WISDOM Newsletter – November 2016

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events  
Exploring our Religious Landscapes
August through November
See Flyer Below
Sunday, November 6th 4:00 PM
Jewish Community Center Book Fair
Till We Have Built Jerusalem:
Architects of a New City
By Adina Hoffman
See flyer below!
Sunday, November 20th 2:00 – 5:00 PM
Visit to the Holocaust Memorial Center
See information below
Tuesday, November 22nd at 6:30 PM
Interfaith Thanksgiving Service and Project
Christ Church Cranbrook
See Flyer below
Beginning October 31st – December 14th
Multi-Religious Conflict Transformation Training
See flyer below
January through April 2017
Comparative Judaism Series
See Flyer Below

Holocaust Memorial Center Tour
Please join WISDOM on Sunday, November 20 for a docent led tour of the Holocaust Memorial Center.
Join us at 2pm or a little earlier for registration
and a brief look at the special exhibit
 “Holocaust by Bullets” from Father Patrick Debois.
  At 2:30, we will hear the testimony of a survivor of the Holocaust who lives in our community.
 They are an aging population and their history makes us a witness to the act of genocide perpetrated by the Nazis and their collaborators.
After the survivor speaks,
we will take a docent led tour through the museum.
Join us after the tour,
for dinner next door
at the Chinese restaurant Hung Hua.
Reservations required to sheritschiff@gmail.com 
Email Sheri for further information.
Cost for touring the museum at the group rate is $6.
Holocaust Memorial Center
28123 Orchard Lake Road
Farmington Hills, MI 48334
(just north of 12 Mile Road on the
West side of Orchard Lake Road)



On Wednesday, October 5th WISDOM was honored with the Interfaith Leadership Award at the Interfaith Leadership Council’s 4th Annual Awards Dinner held at the Burton Manor in Livonia!  Accepting the award is WISDOM‘s president Peggy Dahlberg.  Next to her is Trish Harris and Gail Katz, two of WISDOM‘s co-founders, and behind Peggy is the WISDOM board and Advisory Board.  What a wonderful evening!!

The Who What and Why of WISDOM
Part FOUR by Rev. Mimi Biedron
From Left to Right
Gigi Salka, Trish Harris, Rev. Mimi Biedron, Padma Kuppa
When the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches‘ 2016 Annual Meeting and Conference first entered the planning stages, the Host Committee was asked to suggest a theme. The meeting would be held in southeastern Michigan, and would welcome delegates and church members from around the country. Congregationalist churches that are members of the National Association represent a Protestant Christian tradition with origins in the Pilgrim and Puritan churches of colonial New England. Our churches range from large to small, and include urban, suburban, and rural congregations. While we are a very long way from witch trials, for many of our member churches, there are few opportunities in their communities to interact with non-Christians. When we learned that our site would be the DoubleTree Detroit/Dearborn, just a mile from the Islamic Center of America, our thoughts turned to the question asked of Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” in Luke 10:29. In response to that story, Jesus offered the parable of the Good Samaritan with its conclusion: EVERYONE is your neighbor. What better theme to invite exploration of the rich, pluralistic religious environment of the metropolitan Detroit area?
As we explored ways to develop our theme, we planned a workshop on pluralism and scheduled a large-group tour of the Islamic Center mosque. Our Bible lecturer, Rev. Dr. Stephen Butler Murray, president of Ecumenical Theological Seminary in Detroit, prepared three talks on reading and using scripture in diverse communities. For the keynote address that would set the tone for the meeting, I contacted Gail Katz to ask if we could have a group from WISDOM share their insight that it is friendship that fosters and sustains pluralist encounters. I was so pleased to meet with Trish Harris to review plans for this presentation at the opening of our meeting, and so impressed with the wonderful resources she provided, many of which I incorporated into the pluralism workshop. We determined that the Host Committee would provide copies of Friendship and Faith to interested meeting participants, as well as a bibliography and contact information for those wanting to learn more and begin their own communities’ interfaith journeys. As the meeting drew near, I wondered how our theme, and its expression, would be received in this time of heightened anxiety in interreligious and interracial situations.
I introduced the WISDOM speakers with my own pluralism story: for people living in southeastern Michigan, interfaith encounters are as close and as common as conversations at the mailbox post, with the person on the next treadmill at the gym, with a child’s soccer coach, a co-worker, a physical therapist and many more. The founding principle of WISDOM, that a commitment to building relationships across lines of difference is the foundation for peace and  understanding, is borne out in these everyday encounters.  As Trish Harris, Gigi Salka, and Padma Kuppa shared their WISDOM stories, the group of about 300 participants became silent and deeply attentive. Standing beneath the “Who Is My Neighbor?” theme banner, their speeches offered insights about the question that were inspiring and challenging. At the end of the keynote address, the book table was surrounded by attendees wanting not only the book, not only the autographs, but also the opportunity to talk about the possibility of forming such a group in their own communities.
The importance of the message did not end there, however! The mosque tour signups became so numerous we added vehicles. The pluralism workshop was standing-room-only, and more handouts had to be reproduced. My display of pluralism resources caused many to stay and take notes. People I had expected to be critical or resistant were drawn into conversation. Throughout the meeting, participants stopped by the welcome table to tell me of their own interfaith insights and experiences at home and at the meeting.
I am so grateful to Trish, Gigi, and Padma, as well as WISDOM as a whole, for what they offered to our meeting and to our churches from around the U.S.  In the midst of the harsh rhetoric of division being expressed this summer, we glimpsed a possibility for peace and the inspiration to use conversation and friendship to transformational ends.
The Rev. Dr. Mary E. Biedron
North Congregational Church
Farmington Hills, MI

Article in the Detroit News
Michigan No.2 state in nation for Syrian refugees

Bloomfield Hills – About a year ago, Ranya Shbeib and her family, who are Muslim and of Syrian descent, took in a Muslim teenager from Somalia. Shbeib, who has three young children with her husband, said she felt compelled to become a foster parent for the girl after learning many Muslim refugee children in the foster care system want to be placed with Muslim families but can’t be because so few citizens are licensed to provide care.
“It was hard for me to know that and not do something about it,” the 36-year-old Bloomfield Hills resident said.
Diane Baird, who manages a refugee foster care program for faith-based nonprofit Samaritas, said the need for foster families, especially in light of a surge of incoming Syrian refugees, in Michigan is dire.
“We don’t have enough foster homes to meet the need that exists now, let alone the increase we anticipate next year,” Baird said.
Michigan has become the No. 2 spot where Syrian refugees have resettled in the U.S. Since May 2011, the start of the Syrian civil war, 1,404 Syrian refugees have moved into Michigan, according to the U.S. State Department.
Shbeib said she hopes other Muslim families consider opening their homes to children like her foster daughter. She said it’s important young refugees who are Muslim are able to celebrate religious holidays with their community.
“It really goes a long way when a child can go to a home where they share the same faith and traditions,” Shbeib said.
Baird said no Syrian refugee youths seeking asylum have yet arrived in Michigan. But she said Samaritas anticipates they could in the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.
“We received a referral list and there are 24 kids on it who are in refugee camps overseas and waiting for a place to be available for them,” she said. “There are lots of kids who are actively looking for homes right now, but we just don’t have any Syrian kids on the list yet.”
More than 13,338 Syrian refugees have come into the U.S. since May 2011, according to the federal government. Between Jan. 1 and Sept. 9 of this year, 10,795 Syrian refugees have resettled in the America, according to the state department.
Last month, the country reached the 10,000 goal set by the Obama administration last October to admit Syrian refugees into the U.S.
Michigan once ranked first among states for taking in Syrian refugees, the department said. But California recently surpassed the Great Lakes State for the top spot. New Hampshire and West Virginia were tied at the bottom with five. Some states – such as Alabama, Hawaii, South Dakota and Wyoming – haven’t taken in any Syrian refugees, the department reported.
Most of the refugees in Michigan resettled mostly in Metro Detroit, primarily in Troy, Dearborn and Clinton Township.
In Troy,437 Syrian refugees have taken up residence between May 2011 and Sept. 9, 2016, according to the state department. Dearborn is second with 297 and Clinton Township has 257.
The U.S. government administers the program that resettles Syrian refugees in America and it works with nine nonprofit organizations, most faith-based, to resettle them.
The agencies submit proposals to the government, describing their capacity to resettle refugees and how they’ll handle the process. Those groups also consult with local government officials and school districts about the newcomers.
In Metro Detroit, three primary refugee resettlement agencies – Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan, or CCSEM, Samaritas and the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, or USCRI – have resettled a total of more than 1,000 Syrian refugees in the area over the last several months, said Dave Bartek, CCSEM’s director of refugee settlement.
“Even without this refugee influx, we don’t have enough foster homes and we need more – everywhere,” Bartek said.
Experts said many Syrian refugees settle in Michigan and Metro Detroit because of the sizable Arabic and Syrian communities here.
More than 13,000 Michigan children are in foster care, according to Samaritas. But two-thirds of referrals to Samaritas are turned away because of the lack of available foster homes, she said.
Both nonprofits, Samaritas and CCSEM, are looking for foster families, especially ones who can take in young Syrian refugees.
Most of the kids who need foster families in Michigan are young teens, and that’s no different for young Muslim or Syrian refugees, Baird said.
State law requires foster families to be licensed and the process to get a license can be lengthy.
And since many young refugees have grown up in refugee camps, experienced emotional trauma and don’t speak English, being a foster family isn’t without challenges, Baird said.
“On top of everything else, they’re going to be a normal teenager,” Baird said. “There are parenting challenges that come along with teenagers.”
Shbeib also said foster families who want to help children shouldn’t wait until young Syrian refugees start arriving in Michigan.
“People don’t have to wait for the Syrian refugees to come,” Shbeib said. “There are so many children waiting in refugee camps for a home right now.”

We Shared our Sacred Texts
An Interfaith Leadership Council
Interfaith Panel
In each of our traditions, we have sought over the years to detail, define and codify the history and teachings of our faiths. Whether our books are divine in provenance or inspired by the contemplation of divine will, each serves to help us understand and connect with God.
On Sunday September 18th a group of the curious gathered at the Mata Tripta Ji Gurdwara Sahib in Plymouth to explore our Sacred Texts with a panel of scholars, clergy and experts, moderated by Rev. Dr. Stephen Butler Murray, President of the Ecumenical Theological Seminary.
Panelists spoke on the sacred texts of Islam, Sikhism, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, First Church of Christ, Scientist, Judaism, and Catholicism. Attendees had the opportunity to learn what the sacred texts were in each tradition, some details about how they are handled and cared for, how they were to be read, and what supplementary texts exist in each tradition.
Each of the presentations was filled with fascinating details. For example, that chanting the Quran out loud connects with a spiritual force in the text that only comes through correct and present chanting, that part of the miracle is in the sound. Chanting the Quran can be used to exercise evil spirits, and consecrate a mosque. It is chanted 24/7 in Mecca.
The Sikh Guru Granth Sahib is considered the living guru or teacher. It is the compilation of teachings of 10 gurus, who compiled them along with poetry and prayers of other traditions, into the sacred text of the Sikh. The tenth and final guru declared it the living guru, and it is now treated like a revered spiritual leader and, according to Sikh tradition, royalty, carried on a palanquin, resting on a luxurious bed, in fact, put to bed at night.
Jewish sacred texts, when damaged or old beyond use, are collected in a container called a Geniza. And also like a person, they are given a proper burial. Adherents to many faiths, like Brother Al, carry a bible with them, or even access sacred texts on their cell phones like Raman Singh. President Larry Cleveland of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke of his great joy in reading scriptures daily, that like both Sikhs and members of the Church of Christ Scientist, LDS church members are self-taught, recognizing the importance of their individual relationships with the scripture.
And we learned that Mary Baker Eddy, founder of the Church of Christ, Scientist, experienced a transformational healing following a severe injury, and spent the next three years studying the bible for what she considered repeatable principals behind the healings performed by Jesus and the prophets. She assembled this into Science and Health, which is considered a “key” to that scriptural truth.
Across the presentations, filled with fascinating details, philosophies, practices and historical notes, we found that, like so much in our faiths traditions, our approaches to our widely varying beliefs and practices are based on the same values. The word of God, however, and through whomever, it arrives, is a healing force that may be a great source of wisdom, joy, and comfort, and is always to be approached with reverence and respect. Greatest thanks to the Mata Tripta Ji Gurdwara for hosting this event, and to the panelists for the work they each put into sharing their sacred texts with all of us: Moderator, The Rev. Dr. Stephen Butler Murray, Hazzan Steve Klaper, Brother Al Mascia, OFM, Imam Salie, Raman Singh, Larry Thomas Cleveland, and Mary Helen Black.

Ashura Meets Yom Kippur
by Sameena Basha
(Written in the October Beacon Foundation Newsletter)
Coincidentally, this year many Jews and Muslims will both be fasting on Wednesday, October 12th.  Of even deeper significance is that Muslims were ordained to fast ‘Ashura because Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had found Jews in Medina fasting on this day.  They were fasting out of gratitude that God had delivered Moses (peace be upon him) & his companions from their enemies. Thus, Muslims were enjoined to commemorate this day by fasting, a gesture that highlights the common Prophetic legacy shared by Jews and Muslims.

Yom Kippur is the day of atonement when Jews ask forgiveness for the wrongs committed over the past year. Jewish tradition believes that on this day God places a seal upon the Divine decrees affecting each person for the coming year. Traditionally, Jews fast on this day and also refrain from other bodily pleasures.  It is a 25-hour fast beginning on Tuesday, October 11th at sunset and lasting until Wednesday, October 12th at an hour after sunset.

Thus, many Muslims and Jews will be fasting this week, particularly on Wednesday — Muslims in gratitude for the deliverance from an enemy; and Jews as an act of atonement to focus upon connecting to the Divine in order to seek forgiveness.

Our historical similarities are further highlighted in the etymological roots of the words Yom Kippur.  Yom in Hebrew means “day,” just as it does in Arabic.  Kippur comes from a root that means “to atone”, which is related to the biblical name of the covering of the Ark of the Covenant (called the kapporet).  Though kapporeth is likely derived from kaphar, which is often considered to mean cover, the literal meaning of kaphar is wipe out, implying that kapporeth means thing of wiping out or cleansing. The cognate Arabic term كَفَرَتْ kaffarat (also generally taken to mean cover) is used in modern legal contexts to refer to any mechanism of rectifying illegality (ranging from rectifying the failure to fast during Ramadan to the rectification of murder).

May God accept our collective striving towards Him, and the observance of our fasts.  May He guide us through turbulent times as our noble Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) was guided, may He cloak us in the compassionate attributes of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).  May He provide great honor & blessings to his family and companions during this sacred month.
Above all, may God grant us mercy and healing between our hearts.

Jews, Muslims come together to brighten Detroit school
Ellie Slovis smiled as she slowly lifted her paintbrush and meticulously made wide strokes of blue on a mural she helped create at Nolan Elementary-Middle School in Detroit on Sunday, depicting a child on a swing. Helping to create the colorful mural that stretched across a wall was a chance for Slovis to give back to a school and community in need, but it also meant more. It was the latest in a series of events within the past seven years to bring the Muslim and Jewish communities together to do community-based work and break down stereotypes and barriers. The event was sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Michigan Muslim Community Council and began as a follow-up to Mitzvah Day, where nearly 1,000 volunteers from Detroit’s Jewish community were joined by Muslims to help Detroit social service agencies at 43 community sites on Christmas.
“We heard there was a school in need of brightening up,” said Slovis, who is Jewish.  She said principal Ricky Fountain “got me very excited about being a part of it and making us feel that what we were doing was really important to the kids and their attitude coming to school, and to their self image of seeing bright walls and pretty pictures. We’re also using this as a way to bring the Jewish community and Muslim community together.”
More than 150 volunteers from across metro Detroit met at the school, located at 1150 E. Lantz St., for the interfaith Nolan Makeover Fix-Up Day effort. Volunteers worked together to paint murals throughout the hallways, prepared classrooms and did a complete transformation and reorganization of the school’s library.
The event follows another Makeover Day the two organizations held in March at the school, where more than 100 Muslim and Jewish volunteers along with Nolan students and parents came together to clean the school’s library, paint the bathroom stalls and install new toilet seats, clean debris from the grounds and complete a student-designed hallway mural.
Nolan, which is part of the state-run Education Achievement Authority school reform district, has more than 300 students ranging from pre-K to eighth grade, according to Fountain.
“It’s a splendid situation,” Fountain said. “It reinforces what we want the community to do to support us. We’ve had conversations on how can we bring these communities together and literally impact the achievement. The whole purpose of today is, everything they’re doing is going to affect instruction. …I  couldn’t be happier than I am now.”
Fountain said the best part for him will be seeing the faces of his students Monday morning. He said he believes will be excited to see the halls suddenly lit up with artwork and color.
“The scale of this will shake them up,” Fountain said. “They’ll be in positive awe, and that’s exactly what we want to do. In the morning, I’ll be here looking at their faces, and it’ll be a beautiful thing.”
Kindergarten teacher Mariam Fahs, who is Muslim,  helped orchestrate the event and said she believes the makeover would help reinvigorate her students’ learning throughout the year.
“As a kindergarten teacher, I get children that come with blank canvasses,” Fahs said. “For a lot of my kids, this is their first experience ever in school, so for them, I want to make sure that this is the space for them to feel that not only is this space my school, but it’s my home. And with what we did last year, with beautifying the school, that was our first step. Next, it needed the color, it needed that inspirational feel, that warmth that students needed when they walked in.”
Naomi Levine, community relations associate for the Jewish Community Relations Council, said her organization has had a “wonderful partnership” with the Michigan Muslim Community Council (MMCC) over the past several years.
“We thought this was a perfect thing to do,” Levine said. “We’re committed to this school. They’re the best kids. It’s also important for us to dispel any preconceived notions that Muslims and Jews can’t work together and get along. I mean, why not? We’re all people and we care about our kids. It’s a wonderful thing, and we’re so proud. It has truly resonated with people.”
Sumaiya Ahmed, communication director of the Michigan Muslim Community Council, said the idea to help Nolan came about shortly after teacher sickouts last school year that shut down several schools in Detroit.
“When we heard about the sickouts we were thinking, what can we do?” Ahmed said. “We wanted to help the city of Detroit because that’s where we were all born and raised.  …Education is something that is not only a faith-based thing but a human thing. That’s where I teamed up with a good friend of mine, Mariam (Fahs). She was already doing local things within the school. I reached out to her. We didn’t want it to be a one-time thing.”
Oxford Virtual Academy senior Bayan Rayes said this isn’t the first time she’s volunteered at an MMCC event. Rayes, who is Muslim, helped Slovis and several others Sunday create the mural that included a girl on the swing and bright green grass and the sun.
“Doing things like this makes me feel like I’m being part of something good,” Rayes said. “It always makes you feel good at the end of the day. You feel amazing.”
Volunteer Ben Kramer came to the school along with his wife, Erin Kramer, and her sister Elyse Bartos. The trio helped design and create several colorful posters that were going to go on the walls of Fahs’ classroom.
“We wanted to get more involved in the community,” Ben Kramer said .”We like the uniqueness of the event.”
More than 30 people helped organize the school’s library, including former librarian Janice Ungar, who said she came to put her skills to use.
Volunteer Linda Fahs, Mariam Fahs’ cousin, said she felt the need to pitch in because she has heard a lot about the struggles involving schools in Detroit.
“They’re such bright kids,” Linda Fahs said. “I love that all of this is really going to put a smile on their faces.”
Contact Katrease Stafford: kstafford@freepress.com or 313-223-4759.

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!