October 2019

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WISDOM Mission Statement

To Provide concrete modeling of women from different faith traditions working together in harmony for the common good.
To Empower women to take a more active role in furthering social justice and world peace.
To Dispel myths, stereotypes, prejudices and fear about faith traditions different from our own.
To Nurture the growth of empathy and spiritual energy that result from our projects and interfaith dialogue.


WISDOM is a Non-Profit Organization. Get involved with WISDOM!

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