WISDOM Newsletter – June 2014

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events



June 22nd

Institute for Engaged Hospitality Seminar

See Flyer Below


July 1, 8, and 15

Michael Weiss Lectures on Judaism and the Roots of Islam

See Flyer Below


Sunday August 10th through Wednesday August 13th

NAIN (North American Interfaith Network) Conference

Wayne State University

August 10th through 13th

See Flyer Below




WISDOM’S DVD “Pray the Devil Back to Hell” MOVES ON

By Rev. Dan Buttry


Liberia’s interfaith women’s prayer movement changed history.  A brutal civil war between dictatorial President Charles Taylor and rebels led to over 100,000 deaths and the displacement of about 1/3 of the nation’s population.  This brutality was halted in large part by Christian and Muslim women who overcame their hesitancy about praying together to pray and act for peace.  Their leader, Lemah Gbowee was a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.


WISDOM purchased a copy of the documentary “Pray the Devil Back to Hell” that chronicles the remarkable action of this women’s interfaith prayer movement.  The film was shown at a special event WISDOM hosted in Birmingham.  Dan Buttry of the InterFaith Leadership Council has been to Liberia a number of times as part of his global peacemaking work, and following the viewing of the documentary, he told about the growth and challenges of peace in Liberia.


After the WISDOM event, Dan borrowed the DVD to show as a part of some of his peacemaking workshops.  Dan and his wife Sharon, a WISDOM member, took the film to Kenya as part of a 10-day Training of Conflict Transformation Trainers (TCTT) to equip peacemakers from 7 African countries.  The Rev. Jimmy Diggs from Liberia attended that workshop.  He had been one of the clergy supportive of the Liberian interfaith women’s movement, joining with them in Ghana during the peace talks that ended the civil war.  Rev. Diggs spoke about the on-going work of the women and reconciliation efforts in Liberia.


In May Dan led another TCTT in Nigeria with participants from 10 African countries, again including Liberia.  The Liberian participants were deeply moved by the documentary, and afterward they shared about the difficult days of the war in Monrovia and the incredible courage and dedication of the praying women.  They knew the story from their own direct experience but had never seen the film in Liberia itself.  They asked if they could take it and show it as part of their on-going reconciliation and trauma healing work.  Dan contacted Gail Katz who quickly gave her blessing to the extension of WISDOM’s work back to Liberia through the further use of the film.  So Frederick Gbatu and Gideon Washington are taking “Pray the Devil Back to Hell” back to Liberia to show the story of brave interfaith women creating peace out of the chaos of civil war.



The Religious Diversity Journeys

wraps up the year at the DIA!!


On May 14th, the Detroit Institute of Arts was full of seventh graders looking for religious art. 210 students, parents and teachers dashed about on an unusual scavenger hunt – a Persian frieze, a Native American mask, a Dutch painting, and a mummy – and gathered in the galleries, heads bowed over their discussion guides, deep in conversation.

It was the wrap-up for this year’s Religious Diversity Journeys program, and, according to the student feedback, the most popular program of the series.

Before starting the search, they were treated to a short presentation by DIA learning and interpretation specialist Sue Troia, who helped organize the program, The group viewed slides of art that depicted or illustrated themes from the year’s journeys through Sikhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism.

At the end, after pizza of course, the group gathered to look back over the year, evaluate the program, and reflect on what they’d learned.

Both parents and students commented on how the journeys had corrected their misunderstandings, given them an appreciation of other traditions, and made them willing to confront stereotypes Many said they had shared what they learned with family and friends.

In their comments, students said the journeys taught them:

That practicing a certain religion doesn’t make a person bad or good

Not to judge a religion just because it seems overly weird

That even if people have religions other than mine, they are human too

That people are different but a good kind of different

That people can have different beliefs but the same values

To treat people with kindness and equality

Everyone has a different culture but they are the same in the heart

Don’t judge people based on how they look

That all religions are special and unique

That my thoughts were wrong about almost every religion

That we all believe in god one way or another

How we are all more similar than different

That all of the stereotypes I had for different religions were absolutely wrong


Next year, the Interfaith Leadership Council is thrilled to be able to offer the Religious Diversity Journeys program to seventh graders in ten school districts, doubling the number of kids who had this amazing experience in the 2013/14 school year.

 Religion for $1,000, Alex
By Nicholas Kristof
New York Times


With Easter and Passover freshly behind us, let’s test your knowledge of
the Bible. How many mistakes can you find:
Noah of Arc and his wife, Joan, build a boat to survive a great flood.
Moses climbs Mount Cyanide and receives 10 enumerated
commandments; for all the differences among religious denominations,
the Ten Commandments are a common bedrock that Jews, Catholics and
Protestants agree on.
Sodom and his wild girlfriend, Gomorrah, soon set the standard for
what not to do. They are turned to pillars of salt.
The Virgin Mary, a young Christian woman, conceives Jesus
immaculately and gives birth to him in a Jerusalem manger. Jesus,
backed by the Twelve Apostles and their wives, the Epistles, proclaims
what we call the Golden Rule: “Do one to others before they do one to you. The Romans repeatedly crucify Jesus – at Cavalry, Golgotha and other sites – but he resurrects himself each time.
Christianity spread through the gospels, which differ on details but all 
provide eyewitness accounts of Jesus’s life from birth to death. Finally Rome tires of throwing Christians to lions and becomes the first country to adopt Christianity as its religion.  The Bible is translated from the original English into countless languages.
       So how many errors did you spot?  There are about 20 mistakes, which I’ve listed at the end of this column, and they reflect the general muddling in our society about religious knowledge.
      “Americans are both deeply religious and profoundly ignorant about religion,” Stephen Prothero noted in his book, “Religious Literacy.” “Atheists may be as rare in America as Jesus-loving politicians are in Europe, but here faith is almost entirely devoid of content.  One of the most religious countries on earth is also a nation of religious illiterates.”
     Nearly two-thirds of Americans say they believe that the Bible holds the answer to all of most of life’s basic questions.  Yet only one-third know that Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount, and 10 percent think that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife.
     Many Americans know even less about other faiths, from Islam to Hinduism. Several days after 9/11, a vigilante shot and killed an Indian-American Sikh because of the assumption that a turban must mean a Muslim: Ignorance and murderous bigotry join in one.
    All of this goes to the larger question of the relevance of the humanities. Literature, philosophy and the arts have come to be seen as effete and irrelevant, but if we want to understand the world around us and think deeply about it, it helps to have exposure to Shakespeare and Kant, Mozart and Confucius, and yes, Jesus, Moses and the Prophet Muhammad.
     Secularists sometimes believe religious knowledge doesn’t matter because the world is leaving faith behind.  Really?  Faith is elemental  in much of the world, including large swaths of America.
To see the rest of this article, and find out the errors in the Bible Story above go to http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/27/opinion/sunday/kristof-religion-for-1000-alex.html?_r=0

Sixteen Christians, Jews,
and Muslims Walk Into a Farmhouse
May Newsletter – Bend the Arc

The fourth cohort of COR kicks off their journey together

Seriously. This is not the start of a comedy routine or a reality TV show. It was the start of Bend the Arc’s fourth national, interfaith Community Organizing Residency (COR) cohort, which officially launched the first weekend of May, 2014, at a farmhouse retreat center just north of New York City.Bend the Arc’s COR program continues to be one-of-a-kind in the U.S. by creating a space for organizers working on issues that include immigrant rights, fair wages for workers, and affordable housing from Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area, Twin Cities, Chicago, and New York to journey together through a six-month residency program.

Over the four-day COR Opening Retreat at the start of May, residents enjoyed trainings and numerous conversations, sharing their faith traditions’ perspectives on the call to work for justice in the world and developing deep relational bonds with one another.

The COR program started in 2010 as an innovative initiative at the intersection of faith and social justice, seeking to break down divisive barriers and truly be a place where community organizers from diverse backgrounds and faith traditions could come together. Now in 2014, in its fourth cohort, the need for COR is greater than ever.

As the Opening Retreat was winding down at the farmhouse, one resident articulated how much COR means to her: “So much out there tries to divide us but this space is different. This is the most real interfaith space I’ve ever been in. COR is truly revolutionary.”

And that’s no joke.

Guests Gather for First
Culture of Understanding Meeting
of the Midland Daily News

About 60 people gathered in Midland at Temple Beth El for the first meeting in this year’s “Choosing a Culture of Understanding” interfaith program. The program, which opens the doors and minds of several area houses of worship, began last year. This year boasts more participants, with a wide range of visitation and fellowship opportunities for the many people of faith that call Midland their home.   Rabbi Chava Bahle visited the Temple to deliver her message, “Every Moment is Sacred: The Sanctification of Time in Jewish Tradition.” Bahle, who lives near Traverse City, has traveled for the last five years to Midland to speak to the congregation at Temple Beth El. Bahle has also commuted to Chicago for close to 10 years serving, studying and worshiping at a synagogue in Chicago, or as she puts it, “schleping to Chicago.”   “Choosing a Culture of Understanding is very close to my heart,” Bahle said to the crowd. “You are all welcome here.”   Bahle, who could find gainful employment as a comedian, talked about her time at the interfaith school in Chicago.   “We have people there who are Catholic or Jewish, or a mixture of both,” she said. “I can grab a kid running by to say hello and ask them ‘which one are you?’ And the child would say ‘oh Rabbi, you know I am a both.'”   Bahle spoke on some of the concepts people might have about the Jewish faith, like origins and history.   “Our Jewish traditions are built very much on questioning,” Bahle said.   Bahle discussed many traditional Jewish beliefs, practices and tales, like the Shattering of the Vessels, the practice of the Shabbat, as well as of the Torah and the Jewish calender.   Bahle told the listeners that every moment is sacred, regardless of faith, but it is easy for people in their busy lives to not notice the passing of time, unless it is marked by a holiday or other special annual event.   “For most of us, most time is some form of a flat line. But there are moments that are worth bending the knee to. Perhaps a moment of blessing that reminds us to be thankful for the day,” Bahle said.   Woven through her presentation was Bahle’s personal positive interactions with people of other faiths. What Bahle talked about more than anything through her stories and examples was the many similarities, not differences, of many world religions.   Bahle closed her presentation with this: “The most important message my friends, is love.”   Amy Rogers of Midland said she enjoyed her visit to the temple, and she learned a lot.   “I am amazed by her depth of knowledge,” Rogers said. “I am really moved and comforted by the similarities (in other religions) involving the scientific method, traditional religion, poetry and art.”   Rogers is a member of Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Midland, and she said she is looking forward to visiting more of the meetings this year.   The Rev. Roger C. Pan-cost, Pastor of the United Church of Christ Midland, visited the service, but this was not his first time at the Temple.   “I have visited here before with students and the youth group,” Pancost said. “It is always nice to be here.”   Pancost is on the Choosing a Culture of Understanding Committee. He said that the interest in the program has grown since last year.   “We added more people to the committee,” he said. “This is going to be a really good year.”   Mike Stein of Temple Beth El said he and his fellow members were quite happy with the near full house for the evening.   “Oh, yes, we are quite happy with the turn out,” he said. “We are really, really pleased.”

Survey: One-quarter of the world
harbors anti-Semitic sentiment

The first global study of anti-Semitic attitudes shows that more than a quarter of the world’s population harbors intense anti-Jewish sentiment, with region, more than religion, shaping people’s view of Jews and Judaism. The poll, released by the New York-based Anti-Defamation League, also finds that a large proportion of the world has never heard of the Holocaust or denies historical accounts of it.

Of those polled, 46 percent have either not heard of the Holocaust that killed 6 million Jews or think it is a myth or exaggerated.

“For the first time we have a real sense of how pervasive and persistent anti-Semitism is today around the world,” said Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League.

He called the results of the Global 100 Index “sobering but not surprising” and said it would serve as a baseline for the ADL to understand where anti-Semitism is most prevalent and where education is most necessary. The results of the survey of 102 nations and territories revealed stark regional differences, and hotspots of anti-Semitism around the globe. The survey found that the least anti-Semitic place in the world is Laos, where anti-Semitic beliefs are held by just 0.2 percent of the population. The most anti-Semitic place is in Israel’s backyard, the West Bank and Gaza, where 93 percent of people held anti-Semitic beliefs.

The 10 most anti-Semitic countries and territories, according to the survey, are the West Bank and Gaza, Iraq, Yemen, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan and Morocco.

The 10 least anti-Semitic countries, surveyors found, are Laos, the Philippines, Sweden, the Netherlands, Vietnam, the United Kingdom, the United States, Denmark, Tanzania and Thailand. In the United States, 9 percent of those surveyed revealed anti-Semitic views. The poll is based on 11 questions that refer to common stereotypes about Jews, such as “Jews have too much power in international financial markets” and “Jews are responsible for most of the world’s wars.” Those who answered “probably true” to six or more questions were deemed to be anti-Semitic. Overall, 28 percent of respondents answered “no” to all 11 stereotypes presented of Jews when asked if they were true.

Asked if a person could still be considered anti-Semitic for affirming only three anti-Semitic stereotypes, Foxman said the ADL purposely set the bar for anti-Semitism very high, so as to make its results conservative. The ADL found that much of the world greatly overestimates the global Jewish population: Nearly half the respondents (48 percent) believe that Jews account for more than 1 percent of the population, and nearly one in five (18 percent) believe they make up 10 percent. In reality, Jews account for 0.19 percent of the world’s people.

Though the survey found Muslims to harbor more anti-Semitic views than Christians, Hindus and Buddhists — and Protestants fared better in the survey than Catholics — a person’s region seemed to correlate more strongly with views on Jews than did a person’s religion.

Among Muslims, nearly half (49 percent) were found to hold anti-Semitic views. But across the Muslim-majority Middle East and North Africa, 75 percent of Muslims held anti-Semitic views. Muslims outside of the Middle East and North Africa showed lower levels of anti-Semitic attitudes; 64 percent of Christians in the Middle East and North Africa held anti-Semitic views, compared with 24 percent of Christians overall. Regionally, 74 percent of all respondents in the Middle East and North Africa held anti-Semitic attitudes. That compares with 23 percent of all people in sub-Saharan Africa, 22 percent in Asia, 19 percent in the Americas and 14 percent in Oceania, the region with the lowest anti-Semitic scores in the world. The survey shows that Greece, at 69 percent, has the highest levels of anti-Semitic attitudes of any country outside the Middle East, a proportion far higher than the Western European average of 24 percent. Already, Foxman said, “the prime minister of Greece had learned of our findings and requested that we come and visit.” A large majority of respondents (74 percent) said they had never met a Jew, and of those, one in four displayed anti-Semitic attitudes. Of the 26 percent of people worldwide who harbor anti-Semitic attitudes, 70 percent said they had never met a Jewish person, the survey showed. Survey researchers polled more than 53,000 adults in 96 languages. The study has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points for most countries. The survey was funded by a grant from New York philanthropist Leonard Stern. Foxman said the survey cost “a lot” but declined to disclose the exact cost.

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.


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!