WISDOM Newsletter – August 2015

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events   

Tuesday, August 11

10:30 – 11:30 AM

Five Women Five Journeys at the Senior Women’s Club, Birmingham Community House, 380 S. Bates, Birmingham


Thursday, Sept. 17

9:00 AM – 3:00 PM

Conference on End of Life issues across faith traditions

Henry Ford Hospital, Gilmour Conference Center, 

One Ford Place, Detroit

Sponsored by Henry Ford Hospital, and the InterFaith Leadership Council

Contact Nancy Combs for more information ncombs1@hfhs.org 


Sunday, October 18

3:30 PM – 5:30 PM 

Head Coverings Across the Faith Traditions

Sponsored by the InterFaith Leadership Council

A showing of “Hats of Jerusalem” documentary, followed by an interfaith panel

St. John’s Episcopal Church, 26998 Woodward Ave., Royal Oak

$10.00 charge

Contact Gail Katz at gailkaktz@comcast.net for more information.

Sunday, October 25

4:00 PM – 6:00 PM

Five Women Five Journeys at the Unity of Royal Oak Church

2500 Crooks Rd., Royal Oak

Sunday, November 18

6:30 PM – 8:30 PM

Showing of the film

Ocean of Pearls

Place TBD


To Raise your Voice
In Defense of the
Nine Victims at Charleston SouthCarolina


On June 19, 2015 A White Supremist chose to
try to start a race war by killing 9 African Americans while they were in a Bible Study in Charleston South Carolina USA.

Sponsored by The Local Spiritual Assembly of Detroit Michigan

The Detroit Bahai Commmunity Response

  • Inter- Faith Devotionals
  • Movie screenings
  • Guided Dialogues

When: Aug. 14, Aug 15, Sept.25, Oct. 9, Oct,10

Detroit Bahai Center
19711 Greenfield Rd. 48235

Who:Members of all Religions and Faiths, as well as all three Bahai Clusters Wayne, Macomb, and Oakland.

Prayers followed by film and guided dialog on Most Challenging Issue

What Time: 4:00 doors open begin 4:30pm

what is needed for Success to Honor these 9 Sanctified Souls? Participation, Diversity, Friends from all Religions, Snacks, Food

Can we count on you?

Contact Betty or Blair to tell us how you can help!
313-255-8183 Betty or 313-742-9925 Blair

 Interfaith Interaction – My Passion
By Gail Katz

I grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland in a very non-Jewish neighborhood and I was always the only Jewish child in my elementary school classroom.  Every morning I would bow my head with my classmates and recite The Lord’s Prayer – “Our Father Who Art in Heaven, Hallowed Be Thy Name, etc.”  Prayer was quite legal in the 1950s when I was a child.  And then there was always the December dilemma!  I was always part of the Christmas pageants where my class would sing the Christmas Carols in the assembly hall – Oh Come all Ye Faithful, Joy to the World and Silent Night – all the songs with the name of Jesus in them. I knew they were not my songs, but I did not want to be singled out as the only one not singing with the rest of the school.  My teachers always pointed to me, the Jewish kid, to explain the meaning of that “Jewish Christmas” called Chanukah, and I had to bring in the menorah and stand in the front of the class and talk about what it was, underscoring how different I was from everyone else.


My parents were very secular Jews, and went to the synagogue three times a year – twice for Rosh Hashanah and once for Yom Kippur, the holiest days in Judaism.  Even in the synagogue, I felt like an outsider.  My brother went to Hebrew school and learned the Hebrew prayers for his bar mitzvah.  I received no Jewish education, and I sat in the synagogue feeling conspicuous, as I couldn’t read Hebrew and I didn’t know the prayers or the melodies.  I would sit next to my father and braid the fringes on his Tallit (prayer shawl), counting the minutes until we could go home.  I continued to feel like an outsider.

In 1960 my father got a job at Ford Motor Company, and we moved to Oak Park, Michigan, which at the time was a suburb of Detroit that had a heavy Jewish population.  So from being the only Jewish kid in my class, I was surrounded by Jewish classmates.  But as the new kid, the shy kid, the kid that got all A’s, I was bullied by the girls for not being COOL!  I was still the outsider!


My grandfather, an orthodox Russian Jew, came to live with us when I was about 14. He spoke Yiddish and very little English, but showed me his love for Judaism!  Every morning (except Shabbat) I watched him put on his tefillin (his phylacteries) and say his prayers, and I spent my teens hearing about the Eastern European Jewish life he left behind in Russia, which became Poland by the time my mother was born there, and the relatives that perished in the Holocaust because of hate of the “other,” – the Jews.


All of this laid the foundation for my career teaching English as a Second Language in the Berkley Public Schools to Immigrant adults and children, people labeled as the “other.” I chose to start a diversity club for middle school students, teaching them to take a right stand, to stop just being bystanders, to advocate for the “other,” to stop the bullying that was taking place because of differences in ethnic background, religion, size, sexual orientation, and economic status. One of the programs that I was instrumental in starting was named the Religious Diversity Journeys, and involved selected seventh graders (who study World Religions in their social studies classes) from 5 Oakland County school districts to make site visits to a mosque, a Sikh gurdwara, a synagogue, a church, and a Hindu temple where they spent these special school days learning about different faith traditions!  Now 12 years later the Interfaith Leadership Council has taken on this program and it has tripled in size and is incredibly impactful to the students and their parents who attend!!


Being involved with the Religious Diversity Journeys increased my desire to teach our youth and adults about religious literacy, to focus on greater respect and understanding and to decrease the myths and stereotypes we have of people different from ourselves!  I helped to foster an interfaith initiative called Face to Faith, which impacts high school students of different faith traditions who come together a few times a year at different houses of worship after school.  I am the chairperson of the World Sabbath, an annual event to celebrate World Peace through prayers, dance and music from different faith traditions, and that includes our youth as Children of Peace who make peace banners and sing “We are Children of Peace” together. In 2006 I helped to found WISDOM (Women’s Interfaith Solutions for Dialogue and Outreach in MetroDetroit) to bring women of different faiths together to plan faith-based educational initiatives and interfaith social action projects. I became the chair of the Interfaith leadership Council’s Education committee, where we have planned many interfaith panels to address life-cycle events across the faith traditions.  As a member of the Temple Israel Board of Directors, I have brought the temple’s Sisterhood and the women of Hartford Memorial Baptist Church together for fun social action projects.  I am the co-chair of the Jewish and Chaldean Social Action Committee that brings the two communities together to better understand each other’s faiths and cultures. Interfaith Interaction has become my passion!!


My involvement in interfaith has increased my desire to know more about my own faith tradition, Judaism.  Because I was not given the opportunity to learn about my faith tradition as a child, I have had a strong yearning my whole life to learn about what it means to be Jewish, and so I have been taking many courses in Judaism and Torah study for the last 8 years.  In June of 2012 I had my adult bat-mitzvah at Temple Israel, an event that meant so much to me, and I even had the chance to chant my Torah portion that spring in Jerusalem, not far from the holy Western Wall.


So from the angry child who didn’t fit in anywhere, I have found my calling in bringing people of different faiths, races, and ethnicities together who may not have had the opportunity to meet each other in our rather segregated metropolitan community!  Being the “outsider” has led me into an incredibly fulfilling world of interfaith in my years of retirement, and I am incredibly blessed!!  I look forward to many more years of interfaith interaction in Metropolitan Detroit!

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Catholic and Jewish musicians invite all of us to
pray with Pope Francis
(From Readthespirit.com)

GOOD MUSIC BUILDS GOOD COMMUNITY: Brother Al Mascia and Cantor Steve Klaper collaborate at the Song and Spirit Institute for Peace in Berkeley, Michigan.

FRANCIS is the first pope to devote an entire encyclical-the highest form of papal teaching-to the protection of our natural world. This is such a milestone that some are calling Francis’s new campaign “a seismic shift in mainstream Christian thought about the human-nature relationship.”

The pope is inspiring men and women around the world-including an interfaith song-writing duo who set Francis’s prayer to music. Today, we are sharing their music video (below) so you can pass it along to friends, your congregation-and anyone else who might be inspired to carry this message further.

WHAT CAN WE DO TO HELP?Share today’s video! Francis asks us all to pray-and he is giving the world two prayers: One written with Catholics and other Christians in mind; one written for a more universal audience. Here’s the story behind this new music video …

The Song and Spirit Institute is nationally known as an interfaith community making peace through music, the fine arts (especially the creation of beautiful mosaics led by artist and co-founder Mary Gilhuly)-and service to the poor in many forms. The center in Berkeley, northwest of Detroit, also teaches volunteer to care for the earth in many ways.

The creation of new inspirational music is the vocation of the center’s other co-founders: Brother Al Mascia, a Franciscan Friar, and Cantor Steve Klaper, a Jewish musician and storyteller. They bill themselves as: “A Franciscan minstrel and a Jewish troubadour bringing peace to the world one song at a time.”

Klaper says their latest collaboration began with a message from an East Coast friend: “We first heard about Francis’s prayers from Rabbi Arthur Waskow,” head of the Philadelphia Shalom Center and author of the two-volume Torah of the Earth, by Jewish Lights. “Rabbi Waskow sent out word that people should not miss the two prayers at the very end of the pope’s new book. He realized that many people wouldn’t slog through 180-or-so pages and might miss the prayers at the very end.

“But, the moment I looked at the prayers, I said: ‘There’s a song here! I’m not sure yet how it’s a song-but it’s a song!’ And I turned to Brother Al to work on turning the language of the prayer into lyrics.”

Brother Al understood the power of such a song. “The moment this encyclical was released, there was a lot of political controversy about it,” he says. “Some of that debate was filled with adulation for the letter and some was quite vitriolic-but that political debate missed the point of what Francis really is saying. We realized that the conversation really needed some poetry, creativity and music. And that’s what we can contribute here at Song and Spirit.”

A long-time fan of Cat Stevens, Brother Al recalls what Stevens told reporters when Stevens (as Yusuf Islam) returned to producing music in 2006:

“The language of song is simply the best way to communicate. … I never wanted to get involved in politics because that essentially separates people, whereas music has the power to unify, and is so much easier for me than to give a lecture. You can argue with a philosopher, but you can’t argue with a good song.”

Enjoy this new song-and share it:

Detroit area Muslims call for peace,

decry Chattanooga violence

Fox News Article and video (see link below)


The investigation continues into what led a Chattanooga man who identified as Muslim to go on a shooting rampage leaving killing four Marines.

Local Muslims in southeast Michigan are moving forward and embracing their traditions while combating negative stereotypes about them.

“We take five steps forward but then these things bring us back unfortunately,” said Fatima Salman of Michigan Muslim Community Council. “It makes it harder but we have to keep moving,”

At the Muslim Unity Center mosque in Bloomfield Hills it’s prayer time

“In our sermons we made sure we spoke out against this violent act,” said Imam Mohamed Al-Masmarii of the Michigan Muslim Community Council. “We hope that people can know we stand strongly against acts like this as Muslims.”

But the executive director of the Michigan Muslim Community Council says it’s crucial people do not allow acts of violence by any one Muslim to tarnish their community and what it represents.

“He doesn’t represent Muslims,” said Al-Masmarii. “Michigan is one of the largest Muslim communities in America and you see the peace we have here.”

The deadly shooting took place during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. A time when many Muslims fast to learn self-respect, self-discipline and self-restraint.

On Friday many Muslims marked the conclusion of the holy month with the Celebration of Eid

As Ramadan comes to an end, this community admits it’s difficult to celebrate in wake of a tragedy.

“It really shocked the community and in a way it really changed the vibe where we were excited that everything was calm,” he said. “So it was a shock for the Muslim community.”

As the FBI investigates the shooting to see if it was an act of terrorism, local Muslims say eduction is what promotes understanding and erases fear.

“If people give us opportunity to explain and also be generous enough to listen to what we have to say. In times we have to explain certain things, we hope people listen to us and not (just) hear us.”




Ignatius and Islam: Uncovering interfaith intersections

From the National Catholic Reporter

It’s a special time in the Islamic world, and in the Ignatian world, too.

For the last month, Muslims have been celebrating the holy month of Ramadan, a time of fasting, almsgiving, and praying over God’s revelation. For those at Jesuit institutions – schools, parishes, and organizations inhabiting the spirit of St. Ignatius of Loyola – this July is a celebration of the spirituality of the Jesuit founder, whose feast day is July 31. This confluence of celebrations prompted me to reflect on the points of convergence between Islamic and Ignatian spirituality. As a student of Islam educated in Catholic Jesuit schools, I’ve discovered some profound similarities, or, as the late Trappist abbot Christian de Cherge would call them, “the notes that are in common” between the religions.

These similarities can be explained best by pointing to three Arabic mottos, central to the Islamic tradition, and their surprising Ignatian counterparts.


The phrase MashaAllah, or “what God wills,” is used to express appreciation, gratitude, reverence, and awe about the good and beautiful. As my friend Zainab put it, it’s about recognizing “a flicker of God’s divine character” in the created world. Muslims exclaim it when their friends get into college, when they spot a stunning sunset, or when their relatives post a picture of their new, healthy baby on Facebook. I like to think of this prompt acknowledgement of God’s blessings as an immediate, “in-the-moment” Examen, the daily prayer of gratitude developed by St. Ignatius. The Daily Examen encourages us to reflect back on – or rummage through – our day, looking for the places where God made Godself known to us. Often, these ayat, or signs of God, can be found in creation. Pope Francis, a Jesuit, and the Muslim mystic Ali al-Khawas, both realized this. In his recent encyclical, “Laudato Si‘, on Care for our Common Home,” Francis cites the Sufi writer, who wrote in the ninth century:

The initiate will capture what is being said when the wind blows, the trees sway, water flows, flies buzz, doors creak, birds sing, or in the sound of strings or flutes, the sighs of the sick, the groans of the afflicted.

Inspired by Ali’s poetic description, Francis writes:

Standing awestruck before a mountain, [the mystical person] cannot separate this experience from God, and perceives that the interior awe being lived has to be entrusted to the Lord.

What Francis and Ali are both describing is that “a-ha!” – or rather, MashaAllah – moment, when a person recognizes and acknowledges that it is ultimately God who is the giver of creation’s good gifts. But it’s not just about seeing God in what appears to be beautiful and good, but finding Allah in all things. Both Christianity and Islam teach us that every experience – good or bad – is an opportunity to become closer to the divine. St. Ignatius talks about this as “finding God in all things,” a phrase which has become an important buzzword in Ignatian communities. Another Muslim mystic, the well-known Rumi, would have agreed with Ignatius. In his poem, “The Guest House,” he advises us to “be grateful for whoever comes, [because] each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”


Another phrase of great significance in the Islamic tradition is InshaAllah, or “if God wills.” Muslims use it when talking about the future, to qualify their anticipated plans with the caveat that God is ultimately in control.

The frequent mention of God’s will in Muslims’ speech points to the core endeavor at the center of Islam: conforming one’s will to the will of God. The word Islam refers to the peace that comes with surrendering to God’s will, and a Muslim is a person who submits to that God-given peace. That is a notion familiar to those acquainted with Ignatian spirituality. St. Ignatius taught that we must constantly ask ourselves, “What is God’s will for me?” and “How can I live out God’s desires for me, and for the world?” Ignatius wrote that we could come to these answers through prayerfuldiscernment.


Junayd, another spiritual giant, said this handing over of one’s free will to God brings deep “contentment.” But the process of discerning God’s will and living it out in practice is challenging. Matt McKibben, a student at a Jesuit high school in Kansas City, Mo., described this challenge as riding with God on a tandem bicycle. After steering the bike from the front seat and maintaining control over life, he asks God to metaphorically swap places, praying, “Let me pedal hard while you guide the way. Let me keep focus, and stay with you always.”

By uttering InshAllah, Muslims vocalize their inner trust, or tawakkul, in God’s plan for the future. I can imagine my Muslim friends offering this prayer by the late Jesuit Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, renaming it “Patient Tawakkul”:

Give Our Lord the benefit of believing

that his hand is leading you,

and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself

in suspense and incomplete.

Islamic and Ignatian spirituality also put a strong emphasis on God’s “greatness.” Each Islamic call to prayer begins with the invocation, Allahu Akbar, “God is the greatest.” It is used to praise and glorify God who is transcendent, grander than we could ever imagine. This phrase of exultation is also used in ordinary life, to express “adulation and exuberance during a sermon or cultural performance, and conversely, even to [communicate] a sense of shock or distress upon learning of the death of a loved one.” Unfortunately, most non-Muslims will only associate this phrase with terrorists. They don’t know that NFL football star Husain Abdullah  uses it to give credit to God when he picks off a pass from Tom Brady on the football field. The motto of the Society of Jesus, Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam, “For the greater glory of God,” was coinedby St. Ignatius to remind us that every act we perform, big or small, can and should be dedicated to God. The motto vocalizes the common goal of Christians, Muslims and all people of faith, who endeavor to dedicate their lives to something greater than themselves.

Islam and Ignatian spirituality remind us that our existence is made meaningful by this: praising and glorifying God through a life of service to God and others. That’s why I was so thrilled with the title of Pope Francis’ encyclical. Laudato Si’ means “praise be to you” in the medieval Umbrian dialect of Italian spoken by St. Francis of Assisi, who had his own personal encounter with Islam through a meeting with the Muslim Sultan al-Kamil in Egypt. The title made me smile because it could have easily have been named Alhamdulillah – another ubiquitous Arabic term meaning “praise be to God,” the equivalent for our Hallelujah.

At a bare minimum, this time of celebration can be an opportunity for our communities to learn more about each other. But it holds much more potential. These days should call us to praise God, not just from the comfort of our own, respective communities, but together, as a diverse community, unified by our shared goals and our common Source.


[Jordan Denari is a research fellow at Georgetown University’s Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, where she works for the Bridge Initiative, a research project on Islamophobia.]

How an Iftar dinner changed Jessie’s experience in Israel

Jessie Ziff is a volunteer in the Public Relations Department at the Peres Center for Peace. Here’s what she told us about her experience with the Iftar Dinner.


Never in my life did I think, as a Jewish girl from New York, that I would be celebrating Ramadan, a Muslim holiday. Walking the streets of New York, I am always slightly nervous when I pass a Muslim, fearing that they do not like me. Coming to Israel and volunteering at The Peres Center For Peace is an experience that can almost not be described in writing. Why not? Volunteering here is indescribable. I feel empowered every day. It is an incredible feeling. One that is fulfilling and life-changing.

One night in particular I felt exceptionally proud and honored to be here, it was at the Iftar dinner hosted by the center. Iftar means the break-fast during the month of Ramadan. The dinner was a Potluck, meaning that each person had to bring something to contribute to the meal. When I got there, I was greeted by several Arab babies running around. How fun!!! Grandparents came, as well as other relatives of the employees. I had never been surrounded by so many Arabs while feeling as if they were no different than myself.

I had a realization at the dinner.  I work at the same place as Arabs, I enjoy the same food. I am learning Hebrew, as are some of them. Yes, that might be a childish statement, but it felt so surreal and amazing. I just wanted to talk with them and understand- understand their struggle, understand their lives, understand their stances.  I sat with them, and I ate their food. I enjoyed every single second of it.  I could not stop smiling. I felt a sense come over me that brought tears to my eyes. My body and mind were going crazy. Thoughts racing. I felt so cool, so mature, so pure and wholesome.

I left the dinner and called home; I told my parents that I was just part of one of the most eye-opening, amazing experiences of my entire life. I went to sleep smiling, excited to come to work the next day.  When I woke up in the morning, aside from still being stuffed from dinner, I did not even snooze my alarm. I was so eager to come to work and be back in this environment. I feel empowered and humble every single day.  I am so happy and thankful to be able to have a seat in this center and work with people who are so passionate about the same cause as I am. A vision that prior President and Prime Minister, Shimon Peres, has and to be able to work towards that is something that I am so grateful for.

Something about the dinner really hit home for me. When describing to others about my work here, I lead with a detailed description about the event. I want to talk about it and share my feelings.  Since the dinner, I have been thinking a lot about what I can do when I leave the center and go back home. I go to school at Penn State University and I want to be an activist. I want to do something on my own to work towards Peres’ goal.  I want to start a program that integrates Jews and Arabs at school. I want to speak.  I want to share my experience, and I want to give, and to be given, the chance to come together.  I want peace, and I want change. Being here everyday, I know it is possible.  To be a Jew and to celebrate a Muslim holiday in Israel with Arabs is proof that if we all come together and work for the same outcome, we will one day reach that.


Jessie Ziff is a 19 year old from New York who studies at Penn State University and is majoring in Human Development and Family Studies.



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!