January 2019

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events 

Sunday, February 10th 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM, Adat Shalom Synagogue
29901 Middlebelt Rd., Farmington HIlls, 48334
“And Then They Came For Us” Documentary
Followed by Panel Discussion about immigration
See Flyer Below!
Thursday, March 14th 7:00 – 9:00 PM at Temple Israel, 5725 Walnut Lake Road, West Bloomfield 48323
Interfaith panel on attracting our young adult population
to their faith traditions!
Stay tuned for more information!!
Sunday, March 3rd 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM
The 20th Annual World Sabbath
Islamic House of WISDOM, Dearborn Heights
See Flyer Below
Sunday, March 24th, 2019 (afternoon)
Celebration of International Women’s Day
Save the Date

In November, Ethiopian Jews – the majority of the community now living in Israel – celebrated Sigd, a Jewish holiday unique to the traditions of a Jewish community that for centuries was cut off and isolated from the rest of global Jewry.
Today, Around 80,000 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel, many of whom were brought over to Israel in daring airlifts in 1984 and 1991.
Sigd is an Amharic word meaning “prostration” or “worship” Traditionally on Sigd, members of the Ethiopian Jewish community would fast for a day during which they would meet in the morning and walk together to the highest point on a mountain. The “Kessim,” spritual leaders of the community, would carry the “Orit,” the Ethiopian Torah, which is written in the ancient Geez language and comprised of the Five Books of Moses, the Prophetic writings, and other writings such as Song of Songs and Psalms. The Kessim recited parts of the Orit, including the Book of Nehemiah. On that day, members of the community recited Psalms and remembered the Torah, its traditions, and their desire to return to Jerusalem. In the afternoon they would descend back to the village and break their fast, dance and rejoice in a sort of seder reminiscent of Passover.
To see a video of Ethiopian Jews celebrating Sgid, go to

Helping children process hate: A Jewish perspective
Having children tends to increase our agony during moments of violence. I don’t know a parent who, after hearing about innocent people being hurt or killed, doesn’t instinctively reach for their kids and long to never let go. This feeling is especially strong when the violence was directed toward a group with whom your family identifies. What if it was us?
My family consists of conservative Jews who regularly attend a conservative synagogue, just like the Jews who were recently killed in Pittsburgh. Hate-filled trolls have repeatedly threatened violence against me, and my Jewish children, on social media. It’s getting harder and harder to not think about the unthinkable.
But after the initial agony passes and we release our children from our immobilizing grips, their presence can actually help us work through these dark moments. Children have lots of questions and tend to be dogged pursuers of moral clarity. It’s rarely enough for them to learn that something happened. They want to understand why it happened and will keep why-why-why-ing their way through each and every piece of information provided to them. Should children be activists?
At the end of this road sits the biggest question of them all, the question not about the act of violence but about what would make someone do something like that in the first place. How does one help them make sense of hate?
This is not an easy task. Intense hate is, for most of us, a foreign emotion, one we have never felt. We must talk to our children about it anyway, explaining to them why someone hates them, where this hate comes from and how it has been dealt with in the past. While this conversation should absolutely include an acknowledgment of all the other groups who are the target of it, the processing of hate best happens through particulars — of a people, of a history, of a moment. In my family, this means viewing hate through a Jewish lens.
Begin with the past
The Jewish holiday cycle rests largely upon a series of ancient stories in which Jews were persecuted for being Jewish and then, ultimately, prevail. During Passover, we remember when we were slaves in Egypt. During Purim, we remember when our lives were threatened in ancient Persia. And so on. “They tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat,” goes the old joke, a pithy summary of many Jewish holidays.
When children receive a Jewish education, it’s these stories, the Jewish communal memory, that take prominence. Is it strange to hear preschool children discuss the various ways in which one group of people can express their hatred of another? “Sometimes the Jews want to stay but aren’t allowed to, and sometimes the Jews want to leave and aren’t allowed to,” my son reflected at age 5. Yes, it’s strange. But there’s no Judaism without it. So how does one take our history, in which hatred of the Jews is a leitmotif, and use it to help our children make sense of the present?
Shai Held, rabbi, Jewish theologia, and author of “The Heart of the Torah,” said stories of past persecution can help us understand how hate is, sadly, an inescapable part of the human experience.
“Any religious perspective on the world is going to emphasize that human nature is messy and complex and human beings are prone to hate,” he said. “There is oddly something helpful in knowing there is nothing new here. … It allows you some degree of sobriety.”
An incident of hate becomes a chance to discuss not just hate but the ways all of us contain within us the capacity for bad and good. No, we aren’t ever likely to find a way to stop that bad from occasionally growing into violent hate in some people. But, if we pay attention, we will notice that expressions of hate are often met by expressions of love and compassion.
In nearly every ancient story of hate, there are non-Jewish people who fight on Jews’ behalf. Last month, Jews saw non-Jews of all backgrounds join us in mourning and protest. “I think it is always powerful to remind kids that if someone hates you, it doesn’t mean everyone hates you,” Held said.
A reckoning with hate, when rooted in Jewish history, is also a reckoning with resilience. Yes, lots and lots of people have hated us, incensed by the mere fact that we are not exactly like them. But they didn’t win. Held said parents could emphasize this against-the-odds survival of the Jews as a point of relief, if not pride, for children. “Thousands of years of antisemitism has instilled in us a deep persistence,” he said.
Connect it to childhood feelings We all, old and young, have an instinct to trace hate back to its source.
Read the rest of this article and view the videos by going to the following website:

Hindu monks perform rituals at Sangam, the confluence of the Rivers Ganges and Yamuna, at Allahabad, India, on Dec. 16, 2018. Millions of Hindu pilgrims are expected to take part in a large religious congregation called “Kumbh Mela” here in January 2019. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)

Michigan Rabbi Leads Caravan of Faith
to Help Immigrant Kids in Texas
By Niraj Warikoo, Detroit Free Press

When Rabbi Josh Whinston of Michigan heard about the growing tent city packed with immigrant teenagers in a Texas desert town, he felt he had to act. As someone rooted in Jewish tradition, Whinston of Temple Beth Emeth in Ann Arbor said his faith and the faith of other religions compels them to help the stranger.  So the 37-year-old rabbi launched an effort to lead a multi-faith caravan from Michigan and other states to drive to Tornillo, Texas, to help immigrants and refugees in shelters and the growing tent camp. On Thursday, he and other faith leaders from Michigan protested near the tent camp, singing religious songs promoting peace and justice. They also helped distribute clothes, fed immigrants, and witnessed the struggles of asylum seekers at the border. Rabbi Whinston and dozens of others from Michigan left Monday, stopping in Indiana and Missouri to meet up with other houses of worship, gathering more than 100 people for their caravan.
“We can’t ignore these children,” Whinston told the Free Press from Texas. “It’s causing trauma to these kids. And it’s caused by us, the American people because it’s our government doing it. Not on my behalf, please don’t cause trauma to these children. They’ve been traumatized enough.”
More than 1,000 unaccompanied children are currently at the tent camp in Tornillo, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. The camp was created by the U.S. government to deal with an overflow of children that couldn’t be housed in other shelters.
While the Trump administration has said the camp is needed to house unaccompanied immigrant children, the ACLU has called the tent city a “moral disgrace.”
“The Tornillo camp was built from the ground up in the middle of the desert over the summer,” said Victoria López, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU, who has visited the site. “It is a sprawling site that backs up to a border fence marking the boundary between the U.S. and Mexico. There are khaki-colored tents lined up in rows with plastic orange cones and temporary fencing, creating makeshift streets and sidewalks.”
Many of the minors, who are mostly teenagers, are trying to be reunited with family who are already in the U.S. But the Trump administration is requiring the parents to go through stringent background checks that, in some cases, discover the parents may be undocumented and therefore ineligible to get the kids.
As the camp grew this summer, the congregation at Temple Beth Emeth grew concerned and they thought about ways to help. At first, Rabbi Whinston felt the best way would be to donate to the ACLU, which works on immigration issues.  But he thought going to the border would have a greater impact. He then worked with religious leaders in the Ann Arbor area and Rabbi Miriam Terlinchamp of Temple Sholom in Cincinnati to coordinate the trip.
The Pittsburgh synagogue shooting – which was carried out by a man who targeted Jews because he said they supported immigrants and refugees – added to the urgency of their mission.
“That man murdered 11 of my brothers and sisters not only because they were Jews but because of the values we hold,” said Whinston. “He was trying to kill our values.”
Joining Whinston on the trip to Texas were leaders of Lutheran, Baptist, and Unitarian Universalist congregations in Ann Arbor.
“It’s very important to show up, to increase the visibility, to use my voice to demand an end to this tent city separating families,” said Xan Morgan of First Baptist Church in Ann Arbor, part of the caravan. “Part of my Christian faith tradition is to … love your neighbor as yourself. … It’s an expression of love of God and love for my neighbors. We must welcome the stranger.”
On Thursday, Morgan and others walked across the border to

Juarez, Mexico, to witness asylum seekers and later participated in a rally outside the Tornillo camp.  She said they sang religious songs, including “Peace will Come” in English and Hebrew. Banners on a fence read “Let Our Children Go” and “Families Belong Together and Free,” according to photos of the event.  Some of the group were fasting during the journey and were to have dinner with migrants on Thursday night.
The caravan also brought supplies for immigrants housed in local shelters near the border such as children’s clothing, soap, towels and other items.
Some in the caravan, such as Rabbi Bruce Elder of Congregation Hakafa in a Chicago suburb, were descendants of Holocaust survivors and felt compelled to act.
“Our congregation feels very strongly about” what is happening to immigrant children, Rabbi Elder said to the Free Press from Texas. “My father survived the Holocaust as a 14-year-old kid. … What is happening at the border struck a real nerve and it has to stop before it gets out of hand. It’s just morally wrong and our country is better than that.”
On Friday, the caravan will head back to Michigan and other states, where they hope to educate their congregations and elected officials about what they saw and heard in Texas.
“Claiming asylum is not a crime,” said Rabbi Whinston. “It frightens me as an American, frightens me as Jew that this administration will hold people indefinitely who have committed no crime. It is legal to claim asylum at the border or anywhere.”
What drives him is his faith.
“More than any other commandment in the Torah, we are told 36 times to be kind to the orphan, the widow, the stranger,” he said, citing Biblical passages and Jewish tradition. “Rabbinic tradition talks about welcoming the stranger. Welcoming the stranger takes precedent over honoring the presence of God.” Rabbi Terlinchamp of Cincinnati said “I’m the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors … after the Pittsburgh shooting, it felt all the more important to have as loud as a Jewish voice as possible. This is the right thing to do, to treat immigrants the right way.”
In July, Whinston helped drive an immigrant from Ann Arbor to Pittsburgh who had been separated from her children after she crossed the border. That experience moved him and pushed him to create the caravan.
“I can’t stand in front of my congregation and talk about welcoming the stranger and not be willing to be here,” Whinston said from Texas. “If we’re going to take the Bible seriously, we can’t ignore this, we can’t ignore the children being held.”
Contact Niraj Warikoo: nwarikoo@freepress.com or 313-223-4792. Follow him on Twitter @nwarikoo

A Muslim, a Jew, and
a Christian Walk into a Concert Hall
by Vicki Garlock
“What people don’t see on stage is that our three lifestyles – as men with families, as artists, and as people deeply committed to our individual faith traditions – have come together to embody mutual respect and admiration.”
          – Dawud Wharnsby, Canadian writer, artisan, and musician
It all started in 2010 when Ontario, Canada-based Dawud Wharnsby was contacted by David LaMotte, who was working on peace and justice issues with the North Carolina Council of Churches. Anti-Muslim sentiment was on the rise in the Raleigh-Durham area, and David wanted to jump-start a counter-movement. “I was looking to start with university students,” David said, “which meant there had to be music.” The beauty of that first concert was palpable as Dawud Wharnsby (a Muslim), David LaMotte (a Christian), and Dan Nichols (a Jew), shared the stage with one another to promote interfaith harmony and inter-religious dialogue.
A few years later, the band Abraham Jam, now with Billy Jonas(replacing Dan Nichols), was formed. But they are no longer simply sharing the stage with one another; they are merging their individual talents to create a unique sound that highlights the distinctive beauty of interfaith bridge-building. They released their first CD a few days ago, just a week after performing at the Parliament of the World’s Religions. But the bigger message is how the members of Abraham Jam – all accomplished musicians and artists in their own right – honor the beauty of both their commonalities and their differences.
Over the years, Abraham Jam has continued to build a following that includes people of all ages and people of all faiths and no faith. That first concert at Duke University led to the Sacred Music Festival in Kalamazoo, Michigan and a handful of other gigs. Then, Abraham Jam performed at the 2015 Parliament of World Religions in Salt Lake City, which led to more concerts, including one at a Lutheran Synod gathering in Pennsylvania and a return to the 2018 Toronto Parliament.
Through it all, they’ve remained committed to their initial vision of actually creating music together – moving beyond the simpler, but much less rewarding, notion of three solo artists who rotate back-up duties. Dawud expressed this sentiment beautifully on Northern Spirit Radio, which featured Abraham Jam in last summer’s June 2nd broadcast. One of the songs the group now sings is Rhythm of Surrender, a song Dawud used to sing as a soloist. “For me to take an old song of mine, like Rhythm of Surrender, and bring it new life with David and Billy, is really exciting. It’s a new rhythm! After so many years of singing the song one way, I now find it brand new again because of the joy we’re able to share.”
Over the past 15 months, Abraham Jam finds itself increasingly busy as people from around the world feel called to lift up unity and connection over hostility and divisiveness. As Billy said, “We were starting to get calls about gigs, and we didn’t even have a complete web site or press kit yet.” “People just loved the idea of it,” added David. In August 2017, they played a concert in Asheville, North Carolina. In the spring of 2018, there was a mini-tour in the Washington DC metro area. In June, they started a Kickstarter campaign that raised over $48,000 from over 550 donors from around the world. Those Kickstarter earnings helped fund the release of their live CD based on the Asheville concert. Even that event seemed to reverberate with divine intervention. The trio hired a photographer, signed a videographer, set up two separate sound systems, and hoped for the best. As David said, “Our initial plan was to get an EP [more than single but less than a full album] out of it.” But, after spending a week in the studio before the concert, which “lit this eternal flame of togetherness,” as Billy put it, they ended up with a full set of soundtracks. That same Kickstarter campaign will also help fund their first studio CD, scheduled for release in the spring of 2019.
Another highlight for Abraham Jam was this year’s MuslimFest, held just outside Toronto. The festival, which celebrates Muslim art, culture, and entertainment, hosts over 25,000 people annually and is one of the three largest festivals in Toronto. As Dawud said, “It’s a real testament to the interfaith movement in Canada that they asked us, a multi-faith band, to play on the main stage.” Billy quickly added, “We were even the lead story on Al Jazeera TV.”
An added benefit for the Abraham Jam trio is that they, themselves, are able to grow both as multi-faith activists and as musicians. As David said, “Sometimes we activists forget that it’s not just about resisting what’s wrong; it’s also about lifting up what’s right. Besides, I just love hanging out with these guys and learning from them.”
Dawud also talked about using music, and his role in the Muslim community, to bridge faith-based divides. “After 10 years of writing traditional Muslim music for English-speaking families and children, I have been able to step away from performing solos. Music is still my primary path, but I can use that to bring the Muslim community along with me on this journey.”
Recently I was lucky enough to grab a quick lunch with the three members of Abraham Jam while they were in Asheville working in a studio. It’s a good day when you get to listen to three talented artists gush about the power of music and express their deep love for one another. When they also happen to be from three different faith traditions, you realize you’re in the midst of something truly special.

Kashmiri Muslim devotees pray as a relic of Sufi saint Syed Abdul Qadir Jilani is displayed at his shrine in Srinagar, Indian-controlled Kashmir, on Dec. 19, 2018. Thousands of devotees thronged the shrine to mark the saint’s Urs, or yearly commemoration. (AP Photo/ Dar Yasin)

Two holidays, one theme: Hindus, Jews
celebrate joint festival of lights
 Bringing together two diverse communities and highlighting strong Israel-India relations, over 400 people gather in Chicago to simultaneously honor Diwali and Hanukkah
November 21, 2018
CHICAGO – A joint Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights drew over 400 people to a suburban Chicago synagogue on Sunday, as together they honored the similarly-themed holidays of Hanukkah and Diwali. The evening, which featured speakers, candle lighting, food from both cultures, dance lessons, and the world’s only Indian-Jewish standup comedian, was hosted by Temple Beth-El in the Chicago suburb of Northbrook, Illinois.
The Chicago event has inspired similar gatherings nationwide – from a December 8 celebration in San Francisco, to events being planned in New York, Atlanta and Florida. The Chicago organizers also look forward to organizing a collective celebration of Purim and Holi, the Hindu spring festival, in 2019.
“I think we connect over a shared sense of pain and overcoming adversities,” Sunil Krishnan told The Times of Israel as people mingled before the program. Krishnan, who is Hindu, made the nearly two-hour drive from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to attend the event. “I don’t know much about the Hindu religion, but I’m fascinated by it,” said Margaret Geber, a Jewish woman who came with two friends. “I love the feeling of hope and the energy of the room as people are getting to know each other.”
Highlights from Sunday’s program included speeches by human rights activist Dr. Richard Benkin; Indian Consul Head of Chancery D.B. Bhati; and Aviv Ezra, the Consul General of Israel to the Midwest.
Bhati drew parallels between Diwali’s festival of lights and the lights of Hanukkah, while Ezra highlighted the 26 years of diplomacy between Israel and India. That relationship has “grown in even more profound ways” since India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited each other’s respective countries last year, Ezra said.
The idea for the joint festival began five years ago when Peggy Shapiro, Midwest executive director of StandWithUs, invited leaders of the Indian community to her house for dinner to celebrate the 65th anniversaries of Indian and Israeli independence. “The problem is, what food do you serve?” joked Shapiro. “When we got together that night at my dining room table, we found such commonalities in our communities,” Shapiro said. “I learned a bit more about India and the Jewish community there – India is one of the only places in the world that has never had anti-Semitism,” she said (presumably attributing the horrific 2008 attacks on the Mumbai Chabad House to Islamic terrorism, rather than specific hatred against Jews).
Prasad Yalamanchi of the Global Hindu Heritage Foundation also spoke about India’s support for Israel and stressed the shared experiences between Hindus and Jews, including the staggering losses that both communities faced due to persecution. “We need to get together, Hindus and Jews, to protect our heritage and civilization for future of generations,” he said to roaring applause. Shapiro then introduced “someone that nobody has ever heard of, but appeals to everybody – the world’s only Indian-Jewish stand-up comedian, Samson Koletar, aka Mahatma Moses.”
Koletar poked fun at Jewish and Indian stereotypes to the delight of a mixed crowd that apparently had a common appreciation for self-deprecating humor. And like any good comedian, Koletar didn’t spare himself, laughing about people’s confused reactions to his mixed Indian-Jewish heritage.
Standup comedian Samson ‘Mahatma Moses; Koletar performs at the Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois, Sunday, November 18, 2018. (Ronit Bezalel/ Times of Israel)
Rounding out the speeches, Dr. Souptik Mukherjee – a researcher who has long been an advocate for Hindu-Jewish relations, and who has contributed to Israeli media – spoke about the 2,500 year history of Hindu-Jewish relationships.
“[Our] two communities today unite to celebrate values dear to us all, of coexistence, tolerance, gender equality, mutual respect and respect for each other’s culture and faith,” Mukherjee said.
The festival concluded with traditional Hanukkah and Diwali desserts, followed by dance lessons from each culture.
Dr. Souptik Mukherjee speaks at the Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois, Sunday, November 18, 2018. (Ronit Bezalel/ Times of Israel) “It’s really wonderful to have this event in our synagogue, and see new faces in here,” noted Mandy Herlich, the director of lifelong learning at Temple Beth-El.

 For most Americans, new research says,
family comes first
by Yonat Shimron
According to Pew Research, family is the No. 1 source to which Americans look for meaning, fulfillment and satisfaction in their lives. Photo by Mike Scheid/Unsplash/Creative Commons
(RNS) – As many Americans gather with their loves ones for Thanksgiving, a timely new survey from Pew Research confirms what miles of traffic jams and airport lines suggest: Family is the No. 1 source to which Americans look for meaning, fulfillment and satisfaction in their lives.
The survey, conducted in two waves in 2017, found clear and consistent answers among all demographic groups, as nearly 70 percent of Americans mention their family as a source of meaning and fulfillment.
After family, Americans said they drew meaning and satisfaction from being outdoors, spending time with friends, caring for pets and listening to music. In this wide range of pursuits, religion ranked behind those things as something that gave them “a great deal” of meaning.
But a fifth of Americans said religion is the most meaningful aspect of their lives. And among those who do find a great deal of meaning in their religious faith, more than half say it is the single most important source of meaning in their lives.
“If you then follow up and ask to which of these is the most important source of meaning, there religion is a clear second,” said Gregory A. Smith, associate director of research at Pew, and one of the primary researchers of this survey.
No surprise, one group in particular stood out: Two-thirds of evangelicals surveyed said they derive a great deal of meaning from their religious faith. And almost half of evangelicals say religion is the most important source of meaning in their lives.
“Religion second to family as ‘most important’ source of meaning in lives of American adults” Graphic courtesy of Pew Research Center
But evangelicals weren’t the only polling segment to find meaning in religion. Half of black Americans as a group said they derive “a great deal” of meaning from their religion.
Broken down according to political persuasion, conservative Americans are more prone to find meaning in religion, while liberals find it in creativity and causes, the survey found. The survey consisted of two rounds: an open-ended questionnaire conducted in September 2017, asking Americans to describe in their own words what makes their lives feel meaningful, and a closed-ended questionnaire conducted in December 2017, asking Americans to rate how much meaning and fulfillment they draw from each of 15 possible sources.
Jamie Aten, executive director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College, said the findings about family make sense, especially, he noted, since meaning-making is also a social construct, not just an individual one. “If you look at the cultural norms within the U.S. , there’s a high emphasis placed on family and you see that reflected out in the survey responses,” said Aten. “We also see it valued across most major world religions. Many of our institutions promote family as a highly valued unit. We see that cutting across the messaging we receive on a daily basis.”
The survey also found that Americans with high levels of income and education are more likely to mention friendships, good health, stability. That too made sense to Aten. He pointed out that people find meaning in those things that are obtainable. “It points out the real challenges that individuals in a lower income level face: Health may be ranked out of reach because of what people have experienced, oppression or racism or other challenges.”

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.


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WISDOM’s challenge is to bring together people from different faith traditions, ethnicities, races, and cultures in an atmosphere of safety and respect to engage in educational and community service projects. Let’s change our world through the positive power of building relationships!