Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events
Sunday, March 6th 4:00 PM The Seventeenth Annual World Sabbath at Fort Street Presbyterian Church in Detroit.
See Flyer Below for details
Thursday, May 19th 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Five Women Five Journeys
Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital
6777 W. Maple Road, West Bloomfield 48322
March through June – Exploring Religious Landscapes – Explore sacred prayers, texts, traditions, ceremonies, rites and rituals across faith traditions. See the InterFaith Leadership Council Flyer below.
“DROP IN & LEARN ON DVD:
JESUS AND HIS JEWISH INFLUENCES”
Congregation Beth Ahm
5075 West Maple Road, West Bloomfield
Wednesdays at 1 pm starting April 6
Free and open to the community, no reservations required.
Join us for this 24-part lecture series on DVD from The Great Courses ® featuring Prof. Jodi Magness of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. We will screen two 30-minute lectures each week, followed by brief informal discussion.
For anyone interested in understanding the profound effect Jesus had on the world, it’s important to realize that his actions and teachings didn’t emerge from a vacuum. Rather, they were the product of a fascinating dialogue with-and reaction to-the traditions, cultures, and historical developments of ancient Jewish beliefs. In fact, early Judaism and Jesus are two subjects so inextricably linked that one cannot arrive at a true understanding of Jesus without understanding the time in which he lived and taught.
This course explores fundamental questions such as:
- How was early Judaism markedly different from the Rabbinic Judaism practiced today?
- What kind of world did early Jewish sects envision, and how does Jesus’s world view relate to theirs?
- How did events like the Babylonian exile and the reign of Herod the Great affect the development of Judaism up to Jesus’s time?
- What did it really mean to be a Jew in ancient Israel-and what did it mean for Jesus?
Crafted by acclaimed archaeologist and biblical scholar Jodi Magness of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, this fascinating course approaches the subject of Jesus from a historical, rather than scriptural, perspective; one rooted in the study of ancient texts and archaeological discoveries. You’ll embark upon an in-depth investigation of the ancient world that Jesus was born into, and you’ll revisit the tumultuous events of early Jewish history with the specific purpose of gleaning hidden insights into how they shaped an individual-and a movement-whose legacy endures to this very day.
Only Hebrew teacher in Indian university is a Muslim
JNU professor Khurshid Imam
NEW DELHI: He has prayed in synagogues and observed the Sabbath, Judaism’s day of rest, and enjoyed crispy falafel on the streets of Jerusalem. A map of Israel hangs in his study where Yasser Arafat shares space with David Ben-Gurion. And he doesn’t mind if his 10-year-old daughter greets him with ‘Shalom’ instead of ‘Assalam Alaikum’. Meet Dr Khurshid Imam, a devout Muslim and the only teacher of Hebrew at a university in India, Jawaharlal Nehru University.
The bearded, skull cap-donning Imam hopes for a new dawn in India-Israel ties, which received a boost with foreign minister Sushma Swaraj’s West Asia visit last week. Unlike most Muslims who look upon Jews with suspicion – just as most Jews don’t trust Muslims – this assistant professor of Hebrew at the Centre of Arabic and African Studies doesn’t harbour any animosity. And he wants to use Hebrew, the ancient language in which the sacred Torah was revealed, to bring Jews and Muslims closer.
The cause of animosities between Muslims and Jews is political. Religion is a pawn in the hands of politicians who don’t want adherents of the two Abrahamic religions cementing ties,” said Khurshid Imam, 46, whose unique distinction “baffles” many of his co-religionists brought up on a heavy dose of hatred for Jews.
“Many call me ‘Mossad agent’ among Indian Muslims, a Zionist promoter and some even jokingly call me ‘nek Yahudi’ (benevolent Jew) because of my passion for Hebrew,” laughs Imam, third among six siblings who grew up in Gopalganj, Bihar, and went to Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1998. He stayed there till 2000 post-M Phil at JNU.
“Government of Israel scholarship and Golda Meir scholarship funded my courses in Hebrew and study of the Modern Middle East,” he said. “I wanted to learn Hebrew to understand Judaism and find commonalities between Islam and Judaism.”
He also wanted to conform to a hadith (tradition) of Prophet Muhammad, who is believed to have asked some of his companions to learn Hebrew. “If the Prophet encouraged Muslims to learn Hebrew, who are clerics and community leaders to issue fatwa against those who visit Israel?” he asked.
Despite apprehensions of friends and family, Imam chose to stay amid Jewish students who he discovered were not as “rabidly anti-Muslim” as many paint them to be.
“Many Jews first thought I was a non-Arab Muslim jihadist plotting to bomb their establishments. Similarly, Arab Muslims in Israel and Palestine mistook me for a Zionist disguised as a practising Muslim. Once, some kids even threw stones at me, shouting, “Yahud, Yahud” (Jew, Jew). I was moved when several Jewish friends wept when I left Jerusalem,” recalled Imam.
He is, however, disappointed by the “cold” response from several Indian universities to his proposal for teaching Hebrew. “Khurshid’s efforts are laudable and I believe Indian universities should open their doors to Hebrew because languages help build bridges between people,” said S A Rahman, retired professor of Arabic who mentored Imam at JNU.
Meet The Rabbi Traveling Across
The Country To Fight Islamophobia
Rabbi Jonah Pesner was at an interfaith event in Nashville when a Somali immigrant approached him to talk. “[He] said to me, ‘I have to tell you, when I was growing up in Somalia I hated Jews, because that’s what we were told…[but] I met them and how wrong I was’,” Pesner recalled the man, who was a volunteer at the event, as saying. It’s moments like this that convinced Pesner of the benefits of interfaith and inter-community interaction and dialogue. Pesner is the director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC), a group that mobilizes about 1.5 million Jews on legislative and social concerns and currently tours the country delivering speeches at religious centers on issues like countering anti-Muslim sentiment. Pesner was also named
one of America’s 50 most influential rabbis in 2012 by the Daily Beast.
“If we’re going to be the family of Abraham, we together have to call out Islamophobia,” Pesnertold
a packed crowd at the Islamic Center of Tennessee in Antioch, last month. “We have to beat back the forces of bigotry, whether it’s anti-Jewish bigotry, anti-Muslim bigotry or bigotry in any form in America.”
By reaching out to other communities and religions, Pesner fulfills what he sees as his religious duty and while simultaneously breaking down stereotypes about race and religion. “[They’re] trying to be a part of the majesty of American society.” That’s why, in the current American political climate, where anti-Muslim sentiment is on the rise
, Pesner’s latest bailiwick is in countering anti-Muslim sentiment and Islamophobia.
In such an atmosphere, Pesner is working to build acceptance instead of deepening communal divides. In fact, Pesner and RAC are placing pressure on Congress to fund their work with refugees, in addition to touring the country and delivering speeches promoting the benefits of interfaith dialogue.
“It’s my job to fight Islamophobia and build relationships with the Muslim community,” Pesner told ThinkProgress by phone from his home in Boston. “We stand with them when they come under attack and fight for refugees and against Islamophobia.” Fighting anti-Muslim sentiment is not a recent issue adopted by Pesner. He said his work with refugees in particular is inspired by his own grandmother’s escape from pogroms and anti-Semitism in Europe to America as a 16-year-old. Prior to his days as RAC’s director, Pesner saw colleagues at the Islamic Society of Boston berated by members of his own religious community. “Groups tried to label them as terrorists,” Pesner said. “They tried to bully and attack a mosque and one tactic they used was to attack a rabbi I know personally who had been standing next to a Muslim leader.” Pesner responded by gathering nearly 100 rabbis to oppose such actions. The rabbis had a unified message, according to Pesner, that said, “For Jews to attack a rabbi for standing with a Muslim is unacceptable.”
Much of the misunderstanding, Pesner believes, comes down to mainstream America’s ignorance toward Islam and American Muslims. Muslims make up less than 1 percent of Americans. About 1.8 million are adults, and if Muslims of all ages are counted, the total Muslim population in the United States comes to about 2.75 million, according
to estimates by Pew. These small numbers mean that most Americans will never come across a Muslim in their day-to-day life, and therefore, they may sometimes make specious or atavistic assumptions about the entire community. “There’s no replacement for relationship, that’s a baseline. When people know each other, they are much more likely to understand appreciate and know each other,” Pesner said. “Only 8 percent of Americans have met a Muslim. It should be 100 percent. Everyone should know Muslim and Jewish people.”
The ubiquity of anti-Muslim comments has been led by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. The real estate mogul called
for a ban on Muslims entering the United States last year andsaid
he supported the closure of mosques. But Trump isn’t alone in espousing anti-Muslim views. Following the Paris attacks last November, well over half the governors in the United States called
for a halt to Syrian refugee resettlement. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who is also running for a spot as the Republican presidential candidate, went as far as saying
that the United States should reject the resettlement of even the most meek refugees, including 5-year-old Syrian orphans. If more Americans met Muslims, Pesner feels they would see them as more rounded human beings instead of as caricatures. “In a post 9/11 universe, there is this suspicion, fear, and bigotry,” he said. “These are people I worked with for health reform and affordable housing. Some are immigrants and some are American-born. All are trying to be a part of the majesty of American society, and it was clear to me that I am my brother’s keeper and we must stand tighter.”
Students use selfies, signs to start interfaith dialogue
University of Wisconsin-Superior student Scott McNorton felt a need to respond in December 2015, when presidential hopeful Donald Trump called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States. McNorton’s desire to stand in solidarity with the Muslim community was hindered by the fact that he didn’t have any personal connections. So he decided to make some — by taking selfies.
The #SelfiesWithMuslims campaign began when McNorton approached strangers in hijab on his campus and asked them to take a selfie with him. The result is a network of friendships, richer understanding and a celebrated show of solidarity between Catholics and Muslim youth.
Maria Haseeb, a Sunni Muslim, wished for a better understanding of her faith among her fellow students at Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass. Rather than hoping that conversation would arise, Haseeb and her classmates adopted a very direct approach. With bright smiles and a large sign reading “Meet a Muslim” Haseeb and her fellow Muslim students invited questions, dialogue and real human connection.
At a time when ideologues bluster and latent racism rises to the surface of public discourse, these students have decided to give voice to a different way of being. These stories and many others are part of the #ChangeTheStory campaign, an action of the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC). Started by renowned author and advocate Eboo Patel, IFYC strives to make interfaith collaboration a social norm rather than an anomaly. Their network of more than 400 colleges develops interfaith student leadership towards this end. While students are particularly motivated to combat Islamophobia at present, the mission of IFYC extends beyond the boundaries of Christian-Muslim collaboration.
#ChangeTheStory hinges on the notion that ideas are very powerful, and the dominant ideas around religion and society are poisonous. Rather than describe the problem and rail against the negative voices, young people are encouraged to create a new conversation. Photographs, essays, videos and other pieces of short, shareable media are posted to encourage and inspire. Stories of vulnerability, friendship, understanding and respect from young people nationwide have been gathered together under this banner. #ChangeTheStory answers harsh questions with refreshing, attractive and, oftentimes, lovely responses.
On its website, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops reminds us that this posture is not new or fringe. A commitment to fellowship, dialogue and respectful relationship is a fundamental part of our Catholic identity. According to the USCCB’s statement on dialogue with Muslims, the Second Vatican Council not only urges members to “enter with prudence and charity into discussion and collaboration with members of other religions,” but specifically states that “the Church has also a high regard for the Muslims.” The statement also points out that Pope John Paul II wrote in Crossing the Threshold of Hope that “believers in Allah are particularly close to us” and that “the religiosity of Muslims deserves our respect.”
Pope Francis has admonished the faithful not only to tolerate our Muslim brothers and sisters, but also to view them as partners in repairing a very broken world. Both historical and contemporary leadership call us to embrace the neighbor.
Let us remember that we have had contentious relationships with other religious groups throughout our history. We will certainly one day enjoy a greater kinship with the Muslim community than we do today. When that happens, there may well be a new group that we treat as the “other.” The instruction of the church ancestors and the example of our young leaders call us to an entirely new way to engage with the “other” in our midst. May we learn now to change the story, celebrate our differences and our connectedness, so that when the next “other” emerges, we are ready with an open hand … and perhaps ready to take a selfie.
Interfaith connections need not be frightening
One answer is to teach young people that they need not fear pluralism. That can allow individuals to have a deep commitment to a faith tradition while also respecting the different commitments others make.
They were led by Hannah Kardon, who pastors a United Methodist Church in Chicago, and Hind Makki, a Muslim interfaith educator living just south of Chicago.
The interfaith youth movement, Hannah told the group, “has the potential to save our world today.”
Sound like starry-eyed hyperbole? It’s not. It is, rather, a realistic view of the need to learn how to live in a nation and world in which religion plays an important role in nearly every major news story.
KCIYA was inspired by the Interfaith Youth Core, founded by Eboo Patel. My friend Jon Willis, a member of my Presbyterian congregation, heard Patel speak a few years ago and was moved to gather Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu and other youths in this area to engage in interfaith dialogue and service projects together.
What Patel, Kardon, Makki and others have learned is that it’s best in an interfaith setting to start with individual stories.
As Kardon noted, “We, fundamentally, as humans are narrative beings.”
So people at this workshop collected in groups of two and three to share how they came to be interested in cross-faith discussions. I looked across the room and saw a young Jewish girl speaking with a member of my Presbyterian congregation. They were looking each other in the eye and listening. And the fact is, everything changes when you look someone in the eye. You begin to find what I found as a boy who lived two years of my childhood in India — all people of any faith are, at base, very much the same, despite differences in beliefs.
In this conversation time, I spent time talking with a Christian of a different denomination and with a Muslim woman whose family had come to the U.S. from Sudan before she was born.
These conversations need not be scary. But they also need not be opportunities to describe in harsh terms how the other person’s religion is false and yours has all the answers.
In our workplaces, schools and neighborhoods now we are finding a wide range of religious traditions represented. The predominance of Christianity in America hasn’t ended, but when the religiously unaffiliated represent now some 23 percent of the adult population and when we’re finding Islamic mosques, Sikh gurdwaras and Hindu temples springing up in previously homogeneous communities, it’s time to learn how to live with one another respectfully. And we do that first by sharing our own stories.
As Hind said, in this era of social media, “everybody has the opportunity to tell his or her story.”
Hannah’s own story begins in a non-religious family in which one parent grew up Catholic, one Lutheran. But they essentially abandoned both traditions and wanted their children to make their own choice. She lived as a child for almost a decade in Japan and then Hong Kong, finding that “I was surrounded by people of many different religions.” Eventually, “in my late teens I converted to Christianity.”
As she told this story, everyone was zeroed in on it. Had she simply started preaching a Methodist sermon, she’d have lost her multi-faith audience.
So now we have a few more young people who know that interfaith connections need not be frightening and that they are necessary. One day one of them might help prevent bigotry and violence.