WISDOM Newsletter – July 2013

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

JULY 2013


Sunday, September 22

3:00 PM

Five Women Five Journeys

in Alpena – place to be decided!

For further information contact Janice Boboltz, jboboltz@gmail.com



Monday, October 7th


7:00 PM

Five Women Five Journeys, Troy Area Interfaith Group

Northminster Presbyterian Church

3633 Big Beaver Rd., Troy, MI 48084

For further info: troy.interfaith@gmail.com



Can your congregation or organization help gather

some school supplies and backpacks this summer

for 600 of our foster kids and families?

Collection needs to take place by July 31, 2013.

A special “Packing Party” of these supplies into backpacks will take place on Saturday, August 10, 1:30 to 4:00pm at the The Bharatiya Temple 6850 N Adams Road in Troy MI 48098. Packing Party coordinator is Varsha Rengesh, 248-375-0888. Let’s join together on this exciting interfaith service project!


Want more details? Please contact Rev. Kate Thoresen, coordinator of the Faith Communities Coalition on Foster Care at Kthoresen7@gmail.com or Trina D. Richardson, DHS – Faith Based Coordinator at 231-398-8497 or contact e-mail at RichardsonT12@michigan.gov.

Gestures of peace from a synagogue in Jerusalem
By Rabbi Ron Kronish
An interfaith meeting at the Kehillat Yedidya modern orthodox synagogue in Jerusalem gathered together young Jews, Muslims, and Christians. Rabbi Kronish and the apostolic nuncio in Israel, Mons. Lazzarotto, welcomed the participants.

“As many of you know, our here, especially in Jerusalem, we live separately. The Arabs do not have an occasion to meet the Israelis, and vice versa. We don’t have any real interaction in our daily lives.” This was voiced by Laura, a young Christian who lives in Jerusalem and studies at a Jewish university. Her words give prominence to the event held at the Kehillat Yedidya synagogue on the 30th April. The symposium entitled “Discovering the other’s humanity” was attended by youth from the 3 monotheistic religions. A good part of them belonged to the Youth for a United World, who were participating in the concluding event, “Be the Bridge”, of the Genfest. The others were their fellow youth who live in the Holy Land. Lara continues her narration speaking of “an idea conceived by two young and ambitious women who wanted to better their lives and to give the youth a chance to meet up with each other, breaking away from stereotypes.” It was a challenge undertaken 6 years ago and still continues today. Every year the group is comprised of around twenty odd youth from the three religions: Jews, Christians, and Muslims, aged between 16-18 years.


As a youth, Lara participated in the first project as “an enthusiastic young girl who sees the bright side of the situation and dreams of an approaching united world”. The meetings are held twice a month: “We discover and explore the similarities and the differences among us”. The meetings deal with various topics in order to know one another: the family, values and upbringing in the different religions, etc …


It’s an important project, but the question that remains is: after these meetings, will we continue to see each other. The experience continues and the project has also helped in understanding the other’s point of view. Lara explains further: “In times of conflict and difficulties, we meet up, share our sufferings, and pray. It seems like a dream that’s distant from reality, but it’s a truth that we live together.” Lara is one among 4 youth who shared their testimonies, dreams and hopes: with her there’s also Hani, a Palestine Muslim, who’s studying law; Huda, a Jew born in New York but who moved to Jerusalem while he was little; Nalik, a Christian from Portugal.

The nuncio, Mons Lazzarotto, in his address to the youth, invited them to “be prophets” to “make this land once more the land of dreamers”. Prof. Alberto Lo Presti expressed this appeal as a ‘Social principle”, that of fraternity, which contains within itself “the power to transform our history”. In answer to this, rabbi Raymond Apple (ICCI) underlined the need to learn to trust in each other: “the road to fraternity is to be able to say: I trust you”. Rabbi Kronish, Director of the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel (ICCI), who moderated the event, concluded by encouraging the participating youth to continue to bring this message of hope to all.


We leave Jerusalem with the desire to look up and grow in mutual trust, in order to change history.

Which Faith Traditions include the Hamsa?

Although it may derive from Islamic or pagan culture, the hamsa today has become a Jewish and Israeli symbol. The symbol of an eye embedded in the palm of an open hand has had several names throughout the ages, including the hamsa, the eye of Fatima, the hand of Fatima, and the hand of Miriam. The form is sometimes rendered naturally and other times symmetrically with a second thumb replacing the little finger. The hamsa has been variously interpreted by scholars as a Jewish, Christian, or Islamic amulet, and as a pagan fertility symbol. Yet even as the magical form remains shrouded in mystery and scholars debate nearly every aspect of its emergence, it is recognized today as a kabbalistic amulet and as an important symbol in Jewish art.



As the references to Fatima (Mohammed’s daughter) and to Miriam (Moses’ sister) suggest, the amulet carries significance to both Jews and Muslims. One of the most prominent early appearances of the hamsa is the image of a large open hand which appears on the Puerta Judiciaria (Gate of Judgment) of the Alhambra, a 14th century Islamic fortress in southern Spain. The Alhambra hand of Fatima seems to draw upon the Arabic word “khamsa,” which means “five,” a number which itself is identified with fighting the Evil Eye. The Alhambra motif, as well as other Spanish and Moorish hand images, hints at the five pillars of Islam (faith, fasting, pilgrimage, prayer, and tax) in the five fingers of the hand.

According to Islamic folklore, Fatima’s hand became a symbol of faith after her husband Ali came home with a new wife one day. Fatima, who at the time had been cooking, dropped the soup ladle she had been using. Yet she was so preoccupied by the new arrival that she continued stirring using her bare hand, hardly noticing that she was burning herself.


It would not be unusual for an Islamic symbol to find its way into Sephardic Jewish culture, which flourished alongside Islam. However, amulets are somewhat problematic in Judaism. Still, the Talmud refers on several occasions to amulets, or kamiyot, which might come from the Hebrew meaning “to bind.” One law allows for carrying an approved amulet on the Sabbath, which suggests that amulets were common amongst Jews at some points in history.


Art historian Walter Leo Hildburgh also raises the possibility that the hamsa has Christian roots, and might be influenced by the Christian artistic form where Mary often carries her hands in a “fig” pose, or a configuration where the thumb is tucked under the index finger beside the middle finger.

According to University of Chicago professor Ahmed Achrati, the hamsa did not necessarily arise in a religious context. The form of the open hand appears in Paleolithic caves in France, Spain, Argentina, and Australia, including one site in Algeria that earned the name The Cave of the Hands.

In Egyptian art, the human spirit (called ka) is represented by two arms reaching upward (forming a horseshoe shape), albeit with only two fingers on each hand. The symbol of the Phoenician lunar goddess Tanit resembles a woman raising her hands, and hands also found their way into tomb decorations. Etruscans painted hands with horns on their tombs, and some Jewish burial practices featured images of hands (suggesting the priestly blessing) on stone markers of Levite graves. All of these could be considered very early precursors to the hamsa.


It is difficult to pinpoint the exact time when hamsas emerged in Jewish culture, though it is clearly a symbol of Sephardic nature. Jews might have used the hamsa to invoke the hand of God, or to counteract the Evil Eye with the eye embedded in the palm of the hand. Some hamsas contain images of fish, in accordance with Rabbi Yose son of Hanina’s statement in the Talmud that the descendents of Joseph, who received Jacob’s blessing of multiplying like fish in Genesis 48:16, are protected from the evil eye like fish. He explains: “the water covers the fish of the sea so the eye has no power over them (Berakhot 55b).”


Other icons besides eyes and fish have also found their way into the hamsa, including the Star of David, prayers for the traveler, the Shema, the blessing over the house, and the colors of red and blue, both of which are said to thwart the Evil Eye. The symbol of the hand, and often of priestly hands, appears in kabbalistic manuscripts and amulets, doubling as the letter shin, the first letter of the divine name Shaddai. This mapping of the human hand over the divine name and hand might have had the effect of creating a bridge between the worshipper and God.

The recent revival of interest in Kabbalah, in part due to the efforts of celebrities including Madonna, Brittany Spears, and Demi Moore, has brought with it a new public for Kabbalah accessories, including hamsas.

Hamsas can be purchased today in Kabbalah shops around the world, and even through companies like Sears and Saks Fifth Avenue. Many people hang them in their houses, and it’s not uncommon to see them dangling from the rearview mirrors of taxis and trucks The gift shop of the Jewish Museum in New York includes hamsa mezuzahs, necklaces, pendants, bracelets, earrings, bookmarks, key chains, and candleholders.

Contemporary Jewish artists are using the hamsa form, and some like Mark Podwal are finding a large public for their work. Podwal’s Mystical Prague Hamsa Bookmark, Prague Hebrew Amulet Pendant, and Mystical Prague Hamsa Pin sold at the bookstore of the Metropolitan Museum in New York in conjunction with its 2005-2006 exhibit, Prague, The Crown of Bohemia,1347-1437.

Hamsas still play a role in some Sephardic rituals today. During the henna ceremony, when brides are decorated in the preparation for their wedding, brides may wear a hamsa around their neck to ward off the evil eye.

Even as the hamsa is today affiliated with kabbalah, Israel, and Judaism, it is perhaps the symbol’s mysterious origins and the superstitions surrounding it that attract the attention of celebrities and ordinary people alike.

Menachem Wecker, who blogs on faith and art for the Houston Chronicle at http://blogs.chron.com/iconia, welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com. He lives in Washington, D.C.


Jews and Muslims Coming TogetherFrom WordPress.com


This past week in Toronto a wonderful thing happened… about 50 Jews and Muslims gathered together to dialogue with one another. Some were religious and others secular. This group was founded by two good men, one from each community, who wanted to create a safe place for Jewish and Muslim people to talk, to get to know one another, and hopefully to begin to break tensions, barriers, stereotypes and hate.


By the end of the day we found one major thing in common, a desire to connect in a meaningful way with one another. In fact many were interested in meeting more frequently and there were exchanges of numbers and cards to facilitate that. A few great highlights…


We all realized that both within each group and between each group was huge variation. We both had a tendency to have one fixed story about the other in our heads but learned that there were as many stories as there were people. In fact, the only real tension that developed at this particular meeting was between two of the Jewish members. This was quite humorous as it was pointed out, if you have 10 Jews in 1 room you will have at least 10 different opinions.


We learned that we had so much to learn about one another. For example, I was stunned that several members of the Muslim community had no idea that Muslims lived and worshiped in Israel. They thought all Muslims were only in the occupied territories. I learned that there are over 100 Muslim religious sects. Far from a single story!


The sad part was that I know that this group already came with open hands and hearts and that it is those who wouldn’t come that we really need to reach out to. One example of blatant anti-Semitism from within a Toronto Mosque was raised. It was not the comment of the religious leader that saddened me as much as the fact that not one member objected. I’m sure the same occurs the other way in some Synagogues.


A project called ‘Twinning’ spreading across North America is bringing together Mosques and Synagogues and I encourage anyone to look into this if they attend either place of worship.

I know that most hate comes from fabrications in our heads, misinformation, part-stories and egos. I invite my Muslim brothers and sisters and my Jewish brothers and sisters to comment… and to love one another.


Here are some ways…


Have great role-models such as Muslim Scholar Hamza Yusuf on twitter


@hamzayusuf http://sheikhhamza.com





Isra and Mi’raj: Muslims recall Muhammad’s Night Journey


On the evening of WEDNESDAY, JUNE 5, Muslims around the world will spend the night awake in prayer, recalling the sacred Night Journey of Muhammad, one of the most spectacular stories from the Prophet’s life. English names for the holiday vary, but many Western sources spell it Isra and Mi’raj.In predominantly Muslim countries, cities are illuminated all night in celebration. The following day, many will enjoy an official holiday to commemorate the event at a local mosque.


Tradition, drawn from both the Quran and Hadith (collected sayings of the Prophet Muhammad), says that the Prophet was summoned by the archangel Gabriel and led to a white, winged animal: a Buraq, the steed of the prophets. Muhammad mounted the Buraq, and was taken to both “the farthest mosque” and then through seven levels of heaven, all in one miraculous night. It is on this night that Muhammad received the instruction from God that Muslims should pray five times per day.

Note: The exact date of this journey is unclear, although most believe it to be around 621 CE.


From the Hadith, we get a description of Muhammad’s initial revelation, while still in Mecca: “While I was at the House in a state midway between sleep and wakefulness … (an angel recognized me) … my abdomen was washed with Zam-zam water and (my heart was) filled with wisdom and belief.”


Interpretations of Isra and Mi’raj vary across the worldwide spectrum of Islam. Some Muslims hold that the entire journey was a spiritual experience; most believe that it literally took place. For example, the Australian-based Muslim Village blog recently posted an extensive column on Isra and Mi’raj describing as both mystical-beyond human reasoning-and quite real for the Prophet at the same time. Many Muslim columnists around the world will be posting reflections on the festival this week, most in languages other than English.


As the story is usually summarized: The Prophet Muhammad was greeted by Gabriel and given the Buraq, then the Prophet rode to “the Farthest Mosque”-now believed by many to be the modern-day Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem-and tethered the Buraq so he could perform prayer.

Muhammad prayed, was tested and, after passing the test, was taken on the second part of his journey: Mi’raj, literally ladder, to the seven circles of heaven. On this part of the journey, Muhammad met Adam, Abraham and Jesus, finally making his ascent to the seventh layer. Muslim tradition says that Muhammad met God and was instructed to have Muslims pray 50 times per day; on his way back down, it was suggested by Abraham that Muhammad plead to God for a smaller number. Muhammad returned to God, pointed out that prayer 50 times per day was too much for the people, and had the number reduced. Muhammad returned to Mecca.


(Originally published at www.ReadTheSpirit.com, an online magazine covering religion, spirituality, interfaith news and cross-cultural issues.)

– See more at: http://www.readthespirit.com/religious-holidays-festivals/?utm_source=March+5%2C+2013b&utm_campaign=October2012Calendar2&utm_medium=emailundefined&utm_source=June+4%2C+2013&utm_campaign=October2012Calendar2&utm_medium=email#sthash.AGF5Ug6n.dpuf

From Pope Francis on Anti-Semitism




Vatican City, 24 June 2013 (VIS) – At noon today, the Holy Father received 30 members of the delegation of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations. The Pope recalled that 21 previous meetings have helped to strengthen the mutual understanding and ties of friendship between Jews and Catholics.


This is Pope Francis’ first official meeting with a group of representatives of Jewish organizations and communities since his election. The pontiff said that the “Nostra Aetate” Declaration of the Second Vatican Council represents “a key point of reference for relations with the Jewish people” for the Catholic Church.


“In that Council text, the Church recognizes that ‘the beginnings of its faith and election are to be found in the patriarchs, Moses, and prophets’. And, with regard to the Jews, the Council recalls the teaching of Saint Paul, who wrote ‘the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable’ and who also firmly condemned hatred, persecution, and all forms of anti-Semitism. Due to our common roots, a Christian cannot be anti-Semitic!”


The Holy Father noted that “the fundamental principles expressed by the Declaration have marked the path of greater awareness and mutual understanding trodden these last decades by Jews and Catholics, a path which my predecessors have strongly encouraged, both by very significant gestures and by the publication of a series of documents to deepen the thinking about the theological roots of the relations between Jews and Christians.”


Nevertheless, this represents “only the most visible element of a vast movement that takes place on the local level a bit throughout the world, as I know from personal experience. During my ministry as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, I had the joy of maintaining relations of sincere friendship with leaders of the Jewish world. We talked often of our respective religious identities, the image of the human person found in the Scriptures, and how to keep an awareness of God alive in a world now secularized in many ways. I met with them on various occasions to discuss the common challenges faced by both Jews and Christians. But above all, as friends, we enjoyed each other’s company, we were mutually enriched through encounter and dialogue, with an attitude of reciprocal welcome, and this helped all of us grow as persons and as believers.”


“These friendly relations are, in a way, the basis for the development of a more official dialogue,” the Pope said, encouraging those present to follow their path, “trying, as you do so, to involve younger generations. Humanity needs our joint witness in favour of respect for the dignity of man and woman created in the image and likeness of God and in favour of the peace that is, above all, God’s gift.”

Pope Francis concluded his address by recalling the words of the prophet Jeremiah: “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you-affirms the Lord-plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.”

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 .

Check out the latest story about a friendship that crosses religion, race, or ethnic boundaries at www.friendshipandfaith.com.
Email Gail Katz at gailkatz@comcast.net if you have a personal story for the friendshipandfaith.com website!!

WISDOM Mission Statement

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


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