January 2017

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events  
January through April 2017
Comparative Judaism Series
See Flyer Below
Sunday, January 15th, 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and Martin Luther King
with Professor Howard Lupovitch
Temple Kol Ami
5085 Walnut Lake Rd., West Bloomfield, MI
See Flyer Below!
Sunday, January 15th at 3:30 PM
Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at Adat Shalom Synagogue
along with Greater New Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church
and Russell Street Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit
29901 Middlebelt Rd in Farmington HIlls
See Flyer Below!
18th Annual World Sabbath
Sunday, March 5, 2017 starting at 4:00 PM
Temple Beth El, 7400 Telegraph Road, Bloomfield HIlls
See Flyer Below!
Sunday, February 19, 2017 3:00 – 5:00 PM
WISDOM Visit to the Arab American National Museum
13624 Michigan Ave., Dearborn, MI 48126
contact Delores Lyons at deloreslyons@yahoo.com
Sunday, March 12, 2017 5:00 PM – 8:30 PM
Potluck Family Treasures Show and Tell
Mulberry Square Club House, Bloomfield Hills
More information to come!
Thursday, March 30, 2017 11:00 AM
Tour of Zaman International followed by lunch!
26091 Trowbridge St., Inkster, MI
Contact Delores at deloreslyons@yahoo.com for more information
Thursday, April 13, 12-3 pm
Five Women Five Journeys Presentation
Oakland Community college
Highland Lakes Campus
7350 Cooley Lake Rd.
Waterford, MI. 48327
Contact Paula Drewek at drewekpau@aol.com
Wednesday, April 26, 7 pm
Five Women Five Journeys Presentation
St. John Fisher Chapel
3665 Walton Blvd.
Auburn Hills, Mi.
Contact Paula Drewek at drewekpau@aol.com
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
Stay tuned!

Students Learn about Different Faiths
Through Religious Diversity Programs
by Brendan Losinski (West Bloomfield Beacon)
Each year, students from several school districts across the Detroit area take part in a religious diversity program that visits various places of worship belonging to different faiths. The goal is to promote education, understanding and unity. The visits are organized by the Detroit Interfaith Leadership Council, which works to promote interfaith understanding through connection, education and conciliation. The council uses tours and classes and coordinates between different faiths and institutions.
“The goal is to expose our children to various cultures and religious traditions,” explained Lori Lachowicz, the community school organizer at Berkshire Middle School. “We ask the students after what their biggest takeaway was, and we get so many interesting answers. This program also gives representatives from various religions a chance to invite people in and explain who they are and maybe expel some myths or stereotypes.”
Each year, the particiants visit different places of worship and cultural centers around the Detroit area. A group of about 25 middle school students are selected from a list of those who sign up. They  are chosen based on their grades, interests and the discretion of administrators. This year, the students visited Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills Nov. 16. The group included students from Birmingham Public Schools, Farmington Public Schools and Walled Lake Consolidated Schools, as well as students from Great Revelations Academy in Dearborn and Huda School in Franklin. They will visit Hope United Methodist Church in Southfield Dec. 13; the Tawheed Center, a Muslim institution in Southfield, Jan. 31, 2017; the Sikh Gurdwara Sahib Singh Sabha in Canton Feb. 9, 2017; Sri Venkateswara Hindu Temple in Novi March 14, 2017; and the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills April 21, 2017.
“We do the tours for the seventh-graders, an adult reading group and face-to-faith programs for students in eighth through 12th grade,” said Lachowicz. “We partner with superintendents in school districts throughout Oakland and Wayne counties and started with a group of 100 students from four districts. Now there are three groups of 120 students from 18 districts.” “We want kids to enter into congregations in our community and find the commonality among them and see how, even though they can be different, people are all looking for something similar,” said Meredith Skowronski, program director for the Detroit Interfaith Leadership Council.
At the students’ tour of Adat Shalom Synagogue, they spoke with several of the rabbis and other staff members. They learned about the Jewish faith and traditions, asking questions about what is the same and what is different from their own beliefs. “It’s pretty interesting to see things through other people’s eyes,” said Tyler Giles, a seventh-grader from Berkshire Middle School. “You learn a lot about how other people think about things.” “I think just being here allows us to respect other religions and allows us to learn about other cultures,” added Safiya Mostafa, an eighth-grader from Huda School. “After the election, especially, people need to know more about each other without becoming a stereotyping person. Everyone has to put together their own opinion instead of just seeing what the media shows you, and get-togethers like this help do that.”
Those at the synagogue were happy to once again welcome the students into their place of worship and share their worldviews with them. “We’ve been part of this for years,” said Aaron Bergman, a rabbi at Adat Shalom Synagogue. “I hope we can encourage people to learn you can disagree with others but still live together. It’s not about uniformity – it’s about respect. I think groups like this can be a model for the rest of the country.” According to the program organizers, some of the best and most beneficial lessons can come from coming together with other students. “When we started this I thought, ‘Oh, the kids will learn all the Jewish holidays,’ or, ‘They’ll learn the five pillars of Islam,’ and they did, but I was surprised to see how much the kids learned just talking with people,” remarked Skowronski. “Last year, one of our students just started talking with a Muslim girl in the bathroom and she asked how she puts on her hijab, so the other girl showed her.”
Skowronski said she recognizes how tense many people are regarding issues of diversity or being part of a minority. She said the best defense against problems arising from these issues comes from talking and getting to know one another, and to stop viewing those who are different as “other.” “Now more than ever, especially in the current political climate, it is important to break down barriers and eliminate stereotypes and see people for who they are and not just as a member of a certain group,” said Skowronski.

Arabs donate wood to rebuild Haifa synagogue
Rabbi Hiyon with the synagogue in ruins
Following a massive forest fire which gutted a conservative synagogue in Haifa, Israeli-Arab wood suppliers have decided to donate wood paneling to help the synagogue rebuild. Israeli-Arab businessmen who were asked to give an estimate to help repair damage caused to a synagogue in Haifa due to the massive fires there have said they will carry out the project pro-bono, and refuse any compensation for the restoration work.
“I decided to help and not receive any payment,” said Walid abu-Ahmed, a wood panel supplier based in Haifa. “Jews and Arabs live together in Haifa, and there is no discrimination. We must continue with this co-existence and promote peace.”
The third floor of the conservative Moriah synagogue in the Ahuza area of the city was burned in the fires which raged there on Thursday. The Rabbi of the synagogue, Dovi Hiyon, was also looking for new wooden tables to replace the ones which were destroyed in the fire. He went to carpenter Shachar Sela, who agreed to work pro-bono, but wanted payment for the materials. The carpenter went to several wood suppliers before reaching out to abu-Ahmad and Ziad Yunis. When abu-Yunis heard what the wood was to be used for, he decided to give the wood free of charge. “I had tears in my eyes when I heard what was happening,” Rabbi Hiyon said. “It was so emotional to hear that Muslims were asking to donate to a Jewish synagogue. I’ve invited them to evening prayers to personally thank them.” Gadi Gvaryahu, Chairman of Tag Meir – an organization which encourages inter-faith dialogue – said “we need to extend our outreach to the majority of the Israeli-Arab population which is interested in co-existence. The wood supplier and the carpenter are a better representation of the Israeli-Arab population than the extremists.” Abu-Ahmed added that Islam is a religion of forgiveness. “We are all people,” he said. “I call on all citizens – Arabs and Jews everywhere – to continue to live in co-existence. We all want to live happy lives.

Both Feeling Threatened, American Muslims
and Jews Join Hands
New York Times, December 6, 2016
By Laurie Goodstein
Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom bring together Muslim and Jewish women
(Photo by Yana Paskova for the New York Times)
NORTH BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Jolted into action by a wave of hate crimes that followed the election victory of Donald J. Trump, American Muslims and Jews are banding together in a surprising new alliance.
They are putting aside for now their divisions over Israel to join forces to resist whatever may come next. New groups are forming, and interfaith coalitions that already existed say interest is increasing.
Vaseem Firdaus, a Muslim who has lived in the United States for 42 years, spent Friday night at a Shabbat dinner for members of a women’s group called the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, in a home here filled with Jewish art and ritual objects. Until Mr. Trump was elected president, Ms. Firdaus, who is 56 and a manufacturing manager at Exxon Mobil, felt secure living as a Muslim in America. She has a daughter who is a doctor and a son who is an engineer, and she recently traveled to Tampa with her husband looking to buy a vacation home. But Mr. Trump’s victory has shaken her sense of comfort and security. After joining in blessings over home-baked challah and sparkling grape juice (instead of wine, out of consideration for the Muslims), Ms. Firdaus talked with four Jewish women she had never met before, balancing plates of Indian food on their laps. They found that the spate of hate crimes and the ominous talk by Mr. Trump or his advisers about barring Muslims from entering the country and registering those living here had caused all of them to think about Germany in the years before the Holocaust.
“When did you know it was time to leave?” Ms. Firdaus asked one woman who had just recounted how her relatives had fled the Nazis. “The ones that didn’t leave are the ones who went to Auschwitz.”
The Jewish women tried to convince her that they would not let it come to that. “If Muslims have to register, we’re all going to register,” said Mahela Morrow-Jones, who is helping to build the first West Coast chapter of the Sisterhood in Santa Barbara, Calif. “You’ve got to believe it, sister.” Groups are reaching out not just to clergy members, but also to laypeople, including business executives, students and women,”
Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a recent interview: “Jews know what it means to be identified and tagged, to be registered and pulled aside. It evokes very deep emotions in the Jewish community.” Mr. Greenblatt received a standing ovation when he declared at his organization’s conference in Manhattan last month that if Muslims were ever forced to register, “that is the day that this proud Jew will register as a Muslim.”
“All of us have heard the story of the Danish king who said if his country’s Jews had to wear a gold star,” he said, “all of Denmark would, too.”
Nearly 500 Muslim and Jewish women, many wearing head scarves and skullcaps, gathered on Sunday at Drew University in Madison, N.J., in what organizers said was the largest such meeting ever held in the United States. It was the third annual conference of the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, a grass-roots group that now claims 50 chapters in more than 20 states. The first conference two years ago drew only 100 people. The women spread out inside an enormous sports complex and met in clusters to study sacred texts on the racquetball courts, practice self-defense techniques in the dance studio and, in the bleachers, discuss how to talk to friends whose impression of Islam had been shaped entirely by news of terrorist attacks. Over lunch and in the hallways, they traded stories about the latest ugly outbreaks back home: a brick thrown through the window of a Muslim-owned restaurant in Kansas, apartments of Muslim families in Virginia hit with eggs and graffiti, swastikas scrawled on synagogues and in a playground in New York. Sisterhood chapters keep track of the incidents on their Facebook pages and other social media.
“Ignorance is one of the key triggers of hate,” said Sheryl Olitzky, the group’s executive director, in her opening remarks. “We need to show the world that we are Americans. We are here because we love each other and we’re overcoming hate.” Ms. Olitzky, a marketing executive whose husband and two sons are rabbis, started the first Sisterhood women’s meeting in New Jersey six years ago on the theory that “women navigate the world through relationships.” She baked the challah and hosted the Shabbat dinner on Friday night at her home.
The Sisterhood is one of several groups expanding their work on Muslim-Jewish relations: The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding started an initiative to elevate Muslim condemnations of terrorism, which are often ignored by the news media. The Anti-Defamation League is increasing its work against anti-Muslim bigotry.
“It’s the Trump effect,” said Imam Abdullah Antepli, the chief representative on Muslim affairs at Duke University, who attended the women’s conference with his wife. “I see the Muslim community even more eager to reach out and to put aside the grievances of the past.”
The most prominent new initiative is a Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council whose co-chairmen are Fortune 500 chief executives: Farooq Kathwari, of the furniture company Ethan Allen, who is Muslim, and Stanley Bergman, of the medical products distributor Henry Schein, who is Jewish. The council, which was forming as Mr. Trump’s campaign was gaining steam, includes both Democrats and Republicans. It was created by leaders of the American Jewish Committee and the Islamic Society of North America in an effort to have influence on public policy. The group intends to oppose a registry, support immigrants and refugees, and push for accommodating religious practices in the workplace.
Attending the Sisterhood conference on Sunday, Ms. Firdaus said she was feeling a bit more optimistic. She was surrounded by Jews who pledged not to abandon Muslims. Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, brought the women to their feet cheering with stories of how in history’s darkest times, love had conquered hate.
“Sitting here makes you feel it’s really not so hopeless. This is food for the soul,” Ms. Firdaus said.

Building inclusive societies requires profound change in mindsets, stated the Baha’i International Community (BIC) in a keynote address at the recent Global Summit on Religion, Peace and Security held from 23 to 25 November at the Palace of Nations in Geneva. With the support of the European Union and the government of Spain, the event was co-organized by the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect as well as the International Association for the Defense of Religious Liberty. It focused on the role and importance of religious freedom in preventing violent extremism and atrocity crimes and explored the relationship between them.

Participants included the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng; Senior Advisor on Culture at the United Nations Population Fund, Azza Karam; Ambassador at Large for Alliance of Civilizations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Spain, Belen Alfaro Hernandez; and European Union Special Envoy for the Promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief outside the EU, Jan Figel, among others. Addressing the forum, Diane Ala’i, representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations in Geneva, spoke about the critical role that religious leadership plays in cultivating inclusive and tolerant mindsets. “Building peaceful societies and safeguarding freedom of religion and belief depend on the abandonment of claims of exclusivity and finality by religious leaders,” she said.  Ms. Ala’i also discussed the importance of cultivating unity between diverse populations. “Living side by side is not enough,” she explained. “People of different faiths must learn to live together.”

“We are finding,” she continued, “that collective service to the common good is a powerful factor in dispelling misunderstandings between people.”
Drawing on the example of the Baha’i community’s response in Iran to state-sponsored persecution, she explained, “The community has been able to contribute to the changing of hearts and minds in the country through the constructive resilience it has demonstrated in the face of decades of oppression, working shoulder to shoulder with fellow citizens for the betterment of Iranian society. “In its constructive approach to social change, it has witnessed a rising level of support from fellow Iranians within and outside of the country in recent years.” 

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.

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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!