March 2018

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

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

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

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

West Bloomfield Synagogue Bible Garden
                       Welcomes Visitors and Tour Groups

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.


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!