(Women’s Interfaith Solutions for
Dialogue and Outreach in MetroDetroit)
The InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit
are sponsoring a house of worship visit to
the Sikh Gurdwara Sahib, Hidden Falls
40600 Schoolcraft Rd, Plymouth Township, MI 48170
on Wednesday, June 20, 2012
6:30 – 7:30 PM Religious Service
7:30 – 8:15 PM Langar Dinner
To sign up for this visit, please email Gail Katz
at email@example.com call her at 248-978-6664.
(While there is no charge, free will donations
are appreciated by the Gurdwara!)
“Mental Health Issues and Challenges Facing Metro Detroit’s Diverse Faith Traditions”
Wednesday, May 16th
6:30 PM to 9:00 PM
at The Community House in Birmingham
(380 S. Bates)
The panel will include experts in the mental health field representing the Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim faith traditions. The presentation will focus predominately on youth of multiple faith groups, the challenges that they face, and the stigma attached to dealing with mental illnesses. Information will include steps that teachers, parents, family members, and clinicians can take to ensure that mental health issues of youth in specific faith traditions are addressed. The panelists include:
Nacha Leaf (Jewish), Clinical Social Worker/Therapist at the Jewish mental health agency called Kadima, in Southfield.
Sameera Ahmed (Muslim), Director of the Family & Youth Institute and a Clinical Assistant Professor at Wayne State University in the Dept. of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience.
Rev. Sandra Gordon (Christian), Assistant to Pastor Kenneth Flowers at the Greater New Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit. Former Co-chairperson of the Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program.
Mona Belsare (Hindu), Vice President of the Michigan Asian Indian Family Services which serves the South Asian community, and a psychiatric social worker in the ER at Beaumont Hospital.
These panelists will address specific mental health issues face by the youth of their faith tradition, suggestions for helping the family members struggling with their child’s issues, and ensuring that the mental health issues faced by the Christian, Jewish, Hindu, or Muslim families are dealt with in counseling and in the child’s classroom.
This program is sponsored by the Family and Youth Institute, the Interfaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit, Kadima, The Race Relations and Diversity Task Force of the Birmingham Community House, and WISDOM (Women’s Interfaith Solutions for Dialogue and Outreach in MetroDetroit).
The event is free! Coffee and cookies will be served. For further information or to register, please contact Sheri Schiff, firstname.lastname@example.org
YOU ARE INVITED TO WISDOM’S
ANNUAL FRIENDS RECEPTION!!
MAY 20TH, 4:00 – 6:00 PM
TROY COMMUNITY CENTER
If you are a Friend of WISDOM (a financial supporter) or would like to learn more about WISDOM, please join us at our annual Friends reception.
Our WISDOM program will give you an opportunity to meet the WISDOM Board and other Friends of WISDOM in an informal atmosphere. There will be appetizers and desserts, drawings for door prizes, and an opportunity to purchase WISDOM’s book entitled “Friendship and Faith: The WISDOM of Women Creating Alliances for Peace.”
Our Friends are an integral partner in everything we do. Together we have provided food for the needy, backpacks to homeless children, and we have engaged the community on topics of common interest – most recently interfaith discussions on angels in religion and how faith communities are dealing with the lack of clean water worldwide. Together we have challenged stereotypes and prejudice by sharing our stories – either in print with our WISDOM book, on our
websites www.interfaithwisdom.org and www.friendshipandfaith.com or in person at our signature presentation “Five Women Five Journeys.” Most of all, we have empowered women through the friendships we have nurtured and the hearts and minds that we have opened.
If you are interested in joining us please contact Anjali Vale by email at email@example.com no later than May 13th.
The Women of the WISDOM Board look forward to meeting you!!
By Gail Katz
Bar and Bat-Mitzvahs are important passages of life for members of the Jewish Community. At age 13 a Jewish boy becomes a man, a “bar-mitzvah” – he is considered mature enough to be responsible for his actions, and he is literally “son of the commandments” or someone bound by Jewish law. A girl, however, becomes a bat-mitzvah at age 12. In the synagogue the young bar and bat-mitzvah youths chant from the Torah and the Haftorah, give speeches with a relevant Torah insight, and make declarations of personal commitment in front of the entire congregation. Girls, however, did not always have this opportunity, to which I can personally attest!
I spent my childhood in Silver Spring, Maryland growing up in a non-Jewish neighborhood and being one of only a few Jews in my elementary school! Every morning I would bow my head and recite “The Lord’s Prayer” with my classmates, knowing that this was not my prayer. Every December I would sing the Christmas carols blessing Jesus, and feeling very uncomfortable! I was the Jewish child – “the other!”
I did not have the opportunity to receive any Jewish education as a youngster, which for girls was not uncommon! I knew about Chanukah and Passover, and on the high holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, my parents would take me to synagogue, but I continued to feel like the “other” as I did not understand the Hebrew nor did I recognize the prayers. My brother (one year older than I) became a bar-mitzvah, and I felt the great disappointment of not having the opportunity to be officially welcomed into the Jewish community.
This feeling has stayed with me my entire life. It wasn’t until my adult years that I began to educate myself about my faith tradition. I studied Hebrew as an undergrad, and spent time in Israel. In 2006 I became the Co-Founder of WISDOM (Women’s Interfaith Solutions for Dialogue and Outreach in MetroDetroit). My interactions with people of many faith traditions have served to make me more aware of my faith – of what the rabbinic traditions and the Torah teach us – that each of us is made in God’s image and is to be treasured. I now strive every day to learn more about my Judaism – with Torah, Talmud and Mussar study, so that I can understand my Jewish roots, and, in so doing, have a greater understanding of humanity as a whole. I feel as if I have come full circle – fulfilling my wish to be a knowledgeable Jew and being comfortable with that knowledge. Becoming a Bat Mitzvah is part of this process for me – and I am so delighted to finally reach this milestone in my Jewish education, where I am now going to be an “official” member of my beloved Jewish community!!
Temple Israel has offered me this opportunity to become a Bat-Mitzvah on Saturday, June 16th. I will have this honor along with several other adult women who are Temple Israel members. If you have never had the opportunity to observe this special Jewish life passage in a synagogue, I invite you to join me at Temple Israel, 5725 Walnut Lake Road in West Bloomfield. The service will begin at 1:00 PM and should conclude around 2:30 PM. There will be a reception that will follow the service.
I will also have the honor of wearing a Tallit (a prayer shawl) that I had the wonderful opportunity of weaving myself (with the help of Michael Daitch – an expert Tallit weaver!!). The tallit is actually a four-cornered garment put over our clothing and wrapped around our body when we pray in the synagogue. The tallit must have fringes, called “tzitzit” in Hebrew. God told Moses: “Speak to the Jewish people and instruct them to make for themselves fringes on the corners of their garments throughout the ages …thus you shall be reminded to observe all of my Commandments and to be holy to your God.” (Numbers 15:37-41) One of these fringes long ago had to be blue – the color of the sky and the heavens. This blue and white color combination was later adopted as the colors of the Israeli flag, and symbolizes the need for people to incorporate the sacred into the profane, to bring the holy into everyday activities. Today the tzitzit no longer have the blue thread because that blue color could only be obtained from a certain marine animal, which can no longer be identified. Thus today all of the fringes are white. In gematria (the mystical process of analyzing words by their numberical value), the word tzitzit adds up to 600. The eight strands on the tallit have five knots. 600 + 8 + 5 add up to 613, which is the exact number of Commandments in the Torah. Thus the tzitzit are there to remind us of the 613 commandments (mitzvot) in our most holy book, the Torah.
Michael Daitch teaching me how to weave my own tallit!
The finished handwoven tallit! A close up of the Tzitzit (fringes)
One of WISDOM’s missions is to educate our community about our different faith traditions. As one of WISDOM’s co-founders, I welcome you to come to Temple Israel (5725 Walnut Lake Road in West Bloomfield) to observe myself and the group of women I have studied with become adult bnot-mitzvah (plural for bat-mitzvah), chant their Torah and Haftorah portions, recite the customary Shabbat (Sabbath) prayers, comment on the Torah portion read in the synagogue that week, and rejoice afterward in their having become B’not Mitzvah with a special blessing over the wine (kiddush) and the sharing of cookies and cakes at the reception. If you think you might join me at Temple Israel on June 16th, please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know you will be present in the Temple Israel sanctuary that Saturday at 1:00 PM.
May we make our Metro Detroit community one filled with respect and understanding of our diverse faith traditions!!
Check out this article in The Jewish Journal entitled:
Under One Roof: They all share a shul/church/mosque in West L.A.
If that’s not interfaith, what is?
by Rachel Heller
Saris and Chuppahs for the B’nei Israel Jews of India
By DEBRA KAMIN
Yamit Talker-Shefer/Prime Time StudioYamit Talker-Shefer in a green sari dances with family and friends during her Indian wedding ceremony in Rehovot, Israel, 2009.
Two days before Yamit Talker-Shefer’s wedding to her husband Elad, in traditional Indian custom her family donned colorful saris and gathered together for the henna ceremony, in which her ring finger was painted red in preparation for the wedding ring to come. Forty-eight hours later, in traditional Jewish custom, she and Elad stood under the chuppah – the Jewish wedding canopy – and recited ancient Hebrew vows before an Israeli rabbi.
Yamit Talker-Shefer/Prime Time StudioYamit Talker-Shefer and Elad Shefer during their Jewish wedding ceremony in Rehovot, Israel, 2009. Mr. Shefer breaks the glass as per Jewish custom.
There are roughly 6 million Jews living in Israel today, 80,000 of whom, like Ms. Talker-Shefer, are of Indian origin. While some of the other large immigrant sectors within Israel – Jews from Russia and Ethiopia, notably – tend to hold on to their customs, imprinting the communities where they resettle with their old languages and foods, the Indian community in Israel is a study in assimilation.
Ms. Talker-Shefer’s family is B’nei Israel Jews, who trace their roots to the biblical tribe of Levi. Their ancestors migrated to India from Israel’s northern Galilee, settling in Mumbai and nearby cities. In the 1950s and 1960s, as part of a wave of Indian immigration to Israel, Ms. Talker-Shefer’s grandfather flew to Israel with 15 family members in tow. Upon arrival, her family had one true goal: to live in modern Israel, as Israelis.
“They didn’t want to get attention from other people, so they kept their culture and their language within their community,” she says of that wave of immigrants. “If my grandpa wants to speak Marathi, he has his friends. He has people. But if he calls a friend, or even my mom or brother, he speaks Hebrew.”
Also placing Indian Jews apart from other immigrant groups is the fact that they came to Israel not out of persecution or need, but simple desire.
Nissim MosesThe fifth B’nei Israel Conference was held in Bombay in December 1921.
“Unlike in the rest of the world, which didn’t like the Jews, in India they were a preferred community,” says Moses Nissim, a retired acoustics professor, amateur historian and B’nei Israel Jew. Mr. Moses grew up in Mumbai (then Bombay) and now lives in Petach Tikva, a Tel Aviv suburb, in an apartment crammed with Indian art, framed academic certificates and miniatures of Indian synagogues perched in glass cases.
Mr. Moses’s pride in his heritage runs fierce. “The B’nei Israel were never shopkeepers,” he says. “If you look at the blessing of Jacob, Jacob told the Levites, ‘You will serve your people.’ So you will never see a B’nei Israel industrialist. You will see doctors, scientists, lawyers.”
Nissim MosesThe First All India Israelite League meeting held in Karachi in 1918. The league provided support to 650 B’nei Israel Jews living in the Pakistani province of Sind.
What you also won’t see, however, is a great deal of political activism. Asked about her feelings over Iran and the broader Middle East, Ms. Talker-Shefer says, “I am just an Israeli. In India, most of them are Muslims. And the rest of them are Hindu. But me, I’m Israeli.”
The same, she says, goes for her grandfather. “They say that never mind where you live, the language you hear in your dreams will tell you where your real home is. And my grandpa, he dreams in Hebrew.”
Debra Kamin is a journalist living in Tel Aviv. She is the Tel Aviv stringer for Variety and a freelancer for The New York Times and a few other publications.
WISDOM HELD AN INTERFAITH SEDER ON March 29
By Elaine Schonberger
WISDOM held its first Interfaith Seder on Thursday evening, March 29, 2012 at Temple Beth El in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. The event was co-sponsored by the Isadore and Frances Malin Interfaith Activities Fund of Temple Beth El.
Over sixty people enjoyed a wonderful evening of learning, traditional Passover foods, songs and new friendships. Several faith traditions were represented by the attendees, including the Christian, Jewish , Baha’I and Hindu faiths.
Rabbinic Associate Keren Alpert of Temple Beth El created and compiled the Haggadah that was used during the evening for the enactment of the seder service. She lead and conducted the service through song, prayer, narratives and explanations of the traditional order and rituals of the Passover seder.
The Passover Seder Plate The Passover Matzah
The evening was outstanding! So many of the attendees stayed after to continue dialogue with Keren Alpert and many new friendships were made that night.
Rabbinic Associate Keren Alpert Leads
the Passover Seder at Temple Beth El
| The Parliament Blog
Spark Interfaith Dialogue
by Arezou Rezvani
If the spheres of fashion and religion seem disparate and distant, it is 22-year-old Jagmeet Sethi’s Connecticut-based apparel company TurbanInc that has brought the two seemingly distinct worlds together.
“The power of fashion is universal and when we dress ourselves, we often think, ‘What am I saying to the world when they look at me today?'” said Sethi. “With that in mind, we wanted to combine one of our most routine methods of expression with confidence, self-love and pride in being Sikh.”
Born and raised in Queens, New York, Sethi, who was among the 500,000 Sikhs then living in the United States, was consistently the mistaken target of discrimination stemming from the lack of knowledge and ensuing confusion of Sikhs with Muslims or Arabs. That confusion is what ultimately led to the death of Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh who was the first person believed to have been murdered in retaliation for the 9/11 attacks. More than a decade later, in December, another bloody assault on a 56-year-old Sikh preacher in Fresno confirmed that the group remains a mistaken target of anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States.
“Kids who were once best friends of mine all of a sudden stopped talking to me right after the attacks took place,” said Sethi. “There was a period of time where I was getting into physical fights with classmates of mine almost every week.”
Although much of the prejudice settled when Sethi’s family moved to Connecticut in 2004, his outward display of faith, first through the topknot in middle school and then the full size turban later in high school drew judgment well through college, where during his senior year Sethi wore an “I Heart Turbans” T-shirt that his then budding company had designed. Created to invite classmates to engage with his appearance, Sethi spent much of that day explaining his religious background, practices and rituals to friends, professors and hallway strangers.
To read the rest of this article, go to:
The Titanic’s Forgotten “Survivor”
As we’ve been reminded innumerable times over the past few weeks, one hundred years ago the “unsinkable” Titanic sank into the North Atlantic, taking with her more than 1,500 lives. The tragedy has made for some epic storytelling.
Of all the stories, one of the most extraordinary is that of a 68-year-old Persian who wasn’t, it turns out, actually on the ill-fated vessel, but was supposed to be.
Abbas Effendi — known as Abdu’l-Baha or “the Servant of God” — was feted by the press in both Europe and the U.S. as a philosopher, a peace apostle, even the return of Christ. His American admirers had sent him thousands of dollars for a ticket on the Titanic, and begged him to ride in the greatest of opulence. He declined and gave the money to charity.
“I was asked to sail upon the Titanic,” he later said, “but my heart did not prompt me to do so.”
Instead, Abdu’l-Baha sailed to New York on the more modest SS Cedric. Every major newspaper in New York covered his arrival on April 11 and his eight-month coast-to-coast tour that followed. This turbaned foreigner in “oriental robes” was front-page news.
The New York Times reported that his mission was “to do away with prejudices… prejudice of nationality, of race, of religion.” The article also quotes him directly: “The time has come for humanity to hoist the standard of the oneness of the human world, so that dogmatic formulas and superstitions may end.”
The press often called him a prophet, especially a “Persian Prophet” (ah, alliteration!). One headline, following his talk at Stanford University, read: “Prophet Says He Is Not A Prophet.” Abdu’l-Baha was in fact the leader of the then nascent Baha’i Faith, though he consistently denied the whole prophet thing.
He preached the faith founded by his father, Baha’u’llah, in the mid-1800s, rooted in the unity of all religions. At the time there were only a few hundred Bahai’s in the U.S.; today there are 150,000. Day after day, month after month, crowds across America (often in the thousands) flocked to hear him talk. In synagogues he praised Christ. In churches he extolled the teachings of Mohammed. And throughout his travels his company was sought by luminaries like Andrew Carnegie, Alexander Graham Bell and Kahlil Gibran.
Abdu’l-Baha (right) with his brother Mirza Mihdi/Wikimedia Commons
Just how did Abdu’l-Baha come to inspire so many — this obscure figure from the east who had spent 40-something years imprisoned for his religion, who had never attended school or been exposed to western culture?
I suspect it has something do with not just what he said, but what he did. “He is the only man in the world who at his dinner table has gathered Persian, Zorastan, Jew, Christian, Mahometan,” [sic] wrote the New York Tribune’s Kate Carew (the Liz Smith of her era). Later in the piece, sans her trademark levity, she describes Abdu’l-Baha’s visit to the Bowery Mission on the Lower East Side — where he personally handed out silver coins to 400 homeless men.
Throughout his U.S. visit he swept aside the social protocol of segregation by insisting that everywhere he spoke be open to people of all races. Not the biggest crowd pleaser at the time. At the Great Northern Hotel on 57th Street (now the Parker Meridien), the manager vehemently refused to allow any blacks on the property.
“If the people see that one colored person has entered my hotel, no respectable person will ever set foot in it,” he said. So Abdu’l-Baha instead organized a multi-racial feast at the home of one of his followers, with many whites serving blacks — a subversive, even dangerous notion at the time.
Only among humans was skin color a cause of discord, Abdu’l-Baha once remarked. “Animals, despite the fact that they lack reason and understanding, do not make colors the cause of conflict. Why should man, who has reason, create conflict?”
Abdu’l-Baha’s talks pierced audiences with a radical simplicity. And yet he advanced ideas that Americans still wrestle with a century later: the need for true racial harmony and gender equality; the elimination of extreme wealth and poverty; the dangers of nationalism and religious bigotry; and an insistence upon the independent search for truth. Any of those ring a bell in 2012?
His mission of unity, spread throughout our nation one hundred years ago, should be celebrated alongside the messages of Gandhi, the Dalai Lama and Martin Luther King Jr.
In his very first public address in the U.S. — at New York’s Church of Ascension on Fifth Avenue and 10th Street — Abdu’l-Baha hailed America’s material progress in the arts, agriculture and commerce, but with a caution to also develop our spiritual potentialities.
“For man two wings are necessary. One wing is physical power and material civilization; the other is spiritual power and divine civilization. With one wing only, flight is impossible.”
He gave the talk on April 14, 1912. Later that same day the Titanic struck the iceberg.
LEARN ABOUT THE THIRTEEN SACRED TEXTS
The Detroit Renaissance District Peace Center
& The Interfaith Committee
will hold a Workshop “The Golden Rule Across The World’s Religions’ to learn about the Thirteen Sacred Texts and meet representatives of various faiths Christians, Jews, Sikhs, Buddhists, Muslims, Baha’is, Hindus and hear their message.
Wednesday, May 30, 2012, 6:00 – 8:30 P.M.
at Hope United Methodist Church
26275 Northwestern Hwy (Near Lasher Rd.), Southfield, MI,
6- 6:30 p.m.- Refreshments, 6:30 – 8:30 P.M. Workshop
The Workshop is Free and Open to the Public
Limited Space – Please RSVP
Barbara Talley, Exec. Director, Peace Center
“Miss Representation” screening
on Sunday April 15, 2012
by Karla Joy Huber
The screening of Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s documentary film “Miss Representation” at Detroit Country Day School in Beverley Hills, Michigan, looked like a sold-out show. Hundreds of women and men came to the event, which was sponsored by the Jewish Women’s Foundation of Metropolitan Detroit’s annual event called “Women Lighting the Way,” and was supported by many social service and outreach providers, interfaith and diversity organizations, and Jewish temples and businesses. The film was introduced by Rochelle Riley, whose commentaries on social, political and cultural issues appear in the Detroit Free Press.
The goal of the film is to foster awareness of the disempowering and dangerous stereotypes and violence toward women that are still rampant in our media, politics, and social interactions. “Awareness is the first step toward change,” as the event’s program states, and this blunt, diverse, and often-disturbing documentary certainly did make the audience very aware that a lot of work remains to be done toward creating a more safe and humane future for our women and girls.
The film featured a monologue by an actress whose experiences led her to become a spokesperson for female empowerment, interviews with media scholars, politicians, and entertainers, demonstrative sexist news and movie clips, degrading advertisements, and dozens of statistics exposing the fallacies about the status of women in America. Such fallacies include the mistaken belief that “women’s lib” doesn’t need to be discussed anymore, and that access to contraceptives is all women need to become sexually empowered according to the sexist double-standards of men and boys who seem to embody the worst stereotypes of political and moral conservativism.
Following the film there was a discussion with one of the film’s participants, Dr. Jackson Katz, who took audience comments and responded with insights from his work in gender equity initiatives. One key point Katz stressed is that gender equity and media literacy campaigns should focus primarily on teachers, politicians, and advertisers, whose influence parents can’t control when their children are outside the home, rather than on teens and their parents
“Miss Representation” isn’t just a documentary, it’s a campaign!! This event’s program and the film’s website list many practical ways both women and men can help create a safer future for women. Some of these actions include voting women into public office, promoting gender equity at schools, encouraging women to become leaders and helping them do so, going to movies written and directed by women, boycotting movies and TV shows that sexually objectify and degrade women, setting a good example for girls by exhibiting self-respecting behavior, and using social media such as Facebook and Twitter to promote the “Miss Representation” campaign and to disseminate positive and empowering messages about women and girls in general.