WISDOM Newsletter – June 2011

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

THE WISDOM WINDOW

JUNE 2011

WISDOM

Thursday, June 30th, Friday, July 1st, and Wednesday, July 6th – WISDOM and Interfaith at the Bay View Association in Petoskey, MI. See flyer below for all the details!!

Friday, August 19th, Five Women Five Journeys for the Auburn Hills Senior Services, 12:30 PM, City of Auburn Hills, 1827 N. Squirrel Rd., Auburn Hills, MI

Sunday, September 11th, Acts of Kindness (A-OK) Detroit, Community Service Projects for Adults, young adults, and teens. Event will be held at Focus Hope in Detroit. Schedule of events will be posted in the near future.

WORLD VIEWS SEMINAR ON
AMERICAN RELIGIOUS DIVERSITY
COMING SOON!!
 
JUNE 20-25, 2011
AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN-DEARBORN
 
Enroll in this class for a six-day experience-based seminar designed to introduce you to foundational information about the beliefs and practices of several of the world’s religions.
Learn about Baha’i, Buddhism, Chinese and Japanese Traditional Religions, Christianity, First Peoples and Native Traditions, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Sikhism, and Zoroastrianism.
 
For registration, cost and more information contact
Sharie Beard
University of Michigan-Dearborn
(313) 593-4925

 

SAVE THE DATE
AND JOIN US FOR A SPECIAL COMMUNITY LECTURE THAT WILL EXPLORE
RELIGIOUS PLURALISM AND INTERFAITH RELATIONS.
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN-DEARBORN
MONDAY, JUNE 20, 2011
6:00 PM 1030 CASL BUILDING
THE EVENT IS FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
“WHY WE NEED TO TALK – NOT SIMPLY TOLERATE:
A LESSON FOR LIVING IN A RELIGIOUSLY PLURAL WORLD”
PRESENTED BY
R. GUSTAV NIEBUHR
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, DEPT OF RELIGION,
SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY
Co-sponsored by the University of Michigan-Dearborn
Worldviews Seminar
and the Center for the Study of Religion and Society.
For more information contact Claude Jacobs: cfj@umd.umich.edu
or Sharie Beard: sbeard@umd.umich.edu
Jewish and Chaldean Women’s Social Action Initiative

Host Their First Meeting at the Shendandoah Country Club

in West Bloomfield on May 3, 2011

 

(See Jewish News article that follows!!)

 

Jewish Chaldean May 3rd cinner

The Co-Chairs of the event are (left to right) Gail Katz, Ann Antone, Jeannie Weiner, and Sathab Ousachi

 

Jewish Chaldean May 3rd dinner photo 2

Sonya Kory (Chaldean) and Ellie Slovis (Jewish) get to know one another at this coming together event.

 

Women United

Chaldean-Jewish women’s event

centers on plight of Iraqi Christians.

Robin Schwartz| Contributing Writer for the Jewish News

Chaldeans who arrive here in the U.S. face

countless challenges – financial support,

education, employment, family separation,

language barriers, immigration issues and

so many other challenges.

– attorney Sathab Ousachi

 

The persecution of Iraqi Christians has made headlines around the world. Last October, a high-profile church attack in Baghdad killed 58 people; militants stormed Our Lady of Salvation Syriac Catholic

church and blew themselves up during a Sunday mass. More than 100 people were taken hostage and dozens were injured. In the wake of the ongoing bloodshed, violence and unrest, thousands of Iraqi Christians have fled, leading to an influx of refugees right here in Metro Detroit. Our area is home to more than 120,000 Chaldeans – the largest Chaldean population in the United States.

“Chaldeans, as a small minority group, are suffering torture, massive church bombings and slayings, oppression, forced religious conversion, murder, kidnappings, rapes and more [in Iraq],” says Sathab Ousachi of West Bloomfield, an immigration attorney, executive board member of the

Chaldean Federation of America and an active member of several other local Chaldean organizations. “To date, the existing Iraqi government has been unable to protect this minority group.” Ousachi is a keynote speaker along with Ann Antone, a longtime community activist and retired social worker, at an invitation-only Chaldean-Jewish women’s event on May 3. The gathering at Shenandoah Country Club in West Bloomfield is the first event sponsored by the Chaldean and Jewish Women Social Action Initiative, part of the Chaldean-Jewish Building Community partnership. About 40 women (20 from each community) who may not have been exposed to each other before were selected to attend and learn more about the plight of Iraqi Christians. “Chaldeans who arrive here in the U.S. face countless challenges – financial support, education, employment, family separation, language barriers, immigration issues and so many other challenges,” Ousachi continued. “We are working closely with the Department of State and our local congressional leader to help advocate on behalf of this vulnerable class. Both communities can identify with the plight of these people and work to empower women of faith/ culture to overcome these obstacles.”

 

Interfaith Leadership

 

Gail Katz, LeeAnn Kirma and Jeannie Weiner, all of West Bloomfield, organized the inaugural women’s event. Katz is president and co-founder of WISDOM (Women’s Interfaith Solutions for Dialogue and Outreach in Metro Detroit); Weiner is a past president of the Jewish Community

Relations Council of Metropolitan Detroit. Both are retired teachers.Kirma is president of Chaldean

American Ladies of Charity, a humanitarian organization. She’s also an analyst at Ford Motor Company and owner of LuLu’s Mosaics, a hobby she turned into a business. While Kirma and Weiner co-chair the overall social action initiative, all three women share a passion for uniting

people of different backgrounds, cultures and religions.”This effort is an effort to really sustain the community,” Weiner explained. “I think it’s extremely important to meet new people and work with

them on issues that matter to all of us in Southeast Michigan. It’s always fun to find you have similarities with people you didn’t know you had a lot in common with.” Katz, who taught English as a second language for many years in the Berkley School District, already feels a close connection to the Chaldean community. Many of her students, both adults and children, were Iraqi Christians.

“I’m so excited to see Chaldean and Jewish women coming together,” she said. “We have coexisted for such a long time; and there are so many similarities in our communities and our challenges.

“We share so much, we live in the same space, and we need to sit down and break bread together and get to know our neighbors. We’re so fabulous at taking care of our own; but it takes a little bit of extra effort to cross divides and learn about the neighbor living right next door.” As the women unite here in Michigan, thousands of miles away, U.S. troops remain on the ground in Iraq. They’re scheduled to withdraw from the region at the end of the year as part of a December 2008 security

pact; but there has been talk of our forces remaining beyond their scheduled departure if invited.

While the future in Iraq is uncertain, the women believe Iraqi Christians and Jews in our community will have a brighter future if they break down barriers and stereotypes, foster friendships and understanding, and begin an open dialogue. A plan for social action that will assist families in both communities will eventually be developed and coordinated together. “It’s wonderful to see two communities who have been living side by side for decades come together to better understand one another and the challenges we each face,” Kirma said. “Our communities are pretty awesome;

and our women are stellar,” added Antone. “Who better to bring a better understanding of each other? A few women working together can be quite powerful; just think of what can be accomplished!”

 

Five Women, Five Faiths, One Community

By: Dennis Archambault, 5/5/2011
There is something about women getting together to talk. They relate. They bond. And when they cross cultural and faith traditions, something special happens: They act.

Five years ago, Trish Harris, a Catholic, met Shahina Begg, a Muslim, at a performance of The Children of Abraham, a musical play that traces the connection between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, the conflict between them, and the possibilities of reconciliation. Harris said to Begg, “It would be kind of nice to do something instead of ‘The Children of Abraham’, what about The Women of Abraham?

“Funny you should mention that,” Begg responded. “I have a Jewish woman and a Protestant woman who had contacted me and they’re interested in doing the same thing. We’re going to have coffee next week. Do you want to have coffee?”

That led to the founding of Women’s Interfaith Solutions for Dialogue and Outreach (WISDOM), with members representing eight faith traditions committed to building relationships and making the community a better place.

The group has conducted education and service programs, and most recently published Friendship & Faith, a book featuring personal accounts of the women. ReadtheSpirit.com, which published the book, offers installments online at FriendshipandFaith.com.

Some of the women featured in Friendship & Faith have appeared on panel discussions called “Five Women, Five Journeys,” recently offered at St. Hugo’s of the Hills Catholic Church in Bloomfield Hills. Sofia Begg Latif, one of the writers and performers of The Children of Abraham, spoke at the St. Hugo’s event, moderated by Harris.

Latif, the daughter of Indian immigrants Shahina and Victor Begg, grew up in a Hindu/Muslim household in Bloomfield Hills. That allowed her to appreciate the religious diversity of Southeast Michigan, one of the more diverse regions in the nation – and one of the most polarized. In her account in Friendship & Faith, Latif reflects on family gatherings involving Hindus and Muslims. Her mother’s family is Hindu and her father’s Islam. (Shahina Begg converted to Islam.)

“Both believe strongly in their faith,” recalls Latif, now a Dearborn Heights resident. “There would be debate back and forth then they would come together. It was never something that interfered with our family relationships. There was theological disagreement, but that was an understood aspect of our lives. We could see the commonalities [between family members]. We lived the commonalities in the interaction with each other and the relationships that my parents fostered. The faith lines didn’t prevent me from having strong relationships with people of other faiths.”

WISDOM has produced 67 programs – 16 of them “5 Women, 5 Journeys.” The programs range from a women-only Habitat for Humanity Build and other service projects to community, interfaith education, and advocacy activities. The activities draw upwards of 300 people. “5 Women, 5 Journeys” has been presented at a variety of venues – Andover High School, Birmingham; Macomb Community College and University of Michigan Dearborn; a Bloomfield Hills senior community center, and various houses of worship.

The St. Hugo’s program employed a new element, according to Harris. “Normally we have theatre seating…you’re normally sitting with your friends. You listen to the panel; have questions and answers, then leave.” St. Hugo’s program was organized by an interfaith committee of people who hadn’t met before, seated participants at roundtables with people of different faiths, and followed with dialogue. The program was well-received and may lead to a service project, Harris says.

“If you think about it, there aren’t many opportunities for Christian women to sit down with Muslims, or Jews to sit down with Muslims,” adds Harris. “What would it be like to sit on a committee with Muslim women when I’ve never met one before? More people probably met Jewish women before, but not a whole lot. We tend to operate in our own circles. One of the goals of WISDOM is to get outside our own group of family and friends… in a safe and sacred environment.”

Women, she says, have a way of coming together and solving problems that is different from men. “Women seem to have – in most cultures – this gift for relationship. This is what’s key. A problem comes up and you want to resolve it. Most of the time the men will sit at the table and they will immediately attack the problem as they see it. The women will talk and build some kind of connection between each other. Then they will approach the problem. Building those connections and those relationships greatly improves the chances that the problems will be resolved.”

The future holds a generational challenge for WISDOM: Will they be succeeded by the women of Latif’s age?


“We haven’t found the sweet spot in terms of how to relate (to younger women),” admits Latif. “There isn’t a lot of youth within the leadership. That’s something that will have to change. There have been examples of WISDOM holding events at universities.”

WISDOM held a recent event at the University of Michigan Dearborn which drew a large crowd, notes Latif. “At some of the community service events you’ll see younger women that are there for the day. They may have young kids and the kids are in school, they have a few hours in the afternoon to volunteer. … For young women in high school and college there is lot of interfaith activities under way. It’s not always under the banner of an interfaith organization. It’s usually working toward a cause, whether it’s social justice or improving the inner city. WISDOM partners with those organizations and you have a larger showing. In terms of young mothers with children, evening gatherings like this might be difficult for them to come.”

For WISDOM women, many of whom pushed to achieve “firsts” for their gender in society, forming WISDOM was as much a statement of their generation as their commitment to interfaith relationships. Harris, the first woman to work in management at Ford’s Detroit Tractor Operations, concurs that succession poses a series concern for the organization.

“It’s very obvious to all of us on the board when we gather – it hits you right in the face: You know that if we’re going to continue we have to be successful in cultivating younger people’s interest in what we’re doing,” she says, adding that WISDOM added some younger members to its board this year.

“When women are out in the work world – and a lot of them are in the work world and have family responsibilities – to get them to devote significant time to something like this…is a real challenge. We are a totally volunteer organization. We have no paid staff. Anything that gets done gets done by one of us. It’s difficult to get people who are younger or just starting their careers.”

Younger women still have the need and desire to engage in interfaith work, and they need to differentiate their relationships from men, notes Latif. “There’s something about being in the same environment with men, and being able to communicate and bond in a different way [with women]; it’s having those fraternal relationships that brings out different aspects of person’s personality. I haven’t studied this, but you can see fraternities and sororities in college and the deep bond that forms between people in society when you’re sharing your innermost thoughts.”

Latif believes there’s commonality among a lot of women in WISDOM, that they have navigated the challenges of living in an America that doesn’t always accept their faith. Regardless of what their religion is, they all have struggled to raise their children in a less than open environment. “Those commonalities will remain will remain in the next generation as well.”

One thing is for certain; women of all ages drink coffee together, form relationships, and get things done.


Dennis Archambault is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to Metromode, Model D and Concentrate. His previous article was Chaldeans And Jews: Building A Common Community

WISDOM HOLDS ITS ANNUAL DINNER AND
INSTALLATION CEREMONY
ON WEDNESDAY, MAY 4TH, 2011
Annual Dinner 1
Gail Katz, one of the Co-Founders of WISDOM, is presented with the Founder’s Award
for all her work with WISDOM, by Trish Harris, another Co-Founder of WISDOM
annual Dinner 2
The Three Co-Founders of WISDOM, Shahina Begg, Gail Katz, and Trish Harris
annual dinner 3
Board members and guests at the WISDOM Annual Dinner and Installation Ceremony
at Peabody’s Restaurant in Birmingham
Gail and Paula
Gail Katz, outgoing president of WISDOM and Paula Drewek, incoming president
Centuries-Old Atrocity Casts a Lingering Shadow

By Doreen Carvajal (New York Times, May 10, 2011)

 

Majorca photo

PALMA, MAJORCA – The old stones of the historic quarter of the Spanish island of Majorca are worn smooth with secrets ignored by most tourists that pour into this city from cruise liners on the sparkling Mediterranean.

Rarely do visitors come with missions as precise as Joseph Wallis and a small contingent of Orthodox rabbis from Israel: To touch the smooth sandstones of a 14th-century synagogue turned into a Roman Catholic church. To offer a special 15th-century version of the Kaddish, a prayer for the dead that was once forbidden under threat of death and was delayed for 320 years.

They gathered Thursday for a memorial, the first by a local regional government in Spain, to confront a dark legacy of buried memories. Jews, who secretly practiced their forbidden religion during the Inquisition, were burned here in Gomila Plaza in a “bonfire of the Jews” in May 1691, and the descendants of Jews who converted were subject to discrimination that flourished even into the 20th century.

It was “our worst sin,” said Francesc Antich, regional president of the Balearic Islands, who stopped short of issuing an apology for the killings of 37 people, three of them burned alive, including Rabbi Wallis’s ancestor, Rafael Valls. “Memory opens wounds, but also helps to serve justice. The time has come to close these wounds that have bled generation after generation.”

Discrimination remained so strong in Majorca that many of the converts’ descendants, known locally as chuetas, still remember a schoolyard rhyme in the 1960s mocking the surnames of 15 families targeted by the Inquisition, or adults who shunned them for friendship and marriage. They also recall the customs of elderly chuetas who traced their fingers along the stone remnants of the former synagogue and surreptitiously kissed their fingertips.

“There was fear, always fear,” said Bernat Pomar, 78, a retired violinist. “Behind the curtains, we were afraid. Chuetas are special because the community of Majorca shaped us.”

Pomar was one of the 15 names in the childhood taunt. Others included Pico, Aguiló and Miró, the family name of the artist Joan Miró, who died here in 1983.

“When I was young they called me many insults because children were cruel,” Mr. Pomar said. “Today it has changed, but it has not been forgotten.”

Majorca, largely isolated until the tourist boom reached it and the other Balearic Islands in the late 1960s, developed into a wary preserve for descendants of Jews who protected themselves by making public professions of Catholic faith, marching in brotherhoods for Easter processions and carving crucifixes in stone in the warren of the island’s Jewish quarter. The extensive family trees of descendants are intertwined because they married among themselves, scorned as marriage material by old Christian families.

With the arrival of floods of tourists from different countries, the island culture started to change, but a modest synagogue did not open in the center of Majorca until the 1970s and remains so low key that local taxi drivers say they have never heard of Comunitat Israelita de Mallorca, which is set back on a side street and protected by a special parking barrier.

Today, chuetas intermingle and marry among other Majorcans, but there is still a wariness tied to the history and culture of Spain, where surveys through the last 10 years have ranked it among European countries with the highest anti-Semitic opinions. A 2008 Pew Global Attitudes survey found that 46 percent of Spaniards viewed Jews unfavorably – then the highest negative rating in Europe – though since there has been some improvement.

A study issued last year by Casa Sefarad-Israel, an agency of the Spanish Foreign Ministry founded in 2006 to promote good relations with Spanish Jewry and Israel, found that negative views had dropped to 34.6 of the Spanish population. The figure was still high, though, and the anti-Semitic views tended to concentrate among Spaniards with left-of-center political leanings.

Diego de Ojeda, director of Casa Sefarad-Israel, said many Spaniards had never met Jews, noting that some of his own friends knew about Hanukkah, for example, from watching an episode of the U.S. television show “Friends.”

“Majorca is very specific because it is the only part of Spain where there is a community that is directly descended from Jews, which has remained distinct since others would not marry them, up until two generations ago,” he said. “There are other groups that are trying to dig back into their Jewish past in Spain, but in this case the descendants of this community are something very distinct, so this memorial could only have taken place in Majorca.”

Some of the chuetas are trying to reclaim the religion of their ancestors from three centuries ago, an effort nurtured by Shavei Israel, a private group that offers support and education to descendants of Jews who converted in Spain and a number of other countries, including Portugal, Italy, Poland, India and China. The organization has also unsuccessfully pushed the cathedral in Majorca for the return of two gilded Jewish rimmonins, ritual finials from 1493 displayed in a church showcase.

“I am not here for my personal story,” said Rabbi Wallis, who with Shavei’s founder, Michael Freund, traveled to Majorca three months ago to press for an apology and a memorial on the 320th anniversary of the 1691 massacre.

“We asked the government for a memorial so the chuetas know they no longer need to be afraid to be a Jew,” said Rabbi Wallis, who since his arrival found people related to him in the silver jewelry district, where some chuetas have maintained family shops since the 17th century.

Rabbi Wallis, 64, who was born in Israel and raised in New York, is the son of two Holocaust survivors from the Dachau camp. His father, he said, remembered an old family Bible, lost during World War II, with the name of Rafael Valls at the top of the list of ancestors with birth and death dates that listed him as burned at the stake.

On Thursday, his voice cracked with emotion as he read a special 15th-century Kaddish that was composed in the Netherlands specifically for victims of mass burnings with a blank space to insert names.

Rabbi Nissan Ben Abraham, who was raised Catholic and later converted to the dismay of his chueta father, a Majorca shopkeeper, read aloud the names of the 37 victims of the 1691 public execution, including the name of his own ancestor, Catalina Terongi. She was burned alive next to Rabbi Wallis’s ancestor, Rafael Valls, and urged him, according to meticulous Inquisition records, to ignore his burning clothes and not to give up and renounce his own faith.

As the rabbi, whose family name is Aguiló, worked through the names, he declared a victim with the same last name as Bernat Pomar, who sat in a back row and simply nodded. The night before, the retired violinist had celebrated a small party with the visiting rabbis from Israel to mark his return to Judaism. At 78, he had undergone surgery for circumcision and finally had told his secret to his grown children this week.

 

Praying for Peace: Open my eyes to God’s diversity

Sixteen women prayed together for peace-without ever meeting-and they created this prayer for the whole world. They followed John Philip Newell’s call in Praying for Peace and each contributed lines beginning with the words, “Open my eyes to …” Collected here, they form a litany that we invite the world to pray with us.

The women began their notes invoking God in many ways and by many names. Feel free to open your own version of this prayer with an invocation from your tradition.

Open My Eyes to God’s Diversity

By the women of WISDOM

Open my eyes to …
Peaceful things in life.
Songs of peace.
Seeds of understanding.
Goodness in all people.
The spirit of each human being I encounter today.

Open my eyes to …
The world around me.
Needs around me.
Outer appearances that can mislead.
Dangers of injustice and misunderstanding.
People we need to understand.
The hunger and thirst of our sisters and brothers.

Open my eyes to …
The larger world.
The value of women everywhere.

Open my eyes to …
All the people God loves.
All the species God cares about on this earth.
The beauty and abundance of God’s creation.

The grandeur of God’s creation in every person, place and thing.

Open my eyes to …
Love around us.
The face of God in those we meet.
The Divine source of goodness in all peoples.
The Good that is available everywhere.
The power of forgiveness.

Guide me so that I don’t stand idly by.
Guide me to help according to Your will.
Guide me to know the difference between what I want and what I need.
Dispel the delusion that someone else is responsible for my community, my nation and my world.
Open my eyes to this new day and free me from the limitations of yesterday.

Open my eyes to …
The warmth of interfaith gatherings that build respect and understanding.
The potential in each of us to cross divides and build new friendships.

Open my eyes to …
God’s diversity.

SPECIAL THANKS TO Shahina Begg, Jean T. Booms, Paula Drewek, Elaine Greenberg, Patricia Harris, Mares Hirchert, Motoko Huthwaite, Gail Katz, Susan Lalain, Sofia Latif, Cassandra Mudloff, Anne Nachazel, Brenda Naomi Rosenberg, Betsy Ross, Sheri Schiff, Debra Seehaver and Debbie Valencia.

Please help us with Friendship and Faith!

As readers, we welcome you to contribute your own stories of cross-cultural friendship. (NOTE: There are helpful tips under “We’d like to publish your story”)

You can help in many ways! Purchase our book “Friendship and Faith,” which is packed with dozens of stories by women about their real-life experiences with cross-cultural friendships. Bookmark this page-or subscribe via the link in upper right. If you’re on Facebook, please click the “Recommend” button below to share this story with friends.

 BAY VIEW 2011 SUMMER PROGRAM

ABOUT INTERFAITH INTERACTION

Bay View Association of the

United Methodist Church

Petoskey, MI

THURSDAY, JUNE 30th WISDOM WOMEN INTERFAITH PANEL

7:30 – 9:00 PM Voorhies Hall (No Charge)

 Five Women of different faith traditions

(Baha’i, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim)

share their journeys

 

FRIDAY, JULY 1st COFFEE AND CONVERSATION

WITH THE WISDOM WOMEN

9:30-11:00 AM Evelyn Hall (No Charge)

 

FRIDAY, JULY 1st EXPLORING THE EMERGING INTERFAITH

MOVEMENT

1:00 – 2:30 PM Loud Hall, Room 13

$10 members/ $12 others

Gail Katz (WISDOM Co-Founder)

Deb Hanson (Interfaith Chaplain)

 will offer their perspectives

and experience in the Interfaith Movement.

Explore how Interfaith Interaction and Celebration

are affecting today’s world!!

 

WEDNESDAY, JULY 6  FRIENDSHIP AND FAITH:

THE WISDOM OF WOMEN CREATING

ALLIANCES FOR PEACE

A BOOK DISCUSSION

1:00 – 2:30 PM Loud Hall, Room 12

$10 members/$15 others

After having had the opportunity to

meet several of the contributors to WISDOM’s book,

Friendship and Faith, you will now have the chance

to share your thoughts, ideas, and experiences

with others.

 

 

Room in the Military for Atheist Chaplains??

By Rabbi Brad Hirschfield

 

Contrary to the old adage, there really are atheists in foxholes, and in many other places in the US military. It should come as no surprise that military, like the rest of America, includes atheists and secular humanists among its ranks. More surprisingly perhaps, is a request which some of them are making.

A number of atheists and secular humanists currently serving on active duty are asking for chaplains to serve their needs. No, they have not undergone conversions, “seen the light”, or any such thing. They are asking for trained professionals to provide support and counsel based on their own non-religious tradition, much as other chaplains draw on religious traditions to do the same.

I hope the Pentagon responds favorably, not only for the good of those making the request, but for the good of military and for the good of religious freedom in America. While small in number (about 10,000 out of 1.3 million personnel), there are many good reasons to embrace this request.

For starters, the military does its utmost to provide for the spiritual and emotional needs of all men and women in uniform, and has always known that professionals charged with that primary mission, chaplains, are a vital part of the process. Whether they believe in God or not, people have existential dilemmas, emotional needs and spiritual struggles. They may not turn to God for answers, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need and deserve support to find the answers they need. That’s what Chaplains do, and that’s why there should be at least one from the secular tradition.

Some may object to the notion that secularism or atheism is a “real” tradition. But once we go down that road, why not get rid of Jewish or Muslim chaplains since, according to some Christian belief systems, they are as empty and misguided as atheism and secularism? And to be clear, that question is rhetorical.

The military engages chaplains based on their ability to serve the needs of those in uniform, not on the basis of the Pentagon’s sense of which traditions are true and which are not. The measure of successful military chaplaincy is not theological correctness or the number of converts made, it is the number of people served. On that basis, there must be room for a secular chaplain in the US military.

Interestingly, the presence of secular or atheist chaplains would also force secularists and atheists to be a bit more candid about the fact that theirs is every bit as much a faith, as are the belief systems of the believers with whom they serve. Like classical believers and religionists, atheists and secularists make a decision about the world based on what works in their lives.

They have similar needs, need similar professional help and support, and can no more know that they are right than believers can. Members of each camp construct complex arguments to “prove” the correctness of their respective conclusions, but in reality both believers and non-believers are doing their best to make sense of their lives and the world in which they live, and each has found a different way of doing it. The presence of atheist chaplains could help both groups to see that and end their endless and pointless bickering about which side is right.

 

Finally, the inclusion of atheist chaplains in the US military would be a reminder to believers and non-believers alike about a fundamental commitment made by military chaplains – one from which all religious leaders could learn. The issue is not which tradition the chaplains calls upon, but their ability to use their chosen tradition to serve BOTH those most closely affiliated with their own tradition, AND those who are not. That should be the mission of all faith leaders, even when they do not agree about matters of faith, or even about what it might mean to be of service to those in need.

 

What all clergy should agree upon is the notion that if those they are meant to serve do not experience themselves as being served, then those doing the serving – the chaplains or other religious leaders, have failed to achieve their mission. And since all traditions have some sense that they are meant to serve beyond their own membership, the real test of successful service lies with those outside of one’s chosen faith or non-faith.

Military chaplains try and meet that mission every day and the inclusion of atheist chaplains will only aid in achieving the mission more fully by all members of the military, believers and non-believers alike!!

 

CATHOLICS AND JEWS:

WITNESS TO DIGNITY OF HUMAN BEING

 

VATICAN CITY, 12 MAY 2011 (VIS) – Today in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received a delegation from B’nai B’rith International, (“Sons of the Covenant” in Hebrew), the oldest Jewish service organization in the world. It was initially founded in New York City in 1843.

 

The Pope expressed his appreciation for B’nai B’rith’s “active participation” in the meeting of the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee, held in Paris at the end of February on this 40th anniversary of dialogue between the two religions. “What has happened in these forty years must be seen as a great gift from the Lord and a reason for heartfelt gratitude towards the One who guides our steps with his infinite and eternal wisdom”.

 

“The Paris meeting affirmed the desire of Catholics and Jews to stand together in meeting the immense challenges facing our communities in a rapidly changing world and, significantly, our shared religious duty to combat poverty, injustice, discrimination and the denial of universal human rights”.

 

The Holy Father emphasized that “one of the most important things that we can do together is bear common witness to our deeply-held belief that every man and woman is created in the divine image and thus possessed of inviolable dignity. This conviction remains the most secure basis for every effort to defend and promote the inalienable rights of each human being”.

 

Recalling a recent conversation between delegations of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, Benedict XVI stated that, on that occasion, “stress was laid on the need to promote a sound understanding of the role of religion in the life of our present-day societies as a corrective to a purely horizontal, and consequently truncated, vision of the human person and social coexistence”.

 

“The life and work of all believers”, he concluded, “should bear constant witness to the transcendent, point to the invisible realities which lie beyond us, and embody the conviction that a loving, compassionate Providence guides the final outcome of history, no matter how difficult and threatening the journey along the way may sometimes appear”.

 

 

Jewish and Muslim leaders join forces to combat xenophobia

Russian and Ukrainian Jewish and Muslim leaders meet in Kiev to discuss rise in Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia as part of month-long European efforts to heighten awareness and fight racism, extremism and discrimination.

By Shlomo Shamir from Haaretz.com

80 leading Jewish and Muslim leaders from across Ukraine and Russia met in Kiev
on Thursday May 12, pledging to work together to fight a rising cascade of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in the two countries.

 

In the first-ever “Muslims and Jews United Against Hatred and Extremism” conference held in the Ukrainian capital, community leaders from both countries heard chilling accounts of discrimination and abuse.

 

Conference participants spoke of the beating and harassment of Muslims and Jews in the two former Soviet republics, desecration of Muslim and Jewish cemeteries and bombings as well as other attacks on communal institutions of the two faiths.

 

The leaders pledged to work together to combat forces of extremism and hate and to put pressure on their local authorities to take a more assertive stand in fighting perpetrators of Islamophobic and anti-Semitic attacks.

 

Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU) and vice president of the World Jewish Congress, hailed the historic event in Kiev, commenting; “The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, together with our partners, is gratified to be standing in support of joint actions by Muslims and Jews in the former Soviet Union and across Europe.

 

He added that the meeting’s “purpose is to make clear that Jews and Muslims will be there for each other if either is being unfairly attacked, and will stand united in support ofprinciples of democracy and pluralism that will ensure a decent future for all Ukrainians and Russians.”

 

The Kiev conference was sponsored by the Ukrainian Jewish Committee and the Institute of Human Rights and the Prevention of Extremism and Xenophobia under the leadership of the noted Member of Parliament and business leader Oleksandr Feldman, in cooperation with FFEU.

 

80 Muslim and Jewish leaders from across Ukraine and Russia participated in the historic conference.

 

The Kiev conference was one of nine Muslim-Jewish events being held in countries in Europe during the month of May in commemoration of Europe Day.

 

Events opposing racism, extremism and prejudice against Muslims and Jews are being held in Britain, France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Netherlands, Belgium, in addition to the Ukraine throughout May, and are sponsored by FFEU, the World Jewish Congress, European Jewish Congress, World Council of Muslims for Interfaith Relations and the Muslim-Jewish Conference.

 

The events will culminate in Brussels on May 30, when top Jewish and Muslim leaders are to present a joint declaration to European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, committing to “resolve to work together to counter efforts to demonize or marginalize either of our communities. Bigotry against any Jew or any Muslim is an attack on all Muslims and all Jews. We are united in our belief in the dignity of all peoples.”

In the event that you did not have the chance to view “Flip Clips” on Channel 56 recently, you can watch a sample of these Jewish teen videos by going to the following website:

 

http://www.dptv.org/ondemand/special/flipclips.shtml

 

This is a project supported by the Jewish community to connect Jewish teens to their Judaism by assigning them the task of interviewing a Jewish adult and capturing what made them successful and connected to their faith!!

Donation will allow Claremont School of Theology
to train rabbis, imams!!
By Larry Gordon, Los Angeles Times
May 16, 2011
Gift from David and Joan Lincoln will add training programs for Muslim and Jewish clergy at the Claremont Shool of Theology, a United Methodist seminary.
Leaders of the Claremont School of Theology will announce Monday the gift of $40 million from an Arizona couple to help expand the Christian divinity institution into a university that will include training for Jewish and Muslim clergy.

The donation from David Lincoln, a Claremont trustee, and his wife, Joan, is the largest ever to the 126-year-old theology school, which enrolls about 240 students in master’s and doctorate programs in religion and counseling. The couple also gave $10 million to the school last year. The contributions will help the school transform itself into an unusual multifaith institution, to be named the Claremont Lincoln University in the couple’s honor, with enrollment expected to grow to about 600 over the next decade, officials said. The new university will offer interfaith degree programs and serve as an umbrella for three units: the existing Claremont School of Theology, which will continue to train students from its United Methodist base and other Christian denominations, and new divisions that will train rabbis and imams.

Those new units will be affiliated, respectively, with the Academy for Jewish Religion, California, a non-denominational rabbinical school based in Westwood, and the Islamic Center of Southern California, a mosque in Koreatown.

Jerry Campbell, Claremont School of Theology president, said the three divisions will control their own religious educations while collaborating in other areas. The Lincoln funds will help hire faculty, provide scholarships, improve the home campus in Claremont and develop online teaching tools linking the schools and allowing students to take classes from around the nation and the world, said Campbell, who is a United Methodist minister.

“It’s important for us that the participating partners maintain their own brands. We are not blending or merging. We are only looking for understanding, respect and the possibility of collaboration,” he said, adding that Buddhist, Hindu and other religions may join later. Campbell said he and the Lincolns want the schools to generate interfaith solutions for such social issues as homelessness.

A plan proposed last year to train Christian, Muslim and Jewish clergy in one college upset the United Methodist Church, which has sponsored and provided funding to the seminary since its founding. The tripartite structure was created to quell the controversy; the Christian unit alone will receive money from the church.

David Lincoln, a trustee of the theological school since 2003, is a Caltech-trained aerospace engineer and inventor who successfully invested in mining, technology and real estate. Joan Lincoln, a graduate of Scripps College in Claremont, is a ceramic artist and former mayor of Paradise Valley, Ariz., where the couple live.

“We believe the outcome of this kind of education will be tolerance and respect among religions,” David Lincoln said in a statement.

 

Christians, Muslims, Jews to Share

Sacred Texts

By Bob Allen
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
WASHINGTON (ABP) – Christian clergy across the country will organize readings from the Quran and other sacred texts Sunday, June 26, as part of an initiative to counter anti-Muslim bigotry and negative stereotypes of Islam.

Announced in a telephonic press conference May 17, Faith Shared: Uniting in Prayer and Understanding is a project of the Interfaith Alliance and Human Rights First.

 

Welton Gaddy

“The anti-Muslim rhetoric that has pervaded our national conversation recently has shocked and saddened me,” said Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance, a religious freedom organization that seeks to unite diverse faith voices against extremism.

Gaddy, an ordained Baptist minister, is also pastor of preaching and worship at Northminster Church in Monroe, La., one of 50 congregations in 26 states recruited so far to invite Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders to read each other’s sacred texts in order to send a message both in the United States and Arab world.

Contrary to highly publicized anti-Islam statements from some U.S. Christian leaders, Gaddy said churches involved in the Faith Shared project “want to read each other’s scriptures instead of burn them.”

Tad Stanke of Human Rights First, a human-rights advocacy organization with offices in New York and Washington, said tactics that show disrespect for Muslims hurt the reputation of all Americans and make it harder for the U.S. to speak with authority on human-rights issues in the Arab world.

Washington National Cathedral will serve as anchor congregation for the June 26 scripture readings.

“Few things are more important for the future of our world than to respect, to honor and to commit ourselves to the well-being of every person,” said National Cathedral Dean Sam Lloyd. “As Americans and people of faith, we must use our great traditions to come together for mutual enrichment and understanding.”

By coming together to read from and hear each other’s sacred texts, organizers believe Christian, Jewish and Muslim clergy will model respect and cooperation in ways that create concrete opportunities to build and strengthen working ties between their faiths.

“This initiative is good for religion and good for our nation,” Gaddy said.

Information about how to organize a service and a list of participating churches can be seen at www.FaithShared.org.

 

Check out this Odyssey Network video featuring Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf speaking about Interfaith Harmony and featuring Metro Detroit’s Muslim community!!

 

http://odysseynetworks.org/video/odyssey-networks/imam-feisal-abdul-rauf-interfaith-harmony

Malick’s ‘Tree of Life’ is award-winning

film on prayer

from David Crumm, Readthespirit.com

Review of ‘Tree of Life,’ a startling spiritual meditation
Opens in NYC and LA May 27; coming to other cities soon

Coming to the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor on June 17th!!

In the press coverage so far of director Terence Malick’s triumph at the Cannes film festival with “Tree of Life,” reporters seem uneasy about a central theme of Malick’s masterpiece: Prayer. Rather than write about Malick’s fascinating, mystical, speculative exploration of what most Americans would simply call “prayer”-journalists, so far, have been focusing on typical Hollywood news about the movie. And there’s so much Tinseltown buzz in this 138-minute movie that it’s easy to be distracted:

  • There are perpetual auras surrounding the movie’s stars: Brad Pitt and Sean Penn.
  • Then, there’s this shock: “Tree of Life” is a major feature film with so little traditional storyline that it’s more of a poem than a traditonal plot.
  • The film’s epic sweep includes stunning scenes of distant galaxies and digital recreations of dinosaurs roaming our planet-in addition to a family’s tiny back yard in 1950s Texas. It’s a head-snapping journey.
  • Then, there’s the reclusive personality of director Terence Malick who has refused to give interviews since the 1970s and is so shy that he didn’t show up at Cannes to pick up the top prize.

That’s enough to keep TMZ humming-without ever mentioning this masterpiece’s central theme: Prayer. Beyond Hollywood gossip mongers like TMZ, even serious film critics don’t seem willing to contemplate such a fine-arts approach to prayer. In the current New Yorker magazine, film critic Richard Brody stumbles his way through a very long review of the film before finally trying to grapple with the prayer theme in this awkward way:

Almost all the folks in “The Tree of Life” devote more time to murmurs, cries, and whispers, confided to us from the prison of their own heads, than to conversing with their fellow humans, and, while the result will sound to some like a prayer, others may find it increasingly lonely and locked, and may themselves pray for Ben Hecht or Billy Wilder to rise from the dead and attack Malick’s script with a quiver of poisonous wisecracks. “Brother” and “Mother” are the first things that we hear, followed, not long after, by the plea: “What are we to you?” This is uttered by the mother, although it could equally have come from the lips of Job.

Apparently, it’s impossible to call a prayer-“a prayer”-in the pages of the New Yorker and take it seriously. And, if the prayer theme in this movie actually is a prayer theme-well, then the New Yorker review wants us to know that many sophisticated viewers will hate that idea.

The truth is: The vast majority of Americans say they pray on a regular basis and prayer is a vital part of their lives. For most of us-and for honest saints like Dorothy Day and Mother Teresa-prayer isn’t a process of automatically pushing Divine buttons. Prayer often is angry, frustrating or-to borrow form Brody’s review-real prayer often is a cry “from the prison of our own heads” and often feels “lonely and locked.” If you doubt that truth, then just read more about the prayer lives of saints like Day and Teresa.

The film opened at the Cannes Film Festival in France on May 16, where it won the coveted Palme d’Or-a prize that heralded other masterpieces, including “Taxi Driver” and “Apocalypse Now.” That same day, the film’s distributors were previewing the film here in the U.S. for a handful of newspapers and online magazines, including ReadTheSpirit. We were specifically invited to a screening to judge how “the religious community” might feel about this movie.

The answer is: Most of the religious community will LOVE this film and will discuss it in small groups, sermons from pulpits, pastors’ newsletters and in a wide range of religious media. The problem, at this point, is: Most religious leaders haven’t even heard of the film.

How do I know that religious response? This week, I conducted one of our in-depth interviews with the famous advocate of contemplative prayer, Richard Rohr. (We’ll publish the Rohr interview in about two weeks, focusing on his new book Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life.) In the interview, I briefly summarized this movie review for Rohr, who responded: “Oh! From what you’re telling me, I’m eager to see this. What you’re describing reminds me of Mother Teresa’s dark night of the soul, which surprised so many people when they learned about it in her writings. Journalists had trouble dealing with Mother Teresa’s dark night, as well.”

The plot of this film-what plot there is-involves the tragic death of an adult son in that Texas family headed by Brad Pitt. Some media reports say that Malick himself suffered the suicide of a brother many years ago and this film is the most autobiographical of all his cinematic works. Perhaps that’s true. In any case, after news of the son’s death in the opening minutes of “Tree of Life,” we hear prayers over and over again. We hear various characters in various settings crying out to-well, crying out to Something larger than their own life. I would call that Something “God” in many scenes of the film. I would call one sequence very much a vision of “Heaven.”

But, the whole point is: You should see the film yourself and ponder the images, the faces, the voices-listen to the cries that arise across the generations of this family. This truly is a masterpiece-deserving of Cannes’ top honor. The film opens in “limited release” today. You’ll have to watch for this movie to arrive in your part of the United States. You may have to drive farther than normal to see this movie.

Yes, Islam is a religion

By Leonard Pitts, Jr. Detroit Free Press, Friday, May 27, 2011

 So, it turns out Islam is a religion. Imagine that.

Granted, this would be considered self-evident by most of us, but it has been a matter of great controversy in the Tennessee town of Murfreesboro, where 17 people went to court last year to prevent a group of Muslims from building a mosque — on their own land.

The need to defend this fundamental right was only one of the ordeals visited upon the Muslims of Murfreesboro, who have also faced threats, vandalism and arson. As recently, vividly illustrated in “Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door,” a troubling CNN documentary, the antagonists here are a clownish band of bigots scared witless by the prospect that a new mosque will be built in their community by a congregation that has already worshiped there for 30 years.

The 17 had contended Muslims have no constitutional freedom to worship because Islam is not a religion. So the statement at the top of this column represents not just self-evident truth, but an actual recent ruling by an actual judge in an actual court. Seriously.

Chancellor Robert Corlew, the aforementioned actual judge, was obliged to verify that Islam — which has survived 14 centuries and claims a billion and a half adherents — is a religion.

As reported in the Daily News Journal of Murfreesboro, in throwing out most of the plaintiff’s case, Corlew also dismissed claims that “Kevin Fisher, an African-American Christian, would be subject to being a second-class citizen under Shari’a law; Lisa Moore would be targeted for death under Shari’a law because she’s a Jewish female; Henry Golzynski has been harmed because he lost a son fighting in Fallujah, Iraq, by insurgents pursuing jihad as dictated by Shari’a law.”

Maybe you’re tempted to turn away in disgust. Yield not to temptation. We need to see this. This is what it looks like when a country loses its mind.

It looked like this in Germany in 1938 on Kristallnacht, in Rwanda in 1994 when the Hutus savaged the Tutsis, in America in 1942 when the Japanese were herded behind barbed wire.

My point is explicitly not that Muslims face mass vandalism, genocide or internment. Lord only knows what they face. Rather, my point is that the psychological architecture of what happened then is identical to the psychological architecture of Murfreesboro now. Once again, we see people goaded by their own night terrors, hatreds, need for scapegoats, and by the repetitive booming of demagogues, until they go to a place beyond reason.

And in that place inevitably lies a dark night of malice, destruction and awful deeds that seem like good ideas at the time. When it passes, like a fever, we — the doers and those who simply observe — are left shivering in a cold dawn as reason reasserts itself, wondering how barbarism overtook us, what broke loose inside us, and vowing that it will never happen again. Never again.

Me, I don’t fear Muslims. I fear Muslim extremists. I fear extremists, period. And that group in Murfreesboro, make no mistake, are extremists.

Against their extremism, I find bitter succor in the inevitability of that cold dawn. Yes, there will come a morning after. But first we must learn how dark this night will be.

LEONARD PITTS JR. is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla. 33132. Write to him at lpitts@miamiherald.com .

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!!
LINKS THAT YOU CAN USE FOR MORE INFORMATION!!

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

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

 

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