September 2020

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events 
 
Wednesday, September 9th and Thursday, September 10th, North American Interfaith Network Conferences – See Flyer Below
 
Tuesday, December 8, 7:00 PM Five Women Five Journeys
Insight Through Education, Inc.” Irma Blauner, V.P. for Programming, Palm Spring, FL.
 

RELIGIOUS DIVERSITY JOURNEYS LEAD TO THE HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL CENTER

By: Stacy Gittleman
Newsletter Editor of the
InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit

Aleena Malik, 15, is a rising sophomore at Troy High School. In the seventh grade, she participated as a Religious Diversity Journeys (RDJ) Ambassador, a program of the InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit. Malik said RDJ opened her eyes and mind about different religions and hopes that more of her high school peers can find ways to learn to dispel myths and misinformation about religions that differ from their own.
Growing up in a Muslim family, she learned a little bit about Judaism and Christianity  “because these religions are intertwined with Islam.”  But being involved in RDJ also exposed her to learn about Hinduism and the Bahai faith, she said.
In her own faith practice, Malik has drawn much joy and teachings from Islam. All her life, she has been taught the values of honesty, modesty and giving to others along with the five pillars of Islam. She grew up listening to stories of the time her father went on Haj to Mecca. She loved hearing how every Muslim pilgrim dressed in white as they walk around the Kaaba so all are seen as equals regardless of their racial or socioeconomic background. Someday, she hopes to go on her own Haj.
One of the standout experiences for Malik during RDJ was when her group visited the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills. There, a Holocaust survivor led the group through the museum and gave their own account of persecution, suffering, and survival.
“I was so blown away by this experience I brought my family back there for a visit,” said Malik. “By taking this trip with RDJ, I learned the importance of never remaining passive or silent during times that people are persecuted for their religion.”
Now that she is in high school, Malik’s RDJ experiences have got her thinking that her high school peers should also be more informed about religions that differ from their own.
“Many kids do not have a clue about different religions,” said Malik. “For example, there are not that many Jewish kids at my high school. While there are different religious clubs (like a Christian and Muslim Student associations), I would like to see an interfaith club where students can learn about different beliefs and traditions. Lots of times, kids carry religious stereotypes, and having an interfaith club would help clarify a lot of these stereotypes.”
Like all students, Malik hopes that she can return to high school in person, at least part of the time, in the fall. She loves to play sports such as tennis and volleyball and enjoys hiking and nature. This summer, she is keeping a journal as well as meeting up with friends and taking a few classes online.
(for more stories and statement on the IFLC’s impact in the Metro Detroit community go to https://www.detroitinterfaithcouncil.com/ 

COVID hajj restrictions leave streets of Mecca empty, pilgrimage businesses in trouble
 

 
MECCA, Saudi Arabia (RNS) – Saeed Khan is a 58-year-old Pakistani business owner living and working in Mecca, and this is the first time in 30 years that he is not performing hajj. In the past, as many as 2 million Muslims have made the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. This year, in efforts to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, Mecca has opened its door to only a fraction of that number.
“Health determinants are the basis for selecting pilgrims residing in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and there will be no exceptions to anyone during this year’s hajj season,” the
According to the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, those already residing in the country who have not previously performed hajj, are not government officials and are between 20 and 65 years old could apply for a hajj permit, which usually costs between $1,000 and $1,200. Initially, about 10,000 people were expected to perform hajj this year. Most (70%) would be non-Saudis residing in the country, while Saudi citizens would make up the rest.
However, the number of people approved for hajj has been significantly lower.
Before being allowed entry into the holy city, pilgrims have had to also adhere to a “house confinement,” within their own homes, for a few days and then also be tested to ensure they do not have COVID-19 before being allowed to enter the holy city.
On arrival, all pilgrims performing hajj this year have stayed in a select number of four- and five-star hotels in Mecca, including Four Points by Sheraton, where social distancing and other protocols had already been implemented with consultancy from health officials. Other health-related plans for hajj include, not unlike previous years, a number of field hospitals, clinics and ambulances. Hundreds of Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, as they observe social distancing to protect against the coronavirus, in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on July 29, 2020. During the first rites of hajj, Muslims circle the Kaaba counter-clockwise seven times while reciting supplications to God, then walk between two hills where Ibrahim’s wife, Hagar, is believed to have run as she searched for water for her dying son before God brought forth a well that runs to this day.
However, due to the significantly fewer pilgrims this year, only a limited number of local doctors and other medical staff have been relocated to ritual sites.
“Our work hours are usually extended to 12 hours instead of eight during two weeks around hajj, and every second or third year, I have had to cover a three- to five-day shift at a hospital at Arafat or Mina,” said Dr. Shabeeh Haider, an ear, nose and throat specialist working for a public hospital. “But nobody from the hospital I work for has longer than normal duty hours this year, nor has anyone been asked to work from the hajj sites.”
Strict measures are in place to ensure only those with a permit enter Mecca.
Every year, just days before hajj, entry into Mecca gets restricted to just those with a hajj permit or those who are residents of the city. However, within the city, security is traditionally more relaxed, allowing residents to slip in and out of areas where the rituals are performed fairly easily.
“But they can’t really keep people from Mecca from performing; it is easy to slip through if you live here, so somehow I have managed to perform (the rituals) every year since I first moved here,” said Khan. “But this year is different.”
This year all roads directly leading to an area of hajj ritual have been shut off a week in advance to prevent Mecca residents without permits from taking part in the rituals. At least 200 people have also been caught and fined or arrested for entering the holy city without permits in the week leading up to hajj, and Mecca residents have all been receiving text messages informing them of the fines for breaking the ban.
“We haven’t visited the Grand Mosque since March when, before COVID-19, I would go at least once a week. Even Ramadan, which is more of a lively and busy time here than anywhere else in the world, was spent under lockdown, and now the time of hajj is also feeling so barren,” Khan said. “Of course, this is the responsible thing to do and I respect the difficult decision the government made to value health over profits, but it is also emotionally a little difficult.”
For many residents of the city, however, the economic challenges are becoming increasingly difficult. According to the Mecca Chamber of Commerce and Industry, about a quarter of the private sector’s income in the region around Mecca and Medina depends on pilgrimage. More than 19 million pilgrims visited Mecca in 2019 for umrah, a smaller pilgrimage that can be performed yearlong; a significant proportion of those pilgrims visited during the holy month of Ramadan.
Last year 2.5 million pilgrims performed hajj. Tourism provides the source of income for many residents of Mecca, many of whom are migrants and undocumented workers. Mecca maintained the longest round-the-clock lockdown in Saudi Arabia; it was first implemented on April 2 and wasn’t fully lifted until late June.
“I’d make more in Ramadan and hajj seasons than I would in four other months combined,” said Anwar Yaseen, a taxi driver from India who is living in Mecca. “This year’s Ramadan was the most difficult time I have had financially in my life. Things are returning to normalcy now but only a little.”
Ramadan took place between April and May this year and Mecca was in a consistent lockdown throughout. “It is a really strange time,” said Abdullah Al Maghrabi, a 27-year-old native of the city. “Never in my life did I expect the city to be so eerily quiet during hajj. My friends and I would always spend our evenings of the days before and after hajj in neighborhoods where lots of pilgrims would stay, get to know people from all over the world, and tell them about our lives here. This year is sad.”
Al Maghrabi works for his family business, a three-star hotel that caters to pilgrims. He said the hotel has been in a financial crisis since April.

A Synagogue and a Black church search for shared history with a walk through a once-integrated neighborhood
By Ari Feldman
(The Forward)

Half of the students in the Zoom class were from Liberty Grace Church of God, a Black Baptist church in Baltimore. The other half attended the Jewish day school affiliated with Beth Tfiloh Congregation, in the Baltimore suburbs. One teacher was Black and Christian. The other was white and Jewish. Over a week in July, they gathered together on Zoom to plan an iPad-guided historical walking tour of the city’s Forest Park section, which in the 1950s and early 1960s was integrated – Black and Jewish. And one day, they hosted two guests who were children in the neighborhood at that time. One of those people, now the executive director of the synagogue, remembered the amusement park she used to love going to during the summer, Gwynn Oak Park. The other guest, a Black congregant of Liberty Grace, added an important detail: The park was whites only.
“It was one of those moments you’ll remember your whole life,” said Susan Holzman Biggs, one of the two teachers, who is also an administrator at the Beth Tfiloh school, in an interview. “Hearing those kinds of stories firsthand from the people who lived them was important for everybody, the adults and the kids.”
Since the police killing in May of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the oppression of Black Americans has dominated the national conversation, and many white American Jews are looking at their community’s role and responsibilities. These two Baltimore congregations, capitalizing on a relationship that began five years ago, are remembering the community African Americans and Jews once made, which Jews left.
‘No different than the knee on George Floyd’s neck’ The two communities first connected when Rev. Dr. Terris King of Liberty Grace visited Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg of Beth Tfiloh in Wohlberg’s office in Pikesville, a suburb in northwestern Baltimore home to about 70,000 Jews.
The reverend had come with a proposition. He’d learned that the abandoned bowling alley in his church’s basement-closed down by the previous congregation that owned the building-had once been a center of communal life when the Forest Park and adjacent Ashburton neighborhoods were integrated. Did Beth Tfiloh want to partner on rebuilding it?
“I walked in to tell him, we need your help. This was the home of your people,” Rev. King said in an interview. “And I want my people to have a standard of living as a community, equal to, if not greater, than what you have. That’s what started this process.”
Image by Courtesy of Beth Tfiloh
Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg, left, and Rev. Dr. Terris King II, right.
The meeting led to a friendship between the two faith leaders, and their flocks. Liberty Grace is a non-denominational church with 250 members, founded in the living room of the elder King’s mother – a rare woman-led church in Baltimore. Beth Tfiloh is a large Modern Orthodox synagogue whose congregants are primarily observant Jews. Yet Rev. King said he and Wohlberg have been amazed by the similarities between them. After long careers – Wohlberg’s 40 years at Beth Tfiloh, Rev. King’s 25 at Liberty Grace – they felt confident enough to try a unique, unprecedented partnership in Baltimore. (Rev. King also worked full-time as a healthcare executive in the federal government.) They both like fast cars, and good jokes.
“The major things we have that’s different is three things: You’re Jewish, I’m Baptist, you’re short, I’m tall; you’re white, I’m Black,” Rev. King said. “Virtually everything else, we’re on the same page.”
Since King and Wohlberg met, Beth Tfiloh has hosted Liberty Grace’s children’s choir to sing with the synagogue’s own children’s choir, and the two congregations have participated in several “culinary exchanges,” where women from the two communities cook together (in the synagogue’s kosher kitchen) and then serve the food for kiddush luncheon the following Saturday. Each Shabbat before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Liberty Grace’s congregation comes to Beth Tfiloh, where Rev. King gives a sermon. The deepening relationship between Beth Tfiloh and Liberty Grace has also forced the Jewish congregation to face facts about poor Black life in Baltimore.
In one visit to the synagogue, Rev. King described how the public schools in his neighborhood do not have WiFi, crippling the learning abilities of the children. Wohlberg said his congregation was shocked.
“On the most simple and basic level, what chance does this seven-year-old Black kid have if their school doesn’t have WiFi?” Wohlberg said in an interview. “And people could relate to that – that was no different than the knee on George Floyd’s neck.”
White flight, Jewish flight
Starting in 1934, with the creation of the Federal Housing Administration during the New Deal, white developers used redlining to keep both Jews and Black people out of many neighborhoods. Even Jewish developers who were major philanthropists in their communities upheld the restrictive covenants. Jewish neighborhoods, beginning with western Baltimore’s one-time Garment District, were largely graded as undesirable on redlining maps from the time, but Black neighborhoods were considered worse. For that reason, as first wealthier German Jews, then Eastern European Jews, moved northwest out of Baltimore’s center, realtors would rent the neighborhoods they left only to Black people, creating the conditions for ghettos that still exist.
“Once Jews moved out, the assumption was that realtors would only show the properties to African-Americans,” said Paige Glotzer, an assistant professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of “How the Suburbs Were Segregated.” “It was gonna be Jewish, then it was gonna be African-American.”
That meant that Jewish communities were at the forefront of white flight among white ethnicities in various cities, including Baltimore, Glotzer said.
In 1966, Beth Tfiloh moved its synagogue – established in Forest Park in the early 1920s – to Pikesville, severing the Jewish community’s last connection to the city neighborhood. Parts of the area remained middle class, while others declined. Wohlberg said his congregation is made up of people who themselves joined Beth Tfiloh in Pikesville, as well as the children they raised in the suburbs. “This Jewish knowledge of what was going on is very, very much real,” Wohlberg said. “They made the history.”
The areas are now divided by Northern Parkway. North of the parkway, the average life expectancy is about 82 years. If you’re born to the south of the road, it drops to 68.
The tour, and the iPad app it is built on, is the brainchild of Terris King II, the son of Liberty Grace’s pastor. He’s a kindergarten teacher who moved home during the pandemic after a decade abroad teaching at the Shanghai American School. He is calling the project Temple X: The “Temple” represents inter-religious cooperation, and the “X” is for experiential learning. The Forest Park/Ashburton walking tour tells the fictional story of two friends, a white and Jewish girl and a Black and Christian girl, as they show the viewer what their lives were like in their neighborhood.
By pointing an iPad camera at stickers with QR codes pasted on or near historic buildings, the children on the tour will be able to see and hear speakers and images from the past in “augmented reality,” which uses the iPad screen to, for example, show archival photographs of a former synagogue over the place it used to be. King II said that the program has a safety team to accompany the families. The elementary school students from Liberty Grace and Beth Tfiloh’s Dahan Community School – in third through sixth grades – who participated in the Zoom classes helped set the route for the tour (remotely, on Google Maps) after learning about the neighborhood’s history with King II and Holzman Biggs, though they have yet to go on the tour themselves.
Teaching the shared history to the children is the first step to bringing Baltimore’s Black and Jewish communities closer together, as they were 70 years ago, King II said.
“The people who are gonna thrive in the future are the people who are gonna understand other cultures,” he said.
Wohlberg said his community has enthusiastically embraced the walking tour project as a way to further their relationship with Liberty Grace, and engaging with the fraught history of the Jewish community’s movement from Baltimore’s center to its perimeter.
“This is not a matter of putting up a sign: Black Lives Matter,” said Wohlberg. “It’s a matter of learning who we are.”
The tour app, in technical development for more than a month, is launching on August 18, with an in-person tour for both communities.
The Beth Tfiloh community has provided funding and Holzman’s time for the Temple X project, and has put Liberty Grace in touch with Jewish foundations to begin discussions about further funding.
Beth Tfiloh has also partnered with Towson University and Liberty Grace to begin rebuilding the bowling alley where Black people and Jews rolled side by side, Rev. King said.
This walking tour is the first in a global project, King II said, to create a platform for communities around the world to make their own tours and engage the students that are simply too young to do all of their learning via Zoom.
“We want to destroy the digital divide, but also the cultural divide between our communities,” he said. “The reason we’re starting here is that there’s a lot of turmoil between the Black and white Jewish community.”
While the older elementary students did not shy away from asking about race in the past – Did you attend the same schools? Could you go to the same hospitals? – the walking tour they helped make will not feature the Jewish community’s exit or its aftermath, since it is meant as the first foray for younger students into this fraught history.
“Our goal isn’t to tap dance around the issues,” said King. “But our goal is to forcefully at a young age, teach them about the good things that have happened, and over time we can talk to them about the other things that have happened as well.”
But King II said he has been impressed with the Jewish community’s level of engagement in actually creating the app.
“We are gonna speak the truth,” he said. “And it’s not about speaking truth to some power structure, but about speaking truth to individuals that are gonna sit at the table with us.”

How Families Are Finding God, Grace and Faith Outside a House of Worship
Parents say they miss the religious communities that were a big part of their lives, but they are finding ways to practice their faith with their children.
In the Jacobs home, Shabbat has become synonymous with two things: Facebook Live and Shira Averbuch, the ukulele-playing, golden-voiced singer who serves as the artist-in-residence at B’nai Jeshurun, a nearly 200-year-old synagogue on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
“Shabbat Shalom!” she begins, warmly greeting each of the children listening from home. “I’m so happy you’re all here. Should we start getting ready for Shabbat? What do you think?”
Avery Jacobs, 3, often sings along to the “Bim Bam” song in her family’s Manhattan apartment or in the patio of her grandparents’ home on Long Island. When Averbuch tells the kids that she’s feeling “that Shabbat feeling” in her heart, their parents respond in the comments: They feel it in their head. Their hair. “Avery feels it in her feet!” writes Lindsay Jacobs, 33, Avery’s mother. Weeks later, she said, “Seeing Shira’s face has been the one piece of comfort we’ve had through this whole thing.”

Shabbat, the seventh day of rest in the Jewish tradition, is a time of joy, relaxation and worship. Likewise, Eid al-Adha, the Muslim feast of the sacrifice held at the end of July, is a celebration. And on Sundays, Christians gather to pray, sing and receive sacraments. But none of those rituals have played out as they usually do. One of the cruelties of the coronavirus is that it has led places of worship to not only strip away in-person religious traditions, but also modify or eliminate community gatherings all at a time when the faithful – still reeling from the effects of an unrelenting pandemic – need them most. For families with young children, this presents an especially big challenge: Without in-person religious education or volunteer activities, how do parents keep kids engaged in their religion? How can a family “love thy neighbor as thyself” in a world where close social interaction is discouraged?
Carrie Willard, 42, an administrator at Rice University, said that for her two boys, 12 and 9, the “big-C challenge” is the ability to see God in other people rather than casting judgment because they aren’t making the same choices. But what she and many other families continue to grieve is the loss of their in-person community, especially during the holidays.
“Easter was this weird but not terrible thing,” Willard said. Their church was closed, so her family lit a fire pit in their yard and her husband, who is the rector at Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in Houston, read a sermon. “It was really lovely” she said. “And I think that’s what we’ll remember, I hope.” Willard’s family and others are finding new ways to express their faith and imbue their children with notions of grace and giving, even if the circumstances aren’t ideal.”Nothing can fully take the place of the communal face-to-face gatherings of religious communities,” said Tyler J. VanderWeele, Ph.D., an epidemiologist and co-director of the Initiative on Health, Religion and Spirituality at Harvard University. Dr. VanderWeele and his colleagues have examined how religious upbringing and religious service attendance can shape the lives of adolescents. Their 2018 study found that, among the adolescents studied, attending religious services at least once a week was associated with greater life satisfaction, lower probabilities of marijuana use, greater frequency of volunteering and fewer lifetime sexual partners.
In-person services are also meaningful for parents. A 2017 Pew Research Center survey found that of those U.S. adults surveyed who attended church at least once a month, two-thirds said they did so to give their children a moral foundation, to become better people, and for comfort in times of trouble or sorrow.
Asma Uddin, 40, an author and religious liberty lawyer, said having community events, like celebrating Eid together or attending Muslim summer camp, “gives you a sense that there are people like us.”
Uddin, who lives in Rockville, Md., described how slowing down during Ramadan this spring was “spiritually uplifting,” but if there continue to be fewer traditional in-person gatherings, she is concerned that her children might not learn how essential religious community is to their Muslim identity. Victor Rodriguez, 55, and his wife, Juana Rodriguez, 46, members of the Church of the Ascension, a Roman Catholic Church in Manhattan, have similar worries. He and his family of six attended church in person every Sunday, but now only he and his wife watch mass on YouTube at 9 a.m. on Sundays. Their four children, ages 14, 13, 8, and 5, used to volunteer at the church’s food pantry, which was mainly staffed by kids. But when the pandemic hit, it was no longer considered safe for them to participate and the adults took over.
“It’s real difficult,” said Victor Rodriguez, an unemployed carpenter. Even so, he added, “we have to learn to live with this right now. We have to take precautions for us and others.”
The pandemic has led some church leaders to worry about whether families will return to church when in-person services resume. Church membership has already fallen sharply over the past two decades, and an increasing number of Americans say they have no religious preference. But an April survey from Gallup, conducted during the early days of the pandemic in the United States, found that of those who were members of a church, synagogue or mosque, about half had worshipped virtually within the past seven days, and another 6 percent had worshipped in person.
Ed Brojan, 53, a member of the Chesapeake Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Baltimore, said his family has opted out of the small, in-person gatherings permitted by their church because he and his wife are nurses who want to help protect their community by remaining socially distanced. But they and their two children, 15 and 13, hold a sacrament service at home, something male members of the church can do if they become a priesthood holder.
“I definitely miss the feeling of community, the feeling of fellowship,” Brojan said, referring to the services of yore.
The lack of community also has been tough for Holley Barreto, 40, a baker and cooking instructor, as well as her husband and their two children, who are 11 and 10.
“That’s been a real loss for us when we can’t physically gather with church members,” said Barreto, whose family participated in activities at Nassau Presbyterian Church in Princeton, N.J., throughout the week. “That’s taken away a lot of what we really leaned on.”
About a month ago, Catholic churches were permitted to reopen in New York City, and churches have fought to reopen in other parts of the country, too. Some families did not hesitate to return.

“I am kind of honestly tired of doing all this online stuff,” said Robert Farina-Mosca, 54, who is now attending in-person services at Holy Trinity, a Roman Catholic church in Manhattan, with his 11-year-old son.

In the absence of any formal religious education, his son has been making cards that are delivered along with food donations. On one of the cards he drew a platter with two chicken legs and wrote “Enjoy your meal.” Then, on the inside: “Even though I don’t know you, I still care about you.”
Experts say small, simple gestures like those can help guide children in the tenets of their faith. Corrie Berg, the director of educational ministries at Nassau Presbyterian Church, is empathetic to the many responsibilities parents are shouldering right now.
“I just don’t think our parents particularly have the bandwidth to be creating – or even just following – at-home Bible studies or devotions or simple readings,” Berg said. “All of that requires uploads, downloads, links, clicks, print outs – and as a parent, especially with littler ones, you’re just like: ‘I can’t even. There’s no way.'”
Her philosophy is to “do less, better.”
David Zahl, a young adult minister at Christ Episcopal Church in Charlottesville, Va., agrees.
Zahl, the author of “Seculosity,” a book about how parenting, career and other worldly things have become like a religion, said parents often tell him how they feel guilty for missing religious services online. “It’s a mix of anxiety and deep fatigue,” he said.
Zoom church for young kids, with a few exceptions, is pretty much a nonstarter, he acknowledged.
“The first thing I want to say to them is, ‘It’s OK. Cross that off your list. God is not mad at you,'” Zahl said.
David Carey, 48, a hospice chaplain, said that before the pandemic he regularly attended services at The Refuge Church where he lives in Windham, Maine, and his twin boys, who are 5, went to Sunday school. But now everything is online and they’re “Zoom-ed out,” he said.
So he started playing Christian children’s songs at home and singing them when he and his family spend time outside.
“I remember thinking, and even praying, ‘Lord, how will they ever get to know any of this stuff?’ And then all of a sudden they start singing this on their own,” he said. “I’ve learned music is a way to transcend a lot of things.” Similar to Carey, Maggie Sandusky, 30, along with her husband, who is a student minister at Calvary Baptist Church in Nacogdoches, Tex., about three hours southeast of Dallas, believes that they are the primary people who teach their 3-year-old twins about faith.
“If we say that we believe God gives us grace for every day, how can we be modeling that for our kids?” she said.
In some respects, Zahl said, the pandemic could be considered an opportunity to help children better understand their religion.
“For parents who see things like prayer, spiritual conversation, asking for forgiveness, and overall modeling of grace in practice as the heart of their faith, well, the pandemic has been something of a gold mine,” he said.

13 nuns at Livonia convent died
 from COVID-19, report finds
Sister Rosanne Marie Glaza crowns the statue of Our Lady on May 1 during a ceremony at the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Convent in Livonia. (Photo: Felician Sisters of North America)
COVID-19 has led to the deaths of 13 nuns at a convent in Livonia in the last three months, religious officials report.
A dozen members in the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Felix of Cantalice, or Felician Sisters, died after battling the virus between Good Friday on April 10 and May 10, while a 13th associated death was reported on June 27, according to the Global Sisters Report released Monday. The nonprofit outlet is a project of the National Catholic Reporter publishing company.
The Detroit Catholic, another publication that covers the Catholic community in southeast Michigan, reported that as many as 22 sisters at the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Convent had tested positive for the coronavirus through early May.
The nuns at the 360-acre campus, who ranged in age from 69 to 99, included teachers, a librarian and a secretary in the Vatican Secretariat of State, the Global Sisters Report said.
Meanwhile, at least 19 other sisters have died in the United States during the pandemic, according to the article, which said the Livonia deaths “may be the worst loss of life to a community of women religious since the 1918 influenza pandemic.”
Representatives with the Felician Sisters of North America did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.
In a statement released July 8, Sister Mary Christopher Moore, the order’s provincial minister, said another older Felician sister had recently died “due to the residual effects of the coronavirus, which can cause continuing difficulties with other chronic medical conditions.”
“Some of our Sisters who have had COVID-19 are struggling to recover from a variety of effects, including continuing weakness, respiratory issues and more,” Moore said. “We ask for your prayers as we support them in their recovery. At the same time, we are moving forward with slowly loosening the tight restrictions under which Sisters in our convents, especially our larger convents, have operated for more than three months.”
News of the nuns’ deaths comes as coronavirus infections rise in Michigan.

State officials on Monday confirmed seven deaths and 489 cases. The seven-day average of new coronavirus cases in the state has risen to 632 daily, up from 476 a day for the previous seven-day period, according to state data.

South Florida Rabbi Helps Deliver Interfaith Prayer During DNC Closing
A South Florida rabbi appeared on a giant stage at the Democratic National Convention Thursday night, offering the national audience a prayer as the event wrapped up. Rabbi Lauren Berkun, who lives in Aventura, was invited to help deliver the interfaith closing benediction on the fourth and final night of the DNC.
“I wanted to bring a message of comfort, and hopefully a message of unity,” Rabbi Berkun said in an interview before her benediction aired on the televised broadcast. She and her husband Johnathan Berkun are a powerhouse rabbinic team in Northeast Miami-Dade County: he’s the longtime rabbi at the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center, and she’s the vice president of Rabbinic Initiatives for the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America. Rabbi Lauren’s address took place right after Joe Biden accepted his party’s nomination to be the next President and delivered his remarks.
“I wanted to craft a message that would reflect Jewish values, but also be accessible to all Americans across religious and political differences,” she said. “I wanted to bring a message of hope, a call to action.”
She chose to quote the Book of Psalms in her 40 second message, and recorded it right in the living room of her Aventura home. During the broadcast, an Imam and a priest virtually helped Berkun deliver the benediction. “I think in this time of the pandemic, when we have been spending so much time in our homes, we are thinking about our homes in new ways, and the meaning of home,” Rabbi Berkun said. “And I think that is really what it means in this election season, as we think about the future leadership of this country.” “We’re thinking about what kind of national home we want to create.”

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