Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events
March through June, 2017
Exploring Our Religious Landscapes
Immersive Experiences in Religion and Culture
See flyer below!
Thursday, April 13, 12-3 pm
Five Women Five Journeys Presentation
Oakland Community college
Highland Lakes Campus
7350 Cooley Lake Rd.
Waterford, MI. 48327
Wednesday, April 26, 7 pm
Five Women Five Journeys Presentation
St. John Fisher Chapel
3665 Walton Blvd.
Auburn Hills, Mi.
Sunday, April 30th, 3:00 – 6:00 PM
Sounds of the Spirit – a musical performance and discussiion
about music and prayer
Christ Church Cranbrook
470 Church Rd., Bloomfield HIlls
See Flyer Below
Wednesday, May 10th, 7:00 PM
Five Women Five Journeys Presentation
St. Hugo of the Hills Catholic Church
2215 Opdyke Rd., Bloomfield Hills
Wednesday, May 17th, 8:00 PM
Showing of the film “Hummus: The Movie”
Berman Center, 6600 W. Maple Rd, West Bloomfield
See Flyer Below
Sunday, October 15th, 2017, 5:00 PM – 8:30 PM
Tenth Anniversary Celebration of WISDOM
North Congregational Church
36520 W. 12 Mile Road, Farmington Hills, 48331
MAKE A JOYFUL NOISE
On a Sunday in April, the community is invited to the first of a two-part series exploring the place of music in worship across faith traditions. Rev. Dr. William Danaher, Rector of Christ Church Cranbrook will moderate a panel discussion and introduce musical presentations on music in the Abrahamic faiths. Presentations will begin with a sacred wave gong immersion by Christopher Davis a natural healing arts practitioner, whose specialties include using sound therapy and energy medicine for spiritual, mental, emotional and physical healing. This will be followed by organ and Christian music with Christopher Wells.
Hazzan Steve Klaper, spiritual storyteller, minstrel and Jewish teacher, is an ordained Cantor and professional musician, and co-founder and director of the Song and Spirit Institute for Peace in Berkley. His presentation will demonstrate the historical and biblical progression of Jewish music, accompanying himself on guitar, drum, and shofar (ram’s horn).
“The earliest Jewish conception of music is God speaking/chanting the world into existence in the first chapter of Genesis,” says Klaper. “From there, the early primal use of ram’s horn and chant gives way to Temple music, then early liturgical modes, the chanting of Torah.”
Klaper’s presentation will cover early mystical use of melody to alter time and space, which, he says, gave rise to chassidic meditative chant – then the divergent paths of Sephardi music and the European cantors of the 18th and 19th centuries. He will end with the modern liberal (American) experiment of melding Jewish liturgical forms with western folk music.
Among some of the nations of the Orient, music and harmony were not approved of, but according to Abdu’l-Baha, son of Baha’i founder Bahá’u’lláh, “the Manifested Light, Bahá’u’lláh, in this glorious period has revealed in Holy Tablets that singing and music are the spiritual food of the hearts and souls. In this dispensation, music is one of the arts that is highly approved and is considered to be the cause of the exaltation of sad and desponding hearts.”
“I believe that all music reaches its truest form when honored as the expression of the spirit, and as a powerful means by which we come together as one human family,” says Bob Schneeweis, our Baha’i presenter, who is a teacher and performer of both jazz and classical music in the Detroit metro area, and currently a Masters student at Oakland University in piano performance.
Qawwali is the musical traditions of India and Pakistan and will be demonstrated by Seven8Six, the first American Muslim boyband. Seven8Six performs Islamically inspired music in various genres including English pop, Arabic nasheed, and Urdu qawwali music. They have been celebrated for breaking down barriers and stereotypes, and inspiring Muslim youth to define their own identity and express their faith through the arts.
According to Zafar Razzacki, of Seven8Six, “Islamic devotional music is widespread on the Indian subcontinent. The popular qawwali commonly found in this region arose from practices of Islamic mystics, or Sufis. It arose from the fusion of Persian and Indian musical traditions dating back to the 13th century. Just as Detroit is referred to as Motown and said to birthplace of R&B music, the Punjab province of Pakistan is said to be the central hub of qawwali where it has been developed into the mainstream art form that it is today.”
With its elegant thought and poetic expression, qawwali is typically sung passionately and powerfully in either Urdu or Punjabi language. As with most Islamic music, qawwali is commonly sung in praise of God and in remembrance of the Prophet Muhammad and other important historical figures of Islam. Whereas most musical groups are referred to as a “band” a group of qawwali performers is called a “party.” A qawwali party could be considered analogous to a Gospel Church choir, inspiring and motivating its witnesses with its powerful sound and sophisticated language.
Following the Qawwali performance, University of Michigan history professor Rudolph Ware will discuss Islamic devotional music. Professor Ware specializes in premodern West African history, Islam, popular religious culture, and race, and is the author of The Walking Qur’an Islamic Education, Embodied Knowledge, and History in West Africa.
Sounds of the Spirit – Abrahamic Faiths will take place on Sunday, April 30th– 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Cost $10 per person. Light Refreshments Available. The program will take place at Christ Church Cranbrook 470 Church Road, Bloomfield Hills MI 48304. Register here or at the door.
Save the Date for part two of this series, “Sounds of the Spirit- the Dharmic Faiths” Sunday, May 21st, 3:00 – 6:00pm. Mata Tripta Ji Gurdwara Sahib: 40600 Schoolcraft Road, Plymouth.
Please print out and sign the Resiliency Statement below and mail to the InterFaith Leadership Council at
10821 Capital Street, Oak Park, MI 48237!!
The IFLC is trying to collect as many signatures as possible to show our “Standing Together” during this difficult time
of increased prejudice and intolerance!
The 19th Annual Lenore Marwil
Detroit Jewish Film Festival
Hummus: The Movie
Wednesday, May 17th at 8:00 PM
6600 W. Maple Rd., West Bloomfield, MI
WISDOM will be sponsoring this movie.
First Muslim Is Elected President
Of The College Chaplains Association
A national organization of university religious leaders elected its first Muslim president last week in a move that could influence college diversity for years.
The National Association of College and University Chaplains recently elected Imam Adeel Zeb to be its next president. Zeb serves as the Muslim chaplain at the Claremont University Consortium in Southern California and will assume the one-year, volunteer position at NACUC this summer.
For Zeb, his election serves not only as a personal milestone but also as one he hopes will inspire other non-Christian religious leaders to enter the field of college chaplaincy.
“When we were being sworn into our new positions, it felt like a civil rights moment,” Zeb told The Huffington Post.
College chaplaincy has traditionally been dominated by Christians. And it still is, with the exception of a handful of non-Christian deans of religious life and top university chaplains around the country.
There are a number of reasons for that lack of diversity. One is that the majority of Americans identify as Christians, though the percentage appears to be dwindling. “So when they’re looking to hire chaplains, universities typically hire Christians,” Zeb said.
Another issue is that colleges frequently have one position that fills the roles of both top spiritual director and minister of the campus chapel. Since many colleges have Protestant roots, that role typically needs to be filled by a minister of that faith.
“It’s important to remember that many of our universities started affiliated to a seminary or with some denomination, all Christian,” Rabbi Dena Bodian, current NACUC president, told HuffPost.
But Bodian added that having non-Christian voices both in campus chaplaincy and in national associations that represent the field “helps to reframe the conversation about campus religious life in really important ways.”
Most research universities and liberal arts colleges have an office of religious life or an equivalent. One dean or chaplain typically heads up that office. The school may also have an associate dean, as well as a number of other chaplains specific to different faith communities.
Those affiliate chaplain positions aren’t always full-time, salaried positions with the universities. Some are operated on a volunteer basis and others are funded by outside organizations.
Zeb said he knew of roughly 13 full-time Muslim chaplains serving at colleges in the U.S. and Canada. Many of them are paid by outside nonprofits and mosques, he said, and none hold their campus’ top spiritual leadership position.
But campus religious leadership is going through a transition. This academic year, Dartmouth College appointed Rabbi Daveen Litwin to its top chaplaincy position. Another rabbi, David Leipziger Teva, became the founding director of Wesleyan University’s office of religious and spiritual life in 2007. The following year, the University of Southern California hired Varun Soni, a Hindu lawyer and scholar, to head its office of religious life.
The change has been slow. These recent hires are a significant minority, and Soni admitted he has been lonely being one of the few non-Christian deans of religious life in the country.
“As all of us think deeply about diversity in higher education, it’s clear that chaplaincy is pretty far behind the conversation,” Soni told HuffPost.
“We still haven’t seen a Muslim dean of religious life, or a Sikh or Buddhist or humanist one,” he added. “We haven’t seen the kind of diversity in chaplaincy that we see in our student bodies.”
America’s shift away from Christianity and organized religion is happening rapidly on college campuses. Students increasingly identify as religiously unaffiliated and are looking for creative outlets for their spiritual lives, Soni said. In a 2013 survey, two-thirds of college students identified either as secular or more spiritual than religious, according to USA Today.
That doesn’t make the job of campus chaplains any less significant, but it tasks universities with finding spiritual leaders who can cater to the needs of a vastly diverse student body.
“We need university chaplains who are thinking really creatively about how to support students with these perspectives,” Soni said.
As the Muslim chaplain at Claremont, Zeb meets with both Muslim and non-Muslim students. His personal faith doesn’t particularly matter to the students who come seeking counsel, he said. When they arrive in his office, their concerns are usually universal.
“Sometimes I don’t even know what their faith is. The issues the students are facing most of the time are not religious in nature. They’re human in nature, things like family issues, relationships and mental health.”
While faith shifts toward a more spiritual, universal lens on college campuses, it has become increasingly polarized in the political arena. As a Muslim, Zeb belongs to one of the most targeted religious communities in the U.S. But his role with NACUC may inspire other Muslim leaders to push ahead in spite of bias.
“Adeel is also a trailblazer,” Soni said. “I consider him to be a pioneer, and his appointment is significant. He will inspire other Muslim leaders to think about university chaplaincy.”
Zeb said hopes universities will start to pay attention, too. “I do feel that in the future people will start looking at the candidate not because of their faith but because of what impact they can have as ethical leaders for their college campus.”
More than 60 people from different faith traditions enjoyed a docent led tour of the Arab American National Museum organized by WISDOM (Women’s Interfaith Solutions for Dialogue and Outreach in Metro-Detroit) on Sunday afternoon, February 19th. The tour was followed by dinner at a local Middle Eastern restaurant. A big shoutout to WISDOM‘s Sameena Basha and Shama Mehta for organizing this great event. Definitely recommend everyone to visit this historic museum. We had a great time together!
Jewish Cemetery Desecrated
On the heels of bomb threats and hate crimes against dozens of Jewish community center’s across the United States, a historical Jewish cemetery was vandalized recently when over 170 headstones were damaged. Muslim Americans stood in solidarity with the Jewish-American community to condemn this horrific act of desecration against the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery. They also extended their deepest condolences to all those who have been affected and to the Jewish community at large.
In a campaign organized by Linda Sarsour of MPower Change and Tarek El-Messidi of CelebrateMercy, the Muslim-American community extended their hands to help rebuild this sacred space where Jewish-American families have laid their loved ones to rest since the late 1800’s. Campaign proceeds went directly to the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in light of the recent damage. Any remaining funds – after the cemetery is restored – will be allocated to repair any other vandalized Jewish centers.
Here are words from the Muslim community:
While these senseless acts have filled us with sorrow, we reflect on the message of unity, tolerance, and mutual protection found in the Constitution of Medina: an historic social contract between the Medinan Jews and the first Muslim community. We are also inspired by the example of our Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, who stood up to pay respects for a passing Jewish funeral procession. When questioned on why he stood for a Jewish funeral, he responded, “Is it not a human soul?” [Source: Bukhari].
Through this campaign, we hope to send a united message from the Jewish and Muslim communities that there is no place for this type of hate, desecration, and violence in America. We pray that this restores a sense of security and peace to the Jewish-American community who has undoubtedly been shaken by this event.
Muslim veterans of the US armed forces are offering to guard Jewish cemeteries and synagogues across the country following a wave of
apparently anti-Semitic vandalism.
Hundreds of headstones have been pushed over at two cemeteries in Philadelphia and St Louis while dozens of Jewish community centres have received bomb threats in recent weeks.
Some Muslims have already offered their support by raising money to help repair the damage to graves. Now, others are taking to Twitter to offer their services in trying to prevent further attacks.
Tayyib Rashid, who tweets as @MuslimMarine, wrote on Tuesday: “If your synagogue or Jewish cemetery needs someone to stand guard, count me in.”
His offer prompted dozens more, some from veterans and others from ordinary citizens.
“Houston area Jewish community I spent ten years protecting our country and I will gladly protect Jewish places of worship if you need me!,” tweeted veteran Khalid Whalid.
The offers of support come at a difficult time for minority religions in the United States. A bitterly divisive election and the rise of Donald Trump’s America First philosophy is being blamed for a rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes. At the same time, there has been an epidemic of Swastikas appearing on public buildings. Jewish centres and schools started reporting bomb scares on January 19 when 15 of them received anonymous threats. Since then, three more waves of threatening messages have been sent, bringing the total to 100 spread over 33 states. Mr Trump finally confronted the problem during his address to Congress on Tuesday. “Recent threats targeting Jewish community centres and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms,” he said. Muslim community leaders have reached out to Jewish groups to offer solidarity.
A crowdfunding appeal launched by two high-profile activists to repair damage to a cemetery in St Louis has raised more than US$155,000 in less than two weeks. The appeal had originally aimed to raise $20,000.
Its organisers, Tarek El Messidi and Linda Sarsour, said they wanted both communities to stand united against hate. And the latest offers of help promote a similar message. US veteran and anti-Islamophobia campaigner Nate Terani tweeted: “I’m a Muslim Veteran in Arizona & will readily stand guard at any Jewish Synagogue or Cemetery at ANY hour. #WeAreOne.
A Muslim father and son engrave the headstones at one of India’s oldest Jewish cemeteries
Muhammad Abdul Yaseen sat cross-legged beside a tree, hunched over a smooth marble slab. He moved a metal straightedge into position, making a gentle scraping sound, and drew a small line on the marble with a pencil. He has done this for half a century, carefully etching the stones that mark the final resting places for members of Mumbai’s dwindling Bene Israel Jewish community. Behind him, the small graveyard unfolded across a quiet grove of trees in the city’s central business district. More than 6,500 tombstones, most adorned with the Star of David, rose in neat rows from patches of uneven grass. The blare of car horns and thrum of construction crews, the persistent soundtrack of India’s financial capital, seemed to fade inside the tidy cemetery.
Abdul Yaseen, 76, adjusted his glasses and wiped his brow with the sleeve of a crisp button-down shirt that he wore above a loose-fitting cotton dhoti. A small notebook lay in front of him, a stone holding open the page that bore the English epitaph that a family had asked him to sketch, for an 84-year-old woman who died in January:
“Till memory lives and life departs,
You will live forever in our hearts.”
At the top of the stone Abdul Yaseen had written a brief prayer in Hebrew. As a boy growing up in the northern agricultural state of Uttar Pradesh, he did not learn how to read or write in any language. When he moved to Mumbai in 1968 to look for work, he met Aaron Menasse Navgavikar, a Bene Israel Jew who engraved the community’s tombstones and was looking for an assistant. Working with Navgavikar, Abdul Yaseen learned not only Marathi, the language of Mumbai and its surroundings, but also Hindi, English and Hebrew. When Navgavikar moved to Israel in the 1970s, Abdul Yaseen took over the practice.
He arrives at the cemetery, marked by a blue sign along a metal archway, around 9 a.m. and works until 1 p.m., except on Fridays, when he leaves earlier in order to attend prayers at his mosque. The cemetery in central Mumbai, India, houses the remains of the city’s Bene Israel Jews. Abdul Yaseen is an unassuming symbol of Mumbai’s polyglot heritage: a Muslim engraving Jewish headstones in a city that, like the rest of the country, is overwhelmingly Hindu. Although tensions between Hindus and Muslims have sometimes devolved into communal violence in India, there is less strife surrounding the smaller Jewish and Christian communities. “India should always be mixed like this,” Abdul Yaseen said. “It doesn’t matter that I am Muslim. It only matters that the community has taken us in and treated us well.” He brought his son, Islam, into the trade. Now it is the younger man, 53, who operates the heavy stone cutter and chisels the stone by hand. Abdul Yaseen’s body has grown frail, though his hands remain steady enough to sketch out the letters, which he does with the precision and concentration of a surgeon. Their work may not pass to another generation. The Bene Israel Jews, who have lived along India’s western coast for two millennia, numbered 20,000 in the 1940s. But with India’s independence in 1947 and the creation of Israel the following year, many began migrating. There are roughly 2,000 Jews left in Mumbai and the surrounding state of Maharashtra, and fewer than 5,000 in all of India.
Islam led a visitor to the oldest grave marker at the cemetery, a simple white slab erected in 1927, and more recently encased in protective concrete. In Hebrew and Marathi, it memorializes Levy Isaac Charikar, who died almost exactly 90 years ago, at the age of 5.
Nowadays, Abdul Yaseen and his son get requests for only two or three headstones every month. Occasionally, a Christian church in one of Mumbai’s suburbs will give them some work. Hindus cremate their dead and Muslim graves rarely feature elaborate markers, so the market for their expertise is limited. Abdul Yaseen, too, has been invited by community members to move to Israel, where he could continue to work. His wife died 15 years ago and his children – another son and two daughters – all have families of their own. But he has not seriously considered leaving. He has never been outside India. These days, his life is confined to his small apartment, the cemetery and a mosque, all just minutes from one another on his bicycle. “I’m as good as retired,” he said. Islam, who joined the trade at age 19, has his father’s fine, slicked back hair and solemn eyes. Sweat gathered on his forehead as he maneuvered the stone cutter, noisily carving the granite into small squares that would adorn the 84-year-old woman’s grave.
His two sons never gave a thought to working at the graveyard. One got into a four-year training program at an outsourcing company that handles technical support for U.S. businesses. Another works as an engineer in Saudi Arabia and was recently married. With pride, Islam said his son had taken his bride on a honeymoon to Singapore and Malaysia. “With his own money,” he said, smiling. “That is what boys these days want to do. We worked with our hands so that we could educate them, but it doesn’t mean we should do this forever.”
Harvard Launches Free Online Class To Promote Religious Literacy Get your questions answered.
Sales of the Quran skyrocketed in the United States following 9/11. Perhaps it was a search for answers, or a desire to parse out certain stereotypes, that made some people turn to the Muslim holy text. But the increased circulation of the Quran due to the recent Paris attacks and rise of the Islamic State has not always helped people to better understand and respect the faith. If anything, fear and prejudice toward Islam has risen. This is one example of the “widespread illiteracy about religion that spans the globe,” said Diane Moore, director of Harvard Divinity School’s Religious Literacy Project to The Huffington Post.
To combat this illiteracy, Moore and five other religion professors from Harvard University, Harvard Divinity School and Wellesley College are kicking off a free, online series on world religions open to the masses. The courses are being offered via an online learning platform called edX, which Harvard University launched with Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2012. For those interested in earning a certificate of achievement at the end of the series, edX offers a non-audit track for $50. The timing is ripe for such a course, Moore said. Religious illiteracy “fuels bigotry and prejudice and hinders capacities for cooperative endeavors in local, national, and global arenas,” Moore told HuffPost. The edX series will include six classes on different subjects that will each run for four weeks. Moore is teaching the first course in the series on “Religious Literacy: Traditions and Scriptures,” which begins on March 1. The next five will dive into specific faiths, covering Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism and Judaism.
Religious literacy entails more than just knowing the Five Pillars of Islam or Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths, Moore said. Such an approach “reinforces the problematic assumption that religions are internally uniform and ahistorical,” she added. Instead, Moore suggested that religious literacy should include an understanding that religious traditions are “internally diverse,” ever-evolving, and play complex roles in people’s lives. To that end, the course aims to offer participants an understanding of the history and interpretations of religious texts and why some were designated as “sacred.” Students will also dive into contemporary and historical interpretations of the texts to get a feel for just how “internally diverse” the traditions are.
Moore said she and the other facilitators anticipate up to 50,000 people will enroll for the series, given that it is online and free for students who audit the courses. The course is especially aimed at educators, Moore said, as well as members of faith communities interested in multi-faith engagement and dialogue. She added, “I’m excited to provide a platform for more informed discourse about religion.”
Go to this link to see this incredible photo collection in Vogue Magazine about Islam in America – following a handful of American Muslim women in Baltimore for a week and photographing their daily routines!
Muslim students in Florida send flowers to Jewish organizations, synagogues
(JTA) – The Muslim Student Associations of Florida State and Florida A&M universities delivered bouquets of flowers to campus Jewish organizations and local synagogues. The flowers and the accompanying notes were meant to show solidarity at a time when both the Muslim and Jewish communities are under attack. They were delivered to the Chabad and Hillel organizations at Florida State and to Shomrei Torah and Temple Israel synagogues in Tallahassee. The note said: “We are writing this message to extend a hand of friendship. In times of great division, it is important that we stand together in unity so we hope that these flowers can be seen as a symbol of our solidarity.” The gesture comes days after dozens of gravestones were overturned in a Jewish cemetery in the St. Louis area and a day before the discovery of toppled gravestones at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia. It also comes amid a series of bomb threats called in to Jewish community centers and Jewish schools, including in Florida.
“Keeping up with the news lately has shown a plethora of very sad stories and hateful crimes against many minority groups,” FSU Muslim Student Association President Moneba Anees wrote in an email to the Tallahassee-Democrat newspaper. “Although we could not think of a way to help our Jewish friends and peers directly, we decided that we could show them that people are taking note of what is happening and that they have our support, love and prayers.” In December, a hate-filled letter was found in the Shomrei Torah mailbox.