Author Archive

February 2020

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events 
Sunday, February 9th
WISDOM Visit to the DIA
1:30 PM lunch in Kresge Court Cafe
3:00 Guided Tour
4:00 – 5:00 Optional Tour on your own
Thursday, Februrary 20th 7:00 PM
Song and Spirit Unity Interfaith Music
See Flyer Below
Sunday, March 1st, 4:00 – 6:00 PM
21st Annual World Sabbath Celebration
North Congregational Church in Farmington Hills
See Flyer Below
Coming to America: A Women’s Perspective
A Panel Discussion on Immigration
Sunday March 8th 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM
Bloomfield Township Library
See Flyer Below
Sunday, March 8th 5:00 Muslim Unity Center
Audacity of Spirit
See Flyer Below
May 27th WISDOM General Membership meeting and Installation dinner
Stay tuned for more information

SAVE THE DATE
MAY 27, 2020
WISDOM’s GENERAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING AND INSTALLATION DINNER
Look for Details in the March WISDOM WINDOW
Dinner Registration Beginning April 1

Give Yourself a Great Gift!
Holiday gift money just waiting to be spent?
Searching for a good read for yourself or your book club?
Look no further, purchase “Friendship and Faith”, 2nd edition, by the Women of WISDOM.
This unique collection of stories of women forming friendships with women different than themselves is a fantastic way to start you reading for the new year!
It is available in both print and e-book formats on Amazon.
  
Our book sales are a major source of program funding for our nonprofit. Your patronage is greatly appreciated.
Help us create a better world through faith and friendship. Buy a copy for yourself, a good friend and recommend it to your book club.
Happy New Year and great reading for 2020.

Peaceful coexistence only possible

 with full participation

of women
From the Baha’i World News Service
SOUSSE, Tunisia, How do we address inequalities between women and men on our path to peaceful coexistence? How can we overcome cultural barriers to achieve greater advancement of women?
“These are major questions in our country, but there is little consensus on the issues,” said Mohamed Ben Moussa, a representative of the Tunisian Baha’i community, at a discussion on the advancement of women held last week in Sousse. The gathering, organized by the country’s Baha’i community, brought together some 40 people, including religious and civil society leaders, at a “cultural café”-a new kind of forum emerging in Tunisia in which people from every stratum of society meet to exchange ideas and explore insights about the progress of their society.
“Our country has been held up as an example for the advancement of women in the Arab region,” Mr. Ben Moussa continued, “but many people feel that we have reached a plateau. The laws of our country have advanced, but it is essential for our culture to advance as well. We must examine family structures, how children are educated from an early age, and how we can foster a culture of cooperation among all people, especially between women and men, in all spheres of life.”
The question of the advancement of women has gained prominence in recent years as a new constitution and legal changes have instituted greater protections for women. Representatives of various groups-Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and the indigenous Amazigh people-contributed to the conversation, highlighting how coexistence is only possible when women are able to participate fully in the life of society.
“The oppression of women exists in all fields,” said Sahar Dely, a director of an Amazigh cultural organization. “Oppressive constraints are linked to other matters such as religious, racial, and cultural differences.”
Ms. Dely described stereotypes in society that excuse violence against women and spoke of the achievements that become possible for women when attitudes towards them change, citing stories of female leaders of the past, including Tahirih-a Baha’i heroine and champion of women’s emancipation. “Today, we have to address cultural matters before any legal changes can be realized. If nothing is changed within the collective imagination of Tunisians, the role of women in society will not be transformed.”

An Orthodox Jewish rabbi hosts Syrian refugee families at his Thanksgiving table every year
For one thing, as a vegan family, they serve Tofurky instead of the traditional turkey. But Yanklowitz also makes a point to invite guests he’s never met – and who often don’t even speak the same language.
Spurred by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s call for an “immediate halt in the placement of any new refugees in Arizona” in 2015 and an overall rise in fearful rhetoric regarding foreigners in recent years, the activist rabbi wanted to demonstrate that refugees should be welcome in the US. So he invited them to share a Thanksgiving meal with his family in Scottsdale, and has continued to do so every year.
This will be his fifth time hosting Syrian refugees for Thanksgiving. He hasn’t kept track of how many people he’s hosted over the years, but says it’s somewhere in the dozens.
“In what I have perceived as a moral crisis over the last number of years in how Americans are relating to foreigners, immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, I felt like it was time to take a more expansive approach,” Yanklowitz told Insider. “I saw a lot of demonization and dehumanization of Muslim refugees, and I wanted to be a part of the welcome team.”
According to the Arizona Refugee Resettlement Program, 1,322 Syrian refugees have arrived in Arizona since 1980, 820 of them in 2016. Yanklowitz became connected to the local Syrian community through his human rights work as a commissioner on the Phoenix Human Relations Commission and founder of the activist group Jews for Human Rights in Syria.

“At the center of my Jewish social justice commitment is that we’re not fighting for equality but for equity,” he said. “It’s not that everyone should have the same stuff, but everyone should have what they need. And the way to know what people need is to know them. I’m a big believer that relationships need to precede advocacy.”
Yanklowitz’s standing Thanksgiving invitation is part of this effort. He works with the Syrian American Council to meet newly arrived refugee families and invite them over for Thanksgiving. The guests join him, his wife Shoshana, their four biological children, and a fluctuating number of foster children in their home at any given time.
The adults enlist the help of a translator, but Yanklowitz says the children get along just fine without one.
“The way they play, they figure out how to communicate so easily, and [I] think of them as our teachers in terms of how to connect on a level beyond words,” he said.
The bonds they form last long after the last slice of pie has been eaten. According to the FBI, religion-based hate crimes rose 23% in 2017, and Yanklowitz’s work has helped Jewish and Muslim communities stand in solidarity with each other through tragedy.
“When there have been attacks on Muslims, we’ve shown up for them, and when there were attacks on synagogues last year they showed up,” he said. “That wasn’t the explicit goal, but it’s been an amazing benefit that has emerged.”

And on a happier note, Yanklowitz remembers an enthusiastic, impromptu reunion when he ran into one of the families he’d hosted in a local park. It took us all like 15 seconds to connect the dots,” he said. “And then it was this great reunion that felt like it wasn’t this one-time experience, but that we were building community and building social trust. From the outside, here was a religious Jewish family and a religious Muslim family who hardly spoke English hugging in a park like old friends. But to us, it was this simple human love of what it meant to have a really meaningful meal together and what can emerge from that.”

Cambodian Royal Family
Celebrates Its First Bat Mitzvah
Elior Koroghli, the Jewish great-grandaughter of the late Cambodian King Monivong, celebrated her Bas Mitzvah surrounded by the royal family.
The giant menorah stood proudly overlooking the pool at the plush Raffles Hotel in the bustling heart of the capital city of Cambodia, Phnom Penh. Facing the crowd of well-wishers stood the who’s who of the royal family, guests from around the world and an Israeli-born Chabad rabbi.
They were there to celebrate the belated bat mitzvah of Elior Koroghli of Las Vegas. Her father, Ray (Rahamim), is a Persian Jew, and her mother Susie (Sarah Bracha) is the Washington, D.C.-born granddaughter of HM King Monivong, who ruled Cambodia until his death in 1941.
Elior’s bat mitzvah was the first Jewish milestone ever celebrated by the Cambodian royal family, and the first time many of the royals ever tasted food from a kosher kitchen, catered by Chabad of Cambodia, which was founded by Rabbi Bentzion and Mashie Butman in 2009.
The family celebrated the actual bat mitzvah when Elior turned 12 on the fifth night of Chanukah a year ago, but the official celebration in Cambodia took place this Chanukah, closer to her 13th birthday.
Literally a party for the books, the event will be chronicled in the Royal Palace Record Book.
The celebration was the brainchild of Susie Koroghli, who wanted her children, who live a rich Jewish life in Las Vegas, to know of their royal roots.
After the bat mitzvah party, which included the lighting of a large menorah, speeches and lots of food, the family formally met the current ruler HM King Norodom Sihamoni and the queen mother, HM Norodom Monineath.
The celebration continued on Shabbat at the Chabad House. When the entourage walked to and from the synagogue, they were escorted by an honor guard.
To cater for the event, Chabad invited Chef Kobi Mizrahi, who “took over” the kitchen and guided Chabad’s staff in creating meals that were truly “fit for a king.” In addition, some of the kosher food was prepared in the hotel kitchen under Susie’s watchful eye.
No stranger to preparing meals for large crowds, she and her husband often host as many as 30 guests for a Shabbat meal and many more for Jewish holidays, including 120 that cram their giant sukkah and as many as 500 who attend the Purim party she throws every year.
“She lights up the room wherever she goes,” explains her husband with pride. “People are just drawn to her and are fascinated by her knowledge of Judaism, as well as her actions.”
Susie Koroghli’s journey to Judaism is an unlikely one. Her father served as the Cambodian ambassador to the United States, and she grew up in a Buddhist home.

She met Ray, who had left Iran to study in America

and never returned home due to the 1979 revolution.
Before Rosh Hashanah, he informed her that he would be out of touch for two days due for holiday observance and begrudgingly agreed to take her to services.
She was enthralled by what she encountered and insisted that they return for Shabbat. After experiencing the entire holiday season at Chabad in Las Vegas, she began a journey of self-discovery that resulted in conversion to Judaism.
The couple lives with their three children in Las Vegas, where they form an integral part of the Chabad of Henderson community.
Although she was a member of the royal family, raised with the formalities and expectations of a granddaughter of a king, she never visited Cambodia until 2012, when she represented her mother at the funeral of late king HM Norodom Sihanouk.
It was only then, she says, that she realized that the stories she had been raised on were real-she was truly the child of royalty.
When asked if his wife, a leader in her Jewish community, was technically a Cambodian princess, Ray deflected, saying, “I call her my queen.”

How Helene, a Jewish Holocaust survivor, became Leila, the matriarch of a Palestinian Muslim clan
UMM AL-FAHM, Israel – Leila Jabarin looked every inch the matriarch of the Muslim family that surrounded her on a recent morning, encircled by some of her 36 grandchildren in a living room rich with Arabic chatter and the scent of cardamom-
flavored coffee.
But Jabarin, her hair covered with a brown headscarf, was talking to visitors in Hebrew, not Arabic, and telling a story that not even her seven children knew until they were grown. She was born not Leila Jabarin, but Helene Berschatzky, not a Muslim but a Jew. Her history began not in this Arab community where she has made her life with the Palestinian man she fell in love with six decades ago, but in a Nazi concentration camp where her Jewish parents had to hide their newborn from the Nazis.
As world leaders – including U.S. Vice President Pence – gather in Jerusalem this week to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Jabarin was sharing a survivor’s memory unlike any other, a history of love and hate that exposes not just the power of transformation, but also the blindness of prejudice.
“First I was persecuted because I was a Jew, and now I am persecuted because I am a Muslim,” said Jabarin, who has watched the recent rise of both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia with alarm.
Jabarin took note of the massacre of 11 worshipers at a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018 and another 51 last year at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. She attributed to both killers the same motivation, a hatred of the other, and is telling her story to show that love for the other is possible as well.
“When I was in school, they taught us that Arabs had tails,” she said, looking around at her Arab husband and her Arab family, as the Muslim call to prayer sounded across the neighborhood outside. “Everyone should know what happened to the Jews because it could happen to the Arabs.”

Among those listening in her living room was Erez Kaganovitz, a Tel Aviv photographer who is crisscrossing Israel to document as many such stories and images he can from the rapidly dwindling number of living Holocaust survivors. Through histories like Jabarin’s, he hopes to keep the knowledge of those horrors from disappearing with those who endured them.

“Ten years from now, what will be the memory of the Holocaust when the last survivor is no longer with us?” asked Kaganovitz. “If well tell the human stories, not just what happened in the camps but how they lived after, they appeal to humans in the way that numbers cannot. Six million Jews killed; it’s too big.”
Kaganovitz launched his project, Humans of the Holocaust, last year in light of research showing Holocaust awareness declining among young people in many countries even as anti-Semitic violence and neo-Nazi movements are on the rise. In the United States, 66 percent of millennials had never heard of Auschwitz, according to a 2019 survey by the Claims Conference, an international survivors advocacy group, and a third of Americans cite the number of Holocaust victims at 2 million, not 6 million.
Racing against mortality, Kaganovitz has interviewed and photographed 25 survivors to date, mostly in their 90s, including a kindergarten teacher who wrote children’s books about the camps and an artist who portrays her lost family in puppets. A traveling exhibit based on the project will begin in Pittsburgh next year.
The trends that motivated Kaganovitz also prompted officials to locate this year’s World Holocaust Forum at Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial and research center, and to focus the event on confronting the ballooning incidents of hatred against Jews.
“We need a moral majority of leaders to come to Jerusalem and say that it is enough and now is the time to stand together and fight anti-Semitism,” said organizer Moshe Kantor, head of the World Holocaust Forum Foundation and the European Jewish Congress.

A sense of urgency is infusing what will be one of the largest international gatherings ever hosted by Israel. Almost 50 delegations will attend, including world leaders like Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron and Britain’s Prince Charles.

For Jabarin, it was decades before she was willing to speak of her own memories: the dark hiding, the “striped pajamas,” the scattered round objects that seemed like balls in her toddler’s recollection but now loom as skulls.
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Her welcoming neighbors knew she was Jewish when she arrived in 1960 as a new bride in this Arab city of 55,000 located in Israel, just south of Nazareth, she said. But only her husband, Mohammed, knew of her Holocaust origins. Her six sons and a daughter didn’t understand for decades why she was fascinated by the televised documentaries on the Holocaust, a subject they learned little about in their Arab schools.
“I decided to let the pain stay in my head,” she said, a serene figure on a brocade couch, eyes bright behind heavy glasses, weathered hands folded over the crook of a walking stick. “It’s still difficult. I see the scenes in my head, like a film.”

But in 2012, at a town meeting for pensioners on Israeli insurance benefits, a government staffer heard Jabarin interpreting his Hebrew for her seatmates. He asked her a few questions, was surprised to learn she was raised Jewish and, further, that she was a Holocaust survivor. Eventually, he helped her navigate the bureaucracy that saw her case investigated and registered with Israel’s survivor’s program.

And only then did she tell her children how she came to be their mother.

“It was very difficult to hear her story,” said her son Nadar. “I asked her many questions about the war and about the Holocaust.”

She was born to a Jewish Hungarian mother and Jewish Russian father in a Nazi concentration camp in either Hungary or Austria in either 1942 or 1943. (Her parents didn’t like to talk about their time in the camp, and the family’s archival file at Yad Vashem, reviewed by The Washington Post, is unclear on key points). The camp doctor her mother worked for hid her family in the cellar of his house, she said, and she was outside very little until the camp was liberated in 1945.
With thousands of others, they stayed in a transit camp in Yugoslavia until boarding a ship for Israel in 1948. “They told us it was a Jewish country,” she said.
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They landed in Haifa, eventually settled in Tel Aviv, and Helene, as she was known then, had become a teenager when a young construction laborer working near her house caught her eye.
“He was working hard,” she said. “I gave him a lot of water.”
Mohammed Jabarin remembers the kindness still. “She was only a girl,” he said.

When Helene told her father she wanted to marry Mohammed, he was furious. They were not religious, but he wanted her to marry a Jew.

“If you go with him, it will be like going back to Hitler,” she recalled her father saying. But she was determined, and in 1960 they wed.
“Wherever fate takes a person, that is where you have to go,” Jabarin said.
She settled easily into her new home, becoming known as Leila and adding Arabic to the Russian, Hungarian and Hebrew she already knew. She reconciled with her father and remained close to her mother. But in almost every way, she was the mother of a booming Arab family.
It was only after her children were born that she converted to Islam in 1973, but for reasons more practical than spiritual. With a Jewish mother, her sons would be considered Jewish by the government, and they would eventually be required to serve in the Israeli military.
Jabarin decided she had lived with enough war in her life.

January 2020

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events 
Sunday, February 9th
WISDOM Visit to the DIA
1:30 PM lunch in Kresge Court Cafe
3:00 Guided Tour
4:00 – 5:00 Optional Tour on your own
See Flyer Below
Sunday, March 1st, 4:00 – 6:00 PM
21st Annual World Sabbath Celebration
North Congregational Church in Farmington Hills
See Flyer Below

Give Yourself a Great Gift!
Holiday gift money just waiting to be spent?
Searching for a good read for yourself or your book club?
Look no further, purchase “Friendship and Faith”, 2nd edition, by the Women of WISDOM.
This unique collection of stories of women forming friendships with women different than themselves is a fantastic way to start you reading for the new year!
It is available in both print and e-book formats on Amazon.
  
Our book sales are a major source of program funding for our nonprofit. Your patronage is greatly appreciated.
Help us create a better world through faith and friendship. Buy a copy for yourself, a good friend and recommend it to your book club.
Happy New Year and great reading for 2020.

A group of Sikh volunteers drove all the way from Melbourne to Braidwood, just outside Canberra, Australia after hearing of how the recent bushfires had devastated surrounding communities.
A Sikh community group has driven more than 700 kilometres through the night to deliver 350 boxes of food and water to the NSW town of Braidwood, where nearby bushfires burned out of control for more than week. The Sikh Support volunteers left Melbourne at 11pm on Friday armed with hundreds of kilograms of milk, pasta, cereal, muesli bars, water and household essentials for the fire-affected communities surrounding Braidwood.
“When we came here, to Australia, we had nothing – only like two bags with us,” Sikh Support secretary Gurjit Singh told SBS News.
“So everything we have, we have because Australia gives us a lot of things. So we spread the message that if a bad situation is happening anywhere in the country, we always stand with them.”
Sikh Support drove to Braidwood armed with 350 boxes of food for fire-affected families. After stopping for a couple hours’ rest in Albury, Mr Singh and his group arrived in Braidwood on Saturday morning, delivering the boxes of food to community centres as well as affected farmers’ houses. On their way through the town, they came across a volunteer firefighter brigade by chance, and stopped to share food and drink with them too.
Volunteer firefighter Alex Dunnin said his team was just about to stop for a dinner break when the Sikh Support volunteers spotted them.
“These folks drove all the way from Melbourne – they were that keen to help,” he told SBS News. “People are getting exhausted, they’ve still got to run their jobs, their businesses, their families – so these kinds of gestures from the community mean a lot.”
Sikh volunteers visit farms with food donations after bushfires burned out of control around Braidwood for more than a week. After spending some time with the community, Mr Singh said many were also inspired to join the ranks of their own local volunteer firefighting brigades.
“We also want to look into training with the firefighters, so the next time this happens we can help,” he said. “When we met with them, we talked with them, and they motivated us, so if we can get some training through the Country Fire Authority or other firefighter groups then maybe in a few years we can join them.”
Sikh Support is now raising money for a new water system for one of the Braidwood farmers they met in their travels.

                  How a Jewish Santa Helps Repair
 the World At Christmas

There’s a Santa Claus I know who is spreading Christmas happiness in the Louisville, Kentucky, area as the holiday season ramps up. His bushy white beard is as genuine as his affection for the people he meets. But there’s something about this Santa that might surprise the folks with whom he’s sharing his ho-ho-hos.
Art Hoffman is Jewish.
Hoffman tells me that playing Santa is one way he lives up to the beautiful Jewish principle of “tikkun olam” – repair the world – which has been an integral part of his makeup since he was young.
“Ever since the 1960s, when I came of age in all the turmoil of that decade, I was concerned about injustice and worked on social causes,” Hoffman said. “Now, some 50 years later, there is an opportunity for me to continue this good work as ‘Santa Art.’ In fact, as we witness America becoming more polarized in so many ways, I think the mission is more urgent.”
Whatever our angle on the Christmas holiday and the religion of which it is part, there is much we can take away from Art Hoffman, the Jewish Santa Claus.

All of us can find delight in Christmas

One, Christmas is a multifaceted holiday with many parts to enjoy even if we don’t identify with the “Christ” part. All are eligible to delight in Christmas tree lights, giving and receiving gifts, singing about sleigh bells and, if you’d like, consorting with Santa, who, for the record, is not a figure from the New Testament. Even more, Hoffman’s work as a Jewish Santa inspires us to push past our self-imposed boundaries. He shows that we don’t have to be part of something – a particular religion, community or culture – to appreciate what’s good about it and befriend the people who populate it. Even though he is not black, female or gay, Hoffman joined the fights for civil rights in the 1960s, women’s rights in the ’70s and gay rights in the ’80s. When it came to his AIDS activism, Hoffman tells me that “even though I did not have a ‘dog in that fight,’ as they say, it was the right thing to do.”
And for 45 years, he has been making Christmas happier for multitudes of kids and their families, undeterred by logic that might say, “Not your religion, not your holiday.”

Our strength depends on belonging. More of us need to be like Santa Art.

Identities, communities, tribes – they are a fact of life. We all belong to some. Thus has it ever been. As humans evolved over the eons, individuals’ ability to secure food, shelter and safety, to raise children and pass on our genes, hinged on our being part of groups and cooperating with our compatriots.

Muslim and Jewish youth groups
unite in Edmonton to serve homeless
Two youth groups from different religious backgrounds joined forces to help the less fortunate in Edmonton on Saturday. Young women from the Muslim group Gathering Angels and the Bat Mitzvah group from Temple Beth Ora organized a care package and lunch service for people at Boyle Street Community Services.
“I really want to teach these girls that our job in this world pretty much is to serve others,” said Nesrine Merhi-Tarrabain, the leader of the Gathering Angels. Merhi-Tarrabain said that she has been encouraging her girls to volunteer for several years but recently got a call from a local Jewish temple to suggest a collaboration. “I thought that would be a great opportunity. First of all, getting them to go out and volunteer and do something meaningful, and the other thing… would be to get to know other kids from the wider Edmonton community,” said Gila Caine, the rabbi at Temple Beth Ora. “Getting to know each other’s culture, understand where our values come together, understand the difference in our values.”
About two dozen teens participated – around a dozen from each group.
“When it comes down to helping others, we should put our differences aside, and truly just bring out our humanity in us. We should really serve others for that reason,” said Merhi-Tarrabain.
Merhi-Tarrabain said that many of the girls in the group donated some of their own money to buy supplies for care packages.
Nour Tarrabain, 16, said that the experience of volunteering with another religious group has helped give her a new perspective.
“It’s been very eye-opening,” Tarrabain said. “Two completely different groups and religions coming together and doing the perfect thing: giving back to the community and just helping one another.

Mixed families get the best of both worlds with Christmas and Hanukkah

If you’re feeling the stress and chaos that comes with the joys of the holiday season, just think of those mixed-faith families who are planning two holidays. This December, Christmas and Hanukkah – which usually arrive in proximity to each other on the calendar – will overlap for the first time in three years. In accordance with the Christian Gregorian calendar, Christmas – marked in red on many calendars – is always celebrated on Dec. 25 each year, while the eight-day celebration of Hanukkah follows the lunar calendar, beginning on the 25th day of the ninth Hebrew month, Keslev. This year, that is Dec. 22-30.
Alicia Chandler, president of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC/AJC) in Bloomfield Hills, is part of one of those mixed-faith families. Alicia is Jewish and her husband, Jeff, is Catholic.
The Birmingham couple have been celebrating both holidays for about 20 years. Both a decorated Christmas tree and menorah – a candelabra of nine candles, one representing each of the 8 days of Hanukkah and the last to help light the others – are visible from the street, shining brightly in their window.
“In our house we very much celebrate and enjoy both holidays and traditions,” she says.
While Christians celebrate Christmas as the birth of Jesus Christ, their savior, Hanukkah is a less-important celebration in the Jewish year. Also known as the Festival of Lights, it commemorates a miracle in which lamp oil in the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the first century BCE burned for eight days even though there was only enough oil for one.
What the two holidays have in common, besides their calendar

proximity, is the giving of gifts to children.
Embracing her husband’s Polish side, each year Chandler makes a trip to Hamtramck with their two kids to buy ingredients and make homemade pierogies, traditional Polish stuffed dumplings, which you can find in the frozen food sections of most grocery stores.
“We make the pierogies from scratch, then Christmas Eve we all go to church together and have a very big Polish Christmas Eve dinner, which is a great deal of fun,” she says.
During Hanukkah, the family spends at least one of the eight nights with Alicia’s parents, partaking in traditional customs: One candle of the menorah is lit during each day, and the traditional festive foods feature oil, especially latkes – fried potato pancakes, often topped with applesauce or sour cream.

Chandler’s first Christmas memory with her now-husband was as a senior in college.
“While studying for exams, my husband, who loves Christmas so much, says that it doesn’t even feel like Christmas,” she says. “I was a 21-year-old Jewish girl going out to buy Christmas lights for the first time and I surprised him by stringing his apartment with lights and putting up a mini Christmas tree.”
Combining holidays was never a challenge for the Chandler family. While it can be overwhelming and easy to get caught up in the over-commercialization of it all, they always keep the focus on what the holidays are really about. To prevent an overflow of gifts they set a few ground rules.
During Hanukkah, smaller gifts such as books or pajamas are exchanged. During Christmas, Chandler’s limit is three gifts for each of her children and one gift from Santa Claus. She chose the limit of three in remembrance of the three gifts – gold, frankincense and myrrh – that the three Magi in the book of Matthew brought to baby Jesus.

“I’m really happy that my kids are raised in an environment where they see not just their two faith traditions but other faith traditions,” she says. “It makes us all focus on what we have in common rather than focus on what might be different about our various religions.”
According to Chandler, about 30 percent of married Jews in Metro Detroit are mixed-faith relationships, and on a national scale, about 45 percent of Jews have a non-Jewish spouse.
Each year, the City of Birmingham allows local organizations to decorate Shain Park with both a Nativity scene and menorah. This year’s menorah lighting will be at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 23, with music, latkes and doughnuts.
As a gesture of friendship toward the Christian community, the JCRC/AJC is getting ready to host its 23rd annual Mitzvah Day on Christmas Day at several nonprofit organizations through Metro Detroit. More than 600 volunteers of all faiths will visiting nearly 40 locations to perform good deeds, including meal and toy delivery, visiting and working with the elderly or filling in at animal shelters.
“We volunteer on Christmas Day so it allows those Christians who volunteer to take the day off and be with their families,” Chandler says. “It’s a wonderful time for Jewish and other non-Christians to step up for their Christian neighbors and help out.”
Mitzvah Day is the largest day of volunteering by Detroit’s Jewish community. The word “mitzvah” is Hebrew for “commandment” and commonly refers to a good deed done in the spirit of charity.

Diversity in Christianity panel tackles issues that bind, divide in fractured religion
Susan Bromley, Hometownlife.com
Rev. Bethany Peerbolte, Pastor at Birmingham First Presbyterian Church
Louise Ott is ready to broach tough subjects this Christmas at the dinner table, regardless of whether she is sitting across from a relative who doesn’t share her views. She got started on the often “off-limits” topic – religion – during a “Diversity in Christianity” panel discussion at Birmingham Covington School.
“We have to agree that love and acceptance and agreeing to disagree has to be OK, and that doesn’t mean the other person is evil because they don’t believe as you believe,” Ott, a Birmingham United Church of Christ pastor, said. That attitude is one the Birmingham Covington School Diversity Committee has been embracing much of the year with a series of panel discussions meant to educate and inform, dispelling misconceptions and stereotypes about people and fostering understanding and kindness. At these panel discussions have been members of the African-American, LGBTQ, Muslim and Jewish communities. The most recent discussion was perhaps the most controversial, said Rick Joseph, a Covington teacher and member of the diversity committee.
“We had many discussions about whether or not this panel should take place at all,” Joseph said. “This of course was due to the pain, hurt, and exclusion that many people, particularly people in the LGBTQ community, have felt in their church communities over the years.”
Despite concerns over possible legitimization or even glorification of what he said has been very “unchristian treatment of people” the committee went ahead in the belief that all political and cultural viewpoints should be represented in diversity work and people must come together to find solutions to challenges faced while promoting mutual understanding. While the 12-member panel, which besides Ott included two other pastors, as well as parents, students, and Covington staff members, were all representing the predominant religion in the United States, they were from varying denominations and showed that even within a religion that shares one major belief, there are vast differences about what it means to be Christian. Joseph, himself a Catholic, was eager to learn, as was the moderator of the panel, Covington Spanish teacher Joe Leibson, who is Jewish.
“There are some who have wondered why a Christianity panel is part of the diversity series,” Leibson said during the panel’s introduction. “After all, Christians represent a large majority of the U.S. population and have power and influence in every sphere of our society. Every US president has identified as a Christian and we often hear that our founding principles are based on Judeo-Christian values. Those things are all true, but they don’t mean that there is no room for Christian voices in the context of diversity work. Diversity is for everyone.”
Leibson continued by noting that religious participation in general is “dramatically slipping.” He cited FiveThirtyEight, a statistical analysis website, saying, “Millennials are leaving religion in droves and aren’t coming back,” with people between the ages of 23-38 almost as likely to say they have no religion as to identify as Christians. Less than half of this age group subscribe to the idea that a belief in God is necessary to be moral, and millennials are much less likely than baby boomers to believe it is necessary to raise children with religion so they learn values. Panelists at the “Diversity in Christianity” forum were invited to consider and share their answers to questions about their faith and its importance in their lives to about 50 people in attendance.   Mike Elia, a Chaldean Catholic panelist, said we are “living in an age of relativism, wanting to redefine the truth in a way that suits me” and in the process “erasing the absolute truth of Jesus Christ.”
“Obviously, we are all sinners in this room,” he said. “You have to confront in a loving way when you see someone doing something that might affect their salvation…In this day and age, you need to do it in a delicate way.”
Nicole Jones, a Baptist who sat next to her son David, a Covington student, on the panel, said God is not open for interpretation.
“If God tells me something in the Bible, I would rather err on the side of what is there than to be found wrong,” she said. “It is good to consider Jesus ministered to all kinds of people, no matter their walk of life.”
While she said “all sin is sin,” God is the one to do changing of hearts. Love doesn’t mean agreement or acceptance for her, but means that she can be in a room with someone with a different lifestyle or beliefs and be friends.
“I have a friend who is an atheist, and I love her,” Jones said. “We can sit and talk and be friends. We do not have to agree.”
Bethany Peerbolte, a panelist and associate pastor at Birmingham First Presbyterian, said she grew up in a church in which attitudes toward LGBTQ persons that she knew and loved nearly drove her away from the church. She views the Bible as “a living, breathing text,” and one through which the words have been translated a hundred million times from texts and languages which aren’t understood completely.
“It says women are not supposed to speak in churches, and here I am a pastor,” Peerbolte said. “We have to go back to what Scriptures are teaching us in 2020. What is it saying right now? We talk about sin like we know what it is… Jesus sat with people who are sinful and outcasts. Those are people who Jesus would sit with and didn’t ask to change.”
Peerbolte said in a time when it is perceived there is a “war on Christmas” and the loudest Christian voices seem to be evangelicals and those offended about coffee cups from a corporate organization without religious affiliation, she was grateful for the panel and the opportunity for a variety of Christian voices, including her more liberal, progressive one. “It’s great to see diversity and get us into a room to hash it out,” she said. “That understanding gets us to a unity place instead of being in our corners comfortably.”
Joseph said he saw at the forum a common bond between the 12 panelists-their deep faith and belief in its power, as well as understanding as a Christian value the importance of loving their neighbors. He was surprised by how consistently humble all of the panelists were. “I kept waiting for someone to sound self-righteous, perhaps, because therein lies the problem that so many people have with organized Christianity, and perhaps religion in general throughout the world – that is, the dichotomy between the sacred Scriptures and their interpretation by people,” Joseph said. “Furthermore, the extent to which people have interpreted sacred texts and used them to justify ways that have excluded, marginalized, and hurt people.”
Joseph was impressed with the panelists’ comments in regard to the importance of doing the will of God, which he believes ultimately means “developing a realization that humans are not in control.”
The BCS Diversity Committee plans to continue panel discussions into 2020. Joseph said there will be a repeat of a panel on issues related to people who are LGBTQ plus and he would also like to have a panel on mental health awareness and suicide prevention due to an increase in teen suicides as well as the stigma surrounding these issues. Other possible subjects include atheism/agnosticism, military veterans, women’s history and Native Americans.
 “We certainly will continue to have these panels because they have clearly met and identified need for many people in our community,” he said. “I believe that people are hungry for a way to have conversations about difficult issues that is constructive. I believe we have found that way.”
Check the Birmingham Covington School Facebook page for information on future panels, which will be posted by mid-January.
Contact reporter Susan Bromley at sbromley@hometownlife.com or 517-281-2412. Follow her on Twitter @SusanBromley10.

5 million Indian women just made a 385-mile human chain for equality.
The human chain formed by millions of Indian women on New Year’s Day makes a powerful statement. On January 1, 2019, 5 million women in the southern Indian state of Kerala lined up shoulder to shoulder to form a “women’s wall” 385 miles (620 km) long. The wall was a statement of gender equality, and a call to end violent protests against women trying to enter Kerala’s Sabarimala temple, a pilgrimage site for Hindus.

The Guardian reports that women of all ages have the legal right to enter the temple, as India’s supreme court ruled on the matter in September. However, religious tradition has held that only men and elderly women may enter. Even after the court’s ruling, women of menstrual age have been met with violence and abuse as they attempt to worship at the temple.

The wall is also a reminder that India is seen as the most dangerous country in the world to be a woman.

Women in India face various forms of gender-based violence and discrimination, including gang rape, tribal practices, sex trafficking, forced servitude, and more. In 2012, India was found to be the fourth most dangerous country for women according to a Thomson Reuters Foundation poll. In 2018, it climbed to number one.  
India ranks as the worst country in the world for women in several areas measured by the poll, including:
– Cultural practices, which include acid attacks, female genital mutilation, child marriage, punishment by stoning, physical abuse, or mutilation and female infanticide/foeticide
– Sexual violence, which includes rape (domestic, stranger, or as a weapon of war), lack of justice in rape cases, sexual harassment and sexual coercion as a form of corruption
– Human trafficking, including sex slavery, forced labor and servitude, and forced marriage.
(In case you’re curious, the United States came in at number 10 on the list this year-the only Western nation to make the top 10.)

This wall of women is a powerful show of unity, letting the world-and their country-know that they’re done putting up with gender-based violence.

The abuse of women trying to enter a sacred temple is just one symptom of a much larger gender violence problem in India. Since the brutal gang rape of a female student on a New Delhi bus-an assault that eventually led to her death-gained international attention in 2012, India has been on global organizations’ radar for violence against women. However, things don’t appear to have improved much since.
In 2017, India began offering state-issued wooden bats to women to fend off drunken abusive partners with a promise that police would not intervene. Oxfam India has helped form a coalition of organizations working to end violence against women in the South Asia region, but clearly more needs to be done to turn the tide.
We’ve seen time and time again that when women come together and raise their voices as one, change follows. Hopefully this powerful “women’s wall” will help move the needle for women in India as they inspire others around the world with their show of unity.

December 2019

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events 
Tuesday, December 17, 8:00 PM on PBS
Ornament of the World Premier
800 year period of medieval Spain where Muslims, Christians and Jews collaborated and flourished.
Thursday, December 19, 7:00 – 9:00 PM
Women in Islam
See Flyer Below
Sunday, February 9th
WISDOM Visit to the DIA
1:30 PM lunch in Kresge Court Cafe
3:00 Guided Tour
4:00 – 5:00 Optional Tour on your own
See Flyer Below
Sunday, March 1st, 4:00 – 6:00 PM
21st Annual World Sabbath Celebration
North Congregational Church in Farmington Hills
See Flyer Below

Yes in God’s Backyard’ to use
 church land for affordable housing
 Faith congregations across California are responding to the state’s housing crisis by sharing their parking lots with people living in their cars, providing mobile showers for the homeless and joining their neighbors in calling for rent control in their communities.
But another form of housing advocacy has been taking place among spaces of faith. A number of churches are exploring ways to build affordable housing on their own land. It’s what pastors and other leaders are referring to as YIGBY, or “Yes in God’s Backyard.”
The acronym is a play off of the term NIMBY – short for “Not in My Backyard” – a term often used to describe community pushback against affordable housing or other similar projects. “Jesus very clearly tells us to keep our eyes open to those who are in need,” said Clairemont Lutheran Church pastor Jonathan Doolittle. California is home to the 10 least-affordable major markets in the nation and is near the top in cost-burdened households – second among homeowners and fourth among renters, according to a January 2019 report from the Public Policy Institute of California. The median home price in California is $549,000. The median rent price is $2,800.
Aerial view of Clairemont Lutheran Church in San Diego, with a rendering of proposed affordable housing project in the parking lot, bottom right. Image courtesy of Yigby.org About four years ago, Clairemont Lutheran Church members in San Diego decided they needed to do something about the housing crisis affecting their community.
The church was part of an interfaith shelter network in which congregations open their spaces for a certain length of time to house families in crisis. During this time, churches host families for two weeks while they get back on their feet. The families rotate to other churches in the network, but once that cycle runs out, they may have nowhere else to seek shelter, Doolittle said. As the church made plans to redevelop its fellowship hall, Doolittle said they sought to include affordable housing as part of that project. The church proposed building a number of affordable apartments on part of their current parking lot.
Church leaders thought the affordable housing component could also speed up the approval process for the project. Instead, they encountered more roadblocks including parking restrictions and costly environmental impact reports.
In San Diego, city code makes it a requirement for churches to have a certain number of parking spaces based on the number of people who can fit in the sanctuary. The renovation of the church’s fellowship hall is underway, but the housing element is on hold for now. However, that could soon change. On Nov. 6, a subcommittee of the San Diego City Council voted in favor on an item that would make it easier for faith communities to get approval to build housing on their parking lots. Under this plan, excess parking spaces could be used as a location for housing. The City Council will consider the item at a future meeting.
Clairemont Lutheran Church plans to jumpstart its housing efforts next year, hoping to put between 16 and 21 apartments on its parking lot.
To housing advocate Tom Theisen, the city’s move is a step in the right direction. Theisen – a retired attorney and former chair of the Regional Task Force on the Homeless – is part of the San Diego YIGBY working group that helps activate under-utilized faith community properties suitable for residential units. He says the YIGBY group shows how an abundance of church land across the county can help address the region’s housing shortage. Theisen said that in the past, individual churches were going to the government proposing small projects of 15 to 20 units.
“It’s hard to create any change when you’re talking about individual small projects,” Theisen said. Theisen said the YIGBY group emerged when San Diego County tax collector Dan McAllister identified about 1,100 faith community properties on more than 2,000 acres of land. Theisen said a substantial portion of that land is available for housing.
“If we look at this from the perspective of, ‘how do we help the churches help the needy in their community and look at it county wide,’ we’re talking hundreds of potential housing units, possibly thousands,” Theisen said. Theisen estimates construction costs could be “primarily if not exclusively” paid through income coming in from the housing.
“The idea is to start building housing and start putting people in houses,” Theisen said.
People tour St. Paul’s Commons in Walnut Creek, California, in September 2019. Photo courtesy of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
In Northern California, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Walnut Creek would like to open its affordable housing complex in December or January.
It’s called St. Paul’s Commons and will be a mixed-use development with community spaces operated by St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. It’s also where the nonprofit Trinity Center will have a physical space to serve people who are homeless. The project will include 45 affordable apartments. The church leased its land to Berkeley-based developer Resources for Community Development, which used a property management company to perform background checks, call references and conduct interviews for apartment applications.
The development is taking over a single-family home where Trinity Center provided services to the homeless. The Rev. Krista Fregoso said they were already assisting people who were homeless and later thought, “What if we became a part of the solution, too?”
To Fregoso, “This is just one part of how we live out our faith. We hope to be a model for other faith communities who might see their property in a different way.”

  Najah Bazzy – CNN Hero of 2019
Just recently CNN revealed the Top 10 CNN Heroes of 2019 – these are men and women that are changing the world by helping families affected by the tragedy, cleaning up the environment, protecting neglected animals, and so much more. They were nominated by CNN to receive a ten thousand dollar cash prize with the Hero of the Year to receive one hundred thousand dollars. One of the nominees is Najah Bazzy, an Arab-American who changed the lives of thousands of women and children in the Detroit Metropolitan Area.
Najah learned to navigate through attitudes and beliefs that were conflicting very early in life. Born in a neighborhood that was predominantly Arab and Muslim – Dearborn, Michigan –  she refers to herself as ‘a new thing‘ – a by-product of a merger between being Arab, American, and Muslim all at once. She believes these are not mutually exclusive identities, even in a post 9/11 America.
They are, which is now having the largest concentration of Arab Americans in the United States, back then was a hub of immigrants. In an interview, Najah says: “It was the people from Poland, Italy, Macedonia, Mexico, and others that we learned about their traditions and their different faiths. That’s why I love diversity so much. Neighbors sat on the front porch and they shared food while their children would go from house to house visit other children and play.  The amount of care that people had for each other was tremendous, and this is where I learned to love my neighbor.”
However, she also felt a different attitude towards Muslims after the September 11 attacks. “I’ve had death threats. I’ve had to have protection placed on me. It’s an uncomfortable feeling,” she shares. “To know that you can put out love, and other people judge that love saddens me. I want to make every breath count, so I can’t fear those who choose hate. I can only control the love I have in my heart and choose that love.”
Najah is the founder of Zaman International, a non-profit organization, which has the mission to facilitate change and advance the lives of marginalized women and children of different backgrounds in the Detroit area; she has been doing it by enabling them to meet essential needs common to all humankind. The group’s 40,000-square-foot warehouse offers for free aisles of food, rows of clothes, and furniture to those in need.
The history of the organization is truly inspirational. In 1996, when a three-month-old infant was with a terminal diagnosis, Najah Bazzy, a Transcultural Clinical Nurse Specialist, provided clinical, spiritual and cultural support to his parents who were new arrivals to the United States. She helped them face the reality that no treatment would save their child. After visiting the family at their home, Najah was shocked by their living conditions. Instead of a refrigerator, the family used a picnic cooler to house their limited food supply and baby formula. Instead of a stove, a portable propane stove was used for cooking. The infant’s bed was a laundry basket piled high with towels, and the infant only had the hospital’s receiving blanket to keep him warm. When the infant passed away and the family was unable to pay for a funeral, Najah raised funds from the community to provide him with a proper burial. This was the beginning of Plots for Tots, Zaman’s signature program which provides dignified burial support for families that have lost a fetus or infant.
Witnessing this family’s sorrowful experience and shocking living conditions, Najah was inspired and determined to harness the community’s efforts to help struggling families. She asked community members to donate furniture, food, clothing, and household goods. The support and need for such efforts quickly increased, encouraging Zaman to formalize as an organization committed to using community support to address community needs.
In 2018, Zaman distributed 170,400 pounds of food, collected 886,950 pounds of clothing, provided over 7,750 hours of job skills and literacy instruction to more than 90 women, and gave 268 winter coats and 895 school supply-filled backpacks to local children. Meanwhile, it partnered with 444 community partners on a range of initiatives and funded overseas relief projects, bringing safe water and humanitarian relief to more than 431,900 people. Now that Zaman’s mission has been shared with the world, Bazzy is encouraging interested readers to help by donating through the CNN Heroes program, for which a CrowdRise donation page has been set up.
“What I’m most proud of this year is that Zaman is 94 cents on the dollar (which has been audited financially), she said, and it goes to programs,” she said about the percentage of donation dollars used to help fund its operations to serve those in need.
“We really encourage people to go to the website and to donate any amount that they can, anything helps.”
To donate, visit the Zaman International website, but you and your friends are highly encouraged to VOTE by December 3rd here.

An Olive Tree Symbolizes Hope For Two Cultures
An olive tree symbolizing hope and peace was planted at Israel’s Gush Etzion Winery in memory of a beloved deceased Palestinian worker.By United with Israel Staff
Israel’s Gush Etzion Winery memorialized a Palestinian worker who died suddenly from a brain hemorrhage two weeks ago. A group of Jews and Palestinians joined forces to plant an olive tree, a symbol of peace, in front of the winery.
Shadi Assad, 25, from the village Khallet Sakariya in the Gush Etzion region outside of Jerusalem, had worked at the Gush Etzion Winery’s restaurant for five years as a cleaner.
Last month, Assad complained of head pain. He was taken to a medical clinic in Bethlehem, where he was told that nothing serious was wrong. One week later, Assad died of a brain hemorrhage.
Following a condolence visit by the winery’s owner, Shraga Rozenberg, to the Assad family, his colleagues decided to plant an olive tree in his memory.
Biblically, the olive tree represents peace and comfort. However, presently, the olive tree is often portrayed in the news as a point of contention between Jews and Palestinians.
In Israel, planting trees (usually olive trees as they grow well in hill country) establishes squatter ownership rights on property. This creates a “land grab” between Jews and Palestinians.
Assad’s olive tree is meant to symbolize hope for peace between the clashing cultures. Alongside the tree is a large stone with both Hebrew and Arabic inscriptions.
The inauguration was attended by local rabbis, staff, family and friends from both the Jewish and Muslim communities.
Following the event, one winery employee wrote, “I don’t know what peace would be like and how to bring it, but I know that a few hours ago I experienced a moment of peace. I feel the crazy complexity, the anger – but also neighborly and humane feelings.”
In a video, Rozenberg and Muhmad Assad, the father of Shadi, sit together and explain their feelings about Shadi and the tree planting.
Muhmad said that he witnessed the love that the winery staff had for his son, noting that they cried along with him. Rozenberg shared that he wanted to comfort the family with the memorial.
The video ends with both men expressing similar sentiments, hoping for peace in their native languages.

TorontoSikh community planting hundreds of trees in Brampton, Scarborough
Environmentalism ingrained in Sikh faith, says founder of EcoSikh Canada Sikhs worldwide are planting 550 trees in their respective communities to celebrate the 550th anniversary of Guru Nanak’s birth. (
Hundreds of people braved rainy weather to plant 550 trees in Brampton on Saturday as part of an effort to combat climate change and honour the founder of Sikhism. Shovels in hand, Sharanjeet Kaur came with her young children to do their part for the environment – but also to celebrate Guru Nanak, the first Sikh guru.
“Guru Nanak was an environmentalist,” said Kaur. “[This is] really understanding his teachings and putting them into practice.”
City of Brampton councillor Harkirat Singh planned and organized the event, with members of EcoSikh on hand.

EcoSikh is a non-profit organization that has begun a global movement to connect Sikh values and environmental issues.

People around the world are planting 550 trees in their respective communities to celebrate the 550th anniversary of Guru Nanak’s birth, said global EcoSikh founder Rajwant Singh.
Another 550 trees will be planted in Scarborough on Sunday, and there is a tree planting event in Oakville next weekend.
Environmentalism is engrained in the Sikh faith, said Roop Sidhu, who founded EcoSikh’s Canadian chapter in June.
EcoSikh Canada has done a number of tree planting events across the country, Sidhu said. By Guru Nanak’s birthday on Nov. 12, Sidhu said they will have planted more than 10,000 trees across Canada. Their goal is to plant 55,000 trees in Canada by 2021.
Guru Nanak was the founder of Sikhism – and harmony with nature was a core part of his teachings, Singh said. “We feel that planting trees is a sacred act,” said Singh, adding that it “should be part of practicing our faith” and not just for the environment. EcoSihk’s goal is to engage the Sikh community to take action on the environment based on the teachings of their faith, Singh said. “Earth is a gift from God,” said Singh. “Our future generations need to have the same gifts of nature.”
Sidhu said the organization is not exclusive to the Sikh community – they want to work with all communities to take action against climate change. “We’re just another climate action group that wants to help,” Sidhu said.

 Congressional Caucus for
Black and Jewish Relations Kicks Off
Detroit Jewish News
Congressional Caucus for Black and Jewish Relations held its kickoff event last month, hoping to raise awareness and initiate measures to combat hate.
Featured photo courtesy of Linda Jacobs
By Mark Jacobs
The Congressional Caucus for Black and Jewish Relations held its kickoff reception on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., last month, hosted by the American Jewish Committee and attended by a bipartisan team of leading lawmakers and supporters.
The group, the first Black and Jewish caucus in the U.S. Congress, is co-chaired by Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Mich., Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Shultz, D-Fla., Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., Rep. Lee Zelden, R-N.Y., and Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas. The caucus seeks to raise awareness of each community’s needs as well as to initiate measures to combat hate and stereotypes.
“White supremacy is alive and well,” declared Wasserman-Shultz, warning the crowd that hate crimes against blacks and Jews have spiked in recent years and that the need for the caucus is imperative.
Lawmakers spoke of the current disunity in Washington, D.C., but noted that support for the caucus is widespread and undisputed.
The speakers recalled the historical roots of the two communities uniting during the civil rights movement. Rep. Elliot Engel said this caucus “comes at a critical time, and it is incumbent on both of our communities to act now.”
The full executive committee of the local Detroit group, the Coalition for Black and Jewish Unity, attended the event. The coalition, a partnership between the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC and the Council of Baptist Pastors of Detroit and Vicinity, shares similar goals as the Congressional Caucus.
Coalition Executive Board member Hazzan Dan Gross, along with Dr. Pauline Plummer, an accomplished pastor and singer, capped off the evening by leading the group in an emotional, arm-clinging rendition of the civil rights ballad “We Shall Overcome.”
In what was possibly a first on Capitol Hill, Gross sang the first verse of the song in Hebrew. It was an extraordinarily moving and unforgettable display of solidarity for two communities who now have re-committed to each other through this new Congressional Caucus.
Mark Jacobs is co-director of the Coalition for Black and Jewish Unity.

November 2019

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events 

Sunday, November 3rd 2:30 – 5:30 PM
Interfaith Panel on Organ Donation
See Flyer Below
Thursday, November 7th 3:00 PM
Neighborly Discourse Panel
See Flyer Below
Thursday, November 7th, 7:00 PM
Portraits in Faith at Temple Israel

See Flyer Below

Thursday, December 5th 7:00 – 9:00 PM
Islamic Institute of America
Christians Reading the Qu’ran Through the Ages
See Flyer Below
Thursday, November 21 7:00 – 9:00 PM
Women in Judaism
See Flyer Below
Thursday, December 19, 7:00 – 9:00 PM
Women in Islam
See Flyer Below
Sunday, February 9th
WISDOM Visit to the DIA
1:30 PM lunch in Kresge Court Cafe
3:00 Guided Tour
4:00 – 5:00 Optional Tour on your own
Stay tuned for Flyer
Sunday, March 1st, 4:00 – 6:00 PM
21st Annual World Sabbath Celebration
North Congregational Church in Farmington Hills
See Flyer Below

WISDOM in the Kitchen
From left, WISDOM Vice President Ayesha Khan, Gigi Salka, President Bobbie Lewis, board member Dr. Carolyn Simon and Chef Adrianna Kalota.
WISDOM once again volunteered at the Zaman Culinary Kitchen October 3, chopping veggies for stock and fattoush salad under the direction of Chef Adrianna Kalota. Zaman was founded in 1996 by former WISDOM board member Najah Bazzy. Located in Inkster, the nonprofit provides counseling and other services for refugees, immigrants and low-income women. Their large building’s first floor includes the modern culinary kitchen, used for catering services and training in culinary arts, a food pantry and a store selling second-hand furniture and clothing (donations are welcome!). Upstairs there’s a classroom for ESL (English as a Second Language) and a workshop filled with sewing machines where women are trained as seamstresses. Gigi Salka, a member of the WISDOM Advisory Board, is the director of Zaman’s BOOST (Building Ongoing Opportunities through Skills Training) program.

Religions for Peace and Institute for Economics and Peace Launch New Positive Peace Partnership for Communities of Faith
At the Religions for Peace(RfP) 10th World Assembly in Lindau, Germany, over 900 delegates affirmed their commitment to the 10th World Assembly Declaration of Religions for Peace. Included in this Declaration, is a “Call to Common Action” including a commitment to strengthening the partnership between RfP with the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) to “produce positive peace materials and workshops for multi-religious contexts.” RfP and IEP proudly announce their shared commitment to this common action in the following article by Vision of Humanity

Implementation of new multi-faith training courses on Positive Peace and the implementation of Positive Peace workshops for the world’s faithful.

Two global thought leaders in peacebuilding will soon join forces to spread Positive Peace around the world. Internationally renowned think tank, the Institute for Economics and Peace, and the world’s largest multi-faith coalition Religions for Peace (RfP), are working on a new program of courses to spread their shared vision of Positive Peace worldwide. The two organizations will build on years of existing mutual engagement to strengthen ties and produce Positive Peace materials and workshops for multi-religious contexts. Following last month’s World Assembly of Religions for Peace in Lindau, Germany, more than 900 participants including multi-faith leaders and peacebuilders, committed to fostering Positive Peace as a concept of Shared Well-Being. Mr Killelea [Founder and Executive Chairman, Institute for Economics and Peace; Honorary President, RfP] said, “IEP’s data-driven research provides the evidence base for the Positive Peace model for sustainable development and social cohesion.”
“The Positive Peace framework is a flexible and culturally-neutral model, based in rigorous data research. People of all walks of life and faith can adapt the approach to building peace in any community or nation,” Mr. Killelea said. Rev. Kyoichi Sugino [Acting Secretary General, RfP] said, “The many complex problems facing the world today require unprecedented global cooperation, including bringing people of different faiths and cultural backgrounds together – peace is essential for humanity to find the global solutions to these shared challenges.”
Mr. Killelea further commented, “We’re looking forward to working with RfP who are thought leaders in interfaith dialogue, conflict resolution and peacebuilding.” IEP’s evidence-based Positive Peace framework and workshops build the attitudes, institutions and structures that create and sustain peaceful societies, and offers a new way to achieve common economic outcomes, sustainable development, violence reduction, social cohesion and resilience for communities.
Positive Peace expresses the multi-religious notion of Shared Well-Being, virtue and tolerance, while also providing a practical framework to help build these precepts into societies. The world’s leading non-profit and independent think tank dedicated to measuring peace, IEP uses data-driven research to show that peace is a positive, tangible and achievable measure of human wellbeing and development and is renowned for producing the annual Global Peace Index.
Religions for Peace is the most-representative multi-religious coalition in the world that advances common action among the world’s religious communities in the pursuit of peace. The organization works to transform violent conflict, advance human development, promote just and harmonious societies and protect the earth

Noted Baptist Pastor Charles Adams retires after 50 years in Detroit
Niraj Warikoo, Detroit Free Press

After more than 50 years as head of an influential Baptist church in Detroit, the Rev. Charles G. Adams is retiring, church officials announced Monday.
Adams, 82, senior pastor at Hartford Memorial Baptist Church, will step down officially on Tuesday and is to be replaced by his son, Rev. Charles C. Adams, who has been helping lead the church for years.
“We thank God for Pastor Adams, who has led this church with Christian love, truth and generosity for more than 50 years,” said Thomas R. Williams, chairman of the Dianonate Ministry at Hartford Memorial Baptist Church, in a statement. “While we will miss his active leadership, his legacy continues with his son.”
Adams is the longest serving pastor in Hartford Memorial’s history and only the third pastor of the church, said church officials. Adams said in a statement: “I wish I had ten thousand tongues to say ‘Thanks be unto God’ and ‘Thank you, Hartford!'” His advice for his son as he leads the historic Detroit church was: “Love everyone.” Adams was a professor at Harvard University in the 2000s, serving there as the first William and Lucille Nickerson Professor of Ethics and Ministry.  For five years, he flew to Boston to teach every week.
In announcing his appointment in 2007, Harvard Divinity School described him as “one of the most prominent and dynamic ministers in the United States.”
“He is not only a widely acclaimed preacher, but has been just as influential as a pioneer in linking the church’s mission to urban revitalization through economic, educational and social initiatives,” said the school’s dean at the time, William A. Graham.
Adams graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. and Harvard Divinity School with a B.D. He also has done graduate work at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.
The church said he grew the Hartford’s membership from 400 to a peak of nearly 10,000.
Adams has also been a past president of the Detroit chapter of the NAACP, once leading a boycott of businesses in Dearborn over discrimination against African-Americans in its city parks.  He has been professor of preaching at Ecumenical Theological Seminary and pastor of Concord Baptist Church in Boston, and president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention. The Free Press reported in 2017, when the church marked its 100th anniversary, that he helped make vibrant a stretch of 7 Mile Rd. after the church moved into the area in 1977.  In March, the church opened Hartford Village, a gated senior citizens community.
“I had been to Atlanta and seen what the Kings had done around Ebenezer Baptist Church,” Adams said in 2017. “That gave me an idea that we should own all the land we could around Hartford Memorial. As a result, most of the land around the church belongs to the church, so that it makes economic development all the more possible.”

Ellen Katzen, center, of Squirrel Hill, attends services on the first night of Rosh Hashana at Temple Sinai in Pittsburgh, on Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019. It was the first Jewish New Year since a gunman killed 11 congregants at a nearby synagogue on Oct. 27, 2018. (Rebecca Droke via AP)

An Indian man inspects the head of an effigy of mythical demon king Ravana before purchasing it ahead of the Hindu festival Dussehra in New Delhi, India, on Oct. 4, 2019. The effigy will be burned during the festival, which celebrates the defeat of demon king Ravana at the hands of Hindu god Rama, marking the triumph of good over evil. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

Vandals Destroy Sukkah at MSU

Michigan State Hillel’s Sukkah was destroyed by two males late Saturday night during the Sukkot holiday. Despite the office being closed for the holiday, Michigan State University Hillel’s Executive Director Cindy Hughey decided to drop by the Hillel building Monday morning. She instantly noticed the Sukkah appeared to be falling down, so she stepped outside to take a closer look.
“I noticed that it was more than just falling down – it looked like it had been totally decimated,” Hughey said. “We began to look at the security footage and saw two males enter the patio area and proceed to destroy the Sukkah.”
Hughey then contacted the East Lansing Police Department and filed a complaint. The police asked them to share the information and photos on the MSU Hillel Facebook page so that students could help identify the vandals. Through Facebook, Hughey received three different names which she forwarded to police. Hughey is currently waiting on confirmation from police to see if they have the vandals in custody. Although it is unclear whether this act was pre-meditated or not, both men appeared to be inebriated during the incident.
“It was just extremely disappointing to see it being destroyed – and for what purpose?” Hughey said. “However, the MSU community and administration has been very supportive. We’ve had people send their positive and kind words to us and even offer to come help us build a new Sukkah.”
Wendy Starr, President of the Jewish Student Union at MSU, hopes this incident will educate other students on campus about Jewish holidays and culture.
“In addition to Jewish culture, we hope to foster understanding for all student populations,” Starr said.  “We hope students will take this opportunity to work together and unite to combat vandalism on this campus.”

October 2019

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events 
 
Wednesday, October 9th 7:00 PM
The Great American Family at the Maple Theater
See Flyer Below
 
IFLC Annual Award Dinner
Tuesday, October 29th 6:00 – 9:00 PM
Bint Jebail Cultural Center, 6220 Miller Rd., Dearborn, MI 48126
See Flyer below!!
 
Bahai Bicentenary Celebration
Sunday, October 27th at 2:00 PM
Pontiac Little Art Theatre
See Flyer Below

Sunday, November 3rd 2:30 – 5:30 PM
Interfaith Panel on Organ Donation
See Flyer Below
Thursday, November 7th, 7:00 PM
Portraits in Faith at Temple Israel
See Flyer Below

Najah Bazzy started helping Detroit’s impoverished
community in her house.
Now, her nonprofit has reached 250,000 people.
By Kathleen Toner, CNN
Najah Bazzy, CNN Hero
In 1996, she was working as a nurse when she visited an Iraqi refugee family to help care for their dying infant. She knew the situation would be difficult, but she wasn’t prepared for what she encountered.
“There, at the house, I got my first glimpse of poverty. … They absolutely had nothing,” she said. “There was no refrigerator, there was no stove, there was no crib. … The baby was in a laundry basket, laying on clean white towels.” For years, Bazzy ran her goodwill effort from her home, transporting donated goods in her family’s minivan. Eventually, her efforts grew into Zaman International, a nonprofit that now supports impoverished women and children of all backgrounds in the Detroit area. The group has helped more than 250,000 people. According to the US Census Bureau, more than one-third of Detroit’s residents — and nearly half of the city’s children — live in poverty. It is the poorest big city in America.
Today, Zaman operates from a 40,000-square-foot facility in the suburb of Inkster. The group’s warehouse offers aisles of food, rows of clothes and vast arrays of furniture free to those in need. The group’s case managers help clients access housing and other services. “We work to stabilize them as quickly as we can,” Bazzy said. “Women walk in and they are in desperate need, and they walk out with their basic needs met.” The group’s donated clothing and furniture are also available to the public through its Good Deeds Resale Shop.
“Our mothers are able to come. They get a voucher and have the same dignified shopping experience as somebody else, but (do) not have to pay for it,” she said. “It’s about dignity.”
The nonprofit also offers clients free education and job placement, as well as vocational training through its sewing and culinary arts programs. The goal is to help women become self-sufficient.
“We’re a one-stop shop,” she said. “We help our clients move from a ‘hand out’ to a ‘hands on,’ because when you’re in crisis … the idea of how to get yourself out of it is overwhelming.”
Sherri Blanton, a Detroit native, was distressed when she came to Zaman. Her marriage had recently ended, and health issues had left her unable to support her daughter. “Not being able to stand on my own two feet, it was hard,” said Blanton, tearing up. “They helped me with clothing, furniture, my car. … They picked me up when I was down, they really did.” Blanton completed the culinary arts program and now works as a kitchen apprentice at Zaman. “I look forward to going to work every morning,” she said. “This was just a stepping stone for me … Maybe in the next year or so I’ll be a chef!”
Ultimately, Bazzy wants to empower women to achieve their potential.
“People just need an opportunity. And they need hope,” Bazzy said. “That’s what we do best.” CNN’s Kathleen Toner spoke with Bazzy about her work. Below is an edited version of their conversation.
CNN: How has Zaman evolved since you started?
Najah Bazzy: Zaman began helping refugees during the post-Gulf War (era) when we had a tremendous amount of refugees from Iraq coming into the Detroit area. But after a few years, I saw another population that was even more marginalized: the single mom, trying to raise her children with nothing. Now, we focus on women with children living well below the poverty line. Most of our families make below $10,000 a year. We still help refugees, but we now have a large African American population. It’s open to everybody. It’s not based on faith or culture. All that matters here is: What do you need?
CNN: How does your Muslim faith inspire your work?
Bazzy: Our organization is a little mini-United Nations. Watching African American and Arab and Jewish and gay and people with disabilities and everyone working together — I just love that. For me, that’s the highest expression of faith — just bringing people together. Islam is full of verses about caring for humankind, but I think I would be this human being no matter what faith tradition I followed. Because in my heart of hearts I believe we are one human family.
CNN: How did your upbringing influence your decision to do this work?
Bazzy: People are often shocked when I say, “My family’s been in America 125-plus years.” My parents are born here, and my dad served in the Army during the Korean War. I grew up in the south end of Dearborn, outside Detroit. Nowadays, it’s well known for having the largest concentration of Arab Americans in the United States, but back when I was growing up, it was a hub of immigrants. It was people from Poland, Italy, Macedonia, Mexico, and we learned about their traditions and their different faiths. That’s why I love diversity so much.
Neighbors sat on the front porch and they shared food. Children would go from house to house. And just the amount of care that people had for each other — this is where I learned to love my neighbor.
CNN: It was recently the anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Your nonprofit expanded in the years after the attacks — a time when some people viewed Muslims with suspicion. How did that affect you?
Bazzy: There is a lot of risk in doing the work that I do, as a visible Muslim woman in hijab. I’ve had death threats. I’ve had to have protection placed around me. It’s an uncomfortable feeling. To know that you can put out love, but there are people out there who will judge love, this saddens me. I want to make every breath count, so I can’t fear those who choose hate. I can only control the love I have in my heart and choose that love.
Want to get involved? Check out the Zaman International website and see how to help. To see the video about Najah Bazzy CNN hero go to

India Jains: Why are these youngsters
renouncing the world?
 India’s Jain community, a religious minority, 
has around 4.5 million believers
Hundreds of young people belonging to India’s Jain community have begun renouncing the material world to become monks who always walk barefoot, eat only what they receive as alms and never bathe or use modern technology. The BBC’s Priyanka Pathak explores why. “I will never be able to hug my daughter again,” says Indravadan Singhi, his voice breaking. He looks away, determined not to reveal emotion as he says, “I can never meet her eye again.”
Resignedly, he watches friends and family drift through his home, decorating his living room with gold and pink tassels to celebrate his daughter’s renunciation of the world and entry into monastic life.
In the days ahead of the ceremony, family came from around the country to spend her “last days” doing things she enjoyed – playing cricket in the local park, listening to music and eating out at her favourite restaurants. She will never be able to do these things again. As a nun, 20-year-old Dhruvi will never again address him and his wife as mother and father. She will pluck out her own hair, always walk barefoot and eat only what she receives in alms. She will never use a vehicle, never bathe, never sleep under a fan and never speak on a mobile phone again.
 By undergoing deeksha, the Jain ritual of renunciation, Dhruvi (left) is withdrawing completely from the world
The Singhis belong to the ancient Jain community, a religious minority comprising around 4.5 million believers. Devout Jains follow the tenets of their religion under the spiritual guidance of monks. These include detailed prescriptions for daily life, especially what to eat, what not to eat and when to eat. For the past five years, Indravadan Singhi and his wife have watched their only child – who loved ripped jeans and dreamed of winning the reality singing show Indian Idol – become increasingly religious and withdrawn. By undergoing deeksha, the Jain ritual of renunciation. Dhruvi is withdrawing from the life she knows. She is not alone. Hundreds of Jain youth are following the same path, their numbers rising each year, with women outnumbering the men.
“There used to be hardly 10-15 deekshas a year until a few years ago,” says Dr Bipin Doshi, who teaches Jain philosophy at Mumbai University. But last year, that number rose to 250 and Dr Joshi says this year is likely to see close to 400 deekshas. Community leaders attribute the rise to three things: growing disenchantment among the young with the pressures of a modern world, gurus of the faith adopting modern technology to make it easier for people to communicate religious ideas and finally, a superstructure of religious retreats that allows young people to experiment with monastic life long before they choose to commit to it. The economic and social stresses of a “hyper-connected” world have contributed to this phenomenon, Dr Joshi says.
“What’s happening in New York, or what’s happening in Europe, you see it at the same moment. Earlier, our competition was restricted only to the streets in which we were staying. Now there is competition with all the world,” he said, adding that Fomo – the Fear Of Missing Out – was driving more young people to try and escape everything.
“Once you take deeksha or renounce the world, your level of spirituality, social standing, religious standing becomes so high, even the richest man will come down and bow to you,” he added. Pooja Binakhiya, a physiotherapist who took deeksha last month, says the focus of her life changed completely after she became a nun. Where her day was once filled with concerns like family, friends, beauty and career, she says she no longer has to think about how she will appear to her friends. “Here we only think about soul, soul and soul,” she says tranquilly.
Dhruvi, days ahead of her deeksha, says her guru is “everything to me”.
“She is my world. Whatever she says, that is it.” Almost all Jain novices speak with similar warmth of their gurus. It is clear that these religious leaders also inspire tremendous obedience and loyalty. Dr Doshi says that it was not always like this. “Previously the ascetics were more introverted and interested only in their own self-purification,” he says. But today, he adds, they are more involved and are actively reaching out to young people in particular. “They are good orators and offer young people a path which is simple, they get attracted to it.”
Until as recently as 10 years ago, Jains relied on literature written in the ancient Indian languages of Ardha Magadhi or Sanskrit. Now, the religious literature is offered in many languages, especially English. “Stories of the Jain religion are made into short films, which are shareable on social media. Reading a book may not be important but just seeing one small story in a minute or two would influence youngsters a lot actually,” Dr Doshi says. These videos, which are mostly circulated via WhatsApp messages, are well produced films which often glorify renunciation and sometimes even portray monks as superheroes.
Muni Jinvatsalya Vijay Maharajsaheb, a Jain monk, says that over the last few years, films produced by Jain NGOs have played a critical role in making the religion accessible to young followers. He himself has published several YouTube videos that have had over a million views. “If one wants to reach youngsters, it is easier to go to where they are rather than to try and bring them here,” he says. “YouTube was the best choice because that is where young people spend most of their time online”.
Dhruvi says an Updhyan – a 48-day retreat she attended five years ago – was “the spark that made me consider a monk’s life”. Under a presiding guru, the retreat allows regular Jains to experience a monastic life – without shoes, electricity and baths. Most novices point to this gruelling retreat – where gurus exhort them to renounce a world “full of sorrow” – as the moment they decided they want to be monks. But such retreats cannot be undertaken overnight.
Hitesh Mota, who organises deekshas in Mumbai, say that most attendees undergo a series of short retreats to “slowly build the confidence that yes, I can live like this for a little bit longer next time”. “You know the fear of a monk’s life, the fear of giving up everything. That fear is removed during the retreat. It is the first step, a sort of training camp to become a monk.”
Last month, a retreat in the western city of Nashik ended in a celebratory procession of chariots carrying 600 attendees wearing glittering clothes. Most were under 25 and reportedly hundreds of them expressed a desire to take deeksha. Among them was 12-year-old Het Doshi. A bright student and skating champion, Het missed three skating races and several weeks of school to attend this retreat. His feet were blistered and covered in boils and he lost 18kg (40lb) during the retreat, but Het says the flame had already been kindled in his heart. “My guru has said there is nothing good in this world,” Het said, uttering words he scarcely seemed to understand. “I don’t like anything in this material world. I want to move away from my karmas, my sins. So I want to take deeksha. My guru says I should take it sooner rather than later, so I want to take it before I turn 15.”
His parents looked on proudly. But not everyone shares their children’s enthusiasm for renunciation. Dhruvi had to work very hard to get her parent’s endorsement. “My family got very upset when I told them,” she says.
She strategically stopped mentioning deeksha for a couple of years, aware that if she pushed too hard too quickly she could jeopardise her freedom to travel with her guru. And even though she eventually wore down the family’s resistance, their trepidation lingers just under the surface. On the morning of Dhruvi’s renunciation ceremony, her father hugged her for the last time before she donned the dress of a nun, grief etched on his face. “All this pomp is one thing,” he said. “Come back in two years to see how it has worked out.”

Muslim and Jewish women tour Shoah
sites in Poland and Berlin
Vow to ‘change the future’ by speaking out against hate
By Debra Rubin (New Jersey Jewish News)
Atiyah Aftab said she was already schooled in the horrors of the Holocaust, but it was not until she was in Auschwitz standing in a room filled with piles of women’s hair that the extent of the genocide hit her.
“It was physically nauseating me,” said the South Brunswick resident. “It was just unbelievable to me that this is humanity and it made me extremely sad. It made me think about what we can do in our lives today to prevent this from ever happening again and what we can do to make this a better world.”
Atiyah Aftab said she was already schooled in the horrors of the Holocaust, but it was not until she was in Auschwitz standing in a room filled with piles of women’s hair that the extent of the genocide hit her.
“It was physically nauseating me,” said the South Brunswick resident. “It was just unbelievable to me that this is humanity and it made me extremely sad. It made me think about what we can do in our lives today to prevent this from ever happening again and what we can do to make this a better world.”
Olitzky and Aftab, an attorney who also teaches at Rutgers University and serves as director of its Center for Islamic Life, founded the sisterhood’s original chapter in North and South Brunswick in 2010. The group is dedicated to building friendships between Muslim and Jewish women and teens. SOSS went national four years after its founding, and Olitzky serves as the national director. Today it has 170 chapters – including a dozen teen chapters – in the U.S. and Canada. The first “Building Bridges” trip was to the Balkans in 2016, and last year they explored the civil rights movement in the southern United States.
This year’s tour of Poland and the city of Berlin was led by Dr. Mehnaz Afridi, director of Manhattan College’s Holocaust, Genocide, and Interfaith Education Center. Afridi is the only Muslim to head a Holocaust center in the U.S.
The SOSS itinerary included Holocaust sites, interfaith dialogues, and prayer services at synagogues and mosques, and Olitzky said they held what is believed to be the only Muslim-Jewish prayer service ever held by women in Auschwitz.
“No one can prepare you to see these sites of genocide,” said Aftab. “But this was a supportive group of women. There definitely was a sense we were all together in this. It wasn’t just a Jewish trip.” One of the places visited in Poland, along with Oskar Schindler’s Enamel factory and the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, was Warsaw’s Nozyk Synagogue, the city’s only surviving prewar synagogue. There they met with its rabbi and a representative of the Tartar community, Muslims who have lived in or near Poland since the 1400s. In Krakow they met with an interfaith group of Jews, Muslims, and Christians, and assisted in the cleanup of a Jewish cemetery.
Highlights of the Berlin tour included a prayer service in the Bavarian Quarter, which served as a ghetto for Jews, and visits to memorials for gay and Roma (Gypsy) victims of Nazi mass murder. They also attended prayer services at the Dar Assalam Mosque and Shabbat evening services at the New Synagogue on Oranienburger Strasse. They also met with Syrian refugees and interfaith groups of Muslims and Jews who are working to help newcomers to the city.
Roberta Elliott of South Orange had already been everywhere the group journeyed, “but I wanted to take a dive with my Muslim sisters.”
“When I went to Auschwitz in 1990 it never occurred to me there would be any reason to ever go again,” said Elliott, who co-founded the Essex Two chapter of SOSS as well as a chapter in Tucson, Ariz., where she lives in the winter. Retired from a career in Jewish communal work, mostly working for Hadassah and HIAS in New York, Elliott said having Afridi, “who knows just about everything there is to know about the Holocaust, but it comes from the point of view of another minority,” proved both challenging and thoughtful. For instance, the group learned that a small number of Muslims also lost their lives at Auschwitz.
Miniimah Bilal-Shakir of Hillside said she feels a special kinship to the Jewish experience as an African-American and Muslim. She calls the Jewish women she’s met through SOSS “my sisters from another mother.”
At Auschwitz, Bilal-Shakir, a member of the Essex One chapter, said she was struck by the shared suffering “of slaves coming on ships from Africa, who couldn’t move and had to relieve themselves where they were, and the similarity of people on those boxcars.” Heba Macksoud of Princeton, an original member of the North and South Brunswick chapter, said among the reasons she went on the trip was to gain an understanding of why Jews have such a strong connection to Israel. She said that until the trip it had never occurred to her “how Jews felt displaced after they were subjected to such wide and discriminatory hate. How could they want to go back to those places?
“Just walking in their shoes and seeing the remnants of that hate helped me understand why Israel is so important” to all Jews, said Macksoud. “It wasn’t necessarily about religion, but more about creating an identity for them as a people.”
Macksoud also brought along her 17-year-old twin daughters.
“I wanted them to get out of their social media bubble and wake them up to what’s going on in the world,” she said. “Now they understand and can continue the legacy of standing up for things. I heard every person on the trip, Jews and Muslims, say that it is their job to stand up for the other.”
Heather Ciociola of Lawrence-ville, who started the Mercer-Somerset chapter in 2017, said the experience of Muslims and Jews witnessing together the vestiges of genocide was a powerful image in the face of all the hate being spewed nationally against refugees, Muslims, Jews, and others.
“Since we can speak up now, we should speak up,” said Ciociola, a refugee advocate. “What we do makes a difference. It matters to stand up for our neighbors, and it matters if we hear something hateful that we stand up and call it out.
“It didn’t start at Auschwitz. It started long before that and we need to take a stand against hate, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and anti-refugee sentiment.”

There is Now A Peace Pole in Every Nation On Earth
It has been a decades long goal of the Peace Pole Project to get a Peace Pole planted on the soil of every nation on our planet. That goal is about to finally be reached. Late in 2018 the Peace Pole Project was down to just two countries without at least one Peace Pole within their borders. Those two countries were Montenegro and Timor-Leste. Earlier this year, through the work of Patrick Petit who is the European Liaison of the the Peace Pole Project’s parent organization the Goi Peace Foundation, a young woman named Zorana Visic planted a Peace Pole in the beautiful coastal town of Tivat in the Western Balkan Nation of Montenegro. That milestone left only one nation without a Peace Pole. With just one nation left Jim Dugan of Peace Pole Project at May Peace Prevail On Earth International, headquartered at The World Peace Sanctuary in upstate New York, was put in touch with Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and former President of Timor-Leste Jose Ramos-Horta; through his brother Kerry who lives in Thailand and is also a life long peace worker. President Ramos-Horta put Jim in touch with Sierra James, Program Manager and Co-Founder of the amazing peace organization Ba Futuru in Dili, Timor-Leste about getting a Peace Pole planted.
Ba Futuru in the local Tetun language means “For the Future” and they are renowned for positively influencing the lives of hundreds of thousands of Timorese and have provided life enhancing training programs to more than 40,000 children, youth, parents, teachers, police and community leaders across Timor-Leste. Ba Futuru specializes in peace building, gender empowerment, child protection education, teaching approaches and conflict resolution. After overcoming incredible shipping hurdles two Peace Poles are now at the Ba Futuru Headquarters in Dilli, Timor-Leste. These Peace Poles will be planted later this year when Ba Futuru holds their Youth Peace Jam where President Ramos-Horta will likely be in attendance.
All of us at The Peace Pole Project and May Peace Prevail On Earth International truly share our deepest thanks to President Ramos-Horta, Sierra James and the rest of the staff at Ba Futuru and all the People of Timor-Leste for making this dream of a Peace Pole being planted in every nation on our planet become a reality.
We encourage you to check out the amazing work of Ba Futuru by visiting their website at bafuturu.org.
May Peace Prevail in Montenegro
May Peace Prevail in Timor-Leste
May Peace Prevail on Earth

Virginia County’s Official List Of Races Includes ‘Aryan,’ ‘Hebrew’ and ‘Jew’
September 9, 2019 By Aiden Pink
Attorneys seeking to overturn a Virginia law requiring couples to list their races on marriage licenses has released one county’s official list of acceptable races, which includes over 200 options – from “Assyrian” to “Zoroastrian.” The federal suit, filed Thursday in the Eastern District of Virginia, claims that the race requirement is “offensive,” “unconstitutional” and “reflective of a racist past,” NBC News reported. The plaintiffs are three couples were denied a marriage license because they refused to disclose their race.
The lawsuit also states that different counties in Virginia have different lists of possibilities. Rockbridge County, in the rural west of the state, has over 200 “approved races.” The county’s list, released on the website of plaintiff’s attorney Victor M. Glasberg, includes several outdated or unsettling terms, including “Aryan,” “Mulatto” and “Quadroon.” There are also several variations for Jewish couples, such as “Hebrew,” “Israelite,” “Jew,” “Ladina (Ladino),” “Semitic” and, possibly, “Cosmopolitan.”
Glasberg and his clients have compared their case to Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 lawsuit that eventually struck down a ban on interracial marriage in that state and around the country. Seven other states – Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota and New Hampshire – also have laws requiring marriage license applicants to state their race.
A spokesman for Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring told The New York Times that it was “not readily apparent why state law requires the collection of this data on the marriage license application.”
Aiden Pink is the deputy news editor of the Forward. Contact him at pink@forward.com or follow him on Twitter @aidenpink

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.