwinds
By Yonat Shimron

Acolytes and a crucifer from St. Ambrose Episcopal Church stand outside All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Warrenton, N.C., during a closing service on Dec. 8, 2018. RNS photo by Yonat Shimron
WARRENTON, N.C. (RNS) – On a chilly December morning, 100 years and one week after its sanctuary opened, All Saints’ Episcopal Church, an African-American congregation with a proud history, was formally closed. Bishop Samuel Rodman presided over the Eucharistic service in an elementary school a block away from the church, where weekly services ended more than three years ago. Several longtime members returned to read Scriptures and sing hymns. Afterward, the group of 100, including history buffs and well-wishers from North Carolina and Virginia, shared a meal of fried chicken and baked beans.

All Saints is hardly alone among mainline Protestant and Catholic congregations. Faced with dwindling members, crumbling infrastructure and costly maintenance, some 6,000 to 10,000 churches shutter each year, according to one estimate. More closures may be in the offing as surveys point to a decline in church attendance across the country.
But All Saints is an example of an even sharper decline. Historically African-American churches across the South are fast disappearing. Some were created after the Civil War when slavery was abolished; others in the crucible of Jim Crow, when whites who had long relegated blacks to the church balcony no longer tolerated them at all.
The Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina once boasted 60 such churches. Today, a mere dozen are left and, of those, only three have full-time clergy. Epiphany Episcopal Church in Rocky Mount, N.C., closed two years ago; at least one other is in danger of shuttering next year.
Of course, African-Americans have been welcome in all Episcopal churches for years – and the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Michael Curry, who served as bishop of the North Carolina diocese before leading the 1.7 million-member denomination, is black.
At Saturday’s (Dec. 8) closing service, there was a recognition that it was in part progress in race relations that has doomed African-American congregations. But there was as much tribute paid to the sacrificial work of so many pioneering black Episcopalians.
“Jesus provided those saints with the fortitude … to say, ‘We belong to the house of God,'” said the Rev. Nita Byrd, chaplain at St. Augustine’s University in Raleigh, who delivered the closing service sermon. “We are not aliens in the Christian family. We are not second-class citizens in the Episcopal Church.”
As North Carolina wrestles with the aftermath of Jim Crow – the University of North Carolina’s trustees have recommended that a racially motivated Confederate statue torn down by protesters in August be housed in a $5.3 million museum to be built on campus – there is a sense that these churches slowly fading from view also have a story to tell about the racial history of the region.
To read the rest of this article please go to:

Why we should stop using the term religious ‘nones’.
Author – Tara Isabella Burton
Women participate in an outdoor SoulCycle class. SoulCycle and other “cult” fitness programs are considered by some to serve as a form of church for regular participants. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons
(RNS) – On the first Sunday of Advent, I went to a holiday market in Greenpoint, one of Brooklyn’s trendiest neighborhoods, that catered to a clientele mostly in their 20s and 30s. Several dozen stalls were devoted to a wide range of “oddities”: a cornucopia of antique jewelry and risqué fetish-wear; Victorian hair jewelry; animal skulls; even a white taxidermied fox.
But nearly every stall had one – if not several – wares on offer that nodded to the occult. Some were subtle references – pentagrams or alchemically inspired graphite drawings – while others were obvious, like the T-shirt with the slogan “Dykes for Satan.” For customers looking for an easy one-pot spell, there were “Make Your Own Magic” candles for mixing symbolically significant herbs and oils into a candle base.
Not all of the market’s attendees – indeed not all “Make Your Own Magic’s” buyers – might identify themselves as practitioners of magic, or members of some neopagan faith, such as Wicca. Some may have been politically motivated; in the age of Trump, occult imagery, like the aesthetic of “witch feminism,” has become increasingly associated with those who #Resist. Some may have just plain liked the stalls’ vaguely punk ethos of transgression.
But the Oddities Market, as it is called, reflects a point about today’s wider religious marketplace, particularly among young city dwellers: The demarcation between what is and is not religious is becoming increasingly blurred.
A “Dykes For Satan” shirt or a “Make Your Own Magic” candle and the values, ideas and affiliations it expresses aren’t explicitly religious- not in the way that, say, a rosary is. But for an increasing number of Americans, religious identity doesn’t look the way it used to.
About 35 percent of millennials in the United States poll as religiously unaffiliated, as opposed to 24 percent of the American population overall. Whiter, richer, more liberal and more educated than the average population, these “nones” outnumber every other single religious voting bloc in the United States. By contrast, white evangelicals – the most reliable right-leaning voting bloc – comprise less than 15 percent of the voting population. Yet just because the nones don’t profess a faith doesn’t mean that they’re not interested in spirituality or participating in symbolically resonant rituals.
Seventy-two percent of nones profess belief in some sort of higher power – even if that higher power isn’t necessarily a traditional, major faith deity. A more recent Pew poll found that 62 percent believe in one or more “New Age” principles, including the efficacy of psychics or astrology. The millennial nones, too, have pioneered other forms of spirituality. Harvard Divinity School researchers Casper ter Kuile and Angie Thomas have identified “cult” fitness programs like CrossFit and SoulCycle as serving as a form of church for regular participants. Likewise, intense internet fandom communities, say a group of scholars from the University of Leicester in the U.K., foster community through valued texts – from Harry Potter to Buffy the Vampire Slayer – and shared meaning, like any religious group.
As ter Kuile and Thomas have written, this doesn’t necessarily mean people are simply replacing religion with secular equivalents. Rather, they argue that through a kind of religious “unbundling” elements of existing spiritual and religious traditions are increasingly divorced from their original contexts.
More and more practitioners are “mixing and matching,” finding community in CrossFit while developing a spiritual practice in home yoga or meditation. A Jewish person may engage in divination through Tarot cards. Religious life isn’t ending; it’s becoming increasingly diffuse.
Perhaps that’s only natural. After all, even when we talk about a single religion, we’re talking about not one concept but many – identity, shared goals and values that hold us in community, rituals to affirm faith and an overarching narrative of meaning. Even theorists of religion have a hard time agreeing what single element, if any, makes a religion a religion. French sociologist Émile Durkheim insisted on a “single moral community,” in which people affirmed their own identities in concord with one another. American anthropologist Clifford Geertz saw religion as a “system of symbols” that evoked powerful “moods” in its adherents.

The truth is that religion contains multitudes. As religious identity becomes ever more “unbundled” – and the religiously unaffiliated continue to grow in number – we’ll need to develop a vocabulary for talking about the wealth of practices, beliefs, communities and rituals that shape future faith identities, few of which may be easily reducible to a single label.
In other words, most of America’s young religiously unaffiliated are not so much religious nones as they are religious “manys.” They are like shoppers at a holiday market, finding meanings in an object here (T-shirts to candles), a practice there and picking and choosing among elements of religious life that resonate with them. These elements may not look like traditional organized religion – and they may be less cohesive overall – but, nevertheless, they function in much the same way.
From rationalist solstices to SoulCycle classes, from atheist meditation apps to wellness spa getaways, the “manys” explore the different ways that the religiously unaffiliated are approaching, and redefining, the religious.

A mosque that was recently opened amid protests in a heavily-Jewish part of London announced plans to host an exhibition celebrating Muslims who saved Jews during the Holocaust.
Golders Green Mosque is set to host the exhibition, prepared by the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Israel, at the beginning of the new year, the Jewish News of London reported Thursday.
The exhibition is about Muslim Albanians who hid and protected Jews during the Holocaust, when Albania was under fascist control.
Rabbi Natan Levy, head of operations at the interfaith group Faith Forums for London, which is helping the mosque organize the event, told The Jewish News: “The exhibition is a powerful reminder that during the Jewish community’s darkest hour, the Muslim community in Albania were one of the few who did not stand idly by when the Nazis attempted to eradicate their Jewish neighbors.”
Some Jewish opponents to the mosque’s opening in 2017 cited traffic concerns, whereas others said they fear it would introduce security problems, drawing accusations of xenophobia by other Jews.
Albanians rescued about 2,000 Jews during the Holocaust.
In parallel, Albanians also served in the 1st Albanian Waffen SS Division, manned by hundreds of ethnic Albanians – many of them from Bosnia and also Kosovo, which during the German and Italian occupations had been lumped together with Albania. They are known to have rounded up Jews who belonged to the group of at least 249 Kosovar Jews who ended up at a concentration camp in Germany.

A rabbi and a sister suggest a
Judeo-Christian New Year’s resolution
Been there, done that” hasn’t killed the annual New Year’s resolution ritual, despite a failure rate of close to 90 percent. In fact, more people are making them today than a century ago. All sorts of resolutions remain perennial favorites, including those that relate to health, personal advancement and doing more good for others.
The two of us pondered a question as an interesting thought exercise. American Christians and Jews have recently celebrated popular and meaningful holiday observances. Both of us are closer to the more theologically demanding ends of the belief continuum of our respective faiths. We are acutely aware of the theological incompatibility of some of our positions, even if they have not prevented us from enjoying a deep friendship.
Could we come up with a resolution for the New Year that would appeal to our mutual faiths – and that might please atheists and agnostics as well? Could it be something more immediately attainable than “bring peace to all mankind” or “cure a diseased planet”? We think we can.
Even without our suggestion, using words more carefully would be a good first resolution. Can there be an American who is not conscious of how much hostility and incivility have taken over our public discourse, and even the everyday interaction between people? Not to mention a mushrooming of online hate speech, a pandemic of bullying that drives young people to suicide, and the iffy stuff that we debate – venomously, of course – whether to call out as “dog whistles.”
Even without our suggestion, the positive power of words should inspire and motivate us. Now that our attention span has shrunk to less than that of goldfish, words themselves are endangered. We have less patience for reading; we want our information visually and in short spurts. We sense that what emojis and YouTube offer is important in life.
Yet it is with words that we most often express the depth of love; that we soothe a child who has scraped her knee; that we build self-confidence in a young person; that we communicate sympathy in times of loss; that we create friendships that are meaningful.
But we wanted to find a resolution that would have special appeal to people who are deeply invested in faith. Using words more nobly may seem to have little to do with our respective faiths, other than fit into the general rubric of “Love your fellow as yourself.” (That isn’t working so well lately. It has become too easy for folks to exclude people they don’t like from coverage by that commandment.)
Consider where all this speech-talk began. The Hebrew Bible takes a pretty dramatic position about the power of words. “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host” (Psalm 33:6). John 1:1 may be one up on that. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Both verses see explosive power in “the word,” even as Christians and Jews are just not going to be getting together on what (or What) that word was and did. Christians will find the Jewish take on Psalms to be insufficient; Jews will find the Logos intent of John to be untenable. So that ends that.
You would think. But take a closer look. Both verses use “word” as a synonym for something very different – indeed, for something emanating from within G-d. Why does this work? Think of all the nouns that couldn’t work. Why does “word” get it right? Because the so-called Judeo-Christian legacy thing is real. For all their differences, Jews and Christians not only believe in a divinely sourced soul within humans, but root that belief in the opening chapters of the Bible. What made us human was the divine spirit that was breathed into us, as if from “within” G-d himself. It is that divine breath that makes us human and special, and not just a more advanced (or degraded, depending on who you ask) primate.
If that soul, that “portion of G-d from above” according to the Zohar, the central work of Jewish mysticism, is what defines our ultimate selves, then words are nothing less than windows to our essence. They are the way that we invite others in, to give them some understanding of who we are as unique individuals. And if our souls are holy, then so too are words.
This, then, is the resolution for 2019 that we propose. Let all those within our common tradition reflect on the sanctity of words. Let them have more meaning and depth than another tweet. We don’t casually or carelessly throw around holy objects. If we can appreciate that words not only have power, but are possessed of holiness, we just might be more likely to use them for holier purposes.
[Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein is director of interfaith affairs for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the global human rights organization. He is an Orthodox rabbi. Daughter of St. Paul Sr. Rose Pacatte is founding director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies in Culver City, California. She is an award-winning film critic whose work appears in NCR.]

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.


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