WISDOM Newsletter – January 2012

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters



A Very Happy New Year to All!!


 Wednesday, January 11

WISDOM film discussion group meets to view the film “Pray the Devil Back to Hell.” Discussion will be facilitated by the Rev. Dan Buttry, American International Baptist Ministries. 6:30 PM – 9:00 PM at the Birmingham Community House in conjunction with the Race Relations and Diversity Task Force, 380 S. Bates St., Birmingham, 48009, cookies and coffee served!! Contact Sheri Schiff to register, sheritschiff@gmail.com

Thursday, January 19

Five Women Five Journeys Presentation at Birmingham Public Schools, Seaholm High School Media Center. 4:00 – 5:30 PM. Contact Marcia Wilkinson, mw01bps@birmingham.k12.mi.us, 248-203-3025.

Thursday, January 19

Face to Faith – an interfaith program for high school teens. Calling all teens to come to Adat Shalom Synagogue, 29901 Middlebelt Road Farmington Hills, MI and join teens of many faith traditions in learning about Judaism, and participating in interfaith interaction! 6:30 PM – 9:00 PM. Light supper included! Contact Gail Katz, gailkatz@comcast.net for more information about registration!

Thursday, January 26

Five Women Five Journeys Presentation at Christ The Redeemer Catholic Church in Lake Orion. 7:00 PM. Contact Nancy Clancy, ctrdirector@ameritech.net

Sunday, January 29

Thirteenth Annual World Sabbath – see article below!!

Thursday, March 15

Five Women Five Journeys Presentation at Albion College, Albion, MI. Contact the Rev. Daniel McQuown, College Chaplain, 517-629-0492.

Thursday, March 29

Interfaith seder at Temple Beth El, Bloomfield Hills, MI. 6:00 PM. Program plans are in process. Contact Elaine Schonberger, bookfairmama@comcast.net

Wednesday, May 16

Community Forum on the Challenges of Dealing with Mental Health Across Different Faith Traditions. 6:30 – 9:00 PM at the Birmingham Community House in partnership with Kadima in Southfield and the Race Relations and Diversity Task Force, 380 S. Bates St., Birmingham, 48009. Look for more information in the near future! Contact Gail Katz, gailkatz@comcast.net

Thursday, May 24

Five Women Five Journeys Presentation at the United Methodist Church of the Dunes, Grand Haven, MI. More information in the near future.

Join us at the WISDOM and InterFaith Leadership Council’s Film Discussion Group with the Race Relations and Diversity Task Force on January 11th to hear the Rev. Dan Buttry discuss the film “Pray the Devil Back to Hell,” which features Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee!!







An Interfaith Initiative for Teens of all faith traditions!!

6:30 PM – 9:00 PM at Adat Shalom Synagogue

29901 Middlebelt Rd., Farmington Hills, MI


Meet new people and make new friends!

Learn about Judaism and take a tour of the synagogue!

Participate in interfaith round table discussion while you dine on delicious pizza and Jewish seven layer cake!!


To register go to:



For more information

contact Gail Katz, gailkatz@comcast.net

WISDOM Co-Founder


or Josh Morof, jbmorof@yahoo.com

Andover High School Senior and Founder of Face to Faith






SUNDAY, JANUARY 29th FROM 4:00 – 5:30 PM






Secure Parking will be available

























gailkatz@comcast.net 248-978-6664




On December 8th. 2011 20 WISDOM Women came together at Unity of Farmington Hills to work with Nomi Joyrich, owner of Bead Works in Franklin, to create interfaith beaded bracelets.


We got the opportunity to choose the different colored beads for our bracelets and design how the Baha’i star, the Jewish star, the Muslim crescent, the Ohm symbol for the Eastern faiths, the Christian cross, and the Buddhah would be interspersed among the beautiful beads to fit around our wrists after we added the clasp. What fun!! Women had a chance to be jewelry designers while chatting with each other and getting to know one another better. The afternoon ended with a repast of vegetarian pizza, salad, fruit, and desserts.


A big thank you goes to the Rev. Barbara Clevenger, who graciously allowed WISDOM to use her church social hall for this event, and to Nomi Joyrich for donating her time and expertise.


Bead Event one

WISDOM Women had to measure the beads and the interfaith charms.



It was so much fun to be creative with the beads and the interfaith charms!!


Bead event two

Mary Gilhuly and Amanda Clark, two WISDOM participants, show their finished bracelets!!


By Gail Katz, WISDOM Co-Founder


Sunday, December 11th, 2011 was a very special day!! This was the day that WISDOM and the National Council of Jewish Women, Greater Detroit Section, sponsored a huge interfaith community service event with Kids Against Hunger, Michigan Coalition. Working with Mike Burwell, CEO of the Michigan Kids Against Hunger and with Mary Miller, our contact person at the Rush Trucking Warehouse in Wayne, Michigan, who helped us secure this venue for our food packing, we organized this community service event that attracted over 230 adults, teens, and children – Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Unitarians, and Hindus!


Our group of volunteers packed 20,000 meals of dry food, one third of it reserved for Focus: HOPE who will make the distributions to hungry children here locally in Detroit, one third to go to hungry children internationally, and one third to be put in reserve for natural disasters such as tsunamis or earthquakes. Packing 20,000 meals meant that we had to raise $5600, and we were so fortunate to find houses of worship, organizations, and individuals who donated funds to help finance this interfaith coming together to “repair the world.”


In addition to WISDOM and the National Council of Jewish Women, Greater Detroit Section, major funds were donated by the Muslim Unity Center in Bloomfield Hills, the Bharatiya Hindu Temple in Troy, St. Hugo of the HIlls Catholic Church in Bloomfield Hills, and the Rush Trucking Warehouse in Wayne.


We began our interfaith community service event with an opening litany that focused on social justice and the fundamental unity of the human family!. This was followed by the inclusion of ten youth who came together in a circle to read the Golden Rule in ten different faith traditions. This sharing of the Golden Rule underscored that many of our faiths have, as a major tenet, the idea of treating others as you would want them to treat you!! We then shared “A Prayer for the World” by Rabbi Harold Kushner that emphasized “seeing each other clearly – beyond labels, accents, gender or skin color.” We then all got to work scooping and weighing the dry food and putting it in plastic bags that were then sealed and packaged in boxes!


What a wonderful event. It gave me such pleasure, as the WISDOM Chair of this event, to see Muslims, Jews, and Christians working side by side – to see children learning the lesson to give back to their community, to know that WISDOM can make a difference through community service!!

In the front row from the left to right are Uzma Sharaf (Muslim Unity Center), Padma Kuppa (Bharatiya Hindu Temple), Gail Katz (WISDOM Co-Founder), Sue Simon (National Council of Jewish Women, GDS), Mary Miller (our Rush Trucking contact), and behind Mary on the far right is Mike Burwell (Kids Against Hunger Michigan Coalition).
Kids against Hunger
kids Against Hunger
kids Against Hunger boxes

Detroit’s Brother Al Mascia

puts soup kitchen on wheels

Louis Aguilar/ The Detroit News


Brother Al Mascia has much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, and so does his flock. After losing the brick-and-mortar headquarters for his Detroit-based charitable operations earlier this month, the brown-robed Franciscan friar has kept serving the homeless, the elderly and others in Detroit.

Mascia anticipated the closing of the building more than a year ago and raised $4,000 to buy two specially designed tricycles with vendor carts in front and storage trailers in the back so he wouldn’t miss a beat in serving his clientele.

“St. Francis went beyond the walls of the medieval city to serve the exiled,” said Mascia, referring to St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Catholic religious order to which Mascia belongs. “Now, I have no walls between me and the people I serve.” Mascia’s Canticle Café and St. Al’s Community Center used to be housed in a large aging building on Washington Boulevard that cost $200,000 a year in utilities and maintenance. The building’s owner, the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit, sold it to a private firm that now owns the entire side of the street.

An archdiocese official said it cannot find an affordable new space for the community center because many building owners in a rebounding downtown don’t want a tenant that serves the poor and homeless.

But the development didn’t stop Mascia. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, in sun, sleet and snow, he pedals into the outdoor waiting area of the Rosa Parks Transit Center on the tricycle – a practice he started last year.

He comes loaded with hot drinks, sandwiches and fruit, small packets of toiletries and clothing. He said he won’t be serving today because there are meals served all over the city, but he does plan on serving people on Christmas Day.


On Tuesday last week, dozens quickly lined up – the homeless Army veteran with two children, the recovering crack addict, the elderly woman who said she comes mainly to stave off loneliness. Mascia and three volunteers gave away all they had within 45 minutes. “Brother Al is always working for the people,” said Leona Palazzolo of Detroit, who says she has relied on the friar’s services for seven years. “He’s always got time to listen to you, and he doesn’t ever talk down to you. He’s just real nice to be around.”


The change in operations might be a blessing in disguise, Mascia said.

“There is more opportunity here than the brick-and-mortar center,” he said. “I see more families here on the streets, more of the mentally ill. We are about serving people.” The tricycle-based Canticle Café provides service six times a week at the public bus terminal on Cass Avenue just north of Michigan Avenue. Father Tod Laverty from St. Aloysius Catholic Church on Washington Boulevard and other volunteers operate the mobile help center on the days when Mascia is out raising money. He has already found a benefactor to buy another tricycle.


The brick-and-mortar Canticle Café would not have lasted as long as it did without Mascia’s fundraising and venture into retailing. In 2008, the recession led to a decline of more than a third in corporate donations, and donations kept shrinking, the friar said. The community center served about 300 daily. It offered breakfast, groceries and clothing, Internet access and general education diploma and literacy classes, as well as medical help from a nurse practitioner.

“Even someone like me knew that this wasn’t a temporary setback. We had to act,” Mascia said. First, he began to sell shade-grown, fair-trade coffee from Chiapas, Mexico, by partnering with a local coffee vendor. The Canticle Cafe blend helps the Detroit poor and the indigenous growers in Mexico.

The venture raised thousands of dollars for the Detroit center. The cafe expanded into selling candles called Friar Lights, T-shirts and dog biscuits. The retail line still survives despite the shutting of the shelter.


Mascia is also a musician who writes songs inspired by the seniors and homeless people he meets on the job. About two years ago, he decided to take his guitar and amplifier on the road – along with a specially made pushcart full of coffee, Friar Lights, T-shirts and CDs – mainly to suburban parishes, where he hopes his concerts will move people to help the downtown friars continue their good works.


Mascia has a concert scheduled for 3 p.m. Dec. 18 at Prince of Peace Church in West Bloomfield Township. Mascia says he’s eager to expand the services. He is forging more partnerships with private businesses, such as the one with Ypsilanti-based Perk and Brew Inc.’s Brenda Moore, as well as churches of other denominations and other Catholic churches, to keep growing. What he now mainly lacks, he said, is more volunteers to help him in the winter months.

“When we get the newvehicle, I hope to go into the alleys and other areas where people with no home may be seeking shelter,” Mascia said. “We want them to know that someone is thinking about them.”


Brother Al Mascia, along with Maggid Steve Klaper will be the recipients of the World Sabbath Peace Award for their interfaith work and their work helping the homeless in Detroit! See flyer about the World Sabbath in this WISDOM Window!!



The Real Way to Decorate a Christmas Tree
What do dharma and decorating have in common?
By Padma Kuppa, December 15, 2011

Padma Kuppa

Every December, I put up a Christmas tree, and don’t think much of it; after all, what is so unique about an American Hindu putting up a Christmas tree? A tree is a symbol of life, the lights are a symbol of knowledge, and the nativity scene with the baby Jesus underneath is akin to the avatar concept that many Hindus ascribe to-that God can take a human form, to protect and save us. A Christmas tree is symbolic of joy and fun, the presents underneath symbolic of giving and sharing. Hindus love that which is colorful and festive-look at our deities, our altars, our sacred art-and giving (dana) is a highly valued practice. But this year, the boxes of ornaments lay around our half decorated tree as I discovered that I am in the middle of my own December Dilemma: I don’t want to celebrate, decorate, or put presents under the tree.


My December Dilemma is not the one that the Anti-Defamation League or my Jewish friends speak about. The ADL actually describes it as a “difficult task of acknowledging the various religious and secular holiday traditions … Teachers, administrators and parents should try to promote greater understanding and tolerance among students of different traditions by taking care to adhere to the requirements of the First Amendment.” The Jewish community’s issue with this month has led to a movie (December Dilemma), books (such as Sam I Am, about a boy raised by a Jewish father and a Christian mother), and countless other resources such as parenting seminars at synagogues. These are done to help children and parents-especially interfaith couples-contend with how to respond to the lavish festivities and the consumerism that often goes with Christmas. But my dilemma is more a dharmic one, especially since I head to New York, where the source of my December discontent originates: Wall Street. Specifically, Occupy Wall Street and the depressing news about economic inequities, about those who have and those who don’t.

I had hoped to go to the Zucotti Park encampment, not as a voyeur, but as a sympathizer. The non-violent movement that began as a protest about the corruption and greed on Wall Street was something I wished to witness and support: it was a throwback not simply to the Arab Spring, but to the Gandhian resistance movement, a way to change the world and the economic inequalities that exist today. However, the Occupiers were removed and I had no one to sympathize with, no Liberty Plaza to visit, and my disappointment became my dilemma, my discontent.


But Gandhi said we must be the change we want to see, and as Ian Desai pointed out in the New York Times recently, he would have rejected the division between the 99 percent and the 1 percent. Desai also pointed out that Gandhi supported and prescribed constructive social action, “through which we might begin to mend the world.” This brought me back to my Jewish friends, who want to repair the world-through the concept of Tikkun Olam-particularly one friend, Gail Katz, co-founder of WISDOM, a non-profit interfaith women’s organization of which I am a Board member. Gail’s interfaith journey explains how she became sensitive to the plight of “the other” through various childhood experiences, and how her adult life is centered on social action, and bringing diverse people together to do good things.


I agree with Gail: my dharma is to focus on social justice and to do something-not visit someone. So I participated in WISDOM’s second Kids Against Hunger community service project. According to the Kids Against Hunger Coalition website, ten children per minute die of starvation or malnutrition related diseases, and WISDOM decided we wanted to do something to help. Co-sponsored by the National Council of Jewish Women and WISDOM, with much of the financial support coming from St. Hugo of the Hills Catholic Church, the Muslim Unity Center in Bloomfield Hills, and the Bharatiya Temple of Metropolitan Detroit, WISDOM raised funds and gathered people of diverse religious and cultural backgrounds on a Sunday afternoon in December. Nearly 250 of us came together at Rush Trucking Warehouse in Wayne, to package twenty thousand meals in just a few hours. A third of these go to feed local children in need, a third go to twenty other countries, and the remaining third go to help in areas where disaster relief is needed. We are the 100 percent, we gave a 100 percent, and my Christmas tree is now decorated – 100 percent!



By Teri Bazzi-Oliveri


In recent months, the world’s billion-plus Muslims have marked the fasting month of Ramadan, the pilgrimage to Mecca and the Islamic New Year 1433. From the Eastern Christian church to the Western church, the world’s 2 billion Christians are celebrating the season of peace that leads to Christmas. The world’s millions of Jews are looking forward to the season of Hanukkah, a celebration of religious liberty in a diverse world that begins at sunset on December 20, 2011.
And all of us-all 7 billion of us on planet Earth-are thinking about our New Year’s Resolutions. never thought that I would say this, but I like Jews.
Yes, a Lebanese-American-born Muslim loves Jews.
Are you surprised?



The world tells us that Arabs and Jews should not be loving one another-that we should be killing and shooting and destroying not only each other, but also our homes, our lands and our religions. I know that some in my own community would not approve of friendships that I am forming these days. I know that even my father might have some harsh words for me for opening my home and sharing a meal-like iftar, the joyous breaking-the-fast dinner after sunset in Ramadan. This year for one special iftar, I hosted not only some of my closest Muslim friends, but Jewish friends, as well. I just might be let off the hook if I mention that I mixed it up at my diverse iftar and had some Christian friends at my home as well. I was crossing several boundaries as I opened my door.

Writing as a Muslim-Arab-American, I feel the tensions around me when I risk this kind of openness. The most prevalent media stereotypes of Muslims show us as strict and unwilling to compromise. If you doubt this, just look at network television, websites, magazines, Hollywood movies. We’re usually protrayed as extreme. In fact, the whole Middle Eastern situation usually is depicted as impossible to resolve. I have often heard people say things like: “The Middle East does not want peace.”


I can tell you: This is not true. Peace is possible. For long stetches of Middle East history, families enjoyed peace. We want peace to return.


The question is: How do we define peace? I have learned from my Jewish brothers and sisters that what I define as peace in the Middle East from my perspective as a Lebanese-American does, indeed, involve different steps than the definition of peace by a Palestinian or an Israeli. We share the same deep desire for peace-but finally achieving peace across the Middle East does involve different requirements for each group.


Think of asking a Palestinian who is living in occupied territory to explain what peace means. What do you think that this person would say? How would a Palestinian living in Gaza define peace? You will hear many common themes. Yes, peace involves a years-long yearning for land. Yes, peace involves mourning lost parents and children. And, our dreams of peace also involve practical hopes that most people overlook-like clean water and a good education. Like the freedom to live without the terrors people face each day in many places. What does peace mean to my father and his Lebanese-American friends? You will hear yet another somewhat different definition. No question: Dreams of peace are big and diverse, drawing on deep memories and aiming at high hopes for our children and grandchildren.


Now think of this: If we were to turn and ask a Jew, perhaps a European Jew or an Israeli Jew, about the meaning of peace-what would we hear? A Jewish friend once told me that she will never feel safe unless the State of Israel is recognized by all nations. But does that step alone define peace? I cannot answer that, of course. But think about the many perspectives within Judaism. Try to put yourself in the shoes of a Holocaust survivor. What might peace look like to this person? The answer likely would include freedom from the haunting memories of all that has been endured during and after the Holocaust. For Jews answering this question, would peace include shaking hands with a Palestinian? Or, as people do every day in the cultures of the Middle East: Might peace involve an embrace, a hug, a friendly kiss on the cheek?


These are the questions-and the hopes-that inspire me to open my mind and my heart and my home to all of those who are trying to figure out the same thing-this “peace” thing that we all keep talking about. Can we, one by one, begin to achieve this “peace” thing? Or is “peace” just a buzz word we feel cool and sophisticated tossing around-and almost confident enough to have the audacity to say that we know what the hell we are getting ourselves into when we talk about it?


I-for one-blatantly admit that I am still trying to figure out my role in the peacemaking project. I know that I will not make waves in the Middle East. I know that I will never get heads of state and the UN and the IDF and Hamas together in the same room for a hug. But I do know that I am part of a larger, diverse community where I live. Christians, Jews and Muslims live around me and we all want this thing called peace that seems so elusive. I do know that we can, at least, discover what peace means for each of us as individuals. And, most importantly, each of us can make sure that we listen carefully and find out what peace means for “the other”-whoever that “other” may be for each of us.

That is why when Abbey, a Jew, tells me about her Holocaust study in Poland, I listen. That is why, when she comes into my mosque, I kiss her not in the American way on one cheek, but I embrace her and kiss her twice, once on each cheek, in the style of my Lebanese friends. That is why when Jeff, a Jew, comes to my house, I hug him, even though my religion has strict rules about socializing with the opposite sex. I cross a line in embracing Jeff because I want Jeff to know that I care about him so much that even this social barrier will not prevent me from fully showing my concern for him. That is why when Jacob, a Christian, offers his opinions about the crisis in the Middle East, I try to listen with my head instead of my heart. And that is why when John, another Christian, asks questions about culture vs. religion, I try to give him an unbiased answer. That is why when Molly, a Christian, tells me about her experiences with Arab culture, I try not to cry because it is so refreshing to hear that someone is out there is trying to learn rather than merely spout slogans at me. That is why when Amy, a spiritual Christian, responds to some of my concerns, I know that in her answer I am hearing her concern for me, as she speaks. And that is why when Hussein, a Muslim, tells me his “philosophy” about how to handle the world, that I find I respect him so much more every time I hear him speak. And that is why when I find myself in the same room as Sarah, a Muslim, I know that I am in the presence of greatness and I find that I have a lot to live up to and, at the same time, I am somehow responsible for her.


Why do I do these things? Why do I dare to open my door and my arms in these ways? Because, in doing so, I realize that I am not alone. I discover, for example, that my notion of taking steps toward peace is much like that of Rashid, a Muslim friend. We have that bond-cut from the same cloth and now we understand one another in a deeper way. We are reaching toward the same hopes.


I know that my Jewish and Christian brothers and sisters want the same thing: to understand what peace means to one another. As I enter the Muslim year 1433-and we collectively approach the new year 2012-I am urging all of my friends to follow a simple yet powerful suggestion.

Open your eyes. Open your ears. And, open your arms. Open arms. That’s the only way we can even begin to cross barriers-and truly enjoy the warmth of a hug.


Peace, Shalom, SALAAM.


Jewish, Muslim volunteers
join forces to help out on Christmas

Detroit Free Press

December 25, 2011

Ari Goldberg filled Styrofoam cup after Styrofoam cup with lemonade from a giant jug cooler in soup kitchen at the St. Leo Catholic Church’s on Detroit’s west side on Christmas morning.

The 13-year-old West Bloomfield resident was one of about two dozen volunteers from the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit who helped prepare and serve a festive holiday meal to less-fortunate people.

It was part of the organization’s annual Mitzvah Day program, the largest single day of volunteering by the region’s Jewish community, which enables Christians to spend the holiday at home with their loved ones, according to the Federation. This year, for the third time, an estimated 1,000 Jewish volunteers joined forces with their Muslim neighbors

“Mitzvah” means “good deed” or “commandment” in Hebrew.


Read the rest of the article by going to the following website!!



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


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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!