WISDOM Newsletter – May 2014

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events



Sunday, May 4th

WISDOM Friends Reception

2:00 PM – 4:00 PM

Bloomfield Hills Public Library

Telegraph and Lone Pine in Bloomfield Hills

For more information contact Peggy Dahlberg




Sunday, May 18

Dharmic Faiths: Buddhism, HInduism, Sikhism

4:00 PM – 7:00 PM at IONA (Islamic Organization of North America) in Warren

See Flyer Below!


Sunday August 10th through Wednesday August 13th

NAIN (North American Interfaith Network) Conference

Wayne State University

August 10th through 13th

See Flyer Below




The Institute for Engaged Hospitality (IEH) will hold a panel discussion on Sunday, June 22nd at 2:00 PM
at Oakland University
On Sunday afternoon, June 22, at 2pm, IEH will hold a panel discussion with Ms. Gayatri Naraine, a “veteran” consultant of more than 3 decades at the UN.  Ms. Naraine will present a talk on the title:  “Enabling the Common Good:  the Search for Spiritual Convergence.”  Ms. Naraine is the international coordinator for the Living Values: An Educational Program (LVEP), supported by UNESCO; the writer/compiler of Visions of a Better World published in 5 languages; the resource person for Living Values: A Guidebook, editor of Women of Spirit; and featured in The Fabric of the Future: Women Visionaries Illuminate the Path to

You can learn more about Ms. Naraine at–




WISDOM Women Present at the
Muslim Students Association’s Annual
 Unity in Diversity Dinner
March, 2014
Four WISDOM women shared their faith traditions with the Muslim Students Association at their annual Unity in Diversity Dinner on March 14th.  Rev. Amy Morgan (Christian), Brenda Rosenberg (Jewish), Parwin Anwar (Muslim) and Padma Kuppa (Hindu) each gave a short presentation about a particular custom or ritual practiced in their religion.
Brenda Rosenberg talked about the Jewish Sabbath. She explained Shabbat is a the time to create an oasis of peace. Brenda said prayers as she lit candles, and recited the prayer over the challah bread. She asked the students to take a piece of the bread –  symbolically  taking a piece of peace. Brenda explained that it is also customary to give Tzedakah – charity to a local cause, and ended with her favorite prayer for peace from the Gates of Prayer book.
Rev. Amy Morgan spoke about the Apostle Paul’s visit to Areopagus Hill in Athens and how his approach offered a model for interfaith work today.  She shared her conviction that the Christian scriptures are, in their origin and construction, an interfaith experience.   Amy closed with the assertion that the gift of interfaith dialogue is the same today as it has been since the Christian scriptures were written.  For it is in this dialogue that the Christian faith was formed. Interfaith dialogue continues to be formative for our faith today. Amy said, “It is in asking questions about other faiths and answering questions about my own that I more deeply understand and am committed to my faith.  The distinctiveness of the Christian faith is found in conversation with others about values and beliefs we share in common.”
Padma shared that walking into the MSA Annual Banquet, she felt like she had pushed herself in, because the initial invitation came for representatives of the Abrahamic faiths. But she was comfortable because the theme of the dinner was Unity in Diversity, the WISDOM panel was going to speak about peace in our scriptures – and of course, because shevsaw her WISDOM sisters Brenda, Amy and Parwen in the room,  Padma spoke about how yoga is not simply downward dog, but spiritual practice to control the thought-waves of the mind – something that the keynote speaker Ustadh Ubaydullah Evans echoed as he spoke of the restlessness of the human spirit. She spoke of the light of knowledge which leads us from the darkness of ignorance, and saw the candles that Brenda had lit as part of her sharing the Jewish Sabbath with the attendees. Padma told the story from Friendship and Faith, of how she took on the challenge of exclusion in Troy a decade ago, and made long lasting friendships that have impacted our community, and embody pluralism – the acceptance of diversity foundational to being both Hindu and American.  She explained that Hindus chant Shanti – (peace) three times at the end of a prayer, to create peace for ourselves, for our communities and accept the things we have no control over.   And Padma invited the audience to chant the traditional Hindu “Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti” with her as she ended, and as Padma said “hopefully created a little more space for peace and acceptance in everyone’s heart.”

Parvin spoke about inner peace and outer peace from a Quranic perspective, and was so moved by the warm welcome from the youth, the scrumptious food and above all, the diversity and profound speeches that made the night beautiful.

WISDOM was so honored to be speakers at this MSA event!!


Passover – An Interfaith Experience

By Gail Katz


The very first thing that God tells the Jews is “I am Adonai your God who brought you out of Egypt.” This is the first commandment, and commands the Jewish people to know for all time that God is a God of freedom.  God brought the Jewish people out of slavery! The Passover seder (meal) fits so well with this first commandment, as it is a celebration of freedom.  Jews are to re-enact the Exodus from Egypt, to go back to the beginning and follow that journey with Moses – the escape from Pharaoh through the Red Sea to freedom each year.


It is with this theme of freedom in mind, that many of us associate the song “Go Down Moses” or “Let My People Go” with the seder, but it actually originated as an African American spiritual, sung by black slaves as they worked in the fields. Clearly the story of the Israelite slaves in Egypt under Pharaoh spoke to the African American slaves as they worked on the plantations in the south.


On Tuesday, April 15th, my husband and I observed the second Passover seder at Temple Israel in West Bloomfield with three guests from Hartford Memorial Baptist Church in Detroit.  I invited them to join us because I had done some interfaith work with Hartford, planning the Fifteenth Annual World Sabbath, an interfaith happening, there last January, and currently Temple Israel is partnering with Hartford to bring Jewish and African American Baptist women together for a fun potluck and interfaith social action event in June. Ministers Charmaine Johnson and Earline Vaughn and Charmaine’s daughter Aida-Kai Johnson Anderson enlivened our Passover table with their questions and comments about Temple Israel’s Passover celebration. My goal for this Passover seder, my favorite Jewish holiday, was to build and strengthen the bridges of understanding between myself and my African American friends, and to examine our histories and our values to see what we have in common.  Passover is a great model for creating positive connections.  The rituals and structures of the seder teach us to talk about our differences and celebrate our commonalities.


Passover encourages us to invite the stranger into our homes and houses of worship because we too were once strangers in a strange land.  We are supposed to open the door and include “the other” into our familiar Passover ceremony. Because Passover is filled with the asking of questions, it lends itself to engaging others in conversation.  The seder describes the four children who are to ask questions about this special holiday – the wise child, the rebellious child, the ignorant child, and the child who doesn’t even know how to ask.  It is our engagement with one another that helps us to grow our understanding of other faiths and other cultures through the asking of questions about our different traditions.


The biblical narrative of Passover describes how the Jewish people left Mitzrayim – the land of Egypt.  Mitzrayim literally means the narrow, the constrained or the inhibited.  Pharaoh’s Egypt was that narrow place that stifled the lives of the Jewish people.  For the African Americans, their Mitzrayim was the Jim Crow South and the segregated North. Passover is the holiday where, in refreshing our memory about our days of slavery in Egypt, the Jews must pause and think about all people who have struggled and are struggling for freedom. I felt that bond sitting at Temple Israel’s Passover seder between my people and my Hartford Memorial Baptist Church friends.  We have very diverse backgrounds, but we are bound together by a similar journey from bondage to liberty. Passover is the holiday that gives us the seder – the order – to recognize the struggles of oppressed people of other backgrounds, and to stand up for justice in the world!  We eat matzah – the bread of affliction. We dip parsley into salt water – the tears of oppression. We eat bitter herbs – the harshness of slavery!


I love the words of Rabbi Marc Schneier and Russell Simmons of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding about Passover. “The Passover festival challenges us to see one another as full and equal human beings and, by doing so, to free ourselves from the shackles of indifference and to break the chains of prejudice.  Let us celebrate this timeless message of Passover by keeping aglow the light of understanding in a society too often darkened by prejudice and bigotry.”  This is the essence of what the Jewish holiday of Passover is for me, and why I continue to include friends of difference faith traditions, races, and cultures at my Passover seder!


The beginning of a new life is the most precious event in human experience. Our religious traditions all celebrate in different ways the welcoming of a child into our families, our communities and into their own religious journeys. Each of the religious traditions is rich in tradition and wisdom about raising children and each has unique rituals to mark the milestones of maturity and acceptance of responsibility in their faith.


On Sunday, March 9, community members gathered at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Royal Oak to hear a distinguished panel, moderated by Reverend Bob Hart, discuss the traditions, rituals and laws regarding “Birth and Coming of Age across the Faith Traditions.”


Click on the links below to hear their presentations!



Howard N. Lupovitch, Ph.D.

Dr. Lupovitch is the Associate Professor of History and Director of the Cohn-Haddow Center for Judaic Studies at Wayne State University in Detroit. Dr. Lupovitch did his undergraduate work at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. His most recent books include Jews and Judaism in World History and Jews at the Crossroads: Tradition and Accommodation During the Golden Age of the Hungarian Nobility. Dr. Lupovitch is the author of numerous articles and essays. He is a well known and highly regarded speaker and lecturer on many aspects of Jewish life, culture and religion.




Najah Bazzy

Najah Bazzy is an Arab-American registered nurse and nurse consultant from the Detroit area. She is also the CEO of Diversity Specialists and Transcultural Health Care Solutions. Najah conducts workshops to promote cross-cultural understanding between hospital staff and immigrant patients. she is active in her local community as the founder and executive director of Zaman International, a non profit that provides social services to those in need. One program of Zaman International is Plots for Tots that advocates for the proper burial of fetuses, infants, and children for those unable to afford it.



Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints

Ed Barberis

Ed Barberis has served in various positions within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Prior to his current call as a Sunday School teacher, he has served as a counselor in the Michigan Detroit Mission Presidency, counselor in the Bloomfield Hills Michigan Stake Presidency, bishop, seminary teacher, clerk and youth leader Ed received his bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University. He currently is employed as a Principal Sales Consultant for Oracle Corporation. Ed and his family have lived in Michigan for 24 years.





Padma Kuppa

Padma is a Hindu American and community activist working for social justice and understanding. She was born in India and has lived both in the United States and India. Padma is a founding member of the Troy-area Interfaith Group as well as the Bharatiya Temple’s Outreach Committee. She is a member of the Hindu American Foundation’s Board of Directors. Padma writes regularly for Patheos.com on issues pertinent to Hindus in America and inter-religious cooperation, understanding and pluralism. She works with WISDOM, Women’s Interfaith Solutions for Dialogue and Outreach. Padma is an IT project manager. She and her family have lived in Troy since 1998.




Roman Catholicism

Brother Al Mascia, OFM

Brother Al is Roman Catholic and a Franciscan Friar. He defines his call as one of working with those in need. He is a singer/songwriter whose music tells the stories of some of the men and women who call the street their hoe. Brother Al spreads Franciscan joy and spirituality as an itinerant friar minstrel. He holds a Master’s degree from Catholic Theological Union and Western Seminary as well as a doctorate from Chicago Theological Seminary. Brother Al is co-founder of the Song and Spirit Institute for Peace located in Berkley, MI. He is the 2012 co-recipient of the World Sabbath for Religious Reconciliation Peace award and the 2013 Compassionate Citizen Award.






Religious Diversity Journeys for Seventh Graders
 explores Hinduism and Buddhism

For the final Religious Diversity Journey of the 2013 / 2014 school year, students travelled last week to the Bharatiya Temple in Troy for a taste of Hinduism and Buddhism.


Students enjoyed a yoga session and a tour of the Hindu prayer hall, where they saw statues of the Hindu gods and goddesses, and heard priests praying. The kids saw a sari wrapping demonstration and had the opportunity to try wrapping saris and put on bindis, while learning that the bindis are significant in Hinduism because they are considered the center of our energy and concentration and the seat of wisdom. They also heard about the basic tenets of Hinduism, and the history of Buddhism and the significance of chanting and meditation, and were treated to a traditional Indian lunch.


This year’s Religious Diversity Journey series will wrap up on May 13 at the Detroit Institute of Arts, with a religious art scavenger hunt to tie together the themes of the year-long program such as service, sacred texts, clothing and deities, and showcase how all of those themes are prevalent in religious art. The session will conclude with a discussion of the ideas and information participating students will take back to their schools and communities.

‘Of Many’ Film Produced By Chelsea Clinton

 To Premier At Tribeca Film Festival, 

Featuring Muslim-Jewish Relations 


The Tribeca Film Festival has announced that a documentary short produced by Chelsea Clinton will hold its world premiere during the festival at the end of April.

Directed by Linda G. Mills, with Clinton as its Executive Producer, the film “Of Many” documents the extraordinary friendship between two religious leaders — one Muslim, one Jewish — and the rewards and costs of their uncommon alliance.

The film opens with footage of bombings from the Gaza conflict in 2012, followed by images of college students attending Palestinian and Israeli rallies and counter-rallies that serve as a stark reminder of the the volatile and painful tensions between Muslim and Jewish communities on many American university campuses.

With 9/11 and Arab-Israeli conflict as a backdrop, “Of Many” documents the lives of Imam Khalid Latif and Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, the Muslim and Jewish Chaplains at New York University, and the development of their interfaith commitment to each another and to the communities they represent.

Latif and Sarna met in 2006 when a student group at NYU planned to display the “Danish cartoons.” In response, Latif and the Muslim Student Association held a planning meeting for a teach-in and Sarna showed up. Latif invited Sarna to attend the teach-in, which presented a dilemma for Sarna. “That would not be simple,” explained the Rabbi. “What would it mean for me, the rabbi of the Jewish Center at NYU, to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Muslims in what might be perceived as a defense of a violent response to a cartoon.” In the end, he went to the teach-in. “I thought it was important that Jewish students attend, which they did.”

But it didn’t end there.

After the event, the Muslim students went out into the street for sunset prayer. A few feet to the side of the Muslim community, Sarna began to pray in his own way as a gesture of solidarity. “I thought, wouldn’t it be fitting if I was praying near them… or with them?” Afterwards, several Muslim students came over and told him, “We never thought a rabbi could understand us in this way.”

Out of the remarkable collaboration between Latif and Sarna, the Of Many Institute for Multifaith Leadership at NYU was formed. Mills, who directed “Of Many,” is Vice Chancellor for Global Programs at NYU and Co-Chair, along with Chelsea Clinton, of the Of Many Institute advisory board. (The author of this piece is also on the advisory board) In a press release, Mills explained how the the friendship between the imam and the rabbi led to the new institute and, ultimately, the making of the film:

Inspired by the tremendous student interest in this multifaith effort, Khalid and Yehuda worked closely with Chelsea and me to establish the Of Many Institute at NYU. Key to this development was the observation that the unorthodox work and friendship of a rabbi and an imam could be the basis for a new model of multi-faith collaborative work and adventure — at NYU and beyond.

For more information about the film, including educational opportunities around the film, go to the website Of Many Film.


 Imam Latif and Rabbi Sarna

Freedom of belief must be a fundamental element of societies that are sustainable and equitable. That was the message being promoted at a recent seminar held in New Delhi, as well as at events in Brazil’s major cities. At the conference held at India’s National Baha’i Centre, Professor Shiv Visvanathan of O.P. Jindal Global University called on those present to re-conceptualize the fundamental assumptions at the basis of the discourse on freedom and belief. “Diversity is embedded in human rights,” said Prof. Visvanathan, challenging participants to think beyond legal mechanisms and embrace a different ethical framework to facilitate the peaceful coexistence of diverse perspectives. The seminar, which was held on 5 March, was jointly organized by the Global Foundation for Civilizational Harmony and the Baha’i community of India. Eleven panelists – including Akhtarul Wasey, senior professor of Islamic studies at India’s National Islamic University, and Rabbi Ezekiel Malekar, head of the Jewish community in New Delhi – participated in discussions which called for the discourse on diversity to move beyond tolerance towards genuine respect, the recognition of human interdependence, and the promotion of freedom of expression.  In Brazil, the National Day Against Religious Intolerance – an initiative of the Brazilian government – brought people of diverse faiths together in a variety of events to promote greater respect and understanding. In Brasilia, an interfaith event was held at the city’s Temple of Good Will on 21 January. “There was a quiet time during which leaders and representatives of the various religious denominations shared their gifts of prayers, song, or messages,” said Luiz Mourao, a representative of the city’s Baha’i community. A ceremony was also held at the City Hall in Campinas, Sao Paulo State, which brought together some 200 representatives of religious denominations, as well as artists and politicians. The aim was to promote a culture of peace, justice, and respect for different religious and philosophical beliefs. “It was an event of great importance to disseminate the message of the need for understanding between religions and to establish relationships with representatives of religious and governmental organizations,” said Alexandre Beust, a representative of the local Baha’i community. In Rio de Janeiro, the Commission on Combating Religious Intolerance also hosted an event where representatives of participating religions had the opportunity to meet each other and offer performances. The Baha’i community was represented by the music duo Marta and Bia, who have previously appeared at Rio’s Walk in Defense of Religious Liberty, traditionally held in September at Copacabana beach.

The Oldest Hatred, Forever Young
The New York Times Op-Ed by Frank Bruni
Most of the hate crimes in the United States don’t take the fatal form that
the shootings in Kansas over the weekend did, and most aren’t perpetrated
by villains as bloated with rage and blinded by conspiracy theories as the
person accused in this case, Frazier Glenn Miller. He’s an extreme, not an
This is someone who went on Howard Stern’s radio show four years
ago (why, Howard, did you even hand him that megaphone?) and called
Adolf Hitler “the greatest man who ever walked the earth.” When Stern
asked Miller whether he had more intense antipathy for Jews or for blacks
(why that question?), Miller chose the Jews, definitely the Jews, “a
thousand times more,” he said.
“Compared to our Jewish problem, all other problems are mere distractions,” he declaimed, and he apparently wasn’t just spouting off. He was gearing up!
On Sunday, according to the police, he drove to a Jewish community center in Overland Park, Kan. and opened fire, then moved on to a nearby Jewish retirement home and did the same.  Three people were killed. They were Christian, as it happens. When hatred is loosed, we’re all in the crossfire.
On Monday, as law enforcement officials formally branded what happened in Kansas a hate crime, I looked at the spectrum of such offenses nationally: assault, intimidation, vandalism.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation keeps statistics, the most recent of which are for 2012. In the United States that year there were 6,573 hate-crime incidents reported to the bureau (a fraction no doubt, of all that occurred). While most were motivated by race, about 20 percent were motivated by the victims’ perceived religion – roughly the same percentage as those motivated by the victims’ presumed sexual orientation.  I didn’t expect a number that high.
Nor did I expect this: Of the religion-prompted hate crimes, 65 percent were aimed at Jews, a share relatively unchanged from five years earlier (69 percent) and another five before that (65 percent).  In contrast, 11 percent of religious-bias crimes in 2012 were against Muslims.
Our country has come so far from the anti-Semitism of decades ago that we tend to overlook the anti-Semitism that endures.  We’ve moved on to fresher discussions, newer fears.
Following 9/11, there was enormous concern that all Muslims would be stereotyped and scapegoated, and this heightened sensitivity lingers.  It partly explains what just happened at Brandeis University. The school had invited Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a celebrated advocate for Muslim women, to receive an honorary degree. But when some professors and students complained, citing statements of hers that seemed broadly derisive of Islam, the invitation was withdrawn.  Clearly, university officials didn’t want their campus seen as a cradle or theater of Islamophobia.
 But other college campuses in recent years have been theaters of anti-Israel discussions that occasionally veer toward, or bleed into,
condemnations of Jews. And while we don’t have the anti-Semitism in our
politics that some European countries do, there’s still bigotry under the
surface. There are still caricatures that won’t die.
One of them flared last month on the Christian televangelist Pat
Robertson’s TV show. His guest was a rabbi who, shockingly, was himself
trafficking in the notion that Jews excel at making money. The rabbi said
that a Jew wouldn’t squander a weekend tinkering with his car when he
could hire a mechanic and concentrate on something else.
“It’s polishing diamonds, not fixing cars,” Robertson interjected.
Polishing diamonds?
In a 2013 survey of 1,200 American adults for the Anti-Defamation
League, 14 percent agreed with the statement that “Jews have too much
power” in our country, while 15 percent said Jews are “more willing to use
shady practices” and 30 percent said that American Jews are “more loyal
to Israel” than to the United States.
That’s disturbing, as is the way in which the Holocaust is minimized
by its repeated invocation as an analogy. In separate comments this year,
both the venture capitalist Tom Perkins and Kenneth Langone, one of the
founders of Home Depot, said that the superrich in America were being
vilified the way Jews in Nazi Germany had been.
It’s not just Kansas and the heartland where anti-Semitism,
sometimes called the oldest hatred, stays young.
A story in The Times last year focused on an upstate New York
community in which three Jewish families filed suit against the school
district, citing harassment of Jewish students by their peers. The abuse
included Nazi salutes and swastikas drawn on desks, on lockers, on a
playground slide.
When a parent complained in 2011, the district’s superintendent
responded, in an email: “Your expectations for changing inbred prejudice
may be a bit unrealistic.”
Well, the only way to breed that prejudice out of the generations to
come is never to shrug our shoulders like that – and never to avert our

Awful Religious Stereotypes? Shattered. By Two Girls And One Absolutely Stunning Performance.

Check out this website for a wonderful video about interfaith understanding!

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!!

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!