WISDOM Newsletter – December 2014

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events  

Wednesday, December 10

Women of Vision photography exhibit at the Cranbrook Museum

See Flyer Below!


Thursday, December 11

Face to Faith event for 8th through 12th graders

See Flyer Below!

Sunday, January 25

The 16th Annual World Sabbath

4:00 – 6:00 PM

Adat Shalom Synagogue

Farmington Hills

See Flyer below


Monday, February 9th

6:30 PM – 8:30 PM

Social Action Project at the Song and Spirit Institute for Peace in Berkley (2599 Harvard, Berkley, MI) Join us as we cut fleece for hats for needy children and stuff paper bags with non-perishable food for the homeless.  Contact Gail Katz if you would like to join us! gailkatz@comcast.net or 248-978-6664


Sunday, March 8th

2:00 PM – 5:00 PM

Celebrate Women’s International Day with WISDOM, the National Council of Jewish Women and the Diversity Task Force at the Birmingham Community House, 380 South Bates Street, Birmingham, MI. Details are in the works.  Stay Tuned for Flyer and registration information!

Wednesday, April 29th

The Dinner Party with Women of Note – an exciting event in the works for WISDOM women!!  Stay Tuned!

Thursday, May 14th

6:00 PM to 8:00 PM

Five Women Five Journeys at the Baldwin Public Library in Birmingham

Tuesday, August 11th

10:30 – Noon

Five Women Five Journeys with the Senior Women’s Club of The Birmingham Community House

Local Synagogue Screens DVD Course on

“Cultural Literacy for Religion” Weds at 1 pm starting Dec. 3

Congregation Beth Ahm in West Bloomfield, located at 5075 W. Maple Rd. just west of Inkster Rd., invites lifelong learners throughout the area to come and learn with Prof. Mark Berkson on DVD at 1 pm on Wednesday afternoons starting Dec. 3, as Beth Ahm screens his 24-part lecture series, “Cultural Literacy for Religion: Everything the Well-Educated Person Should Know.” The course was produced by The Great Courses ® in 2012. The series is free and open to the community. No reservations are required, and walk-ins are welcome. The lectures are self-contained and can be attended separately.

The course is designed to teach lifelong learners the basics of world religions – their origins, historical figures, rituals, scriptures, holidays, and key teachings – the things we need to know in order to consider ourselves religiously literate. The approach taken by the course is that of the imaginative insider, examining other religions with openness and empathy. By understanding the religious traditions that have shaped our fellow human beings, we better understand our world, our neighbors, ourselves, and the events of our time.
The instructor, Mark Berkson, Ph.D., is Associate Professor and Chair in the Religion Department at Hamline University. He teaches courses in the religious traditions of East and South Asia, Islam, and comparative religion. Prof. Berkson received a B.A. from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs in 1987 with a minor in East Asian Studies, an M.A. from Stanford Unibversity in East Asian Studies in 1992, and a Ph.D. from Stanford in Religious Studies and Humanities in 2000. He has twice received Faculty Member of the Year awards and has received multiple fellowships for his work in Asian religions. Prof. Berkson has also appeared on radio and television news shows in segments dealing with religious issues. His latest work is a book on death and dying in Chinese religious thought.

This is the latest course on DVD to be shown at Beth Ahm as part of its weekly drop-in lifelong learning series, “Drop In & Learn: Judaica on DVD,” now entering its 7th year. New students are welcome. The group watches DVDs on Jewish history, theology, philosophy, and culture as well as religion in general and contemporary events relating to Israel and Judaism. All are welcome. For more information contact the group’s facilitator, Nancy Kaplan, by (248) 737-1931 or e-mail nancyellen879@att.net



CBS Interfaith Special, looks at three faiths and asks them to share with us their beliefs, traditions, histories and modern voice. This special broadcast will be on the 

CBS Television Network Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014 (check local listings).

On the program, we interview Simran Jeet Singh, who is a Sikh and a PhD candidate at Columbia University’s Department of Religion, about the tenets of the Sikh tradition, which originated more than 500 years ago in South Asia, in a region called Punjab. Singh also talks to us about common misconceptions and how this sometimes leads to discriminatory practices in the U.S. The show features services at the Sikh Cultural Society in Queens, N.Y.

Also featured on the broadcast is John L. Ruth, a Mennonite who is a descendent of the first early Mennonite settlers in the U.S. who settled in Pennsylvania in the 1600s. With the Mennonite tradition dating back all the way to 16th century Europe, we also speak with Joel Alderfer and Forrest Moyer of the Mennonite Heritage Center in Harleysville, Pa.

Finally, we spend time in Silver Spring, Md., with Ella Smith Simmons, Vice President of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, a Protestant denomination that began in America in the mid-1800s, and ask her about what it means to live as an Adventist today. We also hear from Dr. Bill Knott, editor of the Adventist Review and Adventist World, about how the religion was first founded. Also interviewed is Richard Duerksen, Assistant to the President for Maranatha Volunteers International. He shares his reflections on the faith and the mission work his organization is doing all over the world.

John P. Blessington is the executive producer and Liz Kineke is the producer. In creating the topics and content of this Cultural & Religious Documentary CBS seeks input from the National Council of Churches, the Interfaith Broadcast Commission, and from clergy, scholars and other representatives of each of the religions presented within a program.


Following the Dec. 14 air date, this program may be viewed again at www.cbsnews.com/religion-and-culture

You can now watch Rev. Dan Buttry’s opening plenary presentation on “Interfaith Peacemaking” at the North American Interfaith Network Conference held last summer at Wayne State University on August 10th!  Don’t miss this powerful presentation!

From Karla Huber’s Blog

On November 9, the Race Relations & Diversity Task Force at the Birmingham Community House hosted an eye-opening presentation by Dr. Wayne Baker, about the ten core values a large majority of Americans have in common.
Dr. Baker’s premise is to emphasize points we agree on, to promote civil dialogue rather than debate. His exploration of these ten core values is intended to stoke people’s critical thinking skills in the direction of evaluating for themselves what these values mean to them.
“We have these ten values,” he states; it’s up to us to ask ourselves, “are we living up to them?”

Dr. Baker, author and Professor of Business Administration at the University of Michigan, partnered with U of M’s Institute for Social Research (ISR) to conduct a two-year study to identity the ten core values that a majority of Americans hold in common. 

The ten core values Dr. Baker and his team identified are:
– Respect for others
– Symbolic patriotism (emotional connection to patriotic imagery and a sense of      national pride)
– Freedom (specifically, freedom of expression)
– Security
– Self-reliance (America’s culture of independence)
– Equal opportunity (of race, religion, gender, etc.)
– Getting ahead (competition)
– The pursuit of happiness
– Justice
– Critical patriotism (criticizing the U.S. and its leaders out of a desire for the U.S. to live up to its professed values)


To help people understand how American society can have so many social, political, and cultural problems when we say we believe in the same things, Dr. Baker explained that we can agree on a particular value, but disagree on how to apply it in our lives.
Dr. Baker would really like to repeat his values study around the world. It would be interesting to see how different the results would be, since the U.S. is unusually traditional compared to other developed nations.
The material Dr. Baker presented is from his most recent book, United America, published by Read the Spirit. When asked what his next book will be about, Dr. Baker replied, “I’m thinking of writing a book about generosity.”


Dr. Wayne Baker is an author, blogger, sociologist, and professor at U of M’s Ross School of Business. To check out his daily blog about values and ethics, go to www.ourvalues.org or http://www.readthespirit.com/ourvalues/. His writing is concise and informative, and he always ends with a question inviting dialogue from his readers.

This event was hosted by the Birmingham-based Race Relations & Diversity Task Force, and sponsored by WISDOM. To learn more about the Task Force, visit http://tchserves.org/outreach-and-clubs/clubs/race-relations-diversity-task-force/ .

WISDOM Board members at the Wayne Baker event – from left to right: 
Jatinder Kaur, Paula Drewek, and Amy Morgan

It Will Take an Interfaith Village to Stand Up for Civil Rights
Murali Balaji, Aamir Hussain, and Manpreet Teji

South Asian American students at Bryn Mawr College 

participate in a demonstration against racism on September 19



People from all walks of life seem to agree that news over the past few months has been downright depressing. Whether it’s conflict overseas or the infernos of injustice here in the United States, there is still so much that stands in the way of achieving what we know can be the best of humanity: love for all beings, respect for the earth, and a promotion of peace. Over the past few months, we’ve been reminded of the many struggles we continue to face in promoting equality, justice, pluralism, and mutual respect. Within the South Asian American community, we have faced many trials together. From the early immigrants from India in the nineteenth century (the majority of whom were Sikh) who faced constant and institutionalized discrimination and racial violence, to the South Asians who arrived in the United States right after the repeal of the Asian Exclusion Act (only to find cities on fire and racial antagonism), our community has endured collective trauma. But we have also made collective progress. Today, the South Asian American community, which represents a kaleidoscope of cultures and religions, has a unique opportunity to stand together – and with others – to fight for equality in schools and the workplace while combating bullying and harassment. We’re aware that the diversity of faith traditions – including Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Jains, Christians, Buddhists, and Zoroastrians – that sometimes complicates our efforts to be a united voice, but this diversity can also help us put together a coalition that stands up against injustice.

For example, just last week, Loudoun County, Virginia officials acknowledged at least seventeen anti-Hindu vandalism incidents since July. While Hindu community members and the Hindu American Foundation have worked with local law enforcement, an interfaith condemnation of such hate can give us a stronger voice in advocating for equality. Similarly, incidents targeting Sikh Americans and Muslim Americans must be condemned by all of us because we all have felt this type of hate collectively, as the Bellingham Riots of 1907, the Bhagat Singh Thind Supreme Court case of 1923,and post-9/11 xenophobia demonstrate.


Moreover, it’s inherent in our scriptures to be more engaged in fighting for social justice and promoting amity among our community. In Islam, for example, the Quran (41:34) notes that

“The good deed and the evil deed are not alike. Repel the evil deed with one which is better, then lo! he, between whom and thee there was enmity (will become) as though he was a [close] friend.”

In Sikhism, the vision of shared humanity is noted in the Adi Granth (Sri Raga):

“Now is the gracious Lord’s ordinance promulgated, no one shall cause another pain or injury; all mankind shall live in peace together.”

And though Hinduism has many scriptures dealing with harmony and peace, the Atharva Veda encapsulates the spirit of community:

“May we agree in mind and thought, may we not struggle with one another, in a spirit displeasing to the gods!”

The three of us (who proudly identify as Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh, respectively) have begun an effort to get more young South Asian Americans, regardless of their beliefs, to stand up to bullying. We believe it’s necessary to have sustaining coalitions of South Asian Americans who proudly identify with their faith traditions. It also helps the greater cause for social justice, embodied by the idea of tikkun olam, that isn’t just one led by Christians, Jews, and Humanists, but one in which the expanse of faiths can be equal partners. As we begin to move the discussion into action, we hope more people within our community – particularly those raised here in the United States – put aside their differences, join hands and take the lead in combating intolerance. In the spirit of what our great faith traditions idealize, let us work together to make sure we can be a part of positive, pluralistic change.


Building the Global Beloved Community
By Rev. Dr. William (Bill) Lesher
Chair Emeritus of the Parliament of the World’s Religions

It was the next to the last day of the fifth Parliament event in Melbourne, Australia, 2009. I was standing on the third level of that magnificent convention center looking down on the crowd of people streaming up and down on the stairway and the escalators. They were Buddhist, Christians and Hindus, Indigenous people, Jains and Jews, Muslims, Pagans and Sikhs, Seekers, and Zoroastrians – all mixed together. They were locked in animated conversation. They were obviously enjoying one another. They were respecting each other, listening and learning from each other, and planning together for a better world. 
Years earlier, Martin Luther King Jr. looked on another diverse crowd of whites and blacks, religious leaders, labor organizers, housemaids and ship workers, “brimming with vitality and enjoying a rare comradeship,” as King put it. Then Dr. King prophesied, “I knew I was seeing a microcosm of the humankind of the future in that moment of luminous and genuine unity.” (From the book, Where Do We Go From Here, by MLK)
I believe that each Parliament event is also a microcosm of the humankind of the future. Dr. King called his vision of racial unity, “The Beloved Community.” I think he would approve our Parliament vision of interfaith harmony as an expression of the emerging “Global Beloved Community.”

2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions! 

October 15-19, 2015
Salt Palace Convention Center, Salt Lake City, Utah
Get more information at  





Rev. Dr. Lesher is Chair Emeritus of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Dr. Lesher has worked with communities and institutions across the globe in various responsibilities for church bodies. Dr. Lesher has been an adviser, trustee, consultant, and chair to numerous international educational, ecumenical, interfaith, and human rights organizations. 

Muslim and Jewish Feminists Mingle Uneasily
in the City Of Sisterly Love
Forward (English edition) USA Fri, 14 Nov 2014
By Cassie Owens
Brenda Naomi Rosenberg had had it with denunciations of Israel, and she told her

Muslim dialogue partner so, right to her face. Israel has the responsibility to defend itself from Hamas rockets!” she exclaimed. But Samia Moustapha Bahsoun, a Muslim of Lebanese descent who was raised in Senegal, had had it with that talking point. “By killing children and bombing schools and hospitals?” she countered. “Israel,” Bahsoun pointed out, “killed 2,000 Palestinians in this war! Seventy percent civilians!” “Hamas is using children as human shields,” Rosenberg replied. “Hamas is using schools and hospitals to send out rockets from!”

Their voices escalated as the debate continued. And the audience attending the first
national conference of the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom was transfixed. “It seems so real,” one audience member said in reaction. Bahsoun nodded when told this. “Oh, it is real,” she said. The two women – co-directors and co-founders of Tectonic Leadership, a conflict resolution group – may have been staging a demonstration of what can happen when interfaith dialogue participants reallyconfront the issues that  lurk underneath their discussions unaddressed. But Bahsoun explained that she really was upset about the civilian casualties. “You cannot build bridges without points of tension,” Bahsoun told the group. “Tension holds a lot of information.”
Two months after the war between Israel and Hamas, and Israel’s accompanying
invasion of Gaza, that point was a crucial one for the more than 100 women who
attended the November 2 conference at Philadelphia’s Temple University. Many women alluded to the “elephant in the room.” “What’s the point of all this if we can’t talk about this stuff?” asked panelist Rabia Chaudry, a fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute, in Jerusalem. The elephant was the conflict in Gaza. Heated Facebook debates and chafed feelings from that time seemed to be fresh in the memories of conference panelists. Sheryl Olitzky, co-founder and executive director of the SOSS, called the disagreements among members “heartbreaking.”
What Bahsoun and Rosenberg offered was the proposition that those willing to dialogue can still be intransigent on what matters most to them. A major tenet of their approach is that one does not change or sacrifice core principles when entering into dialogue with someone from the contending group. What a participant is called on to do is to make room to respect the beliefs of others.
Rosenberg, a committed Zionist, invokes the Holocaust as history’s indelible lesson on the necessity for a State of Israel; Bahsoun, who lost her grandmother and great aunt to Israeli raids on Southern Lebanon in 1982, resists comparing her ideals, explaining, “commonalities aren’t my thing.” Through Tectonic Leadership the two women seek to model ways to understand the other side’s backgrounds and experiences and the fears they produce, and thereby to help prevent future wars and genocides.
Read the rest of this article by going to:

Jan Jagielski at the Jewish Cemetery in Warsaw, Poland 
 by Donald Snyder, Nov. 8, 2014, 

On Sept. 1, Poles remembered the German invasion of their country that took place 75 years ago, marking the start of World War II. The Holocaust and five years of brutal Nazi oppression followed. The Nazis’ murder of 6 million Jews took place, for the most part, on Polish soil. Jan Jagielski, a 77-year-old Polish Catholic, deals with the legacy of that mass murder each day. A retired chemist, he now works at Warsaw’s Jewish Historical Institute in the Documentation of Monuments and Photo Archive. His retirement work reflects his vow to never forget the 3 million Jewish people from Poland who were victims of the Holocaust. “This is my eternal obligation, to be a guardian of memory,” he said during an interview in his Warsaw office. His work helps counter a growing Holocaust denial, especially among the nation’s youth, he said. “It was unprecedented. We must remember it.”

Jagielski’s affinity for Jews and interest in the Holocaust began during his high school days in communist Poland. He attended a secular high school in Warsaw, where many of his schoolmates were Holocaust survivors or children of Holocaust survivors. Most of these friends emigrated in 1956-68 because of the anti-Semitic policies of the communist government. With all his Jewish classmates gone from Poland, he feels an obligation to keep their memory. Jagielski began his own documentation project in the 1960s.



“It was his way to provide an accurate history of what the Germans destroyed and what the communists deliberately suppressed,” said Menachem Daum, an American Jew of Polish descent and a staunch advocate for improving the deplorable state of Jewish cemeteries in Poland. Communist regimes never acknowledged suffering specific to Jews during the Holocaust. This history was taught as fascist oppression of Poles, without any specific Jewish reference. Jagielski greets visitors with a warm smile. Holocaust survivors and their descendants embrace him. He listens to them patiently and with compassion. During our interview, he greeted elderly survivors with hugs. “My office is a place where people can come to cry and talk about the past,” said Jagielski. “This makes my life worth living. I make time for everyone.”

He travels the country to record the location and condition of hundreds of synagogues and the 1,400 cemeteries that served the prewar Jewish population of 3.3 million. He compares prewar pictures with current ones. Many of the synagogues were abandoned or destroyed by the Germans. Many of the cemeteries were ruined. They are neglected for lack of funds and because there are no Jews left to maintain them. Jagielski helps Jews of Polish descent find cemeteries where their ancestors are buried and also to find their family homes.


“He’s a valuable resource because he has visited almost every city, town and village in Poland to gather information about Jewish institutions,” said Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich. “And because he doesn’t know how to say no to another human being seeking help.” Jewish visitors come to Poland for historic or sentimental reasons and occasionally to settle restitution claims, and Jagielski helps to sustain their past, said author Konstanty Gebert, a columnist for Poland’s largest circulation newspaper and a prominent member of the Warsaw Jewish community.

“He gets great happiness by making a past that many people consider obliterated available,” said Gebert. “In a way, it’s a small victory over Hitler.”

Among the many documents in Jagielski’s archives is a small picture of Maria Tyk, age 19, that he found in a box at the Jewish Historical Institute, shortly after he began working there in 1991. Tyk had dated the picture Nov. 24, 1942. On the back was this inscription:

To the eternal memory for the one who will keep my picture, I am writing on the tragic departure from the family town of Strzegowo. Please tell future generations that there were once a people who with full consciousness went to their death, tough people with a great sense of humanity. These people surrendered to the severity of fate. Let my eyes tell you how tragic was my short life.

The next day Tyk was deported to Auschwitz, where she was murdered. The box of photos was brought to the institute after the war, stored there without notice for 50 years. Jagielski’s resurrection of these photos led to a story about the Tyk family in her former hometown newspaper. Thanks to the work of Jagielski, Tyk’s last words were at last published in 2004, 62 years after her murder. Many Catholics shunned Jagielski’s mother because she was divorced, he said. “She always taught me and my brother to respect people of all religions,” he said, adding that her emphasis on tolerance and understanding of all people had a profound influence on him. Ryszard Mostowicz, a longtime friend, summed up the thinking of many who know Jagielski.

“The history of the Jewish people is his passion. It’s his life.”

New York Sikh Student, Iknoor Singh, 

Sues Army For Barring Him From ROTC 

From the Huffington Post



MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) – A Sikh college student has sued the Army, saying he cannot join the Reserve Officer Training Corps unless he violates his religious beliefs by removing his turban, shaving and cutting his hair.

The group United Sikhs and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday in Washington, D.C., on behalf of Iknoor Singh, a 19-year-old from the New York City borough of Queens.

Singh, a sophomore studying finance and business analytics at Hofstra University on Long Island, said he has had a lifelong interest in public service and began thinking of a military career several years ago. His lawsuit said he speaks four languages – English, Punjabi, Hindi, and Urdu – and he said he wants to work in military intelligence.

“It has been one of those passions and dreams,” he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview this week. “If you look back in history, Sikhs have a very rich military tradition. We have always stood up to oppression and stand up for justice.”

Sikhism, a 500-year-old religion founded in India, requires its male followers to wear a turban and beard and keep their hair uncut.

Under a policy announced in January, troops can seek waivers on a case-by-case basis to wear religious clothing, seek prayer time or engage in religious practices. Approval depends on where the service member is stationed and whether the change would affect military readiness or the mission. There are currently only a few Sikhs serving in the U.S. Army who have been granted religious accommodations.

But ACLU Attorney Heather Weaver said the only remedy offered to Singh is a Catch-22: He must comply with military rules and only then ask for a waiver that would allow him to wear his turban, beard and long hair.

Singh is being permitted to audit the ROTC classes, said Lt. Col. Daniel Cederman, commander of Hofstra’s program, which trains students to become commissioned officers.

Bur Singh and his attorneys argue that he is not receiving credit for the classes, nor is he eligible for potential ROTC scholarships because he is not an actual enlistee. Weaver also said Singh will not be permitted to audit the classes after his sophomore year.

Lt. Col. Ben Garrett said in a statement that the Army does not comment on pending litigation. He said the service is “a diverse force with a long history of accommodating the religious practices of its members and the rights of soldiers to observe the tenets of their respective religions, or to observe no religion at all.”

A statement from Hofstra said it supports “Singh’s ambitions to serve his country. … We very much hope that the Army will permit us to enroll Mr. Singh in the program as a full cadet.”

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

This unique WISDOM program features personal stories of women of different faith traditions – how their childhood impacted their beliefs today, what the challenges are for women in their faith tradition, what parts of their religion are misunderstood, how reaching out to someone from a different faith has enriched their lives.
To inquire about a Five Women Five Journeys Program for your organization, contact Paula Drewek at Drewekpau@aol.com .

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!