WISDOM Newsletter – October 2015

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events  

Sunday, October 18
3:30 PM – 5:30 PM 
Head Coverings Across the Faith Traditions
Sponsored by the InterFaith Leadership Council
A showing of “Hats of Jerusalem” documentary, followed by an interfaith panel
St. John’s Episcopal Church, 26998 Woodward Ave., Royal Oak
$10.00 charge
Contact Gail Katz at gailkatz@comcast.net for more information.
Thursday, October 22
5:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Five Women Five Journeys
Macomb Intermediate School District
For more information contact MaryAnn Schlie at maryann_schlie@hotmail.com 
Sunday, October 25
12:00 PM – 2:00 PM
Five Women Five Journeys at the Unity of Royal Oak Church
2500 Crooks Rd., Royal Oak
For more information contact MaryAnn Schlie at maryann_schlie@hotmail.com
Thursday, November 12
8:00 PM
Jewish Community Center Annual Book Fair
Presentation by Anthony David of An Improbably Friendship
See flyer below!
Tuesday, November 17
6:30 PM – 9:00 PM
A Showing of the film “Ocean of Pearls”
(see flyer below)
The Community House
380 South Bates, Birmingham
6:30 PM – 9:00 PM
Four dates in November
The Passenger – an Opera about the Holocaust at the Michigan Opera Theatre
See flyer below and join us for this coming together of Metro Detroit to fight hate and prejudice!!
Sunday, December 6th
4:00 PM – 6:00 PM
Five Women Five Journeys
First Presbyterian Church of Birmingham
1669 W. Maple Road, Birmingham, MI
For more information contact MaryAnn Schlie at maryann_schlie@hotmail.com

Tuesday, January 12, 2016
Five Women Five Journeys
Unity of Livonia
28660 Five Mile Road
Livonia, MI 48154
For more information contact MaryAnn Schlie at maryann_schlie@hotmail.com


This uniquely important opera about the Holocaust reminds us of man’s potential for inhumanity to his fellow man, while standing as a glowing testament to the resolve of the human spirit.  Being performed by Michigan Opera Theatre in the 70th anniversary year of Auschwitz’s liberation, the company will honor Holocaust victims and survivors, and other cultures that have faced genocide. Michigan Opera Theatre invites robust participation from diverse groups to engage in an educational discourse about the importance of remembering genocide and addressing it in our own times.  Together we will examine the power of art and music to promote understanding and combat evil. Check with the Michigan Opera Theatre for tickets 313-237-7464.

(Women’s Interfaith Solutions for Dialogue
 and Outreach in MetroDetroit)
The Race Relations & Diversity Task Force
 The Baldwin Public Library in Birmingham

are sponsoring the showing of the film
Followed by discussion by Jaspal Neelam
The wife of Sarab Neelam, the producer

At The Community House
380 South Bates
Birmingham, MI 48009

On Tuesday, November 17th
6:30 PM – 9:00 PM
No Charge

(Parking in the lot near the Baldwin Library on Chester Street)

Amrit Singh is of two worlds, but belongs to neither. A turban-wearing Sikh, he has lived his life in North America out of sorts and out of place, cast adrift at an uneasy crossroads between East and West. But when he is offered a prestigious position as a transplant surgeon in a Detroit hospital, the young doctor sees it as a opportunity to start fresh. He struggles to be the man he believes he is and at the same time the person he wants to be. His ambitious pursuit of success, however eventually leads to tragedy and it is only in defining his singular identity that he finds peace.



631 W. Fort Street
Detroit, MI 48226

We Welcome Clergy and Religious Leaders
To Lead Us in an Interfaith Prayer for World Peace!!



If you are Clergy or a Religious Leader planning to attend,
please contact Gail or Meredith
  gailkatz@comcast.net   248-978-6664
Meredith.skowronski@gmail.com 248-250-4157

The Pope meets with a rabbi and an imam during his visit!


by Meredith Skowronski, IFLC administrator, and
 RDJ (Religious Diversity Journeys) Program Director

Although it’s been six years since I anxiously hung my name-plate outside of my classroom door and waited with anticipation for the start of the school year, as the summer winds down again I still feel the pull.  The soft undertow tugging my thoughts towards the ocean of students who will soon enter my life: “Will my lessons interest them?”, “Will my classroom be a safe haven for them to ask questions?” “Will they understand one another and come together as a group to share in the learning experience?”, “In the short amount of time that I am with them, how can I help them to become more successful thinkers and teach them how to be successful- not just in the classroom, but in life?”
Each year the questions never change.  And neither does the longing to guide students towards their own individual gifts and provide them the tools to sharpen them.  And while I am no longer in a school classroom struggling to decide how to rally excitement around photosynthesis or the intricacies and importance of DNA, I am still a teacher. For me, I am a teacher more now than I ever was before.  My classroom has become the fifteen congregations that we will visit this year on the Religious Diversity Journeys Program.  Inside these walls I will welcome 450 7th grade students from sixteen different school districts in metro-Detroit and together, the life-lessons will begin.
Having been raised in an interfaith home, my father and his family spanning from Orthodox to Reform Judaism and my mother a conservative Baptist, it would be easy to think that as a child I was raised with an open mind and heart. That the reason I have so much passion for the RDJ program is because I have always been open to the beliefs of others and want to share that grand vision with my students.  Sadly, that is not the case.  While I was fortunate to have learned a great deal about Judaism from my father and his family while concurrently being raised in the church, I never asked questions. I was taught that questioning showed a lack of faith. I believed that my faith superseded that of everyone else and because of that elitism I believed that understanding the traditions and customs of others had no value in my life.  In short, instead of being the open-minded child that would spread the goodness of others, I was the child who stereotyped others, who judged others who were not like me.  In short, I was the child that the Journeys program was made for.
As I grew past my formative years and began to think and experience more of life’s challenges for myself I lost hold of my faith for a long time. Now, as an adult in hindsight, I realize that as a child and young adult I never truly had faith to begin with. I had never taken all that I was taught and told to believe and made it my own.  I never questioned it, never explored it.  It was in my head but never in my heart.
As an adult I’ve come to learn that we will never grow in our own faith if we do not turn the light away from ourselves and shine it towards others. Turning our love for ourselves into an outward love and concern for others illuminates who they are and guides us on the path of mutual understanding.  Understanding not simply what others believe but why they believe what they do- I have learned a great deal about myself. About where and in whom my faith should be placed. And thanks to my loving husband, some dear friends who have patiently shepherded me along the way, and in no small part the hand of God in my life, I have found my way back to faith.
There have been many days that I have sat with superintendents and shared with them the details of the Religious Diversity Journeys program.  How we visit a synagogue, a church, a mosque, a Hindu temple and a gurdwara. That our students spend the day immersed in these faith traditions in a safe environment where they can ask questions, interact with one another and hopefully break down their misconceptions. That when I began directing this program three years ago I was naively excited that all of these students will come away from the year knowing all of the Jewish holidays, or the 5 pillars of Islam and how, while those are important lessons, the truths they come away with are much stronger.
The life-changing elements of this program are not the details that they will find in their RDJ textbooks or the facts that they will hear from the religious leaders and community volunteers at each location.  What changes these students’ lives are the people that they are able to interact with.  The shared smiles and laughter.  As one student stated, “I never knew Rabbis could be funny”.  The moments spent getting to know new people in unusual places. I will never forget the conversation I overheard in the restroom at the mosque a few years ago when a Jewish student shyly asked a Muslim student how she keeps her Hijab tied on her head.  The Muslim student responded by taking off her hijab and tying it on her new friend to teach her.  Seeing how brave our teachers and parents can be.  As one teacher shared with the group while visiting the mosque after the attacks in Paris: “I came to the mosque today angry and ready to fight about the ‘evils of Islam’ but am leaving understanding that Islam is a religion of peace and that Muslims are some of the kindest and most welcoming and generous people I have ever met.”  The stories go on and on.  Time and time again I leave the Journeys with a smile on my face and a warmed heart- marveling at how much can change in spending one day focusing our lights on others.  As we held our summation session at the DIA last year I asked the students to stand up and share with the group the biggest lesson that they learned during their time on the Journeys. I will never forget the edgy twelve year old girl who stood and shared with 150 of her student peers along with 50 or so parents that she didn’t want to participate in the program at first because she was afraid that she was going to be judged.  But that throughout the course of the year she learned that she, in fact, was not being judged, but was the one guilty of judging others. It’s amazing what we learn about ourselves when we step back and illuminate the lives of others.
There are no words to express how deeply this program effects lives. How much it has effected mine.  It is my deepest wish that throughout this school year, as we welcome so many new students and parents, that we are able to teach them to turn their search lights outward towards others and that in doing so they will strengthen their own beliefs and understanding.  That they will take the time to understand the “why” behind the customs and faith of others and come to know that while we all may believe differently from one another and that we all may practice those beliefs in very different ways- underlying all of that, we share a common set of values.  We are all people trying to become the best versions of ourselves.
One of the major reasons that kids bully one another is because of fear. And we fear what we do not understand. Journeys gives these students the unique opportunity to combat their fears about others by offering them a safe and fun environment to ask questions and to learn. So as I open my classroom door this year and welcome our new students and parents to the Journeys program, I eagerly await the opportunity to teach them the importance of understanding one another, and in doing so, developing a deeper understanding of themselves.
I would be remiss not to mention that the most important contributions to this program are from my friends- the volunteers at each congregation that give of their time and energy to welcome us all with open arms.  These big-hearted people who immerse us in their faiths, who laugh with us, share a meal with us and teach us that even though we may all look different from one another, speak differently, worship differently and live our lives in very different ways- that we all are striving for many of the same goals- to love one another and to understand ourselves.
Our 2015-2016 Host Congregations and Journey Locations:
Adat Shalom Synagogue
Bharatiya Hindu Temple
Christ Church Cranbrook
The Detroit Institute of Arts
First Presbyterian Church of Birmingham
Gurdwara Sahib Singh Sabha
Hartford Memorial Baptist Church
The Hindu Temple of Canton
The Holocaust Memorial Center
Islamic Center of America
Mata Tripta Ji Gurdwara Sahib
Muslim Unity Center
Sikh Gurdwara of Rochester Hills
Sri Venkateswara Hindu Temple
Temple Beth El
Temple Israel

University students look to Nostra Aetate 50 years after Vatican II
By Elizabeth A. Elliott  |  Sep. 17, 2015

Though the students were not even born when Nostra Aetate, the Vatican Council statement on interreligious relations, was promulgated 50 years ago, they are affected by its contents. Students, faculty and staff from six Catholic colleges gathered Sept. 3 to learn how to incorporate interfaith cooperation on their college campuses.
“I’m going to take back [to campus] the notion that we all need to accept the differences and the importance of bridge building rather than trying to force our ideas on one another,” said Leena Nabulsi, a Muslim and sophomore at Rockhurst University, a Jesuit-run university in Kansas City, Mo. To prepare for the event, Rockhurst senior Rachel Franklin looked at the history of Nostra Aetate. “The Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions” was among the last documents released during the Second Vatican Council, 1962-1965. Because she is Jewish, Franklin said she was specifically interested in learning about the relationship between Catholicism and Judaism. “The relationship evolved into the way it approaches all religions, especially the way it approaches Judaism,” she said. “I really liked seeing the contrast between the original document and then seeing how it turned out with that message of acceptance and going against what had been taught in theology.”

Eboo Patel, founder and president of Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), was the keynote speaker for the daylong event sponsored by Rockhurst and held at the Kansas Speedway. Schools in attendance were Avila University, Benedictine College, Conception Seminary College, Donnelly College, Rockhurst University and the University of St. Mary. Approximately 40 students and 40 faculty attended the event.

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The venue for the Nostra Aetate meeting might have seemed unusual; it was held on the grounds of the Kansas Speedway, a NASCAR track in Kansas City, Kan., but Rockhurst president Jesuit Fr. Thomas Curran said it was chosen because of its central location and it was “a neat place to be and would be attractive to students.”
Patel’s keynote address tied in various aspects of Nostra Aetate. He said the most important mentor in his interfaith career was Br. Wayne Teasdale, a professor at Chicago’s DePaul University in the 1990s. Teasdale, a student of Fr. Thomas Keating, used walking meditation as part of his centering prayer. Patel joined Teasdale for walks around Hyde Park in Chicago. He told the students they need to know their own story first to demonstrate interfaith leadership. “Br. Wayne was never afraid to tell me he saw the fullness of truth in the Catholic church,” said Patel. “This allowed me to say I see the fullness in the Muslim tradition. You must see the beauty, dignity and truth in your own tradition, as well.” Patel also challenged the students to ask “what it means to be an interfaith leader and a walking embodiment of Nostra Aetate.” He added that he believes Pope Francis embodies this.
Following the keynote, students were divided into two groups for a breakout session led by leaders of the IFYC. Faculty and staff went to a separate session. Curran said the idea for the conference came through a meeting of the six presidents as they decided to commemorate the commencement of the Second Vatican Council. The presidents decided to mark the 50th anniversary of the release of Nostra Aetate and the closing event for the Vatican II commemorations with this conference. Curran said the students are looking forward to continuing the work of the document at their schools. Instead of it being a top-down approach, he emphasized student leadership.
“We’re looking at [the students] to be the multipliers,” he said. “We want this to be driven by the students, their needs and experiences, and genuine interest. … The religious atmosphere must be one of invitation rather than expectation.” Patel said IFYC grew from an idea fostered by Teasdale, to a company that has 40 staff members.
“We started this organization that basically focused only on encouraging young people to do interfaith service project,” he said. “It’s moved to an organization that works with higher education more broadly, meaning campus administrations, college faculty and curriculum, curriculum of students and also higher education networks.” Patel said interfaith work at these schools is living out the Catholic identity.

“Because it is an expression of the Catholic tradition, because Nostra Aetate specifically calls for fellowship, cooperation, relationship and dialogue between people from different religions, as a deeply Catholic thing to do,” he said. “The ability to deal effectively with religious diversity is both an important part of the definition of being an educated person and an important professional skill,” he added.
“All of these campuses, with the exception of the seminary, have a religiously diverse student body which is to say they have kids on the campus who are Protestants, Hindus, Sikhs,” he said. “A Catholic campus that has proactive interfaith programs is a more welcoming space for those students.” Patel said he hopes that his organization can help interfaith cooperation become “a norm” on college campuses and the “engagement of religious diversity done as robustly as the engagement of racial diversity is right now on college campuses.”
“I think there should be research and scholarship dedicated to it,” he said. “There should be curricular and degree programs. I think there should be a generation of students who are proud to call themselves interfaith leaders.”
[Elizabeth Elliott is a NCR Bertelsen intern. Her email address is eelliott@ncronline.org.]


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!