WISDOM Newsletter – July 2012

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

JULY 2012



 Sunday, July 8

5:00 PM Baha’i Interfaith Gathering at the home of Azar Alizadeh.  See flyer below!!

Monday/Tuesday, August 6 & 7
Five Women/Five Journeys presented in partnership with Lakeside Chautauqua, Lakeside Ohio. Programs presented in the morning and afternoon each day. Contact Paula Drewek for more information on 586 419-6811.

Sunday, September 9

Third annual Acts of Kindness (AOK) Detroit event – kick off at University of Michigan-Dearborn!!  1:00 – 5:00 PM.  Contact Gail Katz for more information.  gailkatz@comcast.net

In this issue
Calendar of Events
Baha’i Interfaith Gathering
American Muslim Experiences
Jews and Muslims Sing Together
The Next Frontier in Muslim-Jewish Relations
Padma Kuppa’s Blog
A Beth Shalom Happening
An Interfaith Initiative helps Tornado Victims
The Rabbi and The Christian Cab Driver
Choral Festival in the Baha’i Faith
Inside the Fault Line of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
The Jewish-Buddhist Encounter
A Rabbi, A Mormon, and a Black Christian Mayor
Five Women Five Journeys





(Women’s Interfaith Solutions for Dialogue and Outreach in MetroDetroit)




At the home of Azar Alizadeh

1416 Inwoods Circle (off of Kirkway Dr.)

Bloomfield Field Hills, MI 48302


Bring your favorite prayer or quotations

and come join us to learn about the Baha’i Faith!!

Food, Music, and Conversation after the Devotions

RSVP to Azar at azaraliza@gmail.com

Questions? Call Paula Drewek at 586-419-6811

American Muslim Experiences

An Open Dialogue

With so much confusion in the news and media

regarding Muslims and Islam, what’s the truth?

Are Muslims part and parcel of the American landscape?

 Are American-Muslims loyal citizens?

As people of good will come together

to increase our understanding of each other

we can then began to lessen tensions

and increase tolerance and understanding.

Bloomfield Township Public Library

1099 Lone Pine Road
Bloomfield Township, MI 48302

6pm, Thursday, July 12th

Register Here


Explore the differences of the American Cultural Experience

Ask questions and hear the personal stories

 of Muslims in Michigan and how they reconcile faith

 and life as Muslims in the U.S.

Sponsored by the Muslim Unity Center of Bloomfield Hills

Contact: Raheem Hanifa, rhanifa@cair.com, 248-686-9605

Jews and Muslims sing together

In this short video, a Jewish rabbi and Muslim Sudanese singer talk about how traditional spiritual music helped them learn about the ancient ties between their two faiths.  Click on the link below.





Latin America: The Next Frontier in Muslim-Jewish Relations

By Walter Ruby


Washington, DC – Until recently, the Muslim and Jewish communities of Latin America had been largely untouched by the burgeoning movement of the past five years to strengthen communication and cooperation between Jewish and Muslim leaders and grassroots activists in North America and Europe. That isolation is now coming to an end.

Jews and Muslims have a long history in Latin America. There is evidence that Jews and Muslims escaping the Inquisition accompanied Spanish and Portuguese explorers on their voyages of discovery to the Americas in the 15th and 16th centuries. Both communities grew in the late 19th and early 20th centuries due to the large-scale immigration of Jews from Eastern Europe and Muslims from Arab countries.

Jewish and Muslim businesspeople have long been sparkplugs of the economies of Brazil and Argentina and to a lesser extent, Uruguay, Chile and other Latin American countries, and have often maintained cooperative business and personal relationships with each other.

However, until recently there was relatively little effort by leaders of the two communities to build inter-communal ties. One reason may be that the Muslim communities in Latin America are primarily comprised of immigrants from Arab countries, including Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians who tend to be more reluctant to engage with the Jewish community outside of the prism of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, than Muslims from non-Arab countries.

That reluctance, however, began to wane in the wake of 9/11. Arab and Muslim communal leaders became increasingly concerned about the danger of rising Islamophobia, while Latin American Jewish leaders felt vulnerable after a number of high profile anti-Semitic incidents. Both groups tentatively began to reach out to the other, realising it was in their mutual interest to cultivate the relationship.

It was that awareness that led 14 Jewish and Muslim leaders from five Latin American countries and two Caribbean islands to accept an invitation to take part in a mission of Latin American Muslim and Jewish leaders to Washington, DC, hosted by The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). The two organisations initiated the mission with the intent of introducing Latin American Muslim and Jewish leaders to the pioneering efforts to strengthen Muslim-Jewish relations in North America and Europe, in which FFEU and ISNA have been engaged since 2007.

After two days of meetings in late March with high-level US officials and top Muslim and Jewish American leaders, members of the Latin American delegation returned home to Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, Uruguay, Barbados and St. Croix vowing to jumpstart the process of dialogue and cooperation between Muslim and Jewish communities throughout Latin America.

These leaders also agreed to participate for the first time this November in the Weekend of Twinning, a global Muslim-Jewish event sponsored by FFEU and ISNA and held each November since 2008. In November 2011, more than 250 mosques, synagogues and other Muslim and Jewish organisations partnered with each other for one-on-one events in cities across North America, Europe and other parts of the world.

While there was an acknowledgement by both Jewish and Muslim Latin American participants in the mission that they would face obstacles from members of their respective communities who are suspicious of cooperation with the “other”, there was consensus that it is in the interest of both sides to open up on-going communication. This was reflected in a joint statement issued at the end of the mission affirming a commitment to building “solid Muslim-Jewish relations in our countries and communities and showing our two peoples and the world that Muslims and Jews can work together fruitfully for the betterment of all, while building ties of friendship and trust.”

According to Sheikh Muhammad Yusuf Hallar of Argentina, Secretary General of the Islamic Organization for Latin America and the Caribbean, “This mission is very important for the future, because it will start a process of strengthening ties not only between participants in the mission, but between Muslim and Jewish communities throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.”

Rabbi Daniel Goldman of Buenos Aires, Argentina similarly commented that the two groups must have a “common cause” of “[standing] together to fight Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry.”

Overall, there was a palpable feeling among participants that building fruitful Muslim-Jewish relations in Latin America is hardly the “mission impossible” that some had assumed it would be. Indeed, they evinced cautious optimism that many in their respective communities can be inspired with an awareness that strengthening Muslim-Jewish relations is a win-win situation for both communities, and for the diverse Latin American societies in which Jews and Muslims live side by side.

Walter Ruby is a journalist and Muslim Jewish Relations Program Director at the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).




Padma Kuppa
Padma Kuppa is a writer, IT professional, community activist,wife, and mother working to build a more pluralistic society within a Hindu and interfaith framework.


Advocacy Leads to New Opportunities 


May is an eventful month for me in metro-Detroit’s interfaith landscape. In fact, the National Day of Prayer, traditionally held on the first Thursday in May, was what put me in a prominent place as an interfaith advocate. In my last column, I wrote about the Troy Community Coalition’s annual Faith Community Prayer Breakfast, which led to incidents that helped me co-found the Troy-area Interfaith Group. When this organization held its 8th annual National Day of Prayer event, I wasn’t in attendance: I was stepping down from the board of the women’s non-profit, WISDOM, another organization in which I have played an active role since its formation. If I am such an interfaith advocate, why am I missing major interfaith events and stepping down from leadership in interfaith organizations?


The answer lies partly in a Facebook exchange with another immigrant mom in my hometown of Troy. The comments started when I posted my essay, “Glimmers of Hope,” with its content explained as follows: “When I read about conversion on the other side of the world, and the lack of balance and awareness amongst those in power, it makes me question whether interfaith interaction can really work.” My friend’s initial sentence partially echoed my belief: “My problem with interfaith work is the emphasis it places on making one’s own faith better understood rather than coming to a realization that we don’t have to understand each other’s faiths to accept that other people’s lives are enriched by their faith even when it is not the same as our own; we don’t have to understand it, though we may choose to.”

Her charge that by becoming an advocate for a particular faith, one is really undermining the goals of dialogue, however, is one that I had to disagree with. As a Hindu, I come with the realization that my way is not the right way for everyone, and an acceptance that others’ lives are enriched by different beliefs and practices.


When people come to the interfaith table, they usually come with curiosity and with a certain attitude toward, or understanding of, faiths other than their own. The rare Hindu at the interfaith table has to take on the responsibility of dealing with how our beliefs are misrepresented, stereotyped, and generally explained in an Abrahamic context-something that often doesn’t work for the Eastern or dharmic traditions.

My interfaith journey began with explaining and clarifying what I believe and trying to dispel a number of outlandish notions that people have about Hinduism. Over the years, I have often participated as a panelist in WISDOM’s signature presentation, “Five Women, Five Journeys: How Different Are We?” Several women of WISDOM answer the same three to five questions related to their personal faith journeys, in front of an audience, and both the panel and audience walk away feeling more connected through their religious similarities and our common humanity. I have helped organize interfaith events like the National Day of Prayer or the World Sabbath for Religious Reconciliation, where we share prayers and spiritual practices, and serve the common good by supporting Kids Against Hunger and Habitat for Humanity. I agree with my friend Randa that “the kind of interfaith work that would make the struggle meaningful would have to translate into efforts that result in bringing people together.”



A few years ago, I joined the Executive Council of the Hindu American Foundation, an organization that has been a leading voice for Hindu American advocacy: standing up and speaking out on issues that are relevant to Hindus in America and around the world. Sheetal Shah, Sr., Director at the Foundation, has explained what we do and the importance of advocacy, bringing to light the human rights abuses and issues faced by Hindus, and how we’ve been confronted with the questions whether we are “Hindu Sunni or Hindu Shia.”


The Hindu American Foundation promotes tolerance, understanding, and pluralism, a journey that most at the interfaith table have embarked upon. First, we are willing to have the other at the table (tolerate), then we take the time to know who they are (understand), and finally we accept (pluralism). For me, pluralism is a verb, like tolerate and understand. At the local, national, and international level, I encounter those who believe that their faith is the correct or true one, and whose efforts to convert are often tangled in a complicated web of power involving race, colonialism, and economics.


As a Hindu, whose foundational beliefs include the concept of pluralism-the idea that others have their own spiritual path, different from mine-I have to add another verb: advocate. Advocacy is what brings to light issues for those who voices are not heard or not known. To strive for pluralism, we must first acknowledge these issues and the differences, and then move beyond them. Thankfully, there are other Hindus who have joined me in these efforts, participating in the National Day of Prayer, hosting visitor groups at the temple, and supporting Habitat for Humanity. They have allowed me to step away, and also step up in a different way. My interfaith journey has allowed me to seek a place at the table, to help people understand, and now to be an advocate for pluralism.




Beth Shalom: A Stranger Finds
an Unexpected Circle of Friends

By Veronica Fiegel

I finally understood what it meant to be a stranger in a strange land. Not in bondage like the original stranger in Exodus 2 and not as dramatically as the Heinlein or U2 strangers-but I certainly was far beyond my culture. Even my language failed me. I had no idea what a mitzvah was; I only knew that it was usually associated with bar or bat, and I still couldn’t have told you what those words meant.

At Wayne State University, I had been told that I needed to complete an internship since I first declared my major as public relations. At a Wayne State internship fair, I met representatives from some of the area’s communication agencies, local publications and non-profit organizations. Among all the hustle and bustle of suited-up people and nervous students sat a calm woman whose organization was looking for a public relations intern. The position was exactly what I was seeking: publicizing events and writing feature stories for an internal newsletter and for community newspapers and websites.


In the days following the fair, this woman-Mandy Garver, president of Congregation Beth Shalom in Oak Park-contacted me and offered me the position. I was so excited, but I had one concern: Can a non-Jew do this job? I am Lutheran. My upbringing was very Christian-traditional: celebrating Christmas and Easter, attending Christian lifecycle events surrounded by other Christians. I didn’t have much exposure to Judaism growing up. I had heard of a few of the major Jewish holidays, as most non-Jews have, but Judaism was foreign to me. After some deliberation, I accepted Mandy’s offer. Although I was anxious about not being Jewish, I felt good about taking the offer. This was an ample portfolio- and contact-building opportunity but without the intimidation of a big corporation. I couldn’t wait to get started.


Prior to my January start date, Mandy and my supervisor, Bobbie, gave me two books about Judaism to help me understand Jewish faith and customs. The books were fascinating but there is only so much you can learn from books. If you want to learn about religion and culture, the most important tool is personal communication.

As I began the internship, I realized that talking with the office staff would not only be helpful, but necessary in producing meaningful articles and publicity. I needed to know what I was talking about when I wrote for Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. Although I read about Jewish culture, I still needed to talk to people who really understood it. Luckily for me, I had an office full of knowledgeable staff who were more than willing to answer my questions.

My inquiries went beyond the professional; I was curious personally. I kept thinking to myself: At what other time am I going to be able to learn so much about Judaism? I carefully observed everything around me and attended events that would help me learn more. A Women’s Seder in April gave me my first inside experience of one of Judaism’s most important traditions.


Every month I sent in calendar listings to The Jewish News, the local Patch and to Local Stew. I wrote press releases, pitched stories and wrote feature articles for the synagogue’s internal newsletter and for community newspapers. Just starting out in my profession, I enjoyed the astonishment of seeing my name pop up in published bylines and having journalists contact me wanting to know more about a synagogue event. Seeing these kinds of results made me feel that I was being helpful to Beth Shalom as a professional-that a non-Jew could not only do this job, but do it well.

The positive energy of the synagogue was undeniable. Everyone I encountered among staff and members greeted me with a smiling face. Although everyone in the office knew I wasn’t Jewish, it never affected how they treated me. I felt so included in this community of friends that, over time, this felt like more than a job, more than a professional role I was playing. I realized that I was living out one of the principles I had learned in my Wayne State course work-I was becoming such a part of the organization I was serving that I was now among friends. At Beth Shalom, I was one of their own.


Aside from giving me professional experience, my time with Beth Shalom also gave me a new perception of Jewish people. Media headlines, photos and stories don’t always portray Jews in the fairest, most-accurate light. In a world dominated by Christianity, most people will not be lucky enough to learn about Judaism as I have. Working at the synagogue for four months has taught me that one key to breaking down stereotypes is forming personal relationships. And, as friends, I found that Jewish people I encountered throughout the community are some of the nicest, most genuine and non-judgmental people I’ve ever had the fortune of meeting. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to get to know such amazing people and learn more about a religion that, up until January, I’ve only heard about second hand.



Interfaith Initiative – U-M Muslim/Jewish Group

 Helps Alabama Tornado Recovery Efforts

by Sarah Snider


Straight out of Yeshiva University’s Stern College, English Lit degree in hand, I went to work for Jewish Disaster Response Corps (JDRC) as a field logistics coordinator/educator in January 2012. An organization whose mission is inspired by the Jewish values of “tikkun olam” and volunteerism, JDRC accepts all volunteers willing to work hard, regardless of religious beliefs.


During the 2011-2012 school year, JDRC brought volunteers down to Birmingham, Ala. to rebuild houses destroyed by the April 27, 2011 tornadoes.  My role was to stay with volunteers housed at Knesseth Israel Congregation, feed them, transport them, and keep them safe and thinking.


Transitioning from living in a dorm to living in a synagogue with weeklong volunteer groups of college students was less difficult than you might assume; there are amusing similarities.  Walking into a communal bathroom to find a Muslim student adjusting her hijab, however, was definitely a new experience for me.


MuJew: Muslim-Jewish Interfaith Dialogue at University of Michigan came down to Birmingham in late February to volunteer with JDRC and Habitat for Humanity of Greater Birmingham.  While not the first interfaith group I’d worked with, MuJew was among the most enthusiastic. The rewarding experience  of physically building a house punctuated by open, honest dialogue in both formal and informal settings defined their service learning trip.  Armed with hammers and tool belts filled with nails and dressed in bright yellow hats, the MuJews looked and built like real constuction workers.


A highlight of the MuJew’s week of volunteering was an interfaith community dinner held at the local mosque – the last place that I ever expected to find myself.  I was raised in Michigan and attended Jewish schools, so Muslim prayer services and interfaith dinners in the Deep South were not on my bucket list.  Looking back at that incredibly impactful night, I couldn’t have been happier I was there.  Not only attended by Muslims and Jews, the dinner party also consisted of Christian guests from Habitat for Humanity as well as the Mennonite Disaster Service.


The week concluded with the students celebrating Shabbat together with the Modern Orthodox community of Knesseth Israel Congregation. Shabbat lunch was prepared by the students for the entire congregation of the synagogue, and gave the MuJews a chance to get to know the people in whose synagogue they had been living.


Coming from a family of U-M alumni, I cannot deny a possible bias in expressing the remarkable nature of the MuJew group in their open-mindedness and work ethic.  However, Sri Narayan, a Habitat for Humanity Americorps volunteer, Ohio State alumnus, and die-hard Buckeye fan, could not help but attest to the excellence of the MuJews in their willingness to tackle the new experience of construction work with skill and grace as well as their acceptance of others of alternate religious beliefs!!

My Neighbor’s Faith:
The Rabbi And The Christian Cab Driver
by Rabbi Brad Hirschfield
I flew into Syracuse, N.Y., on a windy evening in October of 2000. After we landed, I hailed a cab. This not being New York City, where I am from, there was no cab line, no wait and no time to look at the car I was jumping into.

As soon as I was in the cab however, I noticed that pretty much every surface of the car’s interior was covered with a JESUS LOVES YOU sticker, that there was a crucifix mounted on the dashboard and there were even little green pocket bibles hanging on strings at the point where the windshield meets the frame of the car. This wasn’t just a cab, it was a rolling cathedral!

Part of me thought I should just jump out of the car, but we were already pulling away from the curb and I didn’t want to cause any trouble or cost the driver his fare.

As he pulled out of the airport, the cabdriver, a middle-aged man with a scraggly beard, long greasy blond hair and wearing a red checkered shirt, cut off at the sleeves, was checking me out in the rearview mirror. He was actually using his rearview mirror to see if what he thought he saw on the back of my head (a kippah/yarmulke/skullcap) was really there.

Having decided that it was really back there, which it was, he finally asked in the raspy voice of a heavy smoker, “So, what do you do?”

I hesitated. Every fiber of my being said, Lie. In fact, I actually recall thinking of the other careers I had explored, and telling him about one of those. You see, I travel 100 nights a year for the work I do teaching, speaking and consulting, and although I love and miss my wife and kids, most of the time I relish the adventure of connecting with all the different types of people I meet on the road. At that moment, however, I did not want to connect with the cabbie.

All I wanted to do was sit quietly, get to my hotel, brush my teeth, put on a tie, and go give my lecture.

“I’m a rabbi,” I said. I couldn’t lie. Not because I’m so pious, but somehow, at that moment, it did not feel like the right thing to do.

“A rabbi!” he replied. “There are so many things I want to ask a rabbi.”

“I bet there are,” I responded, looking once more at my surroundings.

“So”, he said, “Can I ask?”

“We are going 65 miles an hour down the highway, where am I going?” I said. “Ask away!”

He studied me. “You believe in the Bible, right?”


To read the rest of this article please click on this link!!


Choral Festival has qualities of global village

By James Humphrey


If the Baha’i Faith is all about building a worldwide family, then the sixth annual Baha’i Choral Festival could be seen as a small-scale global village that revealed glimpses into its essential international connections. One major networking method was thoroughly modern, using the Internet. Another amounted to good old-fashioned person-to-person relationship-building. The public result was a pair of concerts on a sunny Sunday, May 27, witnessed by 1,200 guests at the Baha’i House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois, and presenting a soaring and shimmering selection of some of the most challenging music the annual massed choir has attempted.


“I visualize our singing like a river originating from the top of the mountain,” one participant later wrote to the House of Worship Music Department, “trickling down initially softly, almost silent, gaining momentum and then roaring in all its might in a waterfall of powerful notes carrying the Word of God and flooding any receptive heart.”


The performances were warmly received, and the afternoon concert garnered an extended standing ovation and two encores. Every year, many attendees call each Choral Festival “the best yet,” notes Van Gilmer, music director for the House of Worship and chief organizer of the festival. He adds that he is never sure how to keep such steady improvement going, “but somehow it happens in the minds of so many people,” he says. Choir members line up outside the Baha’i House of Worship before the start of the concert Though its total of 177 singers was smaller than in some years, the festival drew participants from an unprecedented nine countries, including from 34 U.S. states. As usual, a substantial contingent traveled from Canada. And the third-largest national contingent came from Bermuda. How is it possible to muster a choir from so many places to master harmonies of up to eight parts, with only three days’ intensive rehearsal together? The Internet was key. With participants signing up months in advance, the Music Department shared audio files that helped individuals rehearse their parts early in the process. It also found a streaming service that allowed singers with webcams to rehearse virtually together from across the seas.


All this developed over several weeks before 204 participants gathered for the May 24-27 festival itself – including several friends of the Baha’is and dozens of non-singers who participated for the camaraderie and musical immersion.

The Sunday program, held twice in the central auditorium of the House of Worship, offered spoken passages of sacred Baha’i and other scriptures linked to the songs.

At the opening, the traditional Baha’i song “Allah-u-Abha,” arranged by Russ Garcia, was followed by the English translation of that invocation, “God Is Most Glorious,” set to music by modern Gospel composer Eric Dozier. A Baha’i prayer followed, with its words then set to music in the piece “O Thou by Whose Name” by Charles Wolcott. Arrangements of traditional Negro spirituals “My Lord, What a Mornin'” and “I Opened My Mouth to the Lord!” as well as the more formal, intricate “Have Ye Not Known? Ye Shall Have a Song” by Randall Thompson and the Shaker hymn “Not One Sparrow Is Forgotten” were preceded by readings paralleling those songs’ messages from Jewish, Christian and Islamic scripture. Finally came several brief proclamations in the words of Baha’u’llah of the spiritual significance of the present day, followed by a meditative and gradually blossoming song by Stanford Scriven, “This Is the Day.” The program was brought to a close with “Benediction,” a beloved early 20th-century Baha’i hymn by Louise Waite.


The unity and closely interdependent harmony of those performances had their own parallel in a family feeling that many participants expressed before and after the concerts. Friday evening before the concerts, a loosely structured get-to-know-you event revealed that many actual couples and intergenerational family groups were among their number. Several were international and interracial, vividly demonstrating the Baha’i ideal of “flowers of one garden.” Friendships across the globe were formed and solidified, with people representing Barbados, Finland, Germany, Italy, Trinidad and Tobago and Uganda alongside the larger contingents from the United States, Canada and Bermuda.


How was it, though, that the event attracted a group of eight from Bermuda, a tiny island territory of Great Britain? That was where personal networking came in.

In the previous year, a Baha’i choral group was raised in Bermuda, thanks in part to the efforts of Bette Roberts, who temporarily resided there as a Baha’i pioneer much of the year to support Bermuda’s Baha’i community and accompany it in raising its capacity. “Bette did such a wonderful thing,” one participant from the island wrote, “first inspiring us to sing as service [in their home community], and suggesting that we could participate in the Festival. We instantly committed to it.” A veteran participant from Canada wrote, “I am still euphoric. … Singing prayers with total focus for up to 12 hours a day certainly releases endorphins, to say nothing of spiritual powers.”


Feedback from local Chicago-area residents, Gilmer notes, has already helped provide some ideas for next year’s musical offering. And that’s a good thing, considering that when every festival is “the best yet” the pressure is always on “to at least match it next year.”


For more information and to watch clips from the Choral Music Festival, go to:




Inside the fault line of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
by Samia Moustapha Bahsoun
 and Brenda Naomi Rosenberg

Bloomfield Hills, Michigan and Spring Lake, New Jersey – Complex systems govern how tectonic plates interact and how pressure builds at their boundaries. By simply looking at the crack on the earth’s surface after an earthquake, we cannot predict when the next one will occur – just as we cannot predict the next eruption of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs.

In February 2009, Debbie Ford, a transformational writer and coach, introduced two of her students to each other, Brenda, an American Jewish peace activist and former fashion industry executive; and Samia, an Arab American from a Lebanese Muslim background, telecom entrepreneur and political activist. Brenda was concerned with the deteriorating situation in the Middle East, and Ford thought that Samia would be a good partner for Brenda to explore the situation with.
What Ford did not predict is that – despite their years of training and a shared interest in ending the conflict – her students were faced with an ideological barrier, insurmountable to many. Brenda introduced herself as a Jewish Zionist – causing a negative reaction from Samia, who considers herself pro-Palestinian and ardently anti-Zionist. Through the resulting tension, Brenda learned that when Samia hears the term Zionist, she thinks about an expansionist, terrorist ideology and the cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Samia in turn learned that Brenda sees her Jewish identity as inseparable from her Zionist identity, which she defines as a historic connection to the land of Israel and all Jewish people, as well as the expression of her Jewish values that emphasise the importance of life, freedom, justice and oneness with the universe.
Underlying the tension was the Holocaust, the subject of their first conversation. Samia, who lost her grandmother and great-aunt to Israeli raids on Southern Lebanon in 1982, asked Brenda: “Why can’t the Jews give up the Holocaust story and move on?”
Brenda, whose Jewish identity is inseparable from her fear of annihilation, replied: “Why would you ask me to give up the Holocaust?”
Samia replied: “Because of the pain it has caused and continues to cause Palestinians and Arabs in the [Middle East] region for a crime they did not commit.”
This is where most conversations end.
Human interactions in conflict situations are like fault lines between tectonic plates. When the pressure generated by tension becomes unbearable, the energy released is tsunami-like, creating mass hysteria, inciting hate and fear, separating nations and destroying communities.
At this particular moment, Brenda took a deep breath and responded: “It is critical to remember and acknowledge the human tragedy of the Holocaust; the death of six million Jews and millions of others annihilated by the Nazis.” And she added: “We need to also remember that almost a million Palestinians became refugees and almost a million Jews were exiled from Arab countries. We must never forget.”
Samia opened up and replied: “So how can we use the Holocaust to heal humanity and prevent future genocides instead of having the Holocaust use us?”
As we tackled the hot topics that separate our communities – Zionism, the Holocaust, Gaza, the Lebanon War, Jerusalem, occupation, settlements, suicide bombing, the right of return and the international flotilla to Gaza – we used them to face our realities and deepen our understanding of the other.

To read the rest of this article, go to http://www.commongroundnews.org/print_article.php?artId=31565&dir=left&lan=en&sid=2

* Samia Moustapha Bahsoun and Brenda Naomi Rosenberg are Co-Founders of the Tectonic Leadership Center for Conflict Transformation and Cross Cultural Communication, wwww.tectonicleadership.org. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

The Jewish-Buddhist Encounter


Both faith communities have

something to teach the other.

By Ira Rifkin

For American Buddhism, few dates have more significance than Sept. 26, 1893. It was on that day in Chicago that Anagarika Dharmapala, a Buddhist priest from Ceylon (now called Sri Lanka), administered a Sanskrit oath to Charles T. Strauss to formally convert him to Buddhism–making Strauss the first non-Asian to do so on American soil. Rick Fields, who in 1981 published a seminal history of Buddhism’s development in America, described Strauss’ background as follows: “…of 466 Broadway, a New York City businessman, born of Jewish parents, not yet 30 years old, long a student of comparative religion and philosophy.”

Fields was also a Buddhist who came from Jewish stock. His book, How the Swans Came to the Lake: A Narrative History of Buddhism in America, was published by Shambhala Publications, the Western world’s leading publisher of books about Buddhism. Sam Bercholz and Michael Fagan–also Jews–started Shambhala in 1969 in Berkeley, California, where they owned a metaphysical bookstore.

Clearly, there’s something about Buddhism that’s attractive to a sizeable number of Jews, who by some estimates account for as many as a third of all non-Asian Buddhists in North America.


Nor is the phenomenon restricted to American Jews. Young Israeli backpackers by the thousands are known for making their way to Asia’s Buddhist centers (which is why Chabad-Lubavitch stages large Passover seders in Katmandu and Bangkok), and no less a Zionist icon than David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, was a serious student of Buddhist meditation techniques. In 2001, The Jerusalem Report magazine noted that Israelis are drawn to Buddhism because they believe it offers a serene respite from the tension and violence they have known in Israel.

For traditionally religious Jews, engaging in Buddhist practices is a violation of the prohibition against avodah zarah, idol worship, and Jews who become Buddhists are apostates. Jewish groups–ranging from Jews for Judaism to Chabad-Lubavitch and Hillel–spend considerable time and energy trying to convince Jews attracted to Buddhism (and other non-Jewish paths) that whatever they are seeking can be found within Judaism. The current popularity of kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) as a Jewish alternative to Eastern spiritual thought and practices may be traced in part to this counter offensive. The same may be said for the acceptance in some Jewish circles–notably among Jewish Renewal, Reconstructionist, Reform, and liberal Conservative groups–of Buddhist meditation techniques introduced by Jews who learned them in the Buddhist world.


To read the rest of this article go to:



 A Rabbi, A Mormon, and a

Black Christian Mayor Walk into a Room


Mayor Cory Booker waits in his wood-paneled city hall office for his next visitors. His life, even on a Sunday, is tightly scheduled. He checks the time on his cell phone and lets the ribbing of his two friends, who are now late, begin.


“Jewish time is even worse than black time,” he says, “although I should never drag all the Jewish people down with Shmuley.” And then, about the other guy: “I thought Mormons were always 15 minutes early?”

If the friendship between these men – a black Christian mayor, a rabbi running for Congress and a Mormon university president – wasn’t so real, this would sound like a bad joke. Instead, it’s a reflection of how three men from profoundly different backgrounds met 20 years ago, connected and changed one another.

So when this unusual trio got together for a rare meeting this spring, we jumped at the chance to join them.


But before the others arrive, let’s introduce the players.

There’s Booker, the 43-year-old Democratic mayor of Newark, a rising political star and headline grabber, a man who was recently lauded for saving a neighbor from a burning building and grilled for his perceived off-message remarks on a Sunday talk show. He was raised by parents who fought in the courts to integrate the northern New Jersey suburbs where he grew up.


The two men he’s waiting for are no schlubs themselves.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, 45, is a TV personality, former radio host, prolific author – his books include “Kosher Sex” and “Kosher Jesus” – and now Republican congressional candidate in New Jersey. He was also an unofficial spiritual adviser to Michael Jackson. He was raised by a single mom in Miami.


And Michael Benson, a 47-year-old political scientist and president of Southern Utah University, comes from Mormon and Utah royalty, of sorts. His grandfather is the late Ezra Taft Benson, secretary of agriculture under President Dwight D. Eisenhower and the 13th prophet and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

With his wife and two young children in tow, the Mormon shows up first.

“Brother Benson,” Booker booms, addressing his friend in Mormon-speak as he stands to give him a big hug.

The last time these two had seen each other was five years ago, when they both helped celebrate the rabbi’s 40th birthday in New York. The massive party, as described by the mayor, was “a mosh pit of yarmulkes and sweat.”

CNN’s Belief Blog: the faith angles behind the big stories

Boteach, who lives in New Jersey and sees the mayor often, rushes into the room on this Sunday a half-hour late.


“Let the record reflect, the Mormon got me lost,” he says by way of hello. The rabbi then glances down at Benson’s two little ones, who sweetly peer up at him.

“They’re a little too Mormon perfect,” he quips. “When Mormons walk into a hurricane, does their hair move?”

Booker, whose nearby desk features a stack of religious texts including the Bhagavad Gita and the Quran, watches as a crowd streams in behind Boteach. The mayor has box seats for this afternoon’s Cirque du Soleil performance of “Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour,” and he wants his friends and their families to join him. But first he demands to know of the rabbi, “How many people are with you? … They just multiply.”

“Are you kidding?” Boteach shoots back. “We have 30 kids.” Actually, he only has nine.



Read the rest of this article by going to this 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 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


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 gail@interfaithwisdom.org
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!