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WISDOM Newsletter – March 2011

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THE WISDOM WINDOW

MARCH 2011

WISDOM
 

 WISDOM Calendar of Events

 SEE WISDOM’S WEBSITE FOR MORE DETAILS!!
 
Thursday, March 17th
6:15 PM Community Forum entitled “Water, Women, and WISDOM” –  Panel Discussion for Women’s History Month!! – Topic will be about Water – and how the lack of clean water impacts women and children worldwide!! 6:15 – 8:30 PM at the Bloomfield Township Public Library on Telegraph and Lone Pine in Bloomfield Hills.  Open to the Public!!  See Flyer in this newsletter!!
Wednesday, March 23rd
Five Women Five Journeys hosted by St. Hugo of the Hills, 2215 Opdyke Rd., Bloomfield Hills, in conjunction with Temple Beth El, the Muslim Unity Center and Kirk in the Hills Presbyterian Church all of Bloomfield Hills.  7:00 PM.
Wednesday, May 11th
Five Women Five Journeys sponsored by the AAUW (American Association of University Women) at Plum Hollow Country Club, 21631 Lahser Rd., Southfield, 1:00 PM
Thursday, June 30th through Friday, July 1st
Five Women Five Journeys at the Bay View Association, Petoskey, MI.  Thursday evening 7:00 PM, Friday morning, Meet and Greet the WISDOM Women.
Christians Embrace a Jewish Wedding Tradition

New York Times, Saturday, February 12, 2011

By SAMUEL G. FREEDMAN

In a San Antonio chapel last August, after reciting their wedding vows and exchanging their rings, Sally and Mark Austin prepared to receive communion for the first time as husband and wife. Just before they did, their minister asked them to sign a document. It was a ketubah, a traditional Jewish marriage contract.

The Austins’ was not an interfaith marriage. Nor was their ceremony some sort of multicultural mashup. Both Sally and Mark are evangelical Christians, members of Oak Hills Church, a nationally known megachurch. They were using the ketubah as a way of affirming the Jewish roots of their faith.

In so doing, the Austins are part of a growing phenomenon of non-Jews incorporating the ketubah, a document with millennia-old origins and a rich artistic history, into their weddings. Mrs. Austin, in fact, first learned about the ketubah from her older sister, also an evangelical Christian, who had been married five years earlier with not only a ketubah but the Judaic wedding canopy, the huppah.

“Embracing this Jewish tradition just brings a richness that we miss out on sometimes as Christians when we don’t know the history,” said Mrs. Austin, 29, a business manager for AT&T. “Jesus was Jewish, and we appreciate his culture, where he came from.”

Beyond its specific basis in Judaism, the ketubah represented to the Austins a broader concept of holiness, of consecration. “We wanted a permanent reminder of the covenant we made with God,” Mrs. Austin said. “We see this document superseding the marriage license of a state or a court.”

Such sentiments have been reshaping the market for ketubot (the plural in Hebrew) in the past decade. Michael Shapiro, an observant Jew from Toronto who sells artistic ketubot through the Web site ketubah.com, said he had seen the non-Jewish share of his customers rise from zero to about 10 percent. He is forming a spinoff site, artvows.com, that concentrates on non-Jewish consumers.

While evangelical Christians like the Austins make up part of that niche, Mr. Shapiro said, the concept of marital sanctity they expressed is one he hears from many gentile buyers.

“There’s an idea of this being significant and lasting, a nod to something greater at work in a couple having come together,” he said in a telephone interview. “For some, it’s about God and faith. For others, it’s almost a sense of a miracle. In Jewish terms, we have the Yiddish word bashert, for ‘meant to be, intended for each other.’ ”

The decade of non-Jews discovering the ketubah coincides with three relevant social trends: the rise of Christian Zionism, the growth of interfaith marriage, and the mainstreaming of the New Age movement with its search for spirituality in multiple faith traditions. As a result, an increasing number of gentiles have taken up Judaic practices: holding a Passover Seder, eating kosher food and studying kabbalah, the Jewish mystical movement.

“A lot of these things are grass-rootsy,” said Prof. Jenna Weissman Joselit, a historian at George Washington University, who has written extensively on Jewish popular culture. “They have to do with the growing popularity of intermarriage – openness, pluralism, cultural improvisation. And for those who are more religiously literate, they add another level of authenticity or legitimacy.”

What makes the ketubah boom among non-Jews more striking is that even for Jews the present concept of a ketubah – simultaneously a work of fine art and a religious document – took centuries to develop and spread.

The earliest known version of a Jewish marriage contract dates to the fifth century B.C. in Egypt. Roughly 1,000 years later, during the Talmudic period in Palestine and Babylon, a formally codified version of the ketubah emerged.

And in its original form, far from declaring marriage as an everlasting bond, the ketubah largely served to protect a wife’s right to financial support in the event of a divorce, which under traditional Jewish law is entirely a husband’s decision. To this day, the standard Orthodox ketubah still contains language requiring a divorced man to pay his ex-wife “200 silver zuz.”

Sephardic Jews, though, wrote ketubot with specific provisions for each marriage. And, of more enduring aesthetic importance, they began to illustrate the documents elaborately with images and calligraphy. With the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492, refugees carried that artistic tradition to Italy, Germany and Holland, where the decorative ketubah began to seep into Ashkenazi culture.

But the style never reached into the Eastern European heartland of Jewry – which itself was the source of most of America’s Jewish immigrants – and by the mid-20th century the ketubah was back to where it had started as a document of religious law to be signed and stowed away.

All that suddenly changed with the “Jewish counterculture” of the 1960s, a movement by young Jews to participate in worship actively rather than just follow a rabbi, and to create their own prayers, liturgies, ceremonies and ritual objects, very much including ketubot.

By now, the ketubah is such a standard part of American Jewish life that even the new National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia exhibits and sells them. Next month the Jewish Museum in New York will mount a major show of ketubot.

“You have an interest in a beautifying ritual and you have disposable income,” said Sharon Liberman Mintz of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, who is curating the Jewish Museum exhibit. “There’s both the wherewithal and the interest. Now you’d hang your ketubah on the wall. In the past, you’d just keep it in a safe or something like that.”

As for Sally and Mark Austin, they Googled their way to

ketubahtree.com, selected a version with the image of a flowing river, and chose one of several texts from the Reform Jewish movement. After their wedding day, they hung it over their bed.

“One of the characteristics of a covenant,” as Mrs. Austin put it, “is a tangible sign. And this piece of paper, this beautiful piece of art, is the sign of our covenant.”

Religious understanding

Jewish-Muslim initiative comes to University of Illinois at Chicago

On February 7, 2011, a conference about the roles of Jewish and Muslim women in their communities was held at UIC’s Stevenson Hall on 701 S. Morgan St. in Chicago. This conference, “Changing Roles?: Women in Traditional Jewish and Muslim Communities,”  attempted to discuss and examine Muslim and Jewish women’s traditional roles in context with modernity, women’s rights, and progressivism.

“In both Islam and Judaism there’s a sense that one’s relationship [to God] is [through religious] law,” said Samuel Fleischacker, Professor at UIC, director of Jewish Studies, and the organizer of this conference. Fleischacker says that there is a tension for these women between wanting to stick to traditional religious laws, and taking up leadership positions in their communities, and in turn breaking into Western society.

“There’s a lot of deference to the past.” These women want to show certain respect to the way things were done before.

Religious law is considered a “good thing,” said Fleischacker. The Halacha (Jewish Law) and the Sharia (Islamic Law) are a part of the all encompassing practice of both religions.

Religious requirements like Muslim women covering their hair, and Jewish women covering their hair after they get married are just some of the issues modern women face today. Leadership in their communities is another. Can Muslim women lead prayer? Can Jewish women become rabbis?

Leadership, women’s dress, prayer, and women’s education are all issues that wiwere covered in the conference. The introductory session, “General Issues: Change in Sharia and Halacha” featured one speaker from the Muslim perspective, and one from the Jewish perspective. Fleischacker emphasized that one of the aims of this conference was bringing Muslim and Jewish women together. He said that Jews and Muslims don’t know much about each other, in general due to some tensions between both communities.

“I don’t think Jewish and Muslim women know each other.” This conference was an attempt to ‘look ahead,’ and start a conversation with both sides. Since it is a part of the “Jewish/Muslim Initiative” at UIC, the conference aimed to have speakers discuss their current positions in the area of their womanly and religious rights.

The “Jewish/Muslim Initiative” is a Postdoctoral Fellowship that enables applicants to teach through a Jewish-Muslim lens at UIC.

“I think all of them [the speakers] are committed to their tradition, and their communities,” said Fleischacker.

Tova Hartman, and Najeeba Syeed-Miller spoke about “General Issues: Change in Sharia and Halacha.” Tahera Ahmad, Marcia Hermansen, and Erin Leib Smokler spoke about “Specific Issues I: Dress; Study and Teaching” and Ruth Balinsky, Hina Azam, and Deborah Klapper spoke about “Specific Issues II: Leadership; Prayer.”

The conference was “an attempt to explore issues and spark a conversation that would go on.”

3rd Annual International Conference on
Religion, Conflict, and Peace:”
Walking The Talk to Compassion and Harmony


April 8-10, 2011
Henry Ford Community College
Dearborn, Michigan USA


A Multi-disciplinary, Multi-cultural Conference

an Official Partner and Event of
the Charter For Compassion
and
the Parliament of World’s Religions

Sponsored by:
Common Bond Institute,
Co-Sponsored by:
Pathways To Peace, Henry Ford Community College,
International Humanistic Psychology Association,

Endorsed by over 100 universities and organizations internationally

Full Conference Details at:
www.cbiworld.org/Pages/Conferences_RCP.htm
(copy & paste address into your browser)

~ Registration is Open All ~


We Invite You To:
an inclusive, interactive 3-day public forum promoting Inter-religious and Intra-religious dialogue to explore the challenges of Extremism, Intolerance, Scapegoating, and Islamophobia, and the promise of Reason, Understanding, Compassion, and Cultural Harmony.

JOIN over 45 Presenters and Facilitators as we explore:
  1)  The mutual dilemmas of religious ignorance, extremism, intolerance, negative stereotypes, prejudice, demonization and dehumanization, scapegoating, and fear of “the other,” that lead to toxic divisiveness, polarization, and social paranoia, including the current example of Islamophobia and it’s impact on the Muslim community,
and
  2)  The promise of personal engagement through dialogue and practical applications in nurturing a shared consciousness of peace – and in doing so promoting the religious experience as a healing remedy rather than problem.

FORMAT:
An outstanding, diverse gathering of presenters for 3 Days of keynotes, workshops, panels, dialogue groups, live global links, film showings, social/cultural events, exhibits, multicultural community, and rich networking for collaborative action beyond the conference.

  ”It does not require that we be the same to be appreciative of, at peace with, and secure in our relationships with each other; only that we be familiar enough with each others story to share the humanity and trustworthiness that resides in each of us.”

LOCATION:    Henry Ford Community College
5101 Evergreen Rd., Dearborn, MI. USA

SCHEDULE:
  Fri. April 8, 10:00 am -to- Sun. April 10, 2:30 pm
       (On-site Registration opens 8:30 am)


FOR DETAILS on Proposals, Program, Registration, Fees, Program Ads, Exhibits, and previous conference Proceedings CONTACT:

Common Bond Institute
Details at Website:www.cbiworld.org
Steve Olweean, Conference Coordinator
12170 S. Pine Ayr Drive, Climax, MI 49034 USA
Ph/Fax: 269-665-9393    Email: SOlweean@aol.com

Children of Peace 1

 The Chidllren of Peace singing “We are Children of Peace!!”

Interfaith Clergy 

The Rev. Sandra K. Gordon, Imam Achmat Salie, The Rev. Rod Reinhart, The Rev. Kenneth Flowers, Rabbi Jen Kaluzny, and Rabbi Marla Hornsten on the Bimah or Temple Israel to say the Interfaith Pledge for World Peace!!

Ben Falik

Ben Falik, receiving the World Sabbath Peace Award, from the Rev. Rod Reinhart, founder of the World Sabbath.

January 30th, 2011 was the Twelfth Annual World Sabbath at Temple Israel in West Bloomfield.  This wonderful interfaith service grew out of concerns raised by wars that had been raging around the world – in Serbia, Kosovo, Ireland and the Middle East. The Rev. Rod Reinhart  decided to underscore the message that God was a God of peace, and in spite of all the differences and disagreements among religious groups, the central message of all faiths was that we are all called upon to build a world of tolerance and justice.  So Rod created and proclaimed that the World Sabbath would be an interfaith holy day of peace among all religions, races, ethnic groups and nations. The Rev. Reinhart took this idea to Father Ed Mullins at Christ Church Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills, and Father Ed felt called upon to make Christ Church Cranbrook the host and center of the World Sabbath Interfaith Holy Day, starting in the year 2000.  In 2004 the Reverend Rod Reinhart moved to Chicago, and Gail Katz, a West Bloomfield interfaith activistand President of WISDOM (Women’s Interfaith Solutions for Dialogue and Outreach in MetroDetroit), took over as the chair person of this event, and along with the efforts of the World Sabbath Committee, the message of the World Sabbath has spread throughout Metro Detroit.  Because of Gail’s background as a elementary and middle school teacher and diversity club sponsor, she felt the committee needed to change the focus of the World Sabbath from the clergy giving the calls to prayer for world peace, to participation of our community’s youth and young adults. The World Sabbath is nowheld on the last Sunday afternoon in January with a Jewish young adult blowing the shofar, a Muslim youth chanting the Muslim Call to Prayer, followed by middle school, high school and college youth giving additional prayers for world peace from many other religions – Jain, Buddhist, Baha’i,  Zoroastrian, Christian, Hindu, Native American, Sikh, Quaker, and Unitarian faith traditions for example.  In addition the World Sabbath features musical offerings – choirs, bands, dance groups, and chantings that reflect the individual language, culture and tradition of the many religions that are represented at the World Sabbath.  Attendees have been enchanted by Hindu dancers, Yiddish Klezmer music, Jain songs, Sikh Shabads, Christian Dance ensembles, and Arabic elementary school drummers.  To Gail Katz the highlight of every World Sabbath is the inclusion of third through sixth graders who decorate white cotton banners with their ideas about World Peace.  These banners are stapled to pieces of basswood to make flags that the children proudly display as they march in the processional into the sanctuary.  These banners are then sewn into a Children of Peace Quilt (three of them have been completed so far) which are proudly displayed at the World Sabbath services.  The Children of Peace, the youth, and the young adults who participate in the Peace Prayers and the musical offerings bring their friends and family to the World Sabbath, and the event has grown immensely – so big that the sanctuary at Christ Church Cranbrook, where the first ten World Sabbath Services were held, is no longer large enough. The World Sabbath now travels each year to a new venue.  This past January 30th, 2011 the World Sabbath was held at Temple Israel in West Bloomfield – the first time in a Jewish house of worship.

The mission of the World Sabbath is to teach our diverse population in Metro Detroit that the work of building a community of justice, equality, respect and peace is a calling that we all share – all of us, no matter what our faith tradition might be. But most important to Gail Katz is the fact that the World Sabbath is impacting our children, our teens, and our young adults.  The Twelfth Annual World Sabbath began with the beautiful Yiddish melodies of Kidz Klez, a band made up of Jewish middle and high school students.  The World Sabbath processional included close to 100 children of eleven differentfaith traditions, proudly waving the peace banners that they decorated themselves. These children came up to the Temple Israel bimah, andsang the song “We Are Children of Peace” led by Temple Israel’s Teen T’filah Team under the direction of Cantor Michael Smolash. You could see the hope and the tears in the eyes of the adults in the congregation!!

Ben Falik, co-founder of Summer in the City, an initiative that involves our young people as volunteers, was the 2011 recipient of the World Sabbath Peace Award.  About 30 clergy and religious leaders of many faiths were invited to participate in this year’s service, and were all called up to read the InterfaithPledge together about building a world of tolerance, justice, faithfulness, and peace, a pledge that the committee hopes will be a wonderful role model for our youth.The World Sabbath concluded with the clergy of Temple Israel – Rabbi Josh Bennett, Rabbi Jen Kaluzny, and Rabbi Marla Hornsten – passing the World Sabbath Banner and the Peace Scarf on to next year’s hosts of the Thirteenth World Sabbath to be held on January 29, 2012 – the Rev. Kenneth Flowers and the Rev. Sandra K. Gordon of the Greater New Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church of Detroit.  This Twelfth Annual World Sabbath at Temple Israel was a happening filled with hope!!

 

SCHOOLS SAY THE SIKH RELIGIOUS DAGGER IS OKAY!!

The Plymouth-Canton school district has opted to allow Sikh students to wear a small, religious dagger to school.

The decision reverses a ban put in place in December after a fourth-grade boy at Bentley Elementary School in Canton was found with a dull 3- to 5-inch kirpan, a dagger that is a religious symbol baptized Sikh males are expected to carry.

In Sikh tradition, the kirpan represents a commitment to fight evil.

The principal initially let the boy keep the kirpan, but the school board instituted a ban because of concerns from parents and conflicts with the district’s prohibitions against bringing weapons to school. Under new guidelines, kirpans meeting certain criteria will be allowed for Sikh students.

“While our school district is committed to providing a safe learning environment for all of our students, we must also balance the rights of students to express and practice their religion. In light of the strict scrutiny standard applied by Michigan courts in determining whether an individual’s right to freely exercise his or her religion has been violated, the district will amend its blanket restriction against wearing the kirpan in school,” according to a note the district sent to parents on Friday.

School district officials met Sunday with the Sikh community at a gurdwara, a Sikh religion center, in Canton. They listened to the community’s concerns and learned about the Sikh faith, said district spokesman Frank Ruggirello Jr.

Earlier, the district had received letters from three national Sikh groups expressing their concerns about any ban on kirpans.

Regarding the school’s policy, Ruggirello said: “I’m confident we got a good plan for the community … I think we found a happy medium.”

In the note to parents, the district set out several rules allowing students to wear kirpans:

· Any kirpan worn at school should be sewn inside a sheath in such a way that the blade cannot be removed from the sheath.

· The blade of the kirpan is restricted to no more than 2 1/4 inches. This would take the object outside the scope of the Revised School Code’s definition of a knife constituting a dangerous weapon.

· The blade of the kirpan must be dull.

· The kirpan should not be worn on the outside of the clothing and should not be visible in any way.

Read the article in the Detroit Free Press February 5th about the Sikh faith and its challenges in the United States!!

http://www.freep.com/fdcp/?1296909507434

 

Muslim Students Association

 

 

Water Women and WISDOM

Teenage Interfaith Diversity Education Conference —

Boston, Massachusetts

Interfaith Action’s Youth Leadership Program presents the fifth annual Teenage Interfaith Diversity Education (TIDE) Conference.  The TIDE Conference is organized and led by teens who wish to spread pluralism, increase the impact of teenage voices, and have their presence felt as a positive force in the global community.  The three-day conference is planned by fifty high school students of diverse religious and cultural backgrounds, and held at Northeastern University over Memorial Day Weekend, May 27-29, 2011.  The goals of the conference are to train teens to communicate respectfully and use their skills in discussions about highly charged issues; develop leadership and facilitation skills; and foster bonds and lasting friendships among the youth in attendance. Conference attendees will participate in workshops, dialogues, and other activities throughout the weekend that allow them to discover more about themselves and their understanding of personal identity; learn about the beliefs and identities of others; and make their voices heard.  By the end of the weekend, teens will gain the skills needed to break down religious and ethnic barriers while becoming leaders in their communities.  Adults working with teens have the opportunity to attend a parallel but separate adult track at the conference.

Many of the conflicts that occur across the world are a result of cultural misunderstandings and a lack of tolerance and leadership. Participation in the TIDE Conference is one leap towards a more harmonious and peaceful world, led by strong individuals who have fostered their skills as teens!

The TIDE Conference has been officially designated as a Post-Parliament Event by the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions (CPWR).  The conference is sponsored by Interfaith Action, Inc. in collaboration with the Brudnick Center for the Study of Violence and Conflict at Northeastern University.

More information about the conference and how you can register is available at

www.ifaction.org <http://www.ifaction.org/> .   Outside groups and individuals may submit workshop proposals to showcase their work during the Sunday track of the conference.  All proposals are due by April 1, 2011.  More information about this opportunity may also be found on Interfaith Action’s website.

Please contact Jason Smith, Youth Program Director, athttps://ui.constantcontact.com/rnavmap/em/ecampaign/Jason@ifaction.org

with any further questions or requests for additional information.

Angels and Apsaras: Common Ground?

As I began to reflect and do research on the topic of angels in the Hindu tradition, I began to wonder if I had done the right thing. What common ground could I find for angels and Hinduism?

By Padma Kuppa, February 03, 2011

Recently, I was invited to participate in an interfaith event entitled Angels in Religion. This WISDOM community-wide meeting featured artist Lisa Berman, who talked about her sculpture of an angel that was placed in a Catholic cemetery, and what she, a Jewish woman, had learned about angels in the Torah as she crafted this angel. Lisa’s presentation was followed by a panel discussion of angels in Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam. The event was open to everyone and was free of cost. As I began to reflect and do research on the topic of angels in the Hindu tradition, I began to wonder if I had done the right thing. What could I say that was relevant, and what common ground could I find for angels and Hinduism?

As the only non-Abrahamic representative on the panel, I wanted to share concepts from the Hindu tradition, with a hope that my sharing would clear up some of the common misconceptions, and possibly find some universality out of the particularities of our beliefs and practices. While accepting the invitation to participate in the panel, I mentioned to Gail Katz, the President of a non-profit women’s organization whose board I sit on, that I took the opportunity since interfaith dialogue is so often these days construed to be between the Abrahamic faiths. For the last five years and more, I have been inserting the word ‘Shanti’ into the “Salaam, Shalom, Peace” used in the interfaith landscape here in metro-Detroit. Because of the contentious nature of current relationships between these faith communities, I thought that including my bit of Eastern philosophy into our Western understanding of angels would help broaden the focus. It was also an opportunity for me to research my own tradition, starting with the translation of the word “angel” into my mother tongue (Telugu) as well as the language of my scripture (Sanskrit). And listening and learning of others’ faith always deepens my own. After all, as Mahatma Gandhi said in Young India (19 January 1928)… our innermost prayer should be … a Hindu should be a better Hindu, a Muslim a better Muslim, a Christian a better Christian.”

I started my research with dictionary definitions of the word “angel”: one of a class of spiritual beings; a celestial attendant of God. In medieval angelology, angels constituted the lowest of the nine celestial orders. So I knew I had to go further; ‘medieval’ brings up a primarily Christian image. A second definition-a conventional representation of such a being, in human form, with wings, usually in white robes-reminded me of how I have been trained to imagine angels. Despite growing up in the Northeastern U.S., though, I always thought the apsara Menaka in the picture books I read looked like an angel-Menaka, a celestial nymph, descended from the heavens to leave her infant Shakuntala in the ashram of a sage.

Yet another definition of angel-a messenger, esp. of God-was one that my Hindu WISDOM “sisters” suggested, i.e., that of the divine messenger, Sage Narada. (The “sister” is something we call our Friends and Board members of WISDOM.) And this last definition-an attendant or guardian spirit-led me in the final minutes of my ten-minute presentation to expand on the concept of Ishta Devata. Deva, devata are both words that mean God, who, for a Hindu, can be without form, of many forms, or an infinite form. And so, the God with form can be worshipped and prayed to in the form of a cherished deity, the Ishta Devata. Hindus havemurtis -representations of the devas and devatas-in temples and in shrines or altars in their homes. In bhakti marga, the path of devotion, a Hindu chooses an Ishta Devata for contemplation and worship, supplicating the devata for deliverance (from ignorance) and protection, sort of like hoping that an angel is watching over you.

I spoke to a fully engaged audience of almost sixty, after Lisa’s enlightening and touching presentation on how she and another artist created a beautiful bronze angel who would watch over those who lay in their final resting places in a Catholic cemetery. Then, I was “the other” as I listened to clear scriptural references and quotes about angels from the Bible and the Quran, from my co-panelists-a Japanese American Christian and a Muslim who emigrated from the Middle East, who narrated the story of Mary and Joseph from the Islamic scripture.

The evening concluded with a short question-and-answer session, and someone asked about the Angel of Death-is he considered good or bad [from our various perspectives]? The highlight of the evening for me was the way my WISDOM sister Dima’s eyes lit with recognition when I responded, “The Hindus consider Yama, the God of Death, to be neither good nor bad-only just.” Perhaps angels or apsaras were watching over us, bringing us to the place where we can create common ground.

Padma Kuppa is a writer, IT professional, community activist,wife, and mother working to build a more pluralistic society within a Hindu and interfaith framework. You can also read her blog A Balancing Act, at padmakuppa.blogspot.com. The views represented in this column are not a reflection of the views of any organization of which she is a part.

THE WISDOM BOARD AND THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF JEWISH WOMEN

STUFF BACKPACKS TOGETHER ON SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 6TH

TO HELP HOMELESS CHILDREN IN OAKLAND COUNTY WITH

MUCH NEEDED SCHOOL SUPPLIES

Backpacks 1

backpacks 2

Jewish piano prodigy plays benefit concert for Iraqi Christian refugees.

Ethan Bortnick, who came to Michigan three years ago to entertain at an event celebrating the local Chabad organization, returns to entertain at an event raising funds for the Adopt-aRefugee Family program benefiting displaced Iraqi Christians.

The concert, 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 18, at the Royal Oak Music Theatre, is part of the “Ethan Bortnick and His Musical Time Machine” tour. The piano serves as the time machine leading audiences on musical journeys featuring classical, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and other types of selections.

“It doesn’t matter what religion people are or what skin color they have,” says Ethan, 10, whose talents are extended to many charitable organizations. “We have to help.

“I know how important it is for refugees not to be forgotten. My family came from Ukraine and were refugees. I will do my best to make the concert amazing so that more families can be helped.

“I’m writing a song with both words and music for the organization. I learn about a program and how it works and then write a song.
I stay at the piano figuring it out.”

Ethan, appearing at ease being interviewed by Jay Leno or Oprah Winfrey, showed a musical interest that his parents, Hannah and Gene Bortnick, didn’t take seriously when the entertainer was 3 years old.

“I listened to Baby Einstein CDs and asked my mom and dad for piano lessons,” recalls Ethan, who last summer became the youngest musi cian with a PBS concert special. “I had a toy keyboard and was able to play a Mozart piece that I had heard.

“My mom and dad weren’t watching while I was at the keyboard and asked who was playing. When I said it was me, they said, `You’re getting a piano!’” The youngster got national attention with the help of neighbors, who contacted the Jay Leno staff.

Cameron Diaz, appearing on the same initial program, suggested the boy to her agent.

Ethan, who plays by ear and extends his knowledge with two private teachers, attends Jewish day school in Florida. While he is on the road, he takes along assignments and connects with the classroom through Skype.

“Basically, I’m a regular kid who plays a little piano,” says Ethan, already thinking about his bar mitz vah and whether it can take place in Israel, where his mother lived before coming to the U.S. “I love to play video games with my brother, read, go to school and eat.”

Ethan’s commitment to community was inspired by his brother, Nathan, 5, who had heart surgery at a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. Ethan, who wrote a song for the network and performed at an organization event, also joined music’s biggest names as the young est member of the all-star “We Are The World 25 For Haiti” recording.

“My goal is to help a lot of people,” Ethan says.

 

Ethan Bortnick performed Feb. 18, at the Royal Oak Music Theatre

Asian Indian event
Five Women Five Journeys: How Different Are We?
 WISDOM Women together

This unique WISDOM program features personal stories of women of different faith traditions – how their childhood impacted their beliefs today, what the challenges are for women in their faith tradition, what parts of their religion are misunderstood, how reaching out to someone from a different faith has enriched their lives.
To inquire about a Five Women Five Journeys Program for your organization, contact Elaine Schonberger at bookfairmama@comcast.net or Paula Drewek at Drewekpau@aol.com .
Check out the latest story about a friendship that crosses religion, race, or ethnic boundaries at www.friendshipandfaith.com.
Email Gail Katz at gailkatz@comcast.net if you have a personal story for the friendshipandfaith.com website!!
LINKS THAT YOU CAN USE FOR MORE INFORMATION!!

 1)  Go to http://www.readthespirit.com/religious-holidays-festivals/ for fascinating information about upcoming Religious holidays that your neighbors of different faith traditions may be celebrating!!

2)   Go to http://www.readthespirit.com/were-making-news/ for a listing of all the articles written about the WISDOM Book Friendship and Faith: the WISDOM of Women Creating Alliances for Peace.

Go to our WISDOM websites at www.interfaithwisdom.org

Read our interfaith story of the week from our book Friendship and Faith,

and find the link to buy the book at

Amazon at

 
Contact Information

 

Gail Katz gailkatz@comcast.net
phone: 248-978-6664

Join Our Mailing List

BECOME A FRIEND OF WISDOM!  Click on this link to go to the WISDOM website (right side of home page) to print out form to support WISDOM.

WISDOM Newsletter – February 2011

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

THE WISDOM WINDOW

 

FEBRUARY 2011

WISDOM
 

 WISDOM Calendar of Events

 SEE WISDOM’S WEBSITE FOR MORE DETAILS!!
 
Tuesday, February 1st
Five Women Five Journeys Presentation to Tenth and Eleventh Graders at Andover High School in the Bloomfield Hills School District!!
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 6TH
1:00 PM – 3:00 PM   WISDOM Board meets and greets women from the National Council of Jewish Women at lunch and then we jointly stuff backpacks with school supplies.  Backpacks will go to homeless children in Oakland County.
Thursday, March 17th

6:15 PM Community Forum entitled “Water, Women, and WISDOM” –  Panel Discussion for Women’s History Month!! – Topic will be about Water – and how the lack of clean water impacts women and children worldwide!! 6:15 – 8:30 PM at the Bloomfield Township Public Library on Telegraph and Lone Pine in Bloomfield Hills.  Open to the Public!!
Wednesday, March 23rd
Five Women Five Journeys hosted by St. Hugo of the Hills, 2215 Opdyke Rd., Bloomfield Hills, in conjunction with Temple Beth El, the Muslim Unity Center and Kirk in the Hills Presbyterian Church all of Bloomfield Hills.  7:00 PM.
Wednesday, May 11th
Five Women Five Journeys sponsored by the AAUW (American Association of University Women) at Plum Hollow Country Club, 21631 Lahser Rd., Southfield, 1:00 PM
Thursday, June 30th through Friday, July 1st
Five Women Five Journeys at the Bay View Association, Petoskey, MI.  Thursday evening 7:00 PM, Friday morning, Meet and Greet the WISDOM Women.
 
 

WISDOM holds Community Forum about “Angels in Religions” on January 20th at the Bloomfield Township Library.

Angels two

Lisa Berman speaks about the angel that she crafted and about Angels in Judaism.

Angels one

 

Mazan Tayyen, Motoko Huthwaite, and Padma Kuppa speak about angels in Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism at the WISDOM Angels in Religions event

 

Padma Kuppa

Padma Kuppa

Columnist

Padma Kuppa is a Hindu American and community activist working for social justice and understanding. Born in India, she arrived in the U.S. to start kindergarten in 1970 on Long Island. When she completed tenth grade, her family returned to India where she finished college and experienced living in a mainstream Hindu culture. She returned to NY in 1988 to go to grad school and then got her greencard. After getting married and having two kids, she (and her family) moved to Troy, Michigan in 1998. She is a founding member of the Troy Interfaith Group as well as the Bharatiya Temple’s Outreach Committee. She is a member of the Hindu American Foundation’s Executive Council and the newly formed Hindu American Seva Charities. Her work with WISDOM, Women’s Interfaith Solutions for Dialogue and Outreach in Metro-detroit, exemplifies how forming friendships is the way to build peace and promote pluralism. Her faith has been strengthened and deepened through her personal experiences and struggles, while her interest and search for more knowledge and understanding of Hindu philosophy is a family tradition. Whether she works as IT project manager, writer, or diversity consultant, being a mom is the most important! You can also read her blog A Balancing Act, at padmakuppa.blogspot.com. The views represented in this column are not a reflection of the views of any organization of which she is a part.

Our Hindu Inheritance

Whether yoga is considered Hindu or not, religious or spiritual, its beauty is the universality of its application, and it is what people make it.

 

A couple of summers ago, my children and I-lovers of sci-fi and fantasy fiction-were reading the second book of the Inheritance series by Christopher Paolini. We have found so much Hindu philosophy in that genre-C. S. Lewis (Aslan’s “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name.”), J. K. Rowling (Dumbledore’s “It is our choices … that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”), to name two. It was no surprise that we found the same in this second book about Eragon’s adventures.

From the elf known as the Mourning Sage, Oromis, or Togira Ikonoka, Eragon learns to do the Rimgar, or the Dance of Snake and Crane, a series of poses that the elves developed to prepare their warriors for battle, and to meditate in the forest glades of the elven kingdom, Ellesmera. Rimgar reminded us of yoga, with its four different levels, based on flexibility and strength, and the first actions-to bring the hands from the side to above the head, followed by bending down, touching the ground with the palms, and jumping back.

What also didn’t surprise us is the Japanese-sounding name (Togira Ikonoka) given to Eragon’s Master, rather than linking the yoga-like exercise to the geographic region where it originated and continues to be practiced over the centuries. Our inheritance, as Hindus-those whose faith has been classified as the religion Hinduism in the Western world-has often been denied us. I recently questioned David Crumm, a journalist, about this quote from his ReadtheSpirit.com site: “The term ‘Vedanta’ refers to spiritual movements that stem from the ancient religious traditions of India.” As I said to David, Vedanta-a combination of veda (the Sanskrit word used to identify the body of Hindu scriptures) + anta (end)-is, through this statement, somehow separated from the Hindu faith tradition from which it is derived. We can extend this denial of Hindu origins to yoga, a Sanskrit word, with its simplest meaning, “union.” Yoga’s common connotation in the community I live in-a suburb of metro-Detroit striving to come to terms with its religious and cultural diversity-represents a form of exercise known as hatha yoga. In fact, a few local churches even offer “Christian yoga.”

As David’s response to my question stated, what we mean by Hindu is complex. Dictionary.com has various definitions for the word “faith,” but one that highlights the complexity of being a Hindu is: “a system of religious belief: the Christian faith; the Jewish faith.” What happens when the system of religious belief is itself so complex that it defies the term “religion”? (Again, from dictionary.com-“a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.”) The fundamental set of Hindu beliefs consists of statements and ideas at opposite ends of the spectrum-take Nirguna and Saguna Brahman (god without any form and god with many beautiful forms). Many Hindus I know say “I am not religious, I am spiritual,” and often I am questioned about my Hindu advocacy-“Who or what is a Hindu?”

In my treasure trove of Hindu scriptural texts is a book from my father: Swami Prabhavananda’s translation and commentary on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, a Hindu scripture and foundational text on yoga. In this book and in the Bhagavad Gita, yoga comes to mean a form of spiritual union with the Supreme Spirit. Patanjali’s aphorisms and the Gita, while they may require translation and commentaries, still point to the simple fact that the various forms of yoga-karma, bhakti, jnana, dhyana, etc.-guide someone who follows the Hindu faith to The Truth as described by the Rig Veda phrase “Ekam Sat.” So, while the concept of yoga is rooted in Sanatana Dharma, yoga requires sadhana-practice-which is something anyone can do, according to their religious tradition.

This leads me to the recent debates-around the world and across the religious landscape-about whether or not yoga originates from Hinduism. This discourse seems to have become a challenge to those who do not embrace the plurality of belief systems, that there are multiple valid pathways to God, and that the world is changing. To compare Eastern and Western ways of thinking is, as Swami Prabhavananda says, “neither fair nor valid.” So, whether yoga is considered Hindu or not, religious or spiritual, its beauty is the universality of its application, and it is what people make it. As I told my children, whether the acknowledgement of yoga’s roots is missing or misleading, it is still our Hindu inheritance.

INTERFAITH ARTICLES OF INTEREST

 

Here are two articles about interfaith interaction between the

Muslim and Jewish Communities.

 

1)  Please go to the following website to read about what’s going on in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

http://www.jewishexponent.com/article/22536

 

2)  The Following article describes interfaith initiatives in Dayton Ohio among the Abrahamic Faiths.

http://www.jewishdayton.org/page.aspx?id=235745&utm_source=MPACnews&utm_campaign=70eb0d058d-WD-2011-Is-Here&utm_medium=email

 

3)  This article describes the joint efforts between the Hindu and the Jewish communities of Houston, Texas!!

 

http://jhvonline.com/local-event-promotes-hindujewish-solidarity-p10396-96.htm

 

 

 

The language of interfaith conversation

Mindful interfaith language expresses our common humanity, builds relationships of respect and trust, and pursues peace

By Larry (J.W.) Windland

 

The journey into interfaith conversation is not unlike a journey around the world. Instantly we are connected with diverse cultures, customs and concepts. Just as when visiting distant lands we may pick up a phrase book to learn how to facilitate basic communication, a simple phrase book for interfaith conversation may be helpful. The following is not so much a Glossary of Interfaith Words but rather possible chapter headings if such a book actually existed.

Mindful vocabulary

One parlance of interfaith language is Mindful Vocabulary. A church is not a synagogue. A synagogue is not a masjid (mosque). A masjid is not a gurdwara (Sikh house of worship). Using the correct term indicates that you have taken the time to become at least basically aware of the conversation partner’s faith tradition. But interfaith language can be very confusing. Perhaps instead of faith-specific terms, faith-neutral terms may serve better. For example, “house of worship” is a term that fits most traditions and communicates what you intend to say without calling an apple an orange. Because some traditions such as Native spirituality or Baha’i do not necessarily have a traditional “house” of worship, the term “place of worship” may be even more suitable. Developing a type of informal, all-purpose Interfaith Glossary is a helpful exercise that heightens an awareness of the words we use and dissolves the presumption that “everyone is just like me.”

Mindful respect

A second suggestion for interfaith conversation is the language of Mindful Respect. Learning simple greetings is an expression of respect and honour for another’s tradition and culture. Examples include Namaste (Hinduism), Shalom (Judaism), Asalaam Alaikum (Islam), Sat Sri Akaal (Sikhism). You’ll find diverse greetings interesting to learn and fun to use. Mindful respect in interfaith conversation is not only about what you might want to say but also what you might not want to say. Avoiding offensive or judgmental terms requires the language of mindful respect. Instead of referring to a particular ritual or event as “strange” or “weird,” use terms like “unfamiliar to me” or ” different than I have seen before.” Using the language of mindful respect communicates a sense of dignity and worth toward the dialogue partner.

Insider-outsider language

A third suggestion for interfaith conversation is Mindful Use of Insider/Outsider Language. Every faith tradition has its own lexicon. Sikhs know well what is meant by kangha, Muslims know wudu, Buddhists know tanha, Jews know aliyah. However, each faith tradition may be unfamiliar with the language of the others. In order to be understood in interfaith conversations, it helps to be mindful that you are speaking to an “outsider” who may not know your faith’s vocabulary. Using straightforward outsider definitions: “small wooden comb” (kangha), “ritual washing” (wudu), “selfish craving” (tanha), “going up to read the Torah” (aliyah) insures that you will more likely understand as well as be understood.

Gentle commitment

A fourth suggestion for interfaith language is Mindful Gentle Commitment. Interfaith conversation does not mean hiding or temporizing one’s own strongly held beliefs. Indeed the best interfaith conversation is between faithful commitments. It is often through the shared commitments of dialogue partners that beliefs are mutually enhanced and enriched. Such sharing can be done – indeed, must be done – in the language of gentleness that is not exclusive, arrogant or patronizing. When a Jew proclaims that the messiah has not yet come, a Christian will disagree; when a Christian proclaims that Jesus is the Christ, a Muslim will disagree; when a Muslim proclaims that Mohammed is the seal of the prophets, a Mormon will disagree; and on and on.

The language of interfaith conversation calls us to be mindful that our commitments are just that, our commitments, and not the commitments of others. We share commitments so that we may understand one another, not that we may convince or convert one another. Perhaps two helpful words to add to our interfaith phrase book are “for me.” The messiah has not yet come, for me. Jesus is the Christ, for me. Mohammed is the seal of the prophet, for me. The language of gentle commitment in interfaith sharing clarifies other people’s beliefs as well as our own.

Interfaith language, like any other language, includes both speaking and understanding. A more mindful language is just one of many tools to make this possible. As you engage in interfaith conversation you will no doubt think of many other chapter headings for a phrase book of mindful interfaith language. Such language expresses our common humanity, promotes civility and builds relationships of mutual respect and trust. Such language pursues peace.

Debbie Friedman, Jewish songwriter and performer, dies at 59

Debbie Friedman is credited with bringing a more folksy, sing-along style to American congregations.  (Photo courtesy of Limmud/Flickr)

 

Article from the New York Times, January 11, 2011

By Margalit Fox

 

Debbie Friedman, a singer and songwriter whose work – which married traditional Jewish texts to contemporary folk-infused melodies – is credited with helping give ancient liturgy broad appeal to late-20th-century worshippers, died on Sunday in Mission Viejo, Calif. She was 59 and lived in Laguna Woods, Calif.

The cause was complications of pneumonia, said Jerry Kaye, a family spokesman. Ms. Friedman, who continued performing in public until the end of her life, had been ill for the past two decades with a chronic, often debilitating and never definitively diagnosed neurological condition.

One of the brightest stars of the Jewish music world, Ms. Friedman was called “the Joan Baez of Jewish song,” as the Jewish newspaper The Forward wrote in 1995. She was known for her clear, strong voice and for the intense spiritual conviction with which she sang as she accompanied herself on the guitar.

She recorded more than 20 albums, which together have sold half a million copies. Among them are “Miracles & Wonders,” “Renewal of Spirit,” “You Shall Be a Blessing” and “The Water in the Well.”

Ms. Friedman’s compositions encompass not only modern settings of traditional Hebrew liturgy but also songs for which she wrote original English lyrics. Regularly sung by congregants in Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative and some Modern Orthodox synagogues (as well as in some Christian churches), they are widely credited with having revitalized worship for a generation of postwar American Jews.

To an extent, her work also made its way into the mainstream marketplace. Her music appears on the video “Barney in Concert,” on which the purple dinosaur sings her setting of the Hebrew alphabet for children; her lyrics have been featured on a line of Hallmark cards. In live performance, Ms. Friedman sang on some of the world’s most storied concert stages, including Carnegie Hall.

In 2007, Ms. Friedman joined the faculty of the School of Sacred Music at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in New York, where she taught Reform rabbinical and cantorial students; she later taught at Hebrew Union College’s Los Angeles campus.

Her appointment was striking for two reasons: first, because she was a largely self-taught musician who did not know how to read music, and second, because her work – inclusive, progressive and strongly feminist – was perceived as a threat to established cantorial tradition when she began her career in the early 1970s.

Deborah Lynn Friedman was born on Feb. 23, 1951, in Utica, N.Y., to parents who belonged variously to Conservative and Reform synagogues. When she was a child, the family moved to Minnesota, and she grew up in St. Paul.

As a teenager, she was enraptured both by Jewish and folk music; she taught herself to play the guitar from the records of Peter, Paul and Mary, and her music would be likened to theirs.

After high school, Ms. Friedman worked briefly on an Israeli kibbutz before returning to the United States.

“One night I went to synagogue, and realized, sitting there, I was bored,” she told The Los Angeles Times in 1995. “I realized the rabbi was talking, the choir was singing and nobody was doing anything. There was no participation.”

Not long afterward, an original melody came to her, and as an experiment, she set to it the words of “V’ahavta,” a prayer drawn from Deuteronomy that commands Jews to love God.

“I sang it with some high school kids, who sang it arm in arm, crying and singing,” Ms. Friedman told Lilith magazine in 1995. “They were looking for a spiritual avenue of their own.”

With that, Ms. Friedman had found her calling; her first album, “Sing Unto God,” a collection of Sabbath songs, was released in 1972.

While some rabbis and cantors welcomed her music as a democratizing force, others saw it as a subversive breach of time-honored tradition, in which the cantor was typically white-haired, always male and usually vocally imposing and the congregants were passive listeners.

By contrast, Ms. Friedman’s music emphasized audience participation. (At her concerts, she encouraged audience members to sing along; many also danced in the aisles.) It centered on themes like healing, a concern that stemmed partly from her years of chronic illness. (Her most famous song is a setting of “Mi Shebeirach,” a Hebrew prayer for the sick.)

Many of her English lyrics concerned the empowerment of women and other disenfranchised groups, stemming, her associates said on Monday, from the quiet pride she took in her life as a gay woman.

Ms. Friedman is survived by her mother, Freda, and two sisters, Cheryl Friedman and Barbara Egli.

She was the subject of a documentary film, “A Journey of Spirit,” which followed her from 1997 to 2002.

If Ms. Friedman never attained the vast crossover success of Amy Grant, the Christian pop singer with whom she was often compared, it did not seem to bother her. In an interview with The Palm Beach Post in 2004, Ms. Friedman recounted her response to a music-industry executive who accused her of being just a big fish in a small pond.

“I’m not a fish,” Ms. Friedman replied.

3rd Annual International Conference on
Religion, Conflict, and Peace:”
Walking The Talk to Compassion and Harmony


April 8-10, 2011
Henry Ford Community College
Dearborn, Michigan USA


A Multi-disciplinary, Multi-cultural Conference

an Official Partner and Event of
the Charter For Compassion
and
the Parliament of World’s Religions

Sponsored by:
Common Bond Institute,
Co-Sponsored by:
Pathways To Peace, Henry Ford Community College,
International Humanistic Psychology Association,

Endorsed by over 100 universities and organizations internationally

Full Conference Details at:
www.cbiworld.org/Pages/Conferences_RCP.htm
(copy & paste address into your browser)

~ Registration is Open All ~


We Invite You To:
an inclusive, interactive 3-day public forum promoting Inter-religious and Intra-religious dialogue to explore the challenges of Extremism, Intolerance, Scapegoating, and Islamophobia, and the promise of Reason, Understanding, Compassion, and Cultural Harmony.

JOIN over 45 Presenters and Facilitators as we explore:
  1)  The mutual dilemmas of religious ignorance, extremism, intolerance, negative stereotypes, prejudice, demonization and dehumanization, scapegoating, and fear of “the other,” that lead to toxic divisiveness, polarization, and social paranoia, including the current example of Islamophobia and it’s impact on the Muslim community,
and
  2)  The promise of personal engagement through dialogue and practical applications in nurturing a shared consciousness of peace – and in doing so promoting the religious experience as a healing remedy rather than problem.

FORMAT:
An outstanding, diverse gathering of presenters for 3 Days of keynotes, workshops, panels, dialogue groups, live global links, film showings, social/cultural events, exhibits, multicultural community, and rich networking for collaborative action beyond the conference.

  ”It does not require that we be the same to be appreciative of, at peace with, and secure in our relationships with each other; only that we be familiar enough with each others story to share the humanity and trustworthiness that resides in each of us.”

LOCATION:    Henry Ford Community College
5101 Evergreen Rd., Dearborn, MI. USA

SCHEDULE:
  Fri. April 8, 10:00 am -to- Sun. April 10, 2:30 pm
       (On-site Registration opens 8:30 am)


FOR DETAILS on Proposals, Program, Registration, Fees, Program Ads, Exhibits, and previous conference Proceedings CONTACT:

Common Bond Institute
Details at Website:www.cbiworld.org
Steve Olweean, Conference Coordinator
12170 S. Pine Ayr Drive, Climax, MI 49034 USA
Ph/Fax: 269-665-9393    Email: SOlweean@aol.com

OPEN HOUSE

Gurdwara Sahib Hidden Falls

40600 Schoolcraft

Plymouth, MI  48170

(northeast corner of Schoolcraft and Haggerty)

February 6, 2011

11:30 – 1:30

(Sikh religious service* and community lunch)

R.S.V.P.

Raman Singh rsingh65@comcast.net  313-492-7314

Jaspal Neelam neelamjk@comcast.net  248-765-4998

*during a Sikh religious service we cover our heads, remove our shoes and sit on the floor (if physically able).  Please dress appropriately and comfortably.  We will provide head coverings or you can bring your own scarf

Coptic Christians are Neighbors

by Abdul Malik Mujahid

President Sound Vision, and Chair Council for a Parliament of World Religions

Posted: January 7, 2011

 

I was horrified to read about the New Year’s Day bombing that killed 21 worshipers at the Coptic Christian Saints Church in Alexandria, Egypt. I join Muslim scholars around the world who have roundly condemned this act that directly contravenes Islamic teachings.

“Muslims are not only obligated not to harm Christians, but to protect and defend them and their places of worship,” said Imam Ahmed Al Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, in response to the attack.

Tense relations between people of different faiths are not limited to this horrific incident. Nor are they reserved to Egypt. Around the world, we are witnessing deadly extremism as well as intense conflict, whether the weapons are hateful words or bombs and guns.

Too often, religion is misused as an instrument for division and injustice. This betrays the very ideals and teachings that lie at the heart of each of the world’s great traditions. Religious and spiritual traditions shape the lives of billions around the world in wise and wonderful ways. They offer a platform for community building, not only within individual faiths, but across faiths as well.

The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions traces its roots to the first parliament that took place in Chicago almost 120 years ago. From the start, its aim has been to cultivate harmony among the world’s religious and spiritual communities. As well, the Council aims to foster their engagement with the world and its guiding institutions to achieve a just, peaceful, and sustainable world.

Over the years, the interfaith movement has initiated dialogues and nurtured relationships between people of varying faiths. In doing so, it has provided a framework for expressing many visions of a just, peaceful and sustainable future. In the process, religious and spiritual communities have discovered a shared commitment to ethical principles and engaged in seeking the common good.

This modern interfaith movement is taking root all across the world. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has established his own interfaith foundation; Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has found interfaith dialogue a crucial aspect of living in an interdependent world; last August, when a few Christian homes were attacked in Pakistan, the leader of the most conservative Islamic party in Karachi stood with Christians and Hindus protesting against this crime; when the Coptic Church was attacked on January 1, Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb, head of Al Azhar, visited the Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda III to express his solidarity. Students at Al-Azhar University also organized a protest rally in solidarity with Egyptian Copts.

These are just some ways that religious and spiritual communities around the world are working together for greater harmony. They don’t make the news headlines, since change for the good takes years and years of hard work, cooperation, exchange, trust-building, and community-building. In contrast, a car bombing takes just seconds to quickly put more than a dent in such cooperative relations.

Yet, an ongoing commitment to the ideal of interreligious and spiritual harmony cannot and is not shaken by incidents like the January 1 bombing in Egypt. On the contrary, they can and should strengthen our resolve and commitment to work together at a more serious level.

Religions can and have lived together for centuries in various parts of the world, despite years of conflict — whether it was Christians, Muslims, and Jews in Spain or Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Sikhs, and Muslims in India. America is our latest, beautiful example of interreligious harmony and coexistence. We are a nation in which faith communities, despite continuing problems and tension, can generally live and work together free of communal violence and instability.

The question of why there are increased attacks on Christians is a legitimate one, which requires a separate discussion about war-terrorism nexus. War continues to produce evil justifications by violent extremists for attacking Christian neighbors. This connection is evident since Al-Qaeda in Iraq had threatened Egyptian Christians recently by publishing a list of churches in Egypt on their website.

Muslim countries have a responsibility to protect their minorities, as do all other countries. No international conflict, no “clash of civilizations” thesis, no thought of a million dead Iraqis or the civilians killed by American drones in Pakistan, the occupation of Palestine or Afghanistan lessens this responsibility. That conversation is independent of the rights of neighbors to freely practice their faith and pursue their lives.

This is where the interfaith movement must continue to strengthen itself to connect neighbor with neighbor as individuals, not as objects of some distant foreign policy.

We must learn the forgotten lessons of being your brother’s keeper. And we must also learn from Prophet Muhammad, who said: “None of you has faith until you love for your neighbor what you love for yourself.”

 

On this same topic you might also like to read the following article:

 

Egypt’s Muslims attend Coptic Christmas mass, serving as “human shields”
Muslims turned up in droves for the Coptic Christmas mass Thursday night, offering their bodies, and lives, as “shields” to Egypt’s threatened Christian community

 

http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/3365.aspx?utm_source=Parliament+Newsletter&utm_campaign=8ddb9e63ac-Newsletter_11&utm_medium=email

“For the Next Seven Generations”

A Film about 13 Indigenous Grandmothers, coming to Ann Arbor on February 19th

 

In 2004, thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers from all four corners, moved by their concern for our planet, came together at a historic gathering, where they decided to form an alliance: The International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers. This is their story. Four years in-the-making and shot on location in the Amazon rainforest, the mountains of Mexico, North America, and at a private meeting with the Dalai Lama in India, For the Next 7 Generations follows what happens when these wise women unite. Facing a world in crisis, they share with us their visions of healing and a call for change now, before it’s too late. This film documents their unparalleled journey and timely perspectives on a timeless wisdom.

 

This film is coming to Ann Arbor at the Interfaith Center for Spiritual Growth www.interfaithspirit.org on February 19th, 2011 at 8:00 PM.

 

THE NIAGARA FOUNDATION CORDIALLY INVITES YOU TO THE

ANNUAL DINNER OF ABRAHAMIC TRADITIONS

Thursday, February 10, 2011

6:30 PM to 9:00 PM

Detroit Marriott Southfield

27033 Northwestern Highway

Southfield, MI 48034

THEME: Strengthening Family Life Today: Resources and Wisdoms

within the Abrahamic Traditions

 

Kindly RSVP by going to michigan@niagarafoundation.org

 

Priest races against time to record Nazi killings

Father Patrick Desbois, who is in Hong Kong this week, is racing against the clock to uncover the hidden atrocities of the Holocaust before it is too late.

Although the slaughter of six million Jews and people of other minority groups by the Nazis in the second world war are widely known, there is little known about the Nazi unit that shot hundreds of thousands of Jews and Roma gypsies in the former Soviet bloc from 1941 to 1944.

The French Catholic priest, 55, has uncovered mass graves in Poland, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, where at least 1.6 million Jews were shot by the Nazis.

He is in Hong Kong this week to speak in Asia for the first time about his painstaking work. Last night, he spoke at the Jewish Community Centre at a ceremony to commemorate UN International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is today.

He said he aims to raise awareness about the genocide and mass murder hoping to prevent these atrocities from happening again.

“For me, genocide is a disease of humanity,” he said. “If you do not recognise a disease you cannot treat it.”

The goal of Desbois’ organisation, Yahad-In Unum, is to uncover all mass graves in Eastern Europe, and collecting witnesses’ testimony is key. The group has filmed 1,760 witnesses testifying about the shooting of Jews and Roma.

“When I began, people told me: `It’s impossible what you do, Father, because it was a secret. There were no witnesses’,” Desbois said. But, he said: “I’m sorry, there are witnesses everywhere.”

Desbois said some witnesses had been relieved to finally tell stories which had haunted them for nearly a lifetime.

One witness, who was a non-Jewish teenager during the war, said she was forced to walk barefoot on the corpses to compress them into mass graves. She never told anyone about this.

“And she told me: `Suddenly all my schoolmates arrived because they were Jews, and I had to walk on them like the others’,” he said.

Time is against Desbois and his team, who must trawl through German and Soviet archives, visit remote villages to interview witnesses and complete research.

“We want to finish before the witnesses die,” he said. “It’s a short-term challenge. The witnesses are between 75 and 90. They were teenagers during the war, and they want to speak before they die.”

In Hong Kong yesterday, he admitted being apprehensive about whether his findings would be meaningful to an Asian audience. But after the first few days of lecturing students, his fears have subsided. Their sensitive reactions and insightful questions have been a welcome surprise. “It gives me great hope to arrive in Hong Kong and find teenagers who are concerned,” he said.

He said genocide has occurred unexpectedly at many times and places.

The Germans were highly educated and cultured, their genocide of the Jews “unthinkable”, Desbois said.

Rwanda’s genocide in 1994 was just as unexpected. “Everybody was Catholic, both sides had the same religion, same condition, all blacks. Who could imagine a tribe could absolutely try to exterminate another tribe?”

The 1937 mass murder in Nanking by the Japanese against the Chinese is an event that Desbois has used as a reference during his talks to students.

“It was nearly the same methodology used by the Japanese in Nanking that was used by the Nazis in the Soviet Union: to shoot everybody,” he said.

 ISNA-CIOM Diversity Forum (The Muslim Observer, January 14-20, 2011)

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Founder and CEO of American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA) and the Park 51 Project, and renowned Professor Dr. Sherman Jackson, addressed the Detroit and surrounding communities at the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan (CIOM) Diversity Forum Banquet.  The banquet took place on Saturday, January 15th.

The banquet served as the first time Imam Feisal addressed the Muslim community, follwoing the eruption of protests against the building of Park 51, an Islamic community center in New York City.  Imam Feisal and Dr. Sherman Jackson addressed how Detroit and North American Muslims can overcome racial, ethnic, and sectarian divisions within their own community to develop a solid foundation to represent Islam to the larger interfaith community and overcome obstacles such as the Park 51 or Murfreesboro, TN controversies.

Imam Feisal is a tireless advocate for uniting the Muslim community through respect of diversity, continued outreach, and improved understanding, regardless of creed, nationality, or political beliefs.  Imam Feisal established ASMA in 1997 as the first Muslim American organization committed to bringing Muslims and people of other faiths together through policy, culture, current affairs, and academia.  He has received much attention in the past year for his part in the development of Park 51, an Islamic community center in downtown New York City, and his commitment to bringing the diversity of Muslims into the fold of American culture.

Dr. Sherman Jackson is a leading professor and scholar on matters of Islamic law and race relations in America.  Presently, he is Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies, Visitng Professor of Law, and Professor of Afro-American Studies at the University of Michigan.

“At a time when heated debates – such as the building of local Islamic schools, community centers, and places of worship – erupt across the nation, it is important that we do not allow the hate-mongers to divide and conquer the rights of our American Muslim community.  We must overcome our own internal divisions to seek strong relationships with our interfaith partners, he said.” 

Both Imam Feisal and Dr. Jackson are known for their commitment to overcoming divisions of race, creed, and religious beliefs!!

Krista Tippett Coming to the Birmingham Community House on February 15th

 

Metro Parent Magazine and WDET Workforce Development Education and Training (Diversity Health Institute)  are proud to present Spirituality and Parenting…a Conversation on Wisdom and Learning for the Modern Family featuring Sylvia Boorstein at The Birmingham Community House, February 15, 2011 at 7:00 p.m.  Krista Tippett is the host of Speaking of Faith, a weekly radio show carried on many public radio stations around the United States.

Speaking of Faith is a radio show covering topics related to human faith in the broadest sense. Krista Tippett,  author of Speaking of Faith and Einstein’s God and host of On Being, a radio program based on the questions of humanity and ancient traditions of the human spirit, will be leading a discussion with Sylvia Boorstein, author of Happiness Is an Inside Job.

Five Women Five Journeys: How Different Are We?
 WISDOM Women together

This unique WISDOM program features personal stories of women of different faith traditions – how their childhood impacted their beliefs today, what the challenges are for women in their faith tradition, what parts of their religion are misunderstood, how reaching out to someone from a different faith has enriched their lives.
To inquire about a Five Women Five Journeys Program for your organization, contact Elaine Schonberger at bookfairmama@comcast.net or Paula Drewek at Drewekpau@aol.com .
Check out the latest story about a friendship that crosses religion, race, or ethnic boundaries at www.friendshipandfaith.com.
Email Gail Katz at gailkatz@comcast.net if you have a personal story for the friendshipandfaith.com website!!
LINKS THAT YOU CAN USE FOR MORE INFORMATION!!

 1)  Go to http://www.readthespirit.com/religious-holidays-festivals/ for fascinating information about upcoming Religious holidays that your neighbors of different faith traditions may be celebrating!!

2)   Go to http://www.readthespirit.com/were-making-news/ for a listing of all the articles written about the WISDOM Book Friendship and Faith: the WISDOM of Women Creating Alliances for Peace.

Go to our WISDOM websites at www.interfaithwisdom.org

Read our interfaith story of the week from our book Friendship and Faith,

and find the link to buy the book at

Amazon at

 
Contact Information

 

Gail Katz gailkatz@comcast.net
phone: 248-978-6664

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BECOME A FRIEND OF WISDOM!  Click on this link to go to the WISDOM website (right side of home page) to print out form to support WISDOM.

WISDOM Partners with Haven

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Press

WEEKEND OF CHAMPIONS – OCTOBER 8, 2006

On Sunday, October 8, 2006, women from Christian, Jewish and Muslim faith traditions gathered to learn more about the problem of domestic violence and about each other.  The participants met at the Mulberry Square Condominium Clubhouse, and the event became WISDOM’s second initiative to bring together women of different faiths to engage in community service.

The WISDOM event was scheduled as part of a national effort to provide an opportunity for women to become familiar with the problem of domestic violence in our nation, and commemorate Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  Locally, HAVEN launched the “Weekend of Champions”, with the goal of educating people about the issue of domestic violence and spreading the word about HAVEN’s mission through one hundred private gatherings.

The WISDOM participants were asked to sit at tables with other women that they did not know, to give everyone an opportunity to meet, talk, and work with women of different faith traditions.  The first part of the afternoon program was spent learning about the problem and the “costs” of domestic violence and providing resource material on HAVEN to all present.  Ribbons were distributed, and participants were asked to wear them during the month of October to support the survivors of domestic violence.  The afternoon event gave the WISDOM volunteers the opportunity to support HAVEN through their hands-on efforts assembling information packets and items for sale, as well as through monetary donations and the collection of needed items for the women and children staying at the shelter for victims of domestic violence.  Over $1,300 was raised during the course of the afternoon.

The second half of the afternoon was spent sharing religious traditions. WISDOM women learned about the Jewish celebration of Sukkot and the Muslim celebration of Ramadan.  Beth Applebaum spoke about how her family and friends celebrated Sukkot; Dr. Ismat Khan spoke about the five pillars of Islam and the celebration of Ramadan.  Questions about prayers, rituals, family traditions, the involvement of children, and special foods followed and many of the women present shared their own experiences.  The similarities of the values being celebrated became clear to all.  There was a tradition at Sukkot of leaving part of the field unharvested for the poor to harvest for food, similar to the emphasis during Ramadan on sharing with others, especially those less fortunate.  Other women commented on the benefit of learning more about their own faith and traditions through their efforts to explain them to women who were unfamiliar with them.

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.