Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events
Tuesday, December 8, 7:00 PM Five Women Five Journeys
Insight Through Education, Inc.” Irma Blauner, V.P. for Programming, Palm Spring, FL.
Starting November 11th, The Jewish Wisdom of Jesus
See Flyer Below
November 16th 7:00 – 8:30 PM Women Confronting Racisom Webinar See Flyer Below
Tuesday, December 1 at 6:30 PM Mosaic Art Tile Outing with Song and Spirit Institute for Peace. See Flyer Below
The Jewish Wisdom of Jesus,
and the Roots of Modern Spiritual Practice
Hazzan Steve Klaper
Song and Spirit Institute for Peace
4 classes | 90 minutes each | $60
Wednesdays on Zoom at 7:00 pm
Nov. 11 – Nov. 18 – Nov. 25 – Dec 2
REGISTER AT: tinyurl.com/Jwisdom2020
Judaism and Christianity have each removed Jesus from his place in the lineage of Jewish teachers, but his deeply Jewish message can be understood almost entirely as a daring attempt to re-form and renew the Judaism of his day. In this 4-part interfaith class, we place Jesus in historical context as an innovative, first century teacher of Jewish wisdom. We’ll compare and contrast Kaddish and the Lord’s Prayer as examples of early rabbinic liturgy, explore the intent of the Beatitudes as a means of teaching Torah to the masses, examine the parables as they sounded to 1st Century ears, and much more. Join Hazzan Steve Klaper in exploring the life and teachings of the most famous Jewish teacher in history, in a respectful and spiritual way.
About a dozen WISDOM sisters and friends braved cloudy and chilly weather to visit the Yates Cider Mill in Rochester on October 19, enjoying fresh cider and donuts in a covered picnic area. Those in attendance agreed it was wonderful to see people in the flesh rather than on Zoom. The conversation ranged from pandemic woes to children’s books and, of course, what’s going on in our state and our nation. Several of those who came brought friends or relatives who were new to WISDOM. Here’s hoping we can plan some more socially distanced in-person gatherings soon!
Award-winning Birmingham Educator Rick Joseph Named New Chairman of World Sabbath
After 20 years, World Sabbath, a Detroit faith-based event that brings youth and adults together one Sunday each year to offer prayers of peace as an answer to global wars and conflict, is changing leadership. Birmingham language arts and social studies teacher Rick Joseph, who in 2016 was recognized by the Northwest Evaluation Association as Michigan Teacher of the Year, will take over the chairmanship position as Gail Katz steps down after 20 years of involvement and service.
Usually held in March, World Sabbath draws hundreds of worshippers and participants into a house of prayer into a multi-sensory experience with prayers, songs, and dance. Planning a future event will be a challenge due to the ongoing pandemic, Joseph acknowledges. The next in-person World Sabbath is not slated until early 2022 and is set to be hosted by Temple Israel. To mark the day in 2021, Joseph hopes he can coordinate with local religious leaders and educators to create an online compilation and collection of expressions and prayers for peace across Detroit’s diverse faith population.
Joseph believes that World Sabbath is the embodiment of “what makes us spiritual beings and is a celebration of the ties that bind us in how we come together in peace to acknowledge the Creator.” Children ph. articipating in the Parade of Flags, World Sabbath. “Coming together as we do each year at World Sabbath helps create a more peaceful loving world. I am looking forward to cultivating relationships with local religious and educational leaders to increase the diversity represented at World Sabbath.
As a social studies teacher, Joseph always encourages his students to have deeper conversations by asking hard and sometimes uncomfortable questions to learn how to respectfully engage in civic discourse. Joseph said that sometimes, questions that can come off as offensive are okay if they are framed in a curious, non-accusatory manner. When a student learns effective communication tools such as how to ask questions on sensitive topics, everyone comes out ahead if it means those questions lead to learning and understanding more about another student’s religious or ethnic backgrounds.
“There are no elephants in my classroom. No topic – religion, politics, race – is off the table. And though sometimes some questions or opinions raised by one student may seem offensive or even bigoted to another, I see them asking the question from a point of curiosity. It is then my job to reframe the question so it will have constructive and educational results.” Joseph looks forward to his new role and hopes to continue Katz’s legacy of “creating community wherever she goes and whomever she comes in contact with.”
“Gail Katz is truly one of the most inspiring educators that I know. She is a true role model for me. From her work on World Sabbath to starting Religious Diversity Journeys, she has shepherded and facilitated relationships that span across religious differences and across Metro Detroit. She is somebody whom I aspire to and will continue to learn from as I move into this position.”
As a Catholic, Joseph looks to the verse from the Book of Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” for inspiration as he embarks on this new leadership chapter in his life to encouraging others across faiths to seek to achieve peace. He is eager to work with other faith leaders who can bring youth from different faith and ethnic perspectives together for future World Sabbath events. There is a possibility that there will be an online event in 2021 and for that, he is seeking people to submit videos illustrating peace practices in their religious traditions, rituals, or texts.
In 2000, Detroit area pastors Rev. Rod Reinhart and Rev. Ed Mullins introduced Katz to the program concept as they sought to create an annual peace event for clergy as a reaction to wars going on around the world. When Rev. Reinhart and Rev. Mullins departed the Detroit area in 2004 and turned the coordination of World Sabbath over to Katz. At the time, she was a Middle School teacher so she put her own spin on the event by asking area youth to participate and offer prayers of peace instead of clergy. Twenty years later, Katz said it is time to “pass the championship torch on” to Joseph. “I’m looking forward to staying on the World Sabbath committee and watching Rick take over as the new chairman of the World Sabbath, who will add his own insights and new ideas to the event as he encourages his own students to become involved in projects that increase their understanding of diversity.”
Israeli and Palestinian Breast Cancer Survivors
Forge a Unique Alliance.
By Michele Chabin – Detroit Jewish News, October 1, 2020
Ibtisam Erekat, a devout Muslim, and Ruth Ebenstein, a Modern Orthodox , have much more than breast cancer survival in common.
Jerusalem -Growing up in Southfield, Ruth Ebenstein always felt energized by the ethnic and religious diversity that characterizes Metro Detroit life. So when Ebenstein, who moved to Israel in 1990, was diagnosed with breast cancer 10 years ago, it felt natural for her to join a Jerusalem breast cancer support group for Jewish and Palestinian women. “When I found out about this breast cancer support group, I thought it would be a great way to forge a connection,” Ebenstein said. “Breast cancer is a huge thing to have in common.”
In addition to seeking the support group’s advice and reassurance, Ebenstein was hoping to find friendship. “I was looking for someone going through the same experience to connect with. I felt lonely on this journey.” The woman she connected with – to the point of feeling like sisters – is Ibtisam Erekat, a Palestinian breast cancer survivor who lives in Abu Dis, a Palestinian village on the other side of Israel’s soaring security barrier that separates the West Bank from Jerusalem.
As the political impasse and mistrust between Israelis and Palestinians has grown, so has their devotion to each other. Erekat, a devout Muslim, and Ebenstein, a Modern Orthodox Jew, have much more than breast cancer survival in common. Both were in their 30s when they married divorced men with children, and both gave birth to three children within three years. And they both believe that love can overcome hate.
“Ibtisam is so comfortable with herself, something we have in common,” Ebenstein said. “She’s strong-willed in the best sense; she has her own opinions. She’s warm, has a wonderful sense of humor and incredible faith.” Soon, they began meeting outside the confines of the support group, woman-to-woman, and, later, family-to-family. Their common language is English. “We talk about everything,” Ebenstein said. When they talk about the “hard stuff” – terror attacks, wars – they discuss how these events relate to their personal lives.
During the 2014 Israel-Gaza war, for example, the friends leaned on each other for emotional support as Hamas launched thousands of mortars and rockets into Israel, and the IDF retaliated, decimating parts of Gaza.
On a day-to-day level, “if I hear of something that happened in Abu Dis, I’ll check in and see if she’s OK,” Ebenstein said. “Ibtisam does the same for me.”
Erekat initially joined a Palestinian support group, and then joined the Jewish Israeli-Palestinian group through the Patient’s Friends Association at Augusta Victoria Hospital in eastern Jerusalem.
“It was a beautiful experience where we got to know a group of Israeli and Arab women,” she said. She was struck by Ebenstein’s warmth and desire to help Palestinian group members. “She treated me with great respect and helped me in several situations,” Erekat said. The more time they spent together, the more their friendship blossomed. “I got to know her family, her father, mother, sister and two brothers, and also her husband Yonatan. He is a very fun person and respects me, and I appreciate this about him. I respect them, and love them all,” Erekat said. Eventually, the friendship evolved into speaking engagements in the U.S. and Israel. Erekat and Ebenstein addressed groups, large and small, about their unique relationship and the fact that individual Israelis and Palestinians have the power to overcome ingrained hatred by seeing each other as people. They’ve started giving talks over Zoom to groups near and far. “We’re individuals,” Ebenstein said. “She’s not Palestine. I’m not Israel. She’s Ibtisam; I’m Ruth.” Along the way, Ebenstein has learned about Palestinian culture – and suffering. “Getting close to someone across the divide has taught me how much we don’t know about the ‘other.’ Getting close to someone makes you see how little you know. It really hammers it home.”
Erekat, who has asthma, lives close to the Separation Barrier. Sometimes there are skirmishes between Palestinians and Israeli military or border police, and the tear gas wafts into her home.
“She can be vomiting for hours from the tear gas, but if you don’t know anyone affected, you wouldn’t know that this is happening,” Ebenstein said. “You don’t realize an innocent person sitting on her couch will be sick for hours, or that many Palestinians who are sick can’t get an entry permit into Israel for much-needed medical treatment.
“As a cancer survivor the thought of not being able to get treatment is frightening,” both for herself and Erekat, Ebenstein said. “We are an occupied people,” Erekat said. “At first, when I got to know Ruti, I could not visit her at her home except with a permit from the Israeli government. Then the laws changed, and I was allowed in without a permit because I’m over 50 years old. Now such a visit is forbidden, possibly related to the Coronavirus pandemic.” For the vast majority of Israelis, Palestinians are “arbitrary concepts,” Ebenstein said. Having a dear friend who is Palestinian “changed so much for me.” Erekat feels the same way. “We have our own bodies but share one soul. We feel each other’s pain and help each other in many matters. Ruti is my sister and best friend,” Erekat said.
Ardeth Platte, Dominican nun dedicated to no-nukes cause, dies at 84
Religion News Service
Ardeth Platte (in the center) leading a prayer service
Sister Ardeth Platte, a Dominican order nun who fought for nuclear disarmament and later served as an inspiration for a character on the popular Netflix show “Orange Is the New Black,” died in her sleep at the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday (Sept. 30). Platte, 84, who often worked in tandem with her best friend and frequent collaborator, Sister Carol Gilbert, spent years in prison for nonviolent civil disobedience in opposition to nuclear weapons and war.
It was Gilbert who discovered Platte on Wednesday morning. She had apparently been listening to the radio, as she was still wearing headphones when Gilbert found her. Gilbert said Platte had listened to the presidential debate Tuesday night. In recent years, the duo spent the brunt of their work speaking in support of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Gilbert said she had been excited Wednesday morning at the prospect of telling Platte that Malaysia had become the 46th nation to ratify the treaty. Malaysia’s decision means just four additional ratifications are needed for the landmark disarmament treaty to be brought into force, Gilbert said. Gilbert said Platte did her final Zoom presentation in support of the treaty on Saturday to the Boston University School of Theology.
“I’m numb,” Gilbert said in a telephone interview. “She was fine yesterday. We did work. I guess you just don’t think death can come that quickly.”
Platte was born in Lansing, Michigan, and began her work for the Dominicans as a teacher. In the 1960s and ’70s, she served as principal and director of alternative education at the former St. Joseph’s Educational Center in Saginaw, Michigan. Her work as an educator impressed many in the community, and Platte was urged to run for the Saginaw City Council. She won, serving as councilwoman from 1973-1985. She also served as coordinator of Saginaw’s Home for Peace and Justice for more than a decade. It was in Michigan that Platte began her anti-nuclear work, and where Gilbert joined her. Later, the pair moved to Baltimore to join the Jonah House resistance community with Elizabeth McAlister and Philip Berrigan. In 2002, Platte, Gilbert and Sister Jackie Hudson gained international attention when they dressed as weapons inspectors, entered and were arrested at a Minuteman III nuclear missile site in Colorado. Convicted of federal felony charges, the three nuns were sentenced to prison. Hudson died in 2011.
When Platte and Gilbert returned to Colorado in 2017 for a rally, a story in The Denver Post stated: “In the years since they served their sentences in federal prison, the Dominican sisters, hardly deterred by the threat of future incarceration, have become pop culture icons.” A character on the Netflix series “Orange Is the New Black” was based on Platte, who practiced yoga at Danbury Federal Correctional Institution with Piper Kerman, author of the book on which the series about a group of women serving time in a minimum-security women’s prison is based.
A documentary film about the sisters, called “Conviction,” led to stories about the trio being published in The New Yorker, The New York Times and The Washington Post, as well as some international publications. In recent months, Platte and Gilbert joined actress Jane Fonda for large protests at the White House. Gilbert, who called 911 when she realized Platte had died, said the Catholic Worker house was soon crawling with D.C. police.
“I wanted to tell Ardeth that even in death you have to make a scene, made our bedroom here into a crime scene.” In an email announcement of Platte’s sudden death sent to many of her friends, Catholic activist Paul Magno of Jonah House wrote: “Deep shock to hear this but grateful for all that Ardeth has given to making the peace of Christ radiate through our world.”
In 2017, Platte told The Denver Post: “I refuse to have an enemy. I simply won’t.”
German Biker Gang Stages Vigil to Protect Munich Synagogue During Yom Kippur Services
Members of the ‘Kuhle Wampe’ bikers club take part in a Yom Kippur solidarity vigil, outside the synagogue on Munich’s Jakobsplatz, Sept. 28, 2020. Photo: Thomas Vonier via imago-images / Reuters.
Members of a German bikers club staged a vigil outside the main synagogue in Munich on Monday pledging to protect the city’s Jewish community as it held services for Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. About 70 people – including 20 leather and denim-clad bikers from the “Kuhle Wampe” club – gathered outside the synagogue on Jakobsplatz to mark the first anniversary of the attack by a neo-Nazi gunman on a synagogue in the city of Halle in which two people were murdered. The club, which actively campaigns against racism and antisemitism, was first launched in the 1970s by bikers who opposed the nationalist and right-wing tendencies that dominated the scene at the time. Oliver Westermann, a biker who initiated the vigil, told the assembled crowd, “We’re here to protect the synagogue.” Other members of the club held up a white banner bearing the words “Together for Our Synagogue” in Hebrew.
Other speakers at the event included Charlotte Knobloch – the head of the Munich Jewish community – who recalled her enthusiasm when Westermann suggested the vigil a few weeks ago. Praising the bikers’ for their commitment, Knobloch said that “the name ‘Yom Kippur’ has sat heavily in our hearts since Halle.” More than 50 worshippers who attended the Halle synagogue on Yom Kippur in 2019 would have faced a certain massacre at the hands of the gunman, neo-Nazi Stephan Balliet, had the synagogue’s security doors not prevented his entry.
Another speaker at the vigil, Susanne Breit-Kessler, chairwoman of the Bavarian Ethics Council, released two white balloons in memory of the two people murdered by Balliet after he fled the synagogue.
“We give antisemitism, racism and neo-fascism a clear rejection,” she declared, adding, “L’Chaim! To life in diversity.”
Why ‘namaste’ has become the perfect pandemic greeting
(The Conversation) – Hands over the heart in prayer pose. A little bow of the head. A gesture of respect. An acknowledgment of our shared humanity. And no touching. As people the world over are choosing to ditch the handshakes and hugs for fear of contracting the coronavirus, namaste is becoming the perfect pandemic greeting. As a scholar whose research focuses on the ethics of communication and as a yoga teacher, I’m interested in how people use rituals and rhetoric to affirm their interconnectedness with one another – and with the world.
Namaste is one such ritual.
I bow to you. Originally a Sanskrit word, namaste is composed of two parts – “namas” means “bend to,” “bow to” or “honor to,” and “te” means “to you.” So namaste means “I bow to you.” This meaning is often reinforced by a small bow of the head. In Hindi and a number of other languages derived from Sanskrit, namaste is basically a respectful way of saying hello and also goodbye. Today, namaste has been adopted into the English language, along with other words from non-English sources. Many words, when borrowed, keep their spelling but acquire new meanings. This is the case with namaste – it has shifted from meaning “I bow to you” to “I bow to the divine in you.”
For many American yoga teachers, beginning most likely with Ram Dass in the 1960s and 1970s, namaste means something like “the divine light in me bows to the divine light within you.” This is the definition of namaste I first learned and have often repeated to my students.
In the words of the popular American yoga teacher Shiva Rea, namaste is “the consummate Indian greeting,” a “sacred hello,” that means “I bow to the divinity within you from the divinity within me.” Deepak Chopra repeats a similar definition on his podcast “The Daily Breath with Deepak Chopra“: namaste means “the spirit in me honors the spirit in you” and “the divine in me honors the divine in you.” Namaste has a sacred connotation. When you bow to another, you are honoring something sacred in them. When you bow to another, you are acknowledging that they are worthy of respect and dignity. I bow to the divine light in you
However, there are critics who say that global yogis have taken namaste out of its context. Some claim that the greeting has been infused with a religious meaning that doesn’t exist in Indian culture.
I see things differently. Many common salutations have religious roots, including adios, or “a Dios,” to God, and goodbye – a contraction of “God be with you.” Most Indian religions agree that there is something divine in all individuals, whether it’s a soul, called the “atman” or “purusha” in Hinduism, or the capacity for awakening in Buddhism. As I argue in my forthcoming book, “The Ethics of Oneness: Emerson, Whitman, and the Bhagavad Gita,” this idea, of bowing to the divine in others, also resonates with a deep spiritual inclination in American culture. Beginning in the 1830s and 1840s, the influential philosopher and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson, in dialogue with a number of other thinkers, invented a form of spiritual practice that encouraged Americans to actively address the divine soul in others every time they spoke. Of particular note is that Emerson often used the metaphor of light to imagine this inner divinity, likely because of his great admiration for the Quakers, whose Christian denomination holds that God lives inside of us all in the form of an “inner light.” The definition of namaste as “the divine light in me bows to the divine light in you” is very much in the spirit of both Indian religions and 19th-century traditions of American spirituality.
In today’s global yoga culture, namaste is typically said at the end of class. As I understand, for yogis, saying namaste is a moment of contemplating the virtues associated with yoga – including peacefulness, compassion, and gratitude and how to bring those into one’s daily life.
I asked Swami Tattwamayananda, the head of the Vedanta Society of Northern California in San Francisco and one of the world’s leading authorities on Hindu ritual and scripture, how he felt about Americans like me saying namaste. He responded: “It is perfectly appropriate for everyone, including Westerners like yourself to say namaste at the end of your yoga classes.” He also reiterated that namaste means “I bow down to you” – in the sense that I bow down to the divine presence in you.
One need not be a Hindu, or a Buddhist, or a yoga teacher to say namaste. Namaste can be as religious or secular as the speaker desires.
What matters most, I believe, is the intention behind the word namaste. When you bow to another, the question to consider is this: Do you truly recognize them as a fellow human being worthy of dignity, bonded in shared suffering and a shared capacity for transcendence?
This recognition of our interconnectedness is what namaste is all about – and exactly what we need during the pandemic.
(Jeremy David Engels is a professor of communication arts and sciences at Pennsylvania State University. This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)
HWPL Interfaith Prayer Meeting Unites Believers in Fervent Prayer to End Suffering from COVID-19
HWPL (Heavenly Culture World Peace and Restoration of Light) brings together almost 200 religious leaders and their members to join a virtual prayer meeting to pray for an end of COVID-19 and global peace. Religious leaders of different denominations gathered their congregations and joined HWPL to “lift up prayers as one” for the end of COVID-19 around the world. The pandemic has inflicted suffering around the world, and one organization is uniting believers of all faiths to pray for its expedient end. HWPL held its Interfaith Prayer Meeting Saturday and over 180 online attendees prayed in their native languages to their deity to help a cure be discovered sooner. They also fervently prayed in unison for leaders in religion, political, medical and science fields to unite and lead with wisdom and compassion.
“In the current situation where the world is suffering from COVID-19, the purpose of this prayer meeting is for religious people to pray as one to overcome this disaster by breaking down the barriers between denominations,” the Moderator said. “Today, through our prayers, petitions, cries, tears, and smiles and through peace, the world that is suffering because of the virus will change.”
Though religions may separate people by languages and customs, faith in a higher power is what united all of them at the Interfaith Prayer Meeting Saturday. Attendees wore masks in solidarity with health workers on the front lines. And HWPL Chicago hopes this meeting will inspire other religious organizations to also hold interfaith meetings to unite people to pray for COVID-19’s end.
The event opened with meditation, where a soothing voice urged listeners to quiet themselves and focus deeply as a Hindu mantra was spoken. A quote from the Bhagavad Gita was read that translated as ‘whenever wherever there is a decline in religious practice, oh Arjun whenever there is a predominant rise of irreligion, at that time I descend myself. To deliver the pious, to annihilate the evil & to establish the (re-establish) the principle of religion.’ (Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 4, Verse 7-8)
The opening of this beautiful virtual event set the tone for a peaceful unification where believers could worship freely, and some could be cleansed by the many prayers lifted. Likewise, the montage of beautiful landscapes and religious monuments around the world set to the soundtrack of Buddhist, Christian and Hindu hymns created a surprising sense of connectedness. Though attendees were alone in their homes across the country, they were united in faith by the sincerity of the Moderator and by the shared impact of the deadly coronavirus plague.
The Moderator led participants in prayer and silent meditation for seven distinctive prayers requested from religious leaders, quoting the Quran, the Bible, Gandhi and Buddha. With humility he said, “We are united first as human beings.” Then attendees prayed each prayer out loud in their native languages.
Together they prayed:
For an end to the coronavirus around the world.
For government and medical personnel who are working to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
That all people and religious leaders would become one through love and pray for the end of coronavirus.
For fellow citizens who are suffering because of the virus, and those who have lost loved ones to the virus.
For the development of an effective treatment for the coronavirus.
A prayer of repentance.
For unity of religions and world peace.
Witnessing a hundred-plus people, their heads bowed wearing surgical masks and praying with a fervent humble heart, to their god for an end to suffering around the world was truly an uplifting sight for attendees. Recounting the Biblical story of Apostle Paul, the Moderator said, “When one of us suffer we all suffer.”
HWPL Chicago is inspiring believers to come together and transcend religion and denomination to work with one heart and help heal the world.
A cyclist pedals past rows of unfinished clay idols of Hindu goddess Durga, outside a studio ahead of Durga Puja festival, in Kolkata, India, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. Durga Puja, will be celebrated from Oct. 22 to 26. (AP Photo/Bikas Das)
Muslim worshippers observe social distancing during Friday prayers in Rabat, Morocco, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. For the first time since the outbreak of coronavirus in March, Morocco has allowed mosques to reopen for Friday prayers. (AP Photo/Mosa’ab Elshamy)