Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events
Exloring Religious Landscapes, Spring 2018
Prayer Across Faith Traditions
See Flyer Below
Tuesday, June 5th, 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM
Interfaith Health and Hope Coalition Lunch and Learn
See Flyer Below
Sunday June 10th 1:00 PM
Five Women Five Journeys at First Baptist Church of Birmingham
300 Willits Street, Birmingham, MI
For more information, contact Paula Drewek at email@example.com
WISDOM Celebrates its Annual Dinner
and Installation of Board Members
At Saffron Indian Restaurant
on May 11, 2018
WISDOM installed two new board members and everyone lit a candle to symbolize their time on the board for the new 2018-2019 year!! WISDOM’s board now has a new president, Bobbie Lewis! The board is made up of 10 Executive board members, 9 general board members and 7 Advisory Board members. The board’s faith traditions include members of the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Baha’i, Hindu, and Buddhist faith communities. We are all looking forward to an exciting and productive year!!
CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR 2018-2019 WISDOM BOARD OF DIRECTORS!!
President – Bobbie Lewis
Vice Presidents of Programming – Peggy Dahlberg and Ayesha Khan
Vice President of Board Development – Maryann Schlie
Vice President of Membership – Raquel Garcia
Secretaries – Paula Drewek and Sameena Basha
Treasurer – Teri Weingarden
Co-Founders – Gail Katz and Trish Harris
Rev. Dr. Rose Cooper, Shama Mehta, Janelle McCammon, Erin O’Connor, Jeanne Salerno, Sheri Schiff, Uzma Sharaf
New General Board Members
Sumaiya Sheikh and Padma Sanam
Parwin Anwar, Sharon Buttry, Ellen Ehrlich, Fran Hildebrandt, Delores Lyons, Brenda Rosenberg, Gigi Salka
Welcome to New WISDOM Members for the month of May!!
Serving Muslims on Ramadan Made Me a Better Rabbi
By Marc Schneier (Newsweek)
I have been an Orthodox rabbi for more than 35 years, serving a large and affluent congregation in the Hamptons. I would like to believe I have made a positive difference in the lives of my congregants, and a meaningful contribution to my community and society. And yet, as we enter the season of Ramadan, I am moved to share a transcendent experience I had at a Ramadan iftar (fast-breaking meal) last June in Los Angeles that gave me a precious opportunity to serve others and to experience the sanctity and joy of human fellowship in a way I had never before experienced.
In fact, I have attended many iftars in recent years. I have come to relish the infectiously convivial spirit at these occasions, as Muslim families who have abstained from food and water for the preceding day come together to break bread together as a community. As I walked into the iftar dinner at the ornate King Fahad Mosque in the Culver City section of Los Angeles, to which I had been invited as the guest speaker, one of the organizers asked me if I would not only offer remarks, but also serve dinner to participants. He explained that having a rabbi serve food at the event would be a tangible expression of Jewish-Muslim solidarity.
It turned out to be much more than that. Following my remarks, I left my place on the dais and headed over to a long serving table, where a large crowd of congregants had already begun to gather with plates in hand. I donned an apron and took my place alongside several other servers; sensing as I did so a palpable stirring of surprise and appreciation among those in line that a rabbi was giving meaning to his words of unity from the podium by humbly taking his place at the serving table. Soon I was ladling out food-spicy lamb, cooked vegetables, salad, fruit and baklava pastries-to hundreds of people, men, women and children-and bantering happily with many of them, especially the adorable children. When people asked whether I would be eating myself, I explained that I would not, because my faith does not allow me to consume non-kosher food. Yet the fact that I was serving non-kosher food as a gesture of support with the Muslim community was a manifestation of the long road I have travelled from the person I was 15 years ago; someone who had never entered a mosque or Muslim venue and who feared and demonized Muslims. Indeed, I remember that after accepting an invitation in 2005 to speak to students at a Muslim high school in Queens, New York, I had second thoughts as I was walking to the school building, beset by paranoia concerning my safety.
Yet as I stood there at the King Fahad Mosque gazing into the eyes of those I was serving, I realized at that moment that humbly serving food to this group of American Muslims was affording me a precious opportunity to feel their humanity, and my connectedness to them in a more profound way than ever before. For years, I had referred to Muslims in speeches and op-ed articles as my “brothers and sisters.” Now, I felt I was experiencing the underlying meaning of those words for the very first time. While I had interacted at that point with many Imams and other Muslim community leaders, this was really the first time I had the chance to speak, learn and even joke with just regular congregants. Each of them had a story and each impressed me with their sincerity, love and kindness. As Muslim Americans, their concerns and issues were not unlike those of Jewish Americans, and that was both refreshing and inspiring to me. It reaffirmed my long contention that as children of Abraham, we have more in common between our faiths than our differences.
So, why did I have my sublime moment of human connection in a mosque? I believe the answer can be found in the fact that the Torah enjoins us to “Love the stranger 36 times,” rather than “Love thy neighbor.” In other words, that it is a higher calling to love someone different from oneself than to love one’s own. Of course, it is a good and right thing for me to love a fellow Jew, but it is far easier for me to do that than to reach out and embrace a Muslim-just as it is easier for a Muslim to connect with a co-religionist than it is for him to reach out and embrace me.
In any case, it took a Ramadan iftar to fully take me beyond my earlier reserve, and, for the first time, share the humanity of Muslims as deeply as I do that of my fellow Jews. My experience at the LA iftar has made me a more open and giving person with enhanced capability to serve both my fellow Jews, my Muslim friends and people of all backgrounds.
Rabbi Marc Schneier is the Founding Rabbi of The Hampton Synagogue and President of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and co-author with Imam Shamsi Ali of Sons of Abraham: A Candid Conversation about the Issues That Divide and Unite Jews and Muslims
PROJECT RUNWAY’S MUSLIM MODEST FASHION INSPIRED MY ORTHODOX JEWISH STYLE
Ayana Ife, a contestant on the 16th season of Project Runway, competed with a mission: to fulfill each challenge with a modest garment. Ayana’s appearance telegraphed a young Muslim woman full of personality, a hard worker, and above all, commitment.
When I first started watching Project Runway, I was growing up Orthodox Jewish and dressing modestly. In my community, that meant skirts below the knees, shirts above the collarbone, and sleeves past the elbow, occasionally with some knee socks thrown in. The show in those early days filled me with wonder. What would it be like if I could wear any of these clothes? What would I be like if I could wear any of these clothes? Project Runway made design possibilities feel accessible and immediate; I could witness talented creators make them right before my eyes.
But what if they all had to make modest clothes? Would the beautiful talent and variety on display diminish in any way, or would the designers rise to the challenge I was working with every day?
It’s not easy to find modest clothes. I used to look at common fashion from the ’50s and ’60s with envy, when secular and religious fashionistas alike dressed in tailored suits and dresses that satisfied all of the modesty requirements. The ’90s weren’t too bad, since floor-length jean skirts and raglan tees were in at the time. Then the ’00s hit. Say hello to spaghetti strap tank tops, pleated miniskirts, and Britney Spears’s cleavage. Taboo looks were walking the red carpet and the options for modest dress became less and less available. I remember when Old Navy would put out a maxi skirt with a cute print, everyone in my Orthodox Jewish high school would be wearing it. It felt like such a treat to find wearable clothing in mainstream stores, in contrast to religious brand names that wanted to conceal my body rather than celebrate it.
Ayana advanced through the usual gauntlet of Project Runway challenges, excelling in most. In the unconventional materials challenge she struggled to find enough “fabric” to cover her model. She often made corresponding headgear to match her garment, many of which would suit married Orthodox women who cover their hair. Perhaps most intriguing was her ability to keep her designs sassy, shaped, and sometimes even sexy, while covering up her models’ skin. Ultimately she placed second in the competition, after showing a modest collection at Fashion Week.
Other than a few minor differences – they can wear pants; our single women can show our hair – Muslim and Jewish fashion have a lot in common. It’s rare to see that exemplified in the same room, though, not only because of political tensions but also due to the fact that both religions feel the need to sequester their communities from the outside world. That’s been gradually changing. The head wrap enthusiasts over in the Wrapunzel community consist of Jewish and Muslim women who share a desire to cover their hair artistically. Modest swimsuit companies are moving away from terms like “burqinis” or “shvimkleids,” which might alienate otherwise like-minded consumers, in favor of more neutral language to attract women of all walks. Online retailers like eShakti, who offer customizable sizes, hemlines, necklines, and sleeve lengths for a flat price, are popular across the board with modest dressers.
After Ayana’s season ended, I went to check her out online and discovered she had an Etsy store. Not only that, a black version of her warrior woman look, my favorite piece from the season, was on sale for $100. I couldn’t decide what was more precious – that she was on Etsy or that I could actually afford clothes from a Project Runway alum. (Less precious was when it took three months to receive my order, but I took deep breaths and kept rooting for her anyway.)
I imagined that by wearing the blouse, I’d be making a statement – one of support, surely, for a designer who gave voice to modest dressers everywhere on a national platform. But I imagined a bigger picture, too. I imagined that perhaps, as a Jewish woman wearing a garment designed by a Muslim woman, I was adding a brick to the bridge that should and someday could stretch between our cultures. Not as an exception, but as the rule.
When I opened the package containing my new dress shirt, it didn’t feel like a political statement. It just felt like a beautiful, elaborate piece of clothing. It wasn’t going to give me the power to break down borders or walls by wearing it. Slowly, it dawned on me that I’d been trying to fulfill tikkun olam – healing the world – with consumerism, which now seems absurd. How had I misplaced my attempt to be subversive? Was I confusing this feeling with a longing for representation on a favorite show? Had I projected onto Ayana somehow, when the clothes she was creating weren’t intended for those purposes? She had a mission, yes, but maybe that had nothing to do with me.
Examining fashion from the perspective of art, though, I have the right. After all, that’s why I watch Project Runway: for the fashion, for the art. (Lord knows there isn’t enough drama to keep me there.) For the first time, thanks to Ayana’s blouse, I have the ability to interact with it. Consumerism and ownership aside, I can wear and interpret the blouse as superficially as I like, making it a personal experience by definition.
Which is how I choose to see it. Whatever Ayana’s intentions were, I choose to wear her clothes in celebration of a modest designer in a secular environment. So forgive me. If you see me in a ruffled asymmetrical black shirt, strutting across the room and feeling like a million bucks, know that it’s not because I’m part of the solution to world peace. It’s because I’m wearing living art, created by a Muslim woman, for me.
Saudi Prince Meets New York Rabbis
in Rare Interfaith Gesture
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman met a group of religious leaders in New York, including two rabbis, a rare interfaith gesture for the de facto ruler of the conservative Islamic kingdom that allows negligible religious freedoms.
The 32-year-old heir to the throne was on a three-week tour of the U.S., met two Roman Catholic and three Jewish figures, the Saudi embassy in Washington said in a statement. Saudi Arabiaenforces an austere interpretation of Sunni Islam, but Prince Mohammed has said he wants to ease the country toward “moderate Islam, open to the world and all religions.” “The meeting emphasized the common bond among all people, particularly people of faith, which stresses the importance of tolerance, coexistence, and working together for a better future for all of humanity,” the embassy said. Although Prince Mohammed had recently met Christian figures, it marks the first time he’s announced a meeting with a Jewish religious leader.
While foreigners of other religions can worship privately in Saudi Arabia, there are no public churches, temples or synagogues. Importing crosses and other non-Islamic religious imagery — including the six-pointed Star of David — is banned, according to the Saudi customs website, and the kingdom’s minority Shiite Muslims complain of discrimination. There are some signs restrictions are softening: Christmas trees were displayed openly in some shops in the capital, Riyadh, for the first time last year.
Prince Mohammed’s meeting included Rabbi Richard Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism; Rabbi Steven Wernick, head of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism; and Allen Fagin, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union, the embassy said.
It’s not the first time a Saudi royal has met a rabbi; the late King Abdullah was photographed multiple times with New York-based Rabbi Marc Schneier.
Interfaith’s Foundational Document:
A Brief History
by Marcus Braybrooke
The Global Ethic, adopted at the 1993 Parliament of World Religions, is clear evidence that the coming together of people of faith is not an end in itself but part of the search for a more just and peaceful world. Indeed one of the objectives for the 1893 Parliament, in the words of its President Charles Bonney, was “to make the Golden Rule the basis” for cooperation among people of different religions. “Only then,” he said, “will the nations of the earth yield to the spirit of concord and learn war no more.” Over the years, several interfaith conferences have issued declarations emphasizing the values that they share – some of which I collected in Stepping Stones to a Global Ethic(1992).
The search for an agreed basis for interfaith action for a better world was given a new impetus in 1992 with the publication of Hans Küng’s Global Responsibility. His argument was summarized in the now well-known mantra:
No human life without a world ethic for the nations;
No peace among the nations without peace among the religions;
No peace among the religions without dialogue among the religions.
Then in 1992, Daniel Gómez-Ibáñez, the Parliament’s first executive director, invited Hans Küng to produce a paper that the Parliament could use as the basis for ‘A Global Ethic,’ which would be the Parliament’s message to the world. It is not always clear in subsequent books on the Global Ethic, whether they refer to Küng’s scholarly study or the Chicago Declaration.
Hans Küng’s starting-point was that the world was experiencing a fundamental crisis in global economy, global ecology, and global politics, together with the lack of a “grand vision.” Moreover, he said, religion was often used to incite aggression and fanaticism. (Both, sadly, are even truer today). A global ethic, by which Küng meant “a minimal fundamental consensus concerning binding values, irrevocable standards and fundamental attitudes” was, therefore, urgent. It was to be based on the premise that “every human being must be treated humanely.”
Küng argued that the Golden Rule, “Do to others what you would want them to do to you,” which most religions teach in differing wording, implies four broad ancient guidelines, which he labels “four irrevocable directives.” They are:
These provide the framework for the Parliament’s Declaration, which was much shorter than Küng’s text and has an almost poetic feel.
The Parliament Declaration begins with the assertion, “The world is in agony.” It then condemns the abuse of Earth’s ecosystems, the poverty from which so many people suffer and die, and the violence, hatred, and aggression, which afflicts much of the world. This agony, the Declaration insists “need not be, because the basis for an ethic already exists, ancient guidelines … in the core values of all religions, which offer the possibility of a better individual and global order, and lead individuals away from despair and societies away from chaos.”
The authors of the Declaration then commit themselves to live in accordance with these ancient guidelines and briefly explain what they would involve today.
At the close of the Assembly, participants, in a memorable moment, signed the Declaration. This is important as the Declaration is not a matter of some remote religious leaders telling other people what to do, but an expression of their own personal commitment and their appeal to “all people, whether religious or not, to do the same.”
Worldwide representatives gathered for 12th International Baha’i Convention
BAHA’I WORLD CENTRE, 25 April 2018, (BWNS) – Some 1,300 delegates representing more than 160 countries have arrived in Haifa to participate in the 12th International Baha’i Convention.
The International Convention is a unique gathering held every five years in Haifa, the administrative and spiritual center of the Baha’i world community. Delegates hail from virtually every nation. Over the course of the convention, they participate in a series of consultative sessions and elect the Faith’s international governing body, the Universal House of Justice.
The consultations at International Convention are generally concerned with the development of the Baha’i Faith and the contributions of Baha’i communities to the progress of society. One of the primary areas of discussion is how Baha’u’llah’s teachings-such as the oneness of humankind, the equality of women and men, the harmony of science and religion, and the independent investigation of truth-are finding expression in a vast array of social settings, from the remotest of villages to large urban centers, and across diverse cultural realities.
The delegates attending this year’s International Convention are members of the annually-elected governing Baha’i councils of their countries. Referred to as National Spiritual Assemblies, these institutions guide and support the activities of the Baha’i community within their respective jurisdictions.
On 29 April, the delegates will gather to elect the nine members of the Universal House of Justice, a task that is undertaken as both a sacred duty and a privilege.
Delegates have a period of spiritual preparation before participating in the Convention. This entails time to pray and meditate in the Sacred Shrines in Haifa and Akka as well as to visit historical Baha’i holy places.
Sameena Zahoor has been wearing a hijab since she was in college studying to be a doctor and she is aware that non-Muslims often have questions – and misconceptions – about the headscarf commonly worn by Muslim women. Zahoor, a family physician from Canton, said it is not much different than coverings donned by nuns or members of religions outside of Islam.
“Yes, my experience being a Muslim woman has a lot to do with me wearing a headscarf,” Zahoor said. “No, I don’t think I’m a better Muslim because I cover – versus a person who does not cover. Yes, I do have hair underneath (my hijab). No, I don’t wear it when I go home, sleep in it or shower in it. Yes, it makes me feel hot and sweaty when I wear it in the summer. No, I was not forced to wear it and no I am not oppressed.”
It was that kind of open discussion – intended to break down barriers and spread understanding of Islam – that highlighted the Building Bridges: Getting To Know Our Muslim Neighbors event hosted Sunday by The Waterford Refugee Welcome Alliance and held at the Christ Lutheran Church in Waterford.
John Negele, a member of the Waterford Refugee Alliance and pastor of the Christ Lutheran Church, said the goal of the program was for attendees to leave “with some new learning and new insight, and maybe some new connection that they didn’t have before, that can continue to be built on.”
“One of the first steps that is needed to build bridges – whether it’s between two people or two communities – is to get to know one another. And that’s what we are here to do today,” Negele said.
The event began with members of the Islamic Networks Group explaining the history of Islam, the beliefs and practices of Muslims and common misconceptions many Americans may have about the religion and its followers. Islamic Networks Group speaker Amin Varis vocalized that Islam is an Abrahamic faith – similarly to Judaism and Christianity. He explained some of Islam’s fundamental principles such as the belief in one God, fasting, praying, donating and hajj – the pilgrimage to Mecca.
Zahoor, who is also an Islamic Networks Group speaker, said the nonprofit’s purpose is to “dispel myths and misunderstandings of Islam, and to get people to understand that the struggle of Muslims is not much different than the struggles of other minority groups.”
“Being able to allow others to ask questions can open conversation that may change people’s hearts,” she added. “We are not much different. Our ideas, our goals and what we want for each other is very similar to those of (non-Muslims). We are all on the same team.”
Mayar Zamzam, a junior at the International Academy Bloomfield Hills and a youth member of the Islamic Networks Group, said she has encountered people who have directed slurs at her, without even knowing her.
“I was completely in shock,” she said about a specific instance in which she was called a terrorist by a stranger. “I don’t understand why he would call me that. I thought to myself, ‘is this really how other people view Muslims?'”
Zamzam said she loves when people ask her questions about Islam and said she feels excited telling people about her religion.
She added that many people don’t understand why some Muslim women wear a headscarf.
“I wear the hijab because my religion provides me the opportunity to be modest about my looks and outspoken about my personality,” she said.
Zamzam said although she has encountered several acts of hate earlier in her life, she can see them slowly turning into questions, as people seek to educate themselves.
Zahoor said media plays a significant role in the negative perception of Muslims in the U.S.
“What people see on TV is what they believe,” she said. “When I tell people from California I’m from Detroit, they say ‘What? That’s the murder capital of the world!’ It’s important to look beyond a TV screen for information.”
In addition to speeches, there were presentations of art and comedy, a question and answer session, and lunch for the attendees and event organizers – where the conversation continued. Waterford resident Al Kuehm, 70, said the event was a great opportunity to learn and expand his knowledge of the religion.
“There are a lot of misconceptions of Islam and we need to address them. We need to get smart,” Kuehm said. ” I wish we had something like this every month.”
Negele, the pastor, said Mahatma Gandhi was once quoted saying “The only problem with Christianity is Christians” after visiting a church.
“Maybe Islam is the same way,” Negele said
The Poor People’s Campaign –
A National call for Moral Revival
There are still training sessions available
in June!!! See link below to sign up!
Thank you for your interest in the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. We want to share with you more details of the plans currently being made for 40 days of Non Violent Moral Fusion Direct Action starting May 14, 2018 at numerous state capitols throughout the nation, including Lansing, Michigan. We are organizing for collective action to show national unity across lines of division.
The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is uniting tens of thousands of people across the country to challenge the evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation and the nation’s distorted morality. We need you to step up and join our efforts.
The communities you serve are among many in Michigan where significant numbers of people live in poverty, and are impacted by the evils addressed in this campaign. We are looking to you to help organize members of your congregation and local community to join the campaign. We need help in the form of participation in direct action, donations, and a wide variety of logistical support needs (i.e. transportation, food, phone banks) from faith and community organizations.
Mass meetings and small group gatherings are being held around the state to introduce the campaign, and mandatory initial direct-action training sessions are being scheduled for those who are considering involvement as moral witnesses during the 40 days of action. We have materials and templates that you can use to hold meetings in your community and congregation.
The weekly days of direct action will take place on Mondays from 10 am until 4 pm with themes as follows:
Each day’s events will include:
State subcommittees need your participation and those of your congregations / communities. People can sign up here
to work on subcommittees, and can register for upcoming training sessions throughout the coming weeks.
We are grateful for your support and look forward to Moving Together with you – Not One Step Back!
Rev. Gerald Cardwell – Michigan Tri-Chair
Rabbi Alana Alpert – Michigan Faith Subcommittee Co-Chair
Rev. Kevin Johnson – Michigan Faith subcommittee Co-chair
Rev. Bill Wylie-Kellermann – Michigan Faith Subcommittee Co-Chair
Enlarging the Interfaith Tent – from The Interfaith Observer
Even interfaith activists sometimes harbor prejudiced stereotypes about unfamiliar groups. Reservations may include the perceived “threat” of polytheistic worldviews and a plurality of deities. New religious movements (NRMs) may be similarly feared, so that newly created spiritual identities such as Wicca or reconstructed once-dormant traditions such as Druidry or Ásatrú are kept out. Though Native indigenous traditions often are absent from the table, less present than most, my sense is that there is a great openness to having them join the interfaith community. The 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Salt Lake City featured an “Indigenous Peoples Program” as central to the gathering. The upcoming Parliament in Toronto this November also features Indigenous representation and speakers. In fact, the historic 1993 centenary Parliament of the World’s Religions was the first international interfaith event to welcome Pagan and indigenous traditions, and they have remained presenters at all the modern Parliaments. Nevertheless, the interfaith movement has a long way to go before all feel welcome.”
South America Temple bridges two eras
SANTIAGO, Chile, 11 May 2018, (BWNS) – On the edge of Santiago in the foothills of the Andes, the continental Baha’i House of Worship for South America has been illuminating the mountainside for over a year and a half. In that time it has attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors to its radiant edifice, which has received multiple prestigious architecture awards.
Since its dedication in October 2016, the Temple has been a recipient of an International Architecture Award as well as awards for structural artistry from the Institution of Structural Engineers, for innovation in architecture from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, for innovation from the American Institute of Architects, for design excellence from the Ontario Association of Architects, for “Best in Americas, Civil Buildings,” from World Architecture News, and for Architectural and Cultural design from American Architecture Prize. But the Temple’s impact has been much more than that. It has also impacted the hearts and minds of the people in Santiago and beyond.
“People understand that the House of Worship is here to help with the spiritual development of our society,” explained Rocio Montoya, from the public affairs office of the Chilean Baha’i community.
“There are many families that are coming to the Temple. Religious groups come to pray together. Many people in their advanced years also come for hours and sit at the picnic tables and enjoy fellowship. People here see the House of Worship more and more as their Temple.”