WISDOM Newsletter – February 2011

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters





 WISDOM Calendar of Events

Tuesday, February 1st
Five Women Five Journeys Presentation to Tenth and Eleventh Graders at Andover High School in the Bloomfield Hills School District!!
1:00 PM – 3:00 PM   WISDOM Board meets and greets women from the National Council of Jewish Women at lunch and then we jointly stuff backpacks with school supplies.  Backpacks will go to homeless children in Oakland County.
Thursday, March 17th

6:15 PM Community Forum entitled “Water, Women, and WISDOM” –  Panel Discussion for Women’s History Month!! – Topic will be about Water – and how the lack of clean water impacts women and children worldwide!! 6:15 – 8:30 PM at the Bloomfield Township Public Library on Telegraph and Lone Pine in Bloomfield Hills.  Open to the Public!!
Wednesday, March 23rd
Five Women Five Journeys hosted by St. Hugo of the Hills, 2215 Opdyke Rd., Bloomfield Hills, in conjunction with Temple Beth El, the Muslim Unity Center and Kirk in the Hills Presbyterian Church all of Bloomfield Hills.  7:00 PM.
Wednesday, May 11th
Five Women Five Journeys sponsored by the AAUW (American Association of University Women) at Plum Hollow Country Club, 21631 Lahser Rd., Southfield, 1:00 PM
Thursday, June 30th through Friday, July 1st
Five Women Five Journeys at the Bay View Association, Petoskey, MI.  Thursday evening 7:00 PM, Friday morning, Meet and Greet the WISDOM Women.

WISDOM holds Community Forum about “Angels in Religions” on January 20th at the Bloomfield Township Library.

Angels two

Lisa Berman speaks about the angel that she crafted and about Angels in Judaism.

Angels one


Mazan Tayyen, Motoko Huthwaite, and Padma Kuppa speak about angels in Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism at the WISDOM Angels in Religions event


Padma Kuppa

Padma Kuppa


Padma Kuppa is a Hindu American and community activist working for social justice and understanding. Born in India, she arrived in the U.S. to start kindergarten in 1970 on Long Island. When she completed tenth grade, her family returned to India where she finished college and experienced living in a mainstream Hindu culture. She returned to NY in 1988 to go to grad school and then got her greencard. After getting married and having two kids, she (and her family) moved to Troy, Michigan in 1998. She is a founding member of the Troy Interfaith Group as well as the Bharatiya Temple’s Outreach Committee. She is a member of the Hindu American Foundation’s Executive Council and the newly formed Hindu American Seva Charities. Her work with WISDOM, Women’s Interfaith Solutions for Dialogue and Outreach in Metro-detroit, exemplifies how forming friendships is the way to build peace and promote pluralism. Her faith has been strengthened and deepened through her personal experiences and struggles, while her interest and search for more knowledge and understanding of Hindu philosophy is a family tradition. Whether she works as IT project manager, writer, or diversity consultant, being a mom is the most important! You can also read her blog A Balancing Act, at padmakuppa.blogspot.com. The views represented in this column are not a reflection of the views of any organization of which she is a part.

Our Hindu Inheritance

Whether yoga is considered Hindu or not, religious or spiritual, its beauty is the universality of its application, and it is what people make it.


A couple of summers ago, my children and I-lovers of sci-fi and fantasy fiction-were reading the second book of the Inheritance series by Christopher Paolini. We have found so much Hindu philosophy in that genre-C. S. Lewis (Aslan’s “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name.”), J. K. Rowling (Dumbledore’s “It is our choices … that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”), to name two. It was no surprise that we found the same in this second book about Eragon’s adventures.

From the elf known as the Mourning Sage, Oromis, or Togira Ikonoka, Eragon learns to do the Rimgar, or the Dance of Snake and Crane, a series of poses that the elves developed to prepare their warriors for battle, and to meditate in the forest glades of the elven kingdom, Ellesmera. Rimgar reminded us of yoga, with its four different levels, based on flexibility and strength, and the first actions-to bring the hands from the side to above the head, followed by bending down, touching the ground with the palms, and jumping back.

What also didn’t surprise us is the Japanese-sounding name (Togira Ikonoka) given to Eragon’s Master, rather than linking the yoga-like exercise to the geographic region where it originated and continues to be practiced over the centuries. Our inheritance, as Hindus-those whose faith has been classified as the religion Hinduism in the Western world-has often been denied us. I recently questioned David Crumm, a journalist, about this quote from his ReadtheSpirit.com site: “The term ‘Vedanta’ refers to spiritual movements that stem from the ancient religious traditions of India.” As I said to David, Vedanta-a combination of veda (the Sanskrit word used to identify the body of Hindu scriptures) + anta (end)-is, through this statement, somehow separated from the Hindu faith tradition from which it is derived. We can extend this denial of Hindu origins to yoga, a Sanskrit word, with its simplest meaning, “union.” Yoga’s common connotation in the community I live in-a suburb of metro-Detroit striving to come to terms with its religious and cultural diversity-represents a form of exercise known as hatha yoga. In fact, a few local churches even offer “Christian yoga.”

As David’s response to my question stated, what we mean by Hindu is complex. Dictionary.com has various definitions for the word “faith,” but one that highlights the complexity of being a Hindu is: “a system of religious belief: the Christian faith; the Jewish faith.” What happens when the system of religious belief is itself so complex that it defies the term “religion”? (Again, from dictionary.com-“a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.”) The fundamental set of Hindu beliefs consists of statements and ideas at opposite ends of the spectrum-take Nirguna and Saguna Brahman (god without any form and god with many beautiful forms). Many Hindus I know say “I am not religious, I am spiritual,” and often I am questioned about my Hindu advocacy-“Who or what is a Hindu?”

In my treasure trove of Hindu scriptural texts is a book from my father: Swami Prabhavananda’s translation and commentary on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, a Hindu scripture and foundational text on yoga. In this book and in the Bhagavad Gita, yoga comes to mean a form of spiritual union with the Supreme Spirit. Patanjali’s aphorisms and the Gita, while they may require translation and commentaries, still point to the simple fact that the various forms of yoga-karma, bhakti, jnana, dhyana, etc.-guide someone who follows the Hindu faith to The Truth as described by the Rig Veda phrase “Ekam Sat.” So, while the concept of yoga is rooted in Sanatana Dharma, yoga requires sadhana-practice-which is something anyone can do, according to their religious tradition.

This leads me to the recent debates-around the world and across the religious landscape-about whether or not yoga originates from Hinduism. This discourse seems to have become a challenge to those who do not embrace the plurality of belief systems, that there are multiple valid pathways to God, and that the world is changing. To compare Eastern and Western ways of thinking is, as Swami Prabhavananda says, “neither fair nor valid.” So, whether yoga is considered Hindu or not, religious or spiritual, its beauty is the universality of its application, and it is what people make it. As I told my children, whether the acknowledgement of yoga’s roots is missing or misleading, it is still our Hindu inheritance.



Here are two articles about interfaith interaction between the

Muslim and Jewish Communities.


1)  Please go to the following website to read about what’s going on in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.



2)  The Following article describes interfaith initiatives in Dayton Ohio among the Abrahamic Faiths.



3)  This article describes the joint efforts between the Hindu and the Jewish communities of Houston, Texas!!






The language of interfaith conversation

Mindful interfaith language expresses our common humanity, builds relationships of respect and trust, and pursues peace

By Larry (J.W.) Windland


The journey into interfaith conversation is not unlike a journey around the world. Instantly we are connected with diverse cultures, customs and concepts. Just as when visiting distant lands we may pick up a phrase book to learn how to facilitate basic communication, a simple phrase book for interfaith conversation may be helpful. The following is not so much a Glossary of Interfaith Words but rather possible chapter headings if such a book actually existed.

Mindful vocabulary

One parlance of interfaith language is Mindful Vocabulary. A church is not a synagogue. A synagogue is not a masjid (mosque). A masjid is not a gurdwara (Sikh house of worship). Using the correct term indicates that you have taken the time to become at least basically aware of the conversation partner’s faith tradition. But interfaith language can be very confusing. Perhaps instead of faith-specific terms, faith-neutral terms may serve better. For example, “house of worship” is a term that fits most traditions and communicates what you intend to say without calling an apple an orange. Because some traditions such as Native spirituality or Baha’i do not necessarily have a traditional “house” of worship, the term “place of worship” may be even more suitable. Developing a type of informal, all-purpose Interfaith Glossary is a helpful exercise that heightens an awareness of the words we use and dissolves the presumption that “everyone is just like me.”

Mindful respect

A second suggestion for interfaith conversation is the language of Mindful Respect. Learning simple greetings is an expression of respect and honour for another’s tradition and culture. Examples include Namaste (Hinduism), Shalom (Judaism), Asalaam Alaikum (Islam), Sat Sri Akaal (Sikhism). You’ll find diverse greetings interesting to learn and fun to use. Mindful respect in interfaith conversation is not only about what you might want to say but also what you might not want to say. Avoiding offensive or judgmental terms requires the language of mindful respect. Instead of referring to a particular ritual or event as “strange” or “weird,” use terms like “unfamiliar to me” or ” different than I have seen before.” Using the language of mindful respect communicates a sense of dignity and worth toward the dialogue partner.

Insider-outsider language

A third suggestion for interfaith conversation is Mindful Use of Insider/Outsider Language. Every faith tradition has its own lexicon. Sikhs know well what is meant by kangha, Muslims know wudu, Buddhists know tanha, Jews know aliyah. However, each faith tradition may be unfamiliar with the language of the others. In order to be understood in interfaith conversations, it helps to be mindful that you are speaking to an “outsider” who may not know your faith’s vocabulary. Using straightforward outsider definitions: “small wooden comb” (kangha), “ritual washing” (wudu), “selfish craving” (tanha), “going up to read the Torah” (aliyah) insures that you will more likely understand as well as be understood.

Gentle commitment

A fourth suggestion for interfaith language is Mindful Gentle Commitment. Interfaith conversation does not mean hiding or temporizing one’s own strongly held beliefs. Indeed the best interfaith conversation is between faithful commitments. It is often through the shared commitments of dialogue partners that beliefs are mutually enhanced and enriched. Such sharing can be done – indeed, must be done – in the language of gentleness that is not exclusive, arrogant or patronizing. When a Jew proclaims that the messiah has not yet come, a Christian will disagree; when a Christian proclaims that Jesus is the Christ, a Muslim will disagree; when a Muslim proclaims that Mohammed is the seal of the prophets, a Mormon will disagree; and on and on.

The language of interfaith conversation calls us to be mindful that our commitments are just that, our commitments, and not the commitments of others. We share commitments so that we may understand one another, not that we may convince or convert one another. Perhaps two helpful words to add to our interfaith phrase book are “for me.” The messiah has not yet come, for me. Jesus is the Christ, for me. Mohammed is the seal of the prophet, for me. The language of gentle commitment in interfaith sharing clarifies other people’s beliefs as well as our own.

Interfaith language, like any other language, includes both speaking and understanding. A more mindful language is just one of many tools to make this possible. As you engage in interfaith conversation you will no doubt think of many other chapter headings for a phrase book of mindful interfaith language. Such language expresses our common humanity, promotes civility and builds relationships of mutual respect and trust. Such language pursues peace.

Debbie Friedman, Jewish songwriter and performer, dies at 59

Debbie Friedman is credited with bringing a more folksy, sing-along style to American congregations.  (Photo courtesy of Limmud/Flickr)


Article from the New York Times, January 11, 2011

By Margalit Fox


Debbie Friedman, a singer and songwriter whose work – which married traditional Jewish texts to contemporary folk-infused melodies – is credited with helping give ancient liturgy broad appeal to late-20th-century worshippers, died on Sunday in Mission Viejo, Calif. She was 59 and lived in Laguna Woods, Calif.

The cause was complications of pneumonia, said Jerry Kaye, a family spokesman. Ms. Friedman, who continued performing in public until the end of her life, had been ill for the past two decades with a chronic, often debilitating and never definitively diagnosed neurological condition.

One of the brightest stars of the Jewish music world, Ms. Friedman was called “the Joan Baez of Jewish song,” as the Jewish newspaper The Forward wrote in 1995. She was known for her clear, strong voice and for the intense spiritual conviction with which she sang as she accompanied herself on the guitar.

She recorded more than 20 albums, which together have sold half a million copies. Among them are “Miracles & Wonders,” “Renewal of Spirit,” “You Shall Be a Blessing” and “The Water in the Well.”

Ms. Friedman’s compositions encompass not only modern settings of traditional Hebrew liturgy but also songs for which she wrote original English lyrics. Regularly sung by congregants in Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative and some Modern Orthodox synagogues (as well as in some Christian churches), they are widely credited with having revitalized worship for a generation of postwar American Jews.

To an extent, her work also made its way into the mainstream marketplace. Her music appears on the video “Barney in Concert,” on which the purple dinosaur sings her setting of the Hebrew alphabet for children; her lyrics have been featured on a line of Hallmark cards. In live performance, Ms. Friedman sang on some of the world’s most storied concert stages, including Carnegie Hall.

In 2007, Ms. Friedman joined the faculty of the School of Sacred Music at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in New York, where she taught Reform rabbinical and cantorial students; she later taught at Hebrew Union College’s Los Angeles campus.

Her appointment was striking for two reasons: first, because she was a largely self-taught musician who did not know how to read music, and second, because her work – inclusive, progressive and strongly feminist – was perceived as a threat to established cantorial tradition when she began her career in the early 1970s.

Deborah Lynn Friedman was born on Feb. 23, 1951, in Utica, N.Y., to parents who belonged variously to Conservative and Reform synagogues. When she was a child, the family moved to Minnesota, and she grew up in St. Paul.

As a teenager, she was enraptured both by Jewish and folk music; she taught herself to play the guitar from the records of Peter, Paul and Mary, and her music would be likened to theirs.

After high school, Ms. Friedman worked briefly on an Israeli kibbutz before returning to the United States.

“One night I went to synagogue, and realized, sitting there, I was bored,” she told The Los Angeles Times in 1995. “I realized the rabbi was talking, the choir was singing and nobody was doing anything. There was no participation.”

Not long afterward, an original melody came to her, and as an experiment, she set to it the words of “V’ahavta,” a prayer drawn from Deuteronomy that commands Jews to love God.

“I sang it with some high school kids, who sang it arm in arm, crying and singing,” Ms. Friedman told Lilith magazine in 1995. “They were looking for a spiritual avenue of their own.”

With that, Ms. Friedman had found her calling; her first album, “Sing Unto God,” a collection of Sabbath songs, was released in 1972.

While some rabbis and cantors welcomed her music as a democratizing force, others saw it as a subversive breach of time-honored tradition, in which the cantor was typically white-haired, always male and usually vocally imposing and the congregants were passive listeners.

By contrast, Ms. Friedman’s music emphasized audience participation. (At her concerts, she encouraged audience members to sing along; many also danced in the aisles.) It centered on themes like healing, a concern that stemmed partly from her years of chronic illness. (Her most famous song is a setting of “Mi Shebeirach,” a Hebrew prayer for the sick.)

Many of her English lyrics concerned the empowerment of women and other disenfranchised groups, stemming, her associates said on Monday, from the quiet pride she took in her life as a gay woman.

Ms. Friedman is survived by her mother, Freda, and two sisters, Cheryl Friedman and Barbara Egli.

She was the subject of a documentary film, “A Journey of Spirit,” which followed her from 1997 to 2002.

If Ms. Friedman never attained the vast crossover success of Amy Grant, the Christian pop singer with whom she was often compared, it did not seem to bother her. In an interview with The Palm Beach Post in 2004, Ms. Friedman recounted her response to a music-industry executive who accused her of being just a big fish in a small pond.

“I’m not a fish,” Ms. Friedman replied.

3rd Annual International Conference on
Religion, Conflict, and Peace:”
Walking The Talk to Compassion and Harmony

April 8-10, 2011
Henry Ford Community College
Dearborn, Michigan USA

A Multi-disciplinary, Multi-cultural Conference

an Official Partner and Event of
the Charter For Compassion
the Parliament of World’s Religions

Sponsored by:
Common Bond Institute,
Co-Sponsored by:
Pathways To Peace, Henry Ford Community College,
International Humanistic Psychology Association,

Endorsed by over 100 universities and organizations internationally

Full Conference Details at:
(copy & paste address into your browser)

~ Registration is Open All ~

We Invite You To:
an inclusive, interactive 3-day public forum promoting Inter-religious and Intra-religious dialogue to explore the challenges of Extremism, Intolerance, Scapegoating, and Islamophobia, and the promise of Reason, Understanding, Compassion, and Cultural Harmony.

JOIN over 45 Presenters and Facilitators as we explore:
  1)  The mutual dilemmas of religious ignorance, extremism, intolerance, negative stereotypes, prejudice, demonization and dehumanization, scapegoating, and fear of “the other,” that lead to toxic divisiveness, polarization, and social paranoia, including the current example of Islamophobia and it’s impact on the Muslim community,
  2)  The promise of personal engagement through dialogue and practical applications in nurturing a shared consciousness of peace – and in doing so promoting the religious experience as a healing remedy rather than problem.

An outstanding, diverse gathering of presenters for 3 Days of keynotes, workshops, panels, dialogue groups, live global links, film showings, social/cultural events, exhibits, multicultural community, and rich networking for collaborative action beyond the conference.

  ”It does not require that we be the same to be appreciative of, at peace with, and secure in our relationships with each other; only that we be familiar enough with each others story to share the humanity and trustworthiness that resides in each of us.”

LOCATION:    Henry Ford Community College
5101 Evergreen Rd., Dearborn, MI. USA

  Fri. April 8, 10:00 am -to- Sun. April 10, 2:30 pm
       (On-site Registration opens 8:30 am)

FOR DETAILS on Proposals, Program, Registration, Fees, Program Ads, Exhibits, and previous conference Proceedings CONTACT:

Common Bond Institute
Details at Website:www.cbiworld.org
Steve Olweean, Conference Coordinator
12170 S. Pine Ayr Drive, Climax, MI 49034 USA
Ph/Fax: 269-665-9393    Email: SOlweean@aol.com


Gurdwara Sahib Hidden Falls

40600 Schoolcraft

Plymouth, MI  48170

(northeast corner of Schoolcraft and Haggerty)

February 6, 2011

11:30 – 1:30

(Sikh religious service* and community lunch)


Raman Singh rsingh65@comcast.net  313-492-7314

Jaspal Neelam neelamjk@comcast.net  248-765-4998

*during a Sikh religious service we cover our heads, remove our shoes and sit on the floor (if physically able).  Please dress appropriately and comfortably.  We will provide head coverings or you can bring your own scarf

Coptic Christians are Neighbors

by Abdul Malik Mujahid

President Sound Vision, and Chair Council for a Parliament of World Religions

Posted: January 7, 2011


I was horrified to read about the New Year’s Day bombing that killed 21 worshipers at the Coptic Christian Saints Church in Alexandria, Egypt. I join Muslim scholars around the world who have roundly condemned this act that directly contravenes Islamic teachings.

“Muslims are not only obligated not to harm Christians, but to protect and defend them and their places of worship,” said Imam Ahmed Al Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, in response to the attack.

Tense relations between people of different faiths are not limited to this horrific incident. Nor are they reserved to Egypt. Around the world, we are witnessing deadly extremism as well as intense conflict, whether the weapons are hateful words or bombs and guns.

Too often, religion is misused as an instrument for division and injustice. This betrays the very ideals and teachings that lie at the heart of each of the world’s great traditions. Religious and spiritual traditions shape the lives of billions around the world in wise and wonderful ways. They offer a platform for community building, not only within individual faiths, but across faiths as well.

The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions traces its roots to the first parliament that took place in Chicago almost 120 years ago. From the start, its aim has been to cultivate harmony among the world’s religious and spiritual communities. As well, the Council aims to foster their engagement with the world and its guiding institutions to achieve a just, peaceful, and sustainable world.

Over the years, the interfaith movement has initiated dialogues and nurtured relationships between people of varying faiths. In doing so, it has provided a framework for expressing many visions of a just, peaceful and sustainable future. In the process, religious and spiritual communities have discovered a shared commitment to ethical principles and engaged in seeking the common good.

This modern interfaith movement is taking root all across the world. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has established his own interfaith foundation; Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has found interfaith dialogue a crucial aspect of living in an interdependent world; last August, when a few Christian homes were attacked in Pakistan, the leader of the most conservative Islamic party in Karachi stood with Christians and Hindus protesting against this crime; when the Coptic Church was attacked on January 1, Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb, head of Al Azhar, visited the Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda III to express his solidarity. Students at Al-Azhar University also organized a protest rally in solidarity with Egyptian Copts.

These are just some ways that religious and spiritual communities around the world are working together for greater harmony. They don’t make the news headlines, since change for the good takes years and years of hard work, cooperation, exchange, trust-building, and community-building. In contrast, a car bombing takes just seconds to quickly put more than a dent in such cooperative relations.

Yet, an ongoing commitment to the ideal of interreligious and spiritual harmony cannot and is not shaken by incidents like the January 1 bombing in Egypt. On the contrary, they can and should strengthen our resolve and commitment to work together at a more serious level.

Religions can and have lived together for centuries in various parts of the world, despite years of conflict — whether it was Christians, Muslims, and Jews in Spain or Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Sikhs, and Muslims in India. America is our latest, beautiful example of interreligious harmony and coexistence. We are a nation in which faith communities, despite continuing problems and tension, can generally live and work together free of communal violence and instability.

The question of why there are increased attacks on Christians is a legitimate one, which requires a separate discussion about war-terrorism nexus. War continues to produce evil justifications by violent extremists for attacking Christian neighbors. This connection is evident since Al-Qaeda in Iraq had threatened Egyptian Christians recently by publishing a list of churches in Egypt on their website.

Muslim countries have a responsibility to protect their minorities, as do all other countries. No international conflict, no “clash of civilizations” thesis, no thought of a million dead Iraqis or the civilians killed by American drones in Pakistan, the occupation of Palestine or Afghanistan lessens this responsibility. That conversation is independent of the rights of neighbors to freely practice their faith and pursue their lives.

This is where the interfaith movement must continue to strengthen itself to connect neighbor with neighbor as individuals, not as objects of some distant foreign policy.

We must learn the forgotten lessons of being your brother’s keeper. And we must also learn from Prophet Muhammad, who said: “None of you has faith until you love for your neighbor what you love for yourself.”


On this same topic you might also like to read the following article:


Egypt’s Muslims attend Coptic Christmas mass, serving as “human shields”
Muslims turned up in droves for the Coptic Christmas mass Thursday night, offering their bodies, and lives, as “shields” to Egypt’s threatened Christian community



“For the Next Seven Generations”

A Film about 13 Indigenous Grandmothers, coming to Ann Arbor on February 19th


In 2004, thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers from all four corners, moved by their concern for our planet, came together at a historic gathering, where they decided to form an alliance: The International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers. This is their story. Four years in-the-making and shot on location in the Amazon rainforest, the mountains of Mexico, North America, and at a private meeting with the Dalai Lama in India, For the Next 7 Generations follows what happens when these wise women unite. Facing a world in crisis, they share with us their visions of healing and a call for change now, before it’s too late. This film documents their unparalleled journey and timely perspectives on a timeless wisdom.


This film is coming to Ann Arbor at the Interfaith Center for Spiritual Growth www.interfaithspirit.org on February 19th, 2011 at 8:00 PM.




Thursday, February 10, 2011

6:30 PM to 9:00 PM

Detroit Marriott Southfield

27033 Northwestern Highway

Southfield, MI 48034

THEME: Strengthening Family Life Today: Resources and Wisdoms

within the Abrahamic Traditions


Kindly RSVP by going to michigan@niagarafoundation.org


Priest races against time to record Nazi killings

Father Patrick Desbois, who is in Hong Kong this week, is racing against the clock to uncover the hidden atrocities of the Holocaust before it is too late.

Although the slaughter of six million Jews and people of other minority groups by the Nazis in the second world war are widely known, there is little known about the Nazi unit that shot hundreds of thousands of Jews and Roma gypsies in the former Soviet bloc from 1941 to 1944.

The French Catholic priest, 55, has uncovered mass graves in Poland, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, where at least 1.6 million Jews were shot by the Nazis.

He is in Hong Kong this week to speak in Asia for the first time about his painstaking work. Last night, he spoke at the Jewish Community Centre at a ceremony to commemorate UN International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is today.

He said he aims to raise awareness about the genocide and mass murder hoping to prevent these atrocities from happening again.

“For me, genocide is a disease of humanity,” he said. “If you do not recognise a disease you cannot treat it.”

The goal of Desbois’ organisation, Yahad-In Unum, is to uncover all mass graves in Eastern Europe, and collecting witnesses’ testimony is key. The group has filmed 1,760 witnesses testifying about the shooting of Jews and Roma.

“When I began, people told me: `It’s impossible what you do, Father, because it was a secret. There were no witnesses’,” Desbois said. But, he said: “I’m sorry, there are witnesses everywhere.”

Desbois said some witnesses had been relieved to finally tell stories which had haunted them for nearly a lifetime.

One witness, who was a non-Jewish teenager during the war, said she was forced to walk barefoot on the corpses to compress them into mass graves. She never told anyone about this.

“And she told me: `Suddenly all my schoolmates arrived because they were Jews, and I had to walk on them like the others’,” he said.

Time is against Desbois and his team, who must trawl through German and Soviet archives, visit remote villages to interview witnesses and complete research.

“We want to finish before the witnesses die,” he said. “It’s a short-term challenge. The witnesses are between 75 and 90. They were teenagers during the war, and they want to speak before they die.”

In Hong Kong yesterday, he admitted being apprehensive about whether his findings would be meaningful to an Asian audience. But after the first few days of lecturing students, his fears have subsided. Their sensitive reactions and insightful questions have been a welcome surprise. “It gives me great hope to arrive in Hong Kong and find teenagers who are concerned,” he said.

He said genocide has occurred unexpectedly at many times and places.

The Germans were highly educated and cultured, their genocide of the Jews “unthinkable”, Desbois said.

Rwanda’s genocide in 1994 was just as unexpected. “Everybody was Catholic, both sides had the same religion, same condition, all blacks. Who could imagine a tribe could absolutely try to exterminate another tribe?”

The 1937 mass murder in Nanking by the Japanese against the Chinese is an event that Desbois has used as a reference during his talks to students.

“It was nearly the same methodology used by the Japanese in Nanking that was used by the Nazis in the Soviet Union: to shoot everybody,” he said.

 ISNA-CIOM Diversity Forum (The Muslim Observer, January 14-20, 2011)

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Founder and CEO of American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA) and the Park 51 Project, and renowned Professor Dr. Sherman Jackson, addressed the Detroit and surrounding communities at the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan (CIOM) Diversity Forum Banquet.  The banquet took place on Saturday, January 15th.

The banquet served as the first time Imam Feisal addressed the Muslim community, follwoing the eruption of protests against the building of Park 51, an Islamic community center in New York City.  Imam Feisal and Dr. Sherman Jackson addressed how Detroit and North American Muslims can overcome racial, ethnic, and sectarian divisions within their own community to develop a solid foundation to represent Islam to the larger interfaith community and overcome obstacles such as the Park 51 or Murfreesboro, TN controversies.

Imam Feisal is a tireless advocate for uniting the Muslim community through respect of diversity, continued outreach, and improved understanding, regardless of creed, nationality, or political beliefs.  Imam Feisal established ASMA in 1997 as the first Muslim American organization committed to bringing Muslims and people of other faiths together through policy, culture, current affairs, and academia.  He has received much attention in the past year for his part in the development of Park 51, an Islamic community center in downtown New York City, and his commitment to bringing the diversity of Muslims into the fold of American culture.

Dr. Sherman Jackson is a leading professor and scholar on matters of Islamic law and race relations in America.  Presently, he is Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies, Visitng Professor of Law, and Professor of Afro-American Studies at the University of Michigan.

“At a time when heated debates – such as the building of local Islamic schools, community centers, and places of worship – erupt across the nation, it is important that we do not allow the hate-mongers to divide and conquer the rights of our American Muslim community.  We must overcome our own internal divisions to seek strong relationships with our interfaith partners, he said.” 

Both Imam Feisal and Dr. Jackson are known for their commitment to overcoming divisions of race, creed, and religious beliefs!!

Krista Tippett Coming to the Birmingham Community House on February 15th


Metro Parent Magazine and WDET Workforce Development Education and Training (Diversity Health Institute)  are proud to present Spirituality and Parenting…a Conversation on Wisdom and Learning for the Modern Family featuring Sylvia Boorstein at The Birmingham Community House, February 15, 2011 at 7:00 p.m.  Krista Tippett is the host of Speaking of Faith, a weekly radio show carried on many public radio stations around the United States.

Speaking of Faith is a radio show covering topics related to human faith in the broadest sense. Krista Tippett,  author of Speaking of Faith and Einstein’s God and host of On Being, a radio program based on the questions of humanity and ancient traditions of the human spirit, will be leading a discussion with Sylvia Boorstein, author of Happiness Is an Inside Job.

Five Women Five Journeys: How Different Are We?
 WISDOM Women together

This unique WISDOM program features personal stories of women of different faith traditions – how their childhood impacted their beliefs today, what the challenges are for women in their faith tradition, what parts of their religion are misunderstood, how reaching out to someone from a different faith has enriched their lives.
To inquire about a Five Women Five Journeys Program for your organization, contact Elaine Schonberger at bookfairmama@comcast.net or Paula Drewek at Drewekpau@aol.com .
Check out the latest story about a friendship that crosses religion, race, or ethnic boundaries at www.friendshipandfaith.com.
Email Gail Katz at gailkatz@comcast.net if you have a personal story for the friendshipandfaith.com website!!

 1)  Go to http://www.readthespirit.com/religious-holidays-festivals/ for fascinating information about upcoming Religious holidays that your neighbors of different faith traditions may be celebrating!!

2)   Go to http://www.readthespirit.com/were-making-news/ for a listing of all the articles written about the WISDOM Book Friendship and Faith: the WISDOM of Women Creating Alliances for Peace.

Go to our WISDOM websites at www.interfaithwisdom.org

Read our interfaith story of the week from our book Friendship and Faith,

and find the link to buy the book at

Amazon at

Contact Information


Gail Katz gailkatz@comcast.net
phone: 248-978-6664

Join Our Mailing List

BECOME A FRIEND OF WISDOM!  Click on this link to go to the WISDOM website (right side of home page) to print out form to support WISDOM.

WISDOM Mission Statement

To Provide concrete modeling of women from different faith traditions working together in harmony for the common good.
To Empower women to take a more active role in furthering social justice and world peace.
To Dispel myths, stereotypes, prejudices and fear about faith traditions different from our own.
To Nurture the growth of empathy and spiritual energy that result from our projects and interfaith dialogue.


WISDOM is a Non-Profit Organization. Get involved with WISDOM!

WISDOM’s challenge is to bring together people from different faith traditions, ethnicities, races, and cultures in an atmosphere of safety and respect to engage in educational and community service projects. Let’s change our world through the positive power of building relationships!