Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events
Sunday, September 15th 2:30 – 4:30 PM
WISDOM Membership Tea
See Flyer Below
Thursday, September 19th 7:00 – 9:00 PM
Exploring Women and Hindu Life
See Flyer Below
Sunday, November 3rd 2:30 – 5:30 PM
Interfaith Panel on Organ Donation
See Flyer Below
On August 11th, members of the Temple Israel Sisterhood joined members of the Hartford Memorial Baptist Church Sisterhood at the Detroit Institute of Arts to take an incredible tour of the African American art collection there! Fantastic day together!!
‘It’s long overdue’: the first exhibition for Native American female artists
In a groundbreaking new exhibition, the often unseen or uncredited works of Native American
women are being celebrated
Walk into most museums and there might be something missing on the wall labels beside Native American artworks – an Apache dress from the 19th century might just read: “Title, year, materials.”
What’s missing? The artist’s name. Though many of the artists’ names were not recorded, and will forever be anonymous, many that have been recorded are now being recognized as never before. Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists is the first ever museum retrospective of Native American and Canadian female artists. It opened at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and until 18 August, over 115 artists from 50 Native communities are being given the credit they deserve.
“This is the first, believe it or not, show devoted to Native women artists,” said Jill Ahlberg Yohe, who co-curated the exhibit with Teri Greeves. “It’s the first to honor Native women from ancient times to the contemporary moment.”
Then why did it take so long? Most 19th-century art collectors were “men with a Victorian sensibility,” Yohe said. For the most part, these men weren’t interested “in identifying women, or individualizing Native people”. She added: “90% of Native art is made by women. Native artists know this. It’s just non-Native people who haven’t recognized that.”
Yohe has been working on this exhibition since 2015. “It dawned on me after scouring the collections that all the work is made by women,” she said. Putting together the show meant more than just plucking out items from renowned collections. Rather than repeating the same old narratives, the co-curators wanted to incorporate fresh voices.
That led them to working with 21 women, both Native and non-Native scholars and artists, to curate this show as part of their “exhibition advisory board”. “That’s what made it special,” said Yohe. “We have the voices, expertise and knowledge from all these women.”
Upon entering the exhibition, there’s a parked 1985 Chevy El Camino by Rose Simpson, a work which pays homage to the 20th-century potter Maria Martinez, “the first self-identified non-anonymous Native artist,” said Yohe. That sets the tone for the entire show, which is divided into three sections: legacy, relationships and power. The exhibition includes the work of 12 Canadian artists to trace tribes and communities that were established long before borders between the two countries. “The borders between the US and Canada weren’t created by indigenous people, but by outside influences,” said Yohe. “All this work is connected to our history, whether it was made in 1500 or 2019. It’s all a part of the American and Canadian story.”
Métis artist Christi Belcourt shows The Wisdom of the Universe, a painting from 2014 that features animals on the endangered species list in Canada, alongside Haida fashion designer Dorothy Grant, who sketches Haida artwork on to clothing, is showing her wool Hummingbird Dress from 1989, the same year she debuted her first collection.
Though craft and fashion play a role in this exhibit, it’s not where it ends. “It’s the gendered aspect of women’s work,” said Yohe. “These categories don’t work; they just don’t work in Native communities.”
One of the most fun pieces in the exhibit is a pair of heels by the Luiseño/Shoshone-Bannock artist Jamie Okuma, who is showing her Adaption II shoes from 2012.
The artist has taken a pair of Christian Louboutin heels and covered them in what Yohe calls “Native couture” – including the likes of glass beads, porcupine quills and buckskin. The work counteracts the stereotype that Native art lives in the past and lacks sophistication. The Creek-Cherokee artist Joan Hill is showing her 1990 painting Women’s Voices at the Council, which shows the head of a tribe, a woman she refers to as the “Beloved Woman”, meeting with other women as part of the decision-making for their tribe. Haida artist Freda Diesing shows Mask, Old Woman with Labret from 1974, which depicts a woman with a labret, a body modification known as “lip plugs”, which were recognized as status symbols for women on the north-west coast. (Diesing was one of the few female carvers of her generation and her Haida name Skil Kew Wat means “magical little woman”).
The artworks here are more than just decorative or folk-art masterpieces. They offer an overlooked, often silenced narrative. “Their work tells the story of Native people, the idea of resilience, despite all measures of annihilation of federal policy, settlers and acts of genocide,” said Yohe. The Anishinaabe artist Rebecca Belmore shows Fringe, a sculpture from 2007, which draws attention to the violence against First Nations women with a gaping back scar the artist believes will never disappear. But this exhibition is, in part, about healing.
For one, it aims to be a counter-narrative. They’re calling it “corrective art history” to the dusty old textbooks that ignored them for decades.
“It’s long overdue,” said Yohe. “Native women’s art history is American history.”
Female chief in Malawi breaks up 850 child marriages and sends girls back to school
Theresa Kachindamoto, the senior chief in the Dedza District of Central Malawi, wields power over close to 900,000 people… and she’s not afraid to use her authority to help the women and girls in her district. In the past three years, she has annulled more than 850 child marriages, sent hundreds of young women back to school to continue their education, and made strides to abolish cleansing rituals that require girls as young as seven to go to sexual initiation camps. With more than half of Malawi’s girls married before the age of 18, according to a 2012 United Nations survey – and a consistently low ranking on the human development index, Kachindamoto’s no-nonsense attitude and effective measures have made her a vital ally in the fight for women’s and children’s rights.
Kachindamoto, who was born in Dedza District, had been working as a secretary for twenty-seven years in another district when she was called to come home and serve as a chief. Upon her return, she was dismayed at the sight of 12 year-old girls with babies and young husbands and quickly began to take action. Last year, Malawi raised the legal age to marry to 18, yet parental consent continues to serve as a loophole to allow younger girls to marry. Kachindamoto ordered 50 of her sub-chiefs to sign an agreement ending child marriage in Dedza District. When a few male chiefs continued to approve the marriages, Kachindamoto suspended them until they annulled the unions. In addition to annulling the marriages (330 in June of 2015 alone!), this fierce chief sent the children back to school, often paying their school fees with her own money. She has also asked parliament to raise the minimum age of marriage again to 21.
In an area where girls are often married early to ease a family’s financial burden and where one in five girls in Malawi are victims of sexual abuse, Kachindamoto is also taking a stand against the cleansing camps where girls are routinely sent before marriage. The sexual initiation rites that take place there are extremely disturbing, particularly in a country where one in ten people has HIV. Kachindamoto is threatening to dismiss any chiefs that continue to allow these controversial practices. Kachindamoto has faced plenty of opposition to her efforts from parents and community members, even receiving death threats, yet she remains determined to continue changing minds and laws for the benefits of Malawi’s females and their futures. In Kachindamoto’s own words, “If they are educated, they can be and have anything they want.”
Interfaith concert brings Jewish and
African American communities together
Late last month, two communities came together to share and express spirituality through music. Called “A Celebration of Spirit: Strengthening Our Common Bonds Through Music and Faith,” the gathering, sponsored by the Arizona Jewish Historical Society and Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church, took place on Sunday, June 30 at the church, and featured religious music from both Jewish and African American traditions. The intention was to encourage more dialogue and awareness between the communities.
AZJHS Executive Director Lawrence Bell explained that the organization was making an effort to reach out to the African American community. Even though there is a strong history of connection between the two communities – especially during the fight for civil rights – Bell believed that the two communities have been growing apart.
“We came up with the idea of a religious concert so we as Jews can see what they’re singing in church and they as African American Christians can see what we’re singing in our temples and synagogues,” Bell said. “The Jewish and African American communities work together a lot in areas of common interest, but we really don’t understand each other very much.” The concert was originally going to be on Martin Luther King Jr. Day but it had to be postponed due to scheduling conflicts. However, Bell believed the spirit of King was felt that day because it was such an uplifting and joyous event.
Between 400 and 500 people attended the concert, including members of other faith traditions, including Hindu and Buddhist communities.
Temple Solel cantorial soloist Todd Herzog and Temple Kol Ami cantorial soloist Emily Kaye performed Jewish songs at the beginning of the concert, and the church’s choir sang Southern Baptist songs. All the musicians performed together at the end of the concert.
AZJHS Volunteer Event Chair Stu Siefer heard the choir rehearse multiple times. “Their singing was so powerful and spiritually uplifting that it made me realize how sharing music is a great way to bring people of different faiths together,” he said in a statement prior to the show.
Elder Richard Yarbough, Pilgrim Rest administrator, agreed and said that because music is a universal language, he believed it affected those who attended on an emotional level. He was also grateful there were so many photos of the audience in the concert. “Sometimes when you’re immersed in an environment like that, there’s so much personal appreciation for what’s going on you sort of get in your own zone and you’re not as sensitive as to what’s going on around you,” he said. “Seeing the audience captured in photos just illustrated how much how much joy, camaraderie and interaction there was between all the people who attended.”
In between the performances there were also two religious sermons led by Temple Solel Rabbi Emily Langowitz and Pilgrim Rest Pastor Terry E. Mackey. The two analyzed the same biblical text, which was the story of Korah, and shared their religious perspectives.
Audience member Allan Frenkel, resident of the Kivel Campus of Care, thought the concert was powerful, and said the Jewish community should participate in even more interfaith events.
“I do not think anyone left without making new friends. Many exchanged numbers, emails and vowed to get together,” Frenkel said. “The spirit that was in the attendees’ hearts when leaving the church could not be fully described, but all knew they had been blessed by this event.”
Cepand Alizadeh, community relations director for the Mayor’s Office, read a letter to the audience written by Mayor Kate Gallego.
“I encourage us to integrate music more into our daily lives so that Phoenix becomes a stronger and more unified place,” Gallego wrote. “I have no doubt that today’s inspiring interfaith concert is a positive step that will move our city towards harmony.”
“A Celebration of Spirit: Strengthening Our Common Bonds Through Music and Faith” concert can be viewed in its entirety on the Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church Facebook page.
Muslim Man Pledges To Keep Long Island Town’s Beloved Jewish Bakery Kosher – And Halal
The Beach Bakery & Grand Café, in Westhampton Beach, on Long Island, is a local institution. Since 1988, it has served black-and-whites, baguettes, pastries and challah from its bakery counter, and made custom wedding cakes for its community. But there’s a reason for the challah, and a reason its restaurant only serves vegetarian and fish dishes: the Beach Bakery is certified kosher, the only such establishment in Long Island’s East End, a popular summer vacation spot. When the bakery and restaurant went up for sale last year, local residents worried that the new owner wouldn’t be interested in preserving its kosher certification.
Turns out the eventual buyer actually wanted to add a certification, Newsday reported: Rashid Sulehri, owner of two other local establishments, is Muslim, and says not only will the Beach Bakery stay kosher, but it will become halal, too, so devout Muslims can eat there.
“It’s a dream come true,” Sulehri said. “Sons of Abraham can sit under one roof and they get a chance to see how much in common they have instead of staying away from each other and just thinking how different they are from each other.”
The Beach Bakery has already begun attracting Muslim residents: In June, a large group came to the restaurant to celebrate the holiday Eid al-Fitr, the closing of the month of Ramadan.
This story “Kosher And Halal: Muslim Man Saves Jewish Bakery” was written by Ari Feldman.
Attack on Hindu priest near Queens temple
probed as possible hate crime, say police
Hindu priest Swami Ji Harish Chander Puri was beaten Thursday near the Shiv Shakti Peeth in Glen Oaks, Queens while he was walking down the street in his religious garb.
Investigators are trying to determine if an attack on a Hindu priest in Queens was a hate crime, police said Sunday. An umbrella-wielding attacker struck a punched the priest near a temple in Floral Park at about 11 a.m. Thursday morning, said cops. Swami Ji Harish Changer Puri, 62, was dressed in his religious garb when he was attacked on 264th St. near 85th Ave. 52-year-old Sergio Gouveia confronted him and said he didn’t want him in the neighborhood, police sources said. Gouveia struck Puri with the umbrella and punched him, cutting his nose, head, chest, arms and legs, said cops.
The scene unfolded about two blocks north of the Shiv Shakti Peeth temple, and about three blocks south of Gouveia’s home.
Patrol officers arrested Gouveia minutes later, and charged him with misdemeanor assault, harassment and weapon possession.
He’s not currently charged with a hate crime, but police sources said the case remains under investigation.
Jewish and Latter-day Saint scholars just had an interfaith dialogue in Jerusalem. Now they’re going to publish a book.
SALT LAKE CITY – At the beginning of June, an event at the BYU Jerusalem Center featuring two prominent religious leaders – Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Rabbi Michael Melchior, the chief rabbi of Norway and a recognized leader in Israel – served as both a highlight and illustration of something even greater that is taking place between the two faiths. Not only did BYU students and other invited guests listen to two insightful keynote addresses and witness firsthand a respectful interfaith dialogue between two faith leaders, but the program set the tone for other dialogues and study sessions held at the Shalom Hartman Institute, the Jerusalem campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and Bar Ilan University for Jewish and Latter-day Saint scholars, said Rabbi Mark Diamond, a professor of Jewish studies at Loyola Marymount University, who was there.
Rabbi Diamond, along with fellow attendees Rabbi Samuel L. Spector of Utah’s Congregation Kol Ami and Brent Top, who served as dean of BYU’s Religious Studies Center from 2013-2018, agree that the Jewish-Latter-day Saint Academic Dialogue Project is building new bridges of common ground and friendship between the two groups.
“The Jewish-Latter-day Saint Academic Dialogue Project has built strong bonds of collegiality, friendship, and fellowship between the participating scholars,” Diamond said. “We share a passion for academic interfaith dialogue and engagement and are equally committed to both the private and public programs of the project.”
On the private academic side, their discussion has moved from topics in which there is a broad agreement between the two faith traditions to more challenging subjects such as supersessionism. On the public side, they have reached out to Jewish and Latter-day Saint communities in California, Utah and now Israel to dispel common misconceptions about one another and share some of the fruits of their interfaith exchanges, Rabbi Diamond said. Since he arrived in Utah last year, Rabbi Spector has had opportunities to meet Latter-day Saint church leaders and shared a photo or two on social media. Some members of his congregation criticized him for meeting with church leaders, but he holds to the belief that Latter-day Saints and Jews share a lot of common narratives, he said.
“With the dialogue and the work I’ve done with the church this year, one of my proudest achievements is now, in just one year, my community has changed so much their view on the church and sees them as friends. You’re not always going to agree on every single thing, but these are our friends,” Rabbi Spector said. “I explain that this is an investment for our community, a way for me to understand and learn more about the church and the dominant religion here in Utah. But likewise, this is a chance for the church to get to know us and our local leadership and to build bridges. If we want to accomplish making Utah a better place, which is something that we have as a shared goal, how can we be effective in this state, if we aren’t building bridges with the church? It’s not possible.”
In addition to the program with Elder Cook and Rabbi Melchior, Jewish scholars and leaders of BYU’s Religious Studies Center jointly participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, and engaged in several interfaith dialogues. The group also made visits to Save A Child’s Heart/Wolfson Medical Center and the Save A Child’s Heart home in Holon, Israel, where they met children from Gaza, the West Bank and Africa who have undergone heart surgeries performed by SACH cardiologists.
“They were deeply moving experiences,” Rabbi Diamond said. “SACH staff members and volunteers know that every child is a child of God, and political, religious and ethnic divisions do not intrude on their lifesaving work.”
The Academic Dialogue started a few years ago when Top was the dean of Religious Studies and hosted a visit by Rabbi Diamond, Steven Windmueller and others. A genuine bond was forged and the Jewish scholars asked how they could be more involved with BYU. That’s how the dialogue group was formed, Top said.
They started out meeting twice a year; once in Utah and once in California. They would present papers, engage in discussions and have public events. One year, BYU professors were invited to speak in a southern California synagogue. Another time Rabbi Diamond participated in a Q&A session with BYU students and spoke in a Latter-day Saint sacrament meeting on the Jewish view of the Sabbath. There have been memorable discussions on Zionism and the gathering of Israel.
“What happened in Jerusalem was an outgrowth of those early years,” Top said. “We always had the goal and dream of having our dialogue meetings in Jerusalem because Jerusalem is near and dear to both traditions.”
Rabbi Spector first attended a dialogue event in Los Angeles shortly after he was appointed the new rabbi of Congregation Kol Ami. The respectful tone and depth of the conversation at the event impressed the young rabbi.
“What immediately made this dialogue different is while still being respectful, I feel like we can have difficult conversations at times,” he said. “Those are conversations I could imagine happening in another dialogue setting without people taking it personally and getting offended. Here there are people who were able to listen, but also not take it personally, but rather look at these criticisms through an academic lens for learning. That was really exciting for me. I felt like I
I could express myself and learn more in this type of dialogue.”
Building on the success of their meetings in Israel, Rabbi Diamond said the group is organizing interfaith conferences in selected cities and sending teams of Jewish and Latter-day Saint scholars to speak about the project on college and seminary campuses, as well as in churches and synagogues. There are also plans to publish a book of academic papers delivered at the first five interfaith conferences.
“We are proud that the volume is set to be jointly published by BYU Press and the Central Conference of American Rabbis Press,” Rabbi Diamond said. “This is a historic first – to have a work co-published by Jewish and Latter-day Saint presses – and we are excited about this development.”
National faith leaders begin ‘Moral Monday’ actions against federal immigration policies
EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Hundreds of faith leaders from multiple denominations and people from across the country came together in Central El Paso Sunday night as part of the ‘Moral Monday at the Borderlands’ Mass meeting. The First Christian Church on Arizona Avenue was packed to capacity as noted speakers including Dr. William J. Barber II, Imam Omar Suleiman, Rev. Terri Horde Owens, and Linda Sarsour, who was one of the co-chairs of the inaugural Women’s March delivered remarks on the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy, migrant detention and family separation. The group was called from around the country to protest current immigration policies that they say are against the morality of their faith teachings.
“Our faiths are on trial here,” Imam Suleiman said. “If you say that Jesus is in your heart, but you would put him in a cage today, you are a hypocrite. If you say that you believe in Moses but you would let him drown, you are a hypocrite. If you say you believe in Abraham, and you are following the footsteps of Abraham but you would turn him away from these borders, you are a hypocrite.”
Those in attendance Sunday came to El Paso from Ohio, California, Florida, and even as far as Canada to participate in the Mass Meeting and Moral Monday direct action. Repairers of the Breach and the Border Network for Human Rights will hold a mass protest action Monday morning. The Moral Monday action is the highlight of the group’s trip and the focus of their time in El Paso.
Previous ‘Moral Monday’ events have led to the arrest of participants who engage in acts of civil disobedience.
Susan Selasky, Detroit Free Press
Birmingham resident Alicia Chandler was upset when she heard that anti-Semitic flyers were appearing in her hometown as well as in Royal Oak. Most disturbing, she said, was that one was found at the entrance to Clover Hill Cemetery, a traditionally Jewish cemetery where many Holocaust survivors are buried. Chandler, the interim executive director for the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC (American Jewish Committee), is the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor.
“It is incredibly disturbing and scary to see these sentiments on the rise in our country and also to be appearing in our hometown where parts of the Jewish community live,” Chandler said. “We do feel targeted,”
The flyers are attributed to the Atomwaffen Division (AWD), a national neo-Nazi network that has been labeled as a terrorist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The messages on the flyers, found in two locations in Birmingham and one in Royal Oak, are disturbing.
More: African-American man becomes president of neo-Nazi group in Detroit One of the anti-Semitic posters put up in Birmingham and attributed to the neo-Nazi hate group, Atomwaffen Division.
Three different flyers were found, all with distinct, vivid messages taking aim directly at Jewish people. One flyer uses a derogatory term for Jews in a headline that references the 6 million victims of Nazi genocide during World War II, then denies the Holocaust ever happened, but said it should have.
“When Holocaust denials are being placed on the gates of a cemetery where Holocaust survivors are buried there’s a sadness to that,” Chandler said. “There’s also a danger to what we feel that these sentiments are on the rise in this country.”
Chandler noted that the flyers ” … appear to deny the Holocaust while simultaneously saying it would be a good idea to kill 6 million Jews.”
Kim Raznik, executive director of Clover Hill Cemetery on 14 Mile in Birmingham, said the flyer was found by their superintendent, Richard Straitz, on July 4. Raznik said they immediately filed a police report.
“We take these things seriously and we reported to the officials,” Raznik said. “I think it’s a concerning topic for t
he entire nation.”
Scott Grewe, patrol commander with the Birmingham Police Department, said two flyers were found in Birmingham’s Poppleton Park. The residents who found them took them down and turned them in to police.
The poster found at the cemetery “was stuck with duct tape underneath the Jewish Star of David on a cement column near the front gate,” he said. Grewe said his department reached out to the Michigan Intelligence Operation Center, a branch of the state police, and learned that MIOC is aware of the group, “but they are not aware of any planned activity or specific event that we need to be concerned with at this specific time.” In Royal Oak, a flyer was found on a light pole near 14 Mile and Hampton, near the Birmingham border, according to Royal Oak Police Lt. Keith Spencer.
“Right now, we will continue to monitor the area and any further incidents,” Spencer said. “At this time we haven’t found that there is an imminent threat to violence.” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit that monitors and exposes hate groups and their activities, Atomwaffen Division “is organized as a series of terror cells that work toward civilizational collapse.” Their members, the website www.splcenter.org says, “can be fairly described as accelerationists, believe that violence, depravity and degeneracy are the only sure way to establish order in their dystopian and apocalyptic vision of the world.”
On the website RationalWiki, Brandon Clint Russell is listed as AWD’s founder.
Last September, anti-Semitic flyers featuring crude caricatures of Jewswere discovered outside the First United Methodist Church in Ferndale and reported to police. The black-and-white flyers were taped to three entrances of the church and expressed support for the controversial far-right websites The Daily Stormer and Infowars.com.
BAHA’I WORLD CENTRE
In the second podcast episode about Baha’i Houses of Worship, Felipe Duhart and Eduardo Rioseco of Chile, Santos Odhiambo of Uganda, and M. A. Ghanbari of India explore the impact that Temples are having on visitors and on surrounding populations. Creating a sacred space open to all has given rise to greater consciousness of and action for the betterment of society.
“Service is the way to transform ourselves and society,” explains Mr. Rioseco. “And in the Houses of Worship, really you can find many avenues to do that. It’s a question that each visitor and each person that interacts with the House of Worship takes home. How do we keep transforming ourselves and society-in our neighborhood, in our family, in our workplace? Wherever we interact with others this question accompanies us. And the Temple inspires us in all those places.”
The interviews followed a unique gathering last month at the Baha’i World Centre, where more than 30 individuals gathered to explore what is being learned about all 10 Temples currently in operation. The participants hailed from Australia, Cambodia, Chile, Colombia, Germany, India, Panama, Samoa, Uganda, and the United States.
Part one of their discussion can be heard at this website:
Interfaith vigil held after mass shooting
In the wake of the two mass shootings that occurred within 13 hours of each other this weekend, the First Church United Church of Christ of Phoenix hosted a candlelight interfaith vigil to mourn the victims of the shootings. The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Phoenix worked to help bring the vigil together.
“There is no place for hate in Phoenix. There is no place for hate in Arizona,” Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said to vigil attendees. “It is the 216th day of the year. We have already had 251 mass shootings in this country. That is 251 too many. We must demand change. I am not here to offer prayers, but hopeful words for action.”
The vigil was a communal response to a devastating week- end. On Saturday, a shooter killed 22 and injured more than two dozen at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. On Sunday, another shooter opened fire at a popular nightclub in the Oregon District in Dayton, Ohio, killing nine people and injuring 20. The president and dean of Valley Beit Midrash, Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz, quickly joined the interfaith coalition to help plan the vigil interfaith vigil. Hate wins, he told the gathered mourners, “when it makes us cynical, when it gives us a negative view on the human condition. We come together because we dare not accept the mass shootings as acceptable, as normal. We dare not give up hope in this country and we dare not give white supremacy the upper hand.”
Arizona Faith Network Executive Director Rev. Katie Sexton also spoke at the vigil.
“We are here tonight, again,” Sexton said. “‘Again’ is a word that no one hopes to say as we gather to mourn the mass casualties of the mass shootings. But again, we say tonight we are here, again.”
The JCRC was motivated to help organize the vigil, said JCRC Executive Director Paul Rockower, “because we wanted to help the Jewish community share its sadness and grief alongside other faith communities of the Valley. This was a means for us to express our collective condolences to the families and communities affected by these tragedies, and to understand the ramifications of xenophobia and gun violence, as means to counter these horrific incidents.”
Multiple spiritual and community leaders at the event called for the denouncement of hate-filled acts of violence and the ban of military-grade firearms such as assault rifles.
After the vigil, Yanklowitz talked about the Jewish perspective on gun ownership and the Second Amendment. “Jewish law is clear on two points,” Yanklowitz said. “Firstly, that we must protect ourselves. Secondly, that we must remove dangerous objects from our homes and from society. It is clear that the current regulations in place fall very short of what Jewish law and values require in ensuring a safe society to protect our children.”
Rabbi Bonnie Sharfman of Congregation Kehillah added that there are cases in the Torah that allow for killing a home invader, and provided examples of the Israelites arming themselves. She also referenced The Talmud Avodah Zarah chapter 15b, which states that it is prohibited to sell a weapon to someone who might kill. “When this was all being written, no one could have possibly predicted that there would be assault weapons like the ones used in the shootings,” Sharfman said. “There is a difference between owning a handgun and an assault weapon that can cause just horrific carnage and should only be used by the military.”
In Arizona, there is no permit, background check or firearms registration required when buying a handgun from a private individual. The purchaser only needs to be 18 years old. The minimum age requirement to buy a gun from a federally licensed dealer is 21. There is no ban on assault weapon sales in Arizona.
Arizona does have some restrictions on who can purchase a gun. Prohibited possessors include those convicted of a felony, undocumented aliens or anyone who is considered a threat to themselves and others. As a constitutional carry state, Arizona does not require an individual to have a permit for concealed carry. The state is the third in modern U.S. history to allow the carrying of concealed weapons without a permit, and it is the first state with a large urban population to do so. Yanklowitz doesn’t believe in banning gun ownership, but he said he wishes there were more sensible and responsible regulations in place to protect families.
“I have found most gun owners to be quite hostile toward studying the Jewish values on this approach,” Yanklowitz said. “For many, their specific interpretation of the Second Amendment was revealed at Sinai.”
Sharfman said that she doesn’t want to go to another vigil and hopes more can be accomplished at the legislative level.
“You should keep praying, sending good thoughts and attending vigils,” Sharfman said. “But this is also a legislative issue, and there’s a lot of power we have in how we vote.” Jewish News of Arizona
No more green tea, vaping or drinks ending in ‘-ccino,’ Mormon Church tells members
The Washington Post by Marisa Lati
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wants to make clear that vaping, green tea and fancy coffee drinks are off limits under the religion’s dietary code meant to keep members from consuming unhealthy substances. Church leaders on Thursday pointed to a recent article in New Era, the church’s magazine for young people, reminding them that the Word of Wisdom prohibits “hot drinks” – understood to mean tea and coffee – and harmful or habit-forming substances. E-cigarettes are highly addictive, “iced tea is still tea,” and any drink ending in “-ccino” probably has coffee and therefore breaks the rules, the church wrote. Recreational marijuana is also banned, church leaders said, but medical marijuana and opioids are fine when used as prescribed by a doctor. The church had previously said it approved of medical marijuana in certain circumstances, but last year it opposed a medical marijuana bill in Utah that it said went too far.
Still, experts and church members said the clarifications raised as many questions as they answered: Why is iced tea off limits if it’s cold? What’s the church’s stance on coffee-flavored desserts? Are drinks with green-tea extract okay?
To Lauren Lethbridge, editor of Brigham Young University’s student newspaper, the Universe, following the Word of Wisdom is about obedience to the church. She said her friends have been talking about the clarification that green tea violates the rules because several of them drink juices with green-tea extract. Many of them feel fine about the extract, Lethbridge said, but one friend vowed to throw out her drinks immediately. “I think people are still concerned and a little stressed about ‘Does this qualify?’ or ‘Is this bad?’ ” said Lethbridge, 21. “But I think less people are having it be a major concern for them.”
The Word of Wisdom is a section of the Doctrine and Covenants, one of the church’s four volumes of scripture. Mormons believe God revealed in 1833 the foods and substances that are good and bad for people to consume. Liquor, tobacco, tea and coffee were prohibited. Heber Grant, who was a church president, decided in the 20th century to drill down on the rules and to make adherence a prerequisite for entering a Mormon temple, said Gregory Prince, a historian of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Beer and wine were initially acceptable, while liquor was not. Eventually, Prince said, all alcohol became off limits. Church members in recent years have debated whether soda, which – like coffee and tea – typically has caffeine, is prohibited. After prominent church member and then-Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney attracted attention in 2012 for drinking Diet Coke on the campaign trail, the church clarified that it has no rule against caffeine itself. The church tends to issue clarifications when it gets a lot of questions about the same substance or when it realizes members in different locations are not on the same page, Prince said. He said church members also vary in how closely they follow the Word of Wisdom, which he called “a living document.” Adhering to the dietary rules signals to others that someone is a church member, Prince said. He said the practice is similar to how Jews might keep kosher as a way of demonstrating their faith.
“This is how we self-identify within our tribe,” Prince said. “This is your outward living of your inward religion.”
Contradictions abound between the text of the Word of Wisdom and members’ 21st-century consumption habits, said Taylor Petrey, a religion professor at Kalamazoo College. Most families develop their own interpretations of the rules, he said. Some Mormon households might eat coffee-flavored ice cream, for example, while others would not. Church members believe in continuing revelation, which means that prophets interpret the scriptures for changing times, said Jana Riess, a columnist for Religion News Service and the author of “The Next Mormons.” She said the church is trying to keep up with a changing culture and the availability of new foods and other substances. “It feels like the church is trying so hard to keep up with some of the newer questions that are being raised about these drinks or about substances … but it’s not necessarily a slam-dunk in terms of clarity,” Riess said.
Riess said there’s also a generational gap: Older Mormons are more likely to be dogmatic about the Word of Wisdom, while young members tend to follow the rules less closely. In a study Riess conducted and wrote about in March, 40 percent of millennial or Generation X church members said they had consumed caffeinated coffee in the past six months. Thirty-eight percent of members with permission to enter the temples said they had consumed at least one of the forbidden substances.
Despite the continuous debate about interpretation, Riess said the Word of Wisdom is not supposed to be a list of commandments with defined borders. She cited a quote from church founder Joseph Smith that she said was meant to guide members’ dietary choices: “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.” “People really want to know what the rules are, where the boundaries are, how far is too far,” Riess said. “I feel sorry for the leaders of the church in trying to respond to this because I think that they would much rather have members understand that they have good principles and can govern themselves.”