WISDOM Newsletter – May 2013

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

MAY 2013


Friday, May 3rd and Saturday, May 5th

Oakland University’s Hospitality Initiative Summit.  See flyer below or go to http://essentialcore.org

Sunday, June 2nd 2:00 PM
Heels over Head: Mr. Freer, Swami Vivekananda, and the Art of Yoga

Debra Diamond, Associate Curator of South and Southeast Asian Art

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Smithsonian Institution

In a sneak preview of Yoga: The Art of Transformation,

opening at the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries this fall, Debra Diamond links the DIA’s tenth-century sculpture of a yogini, Thomas Edison’s film “Hindoo Fakir,” and Swami Vivekananda’s visits to Detroit and Charles Freer’s home in 1894. WISDOM is a sponsor of this event!  Call the DIA for more information at 313-833-7900!


See Flyer Below!



For all of our Jewish and Chaldean friends, please read the flyer below and come to a potluck “coming together” at the ECRC Building in Bloomfield Hills where there will be fun dining on home cooked food, a program, Jewish and Chaldean music, and a collection of items to help those in need in both the Jewish and Chaldean communities.  This event is sponsored by the Jewish/Chaldean Social Action Committee, a division of the Jewish News/Chaldean News Building Community Initiative!!  See flyer below!


Article by Karla Joy Huber


Lynne Golodner took an interesting approach to exploring faith traditions in her newest book, The Flavors of Faith: Holy Breads. On April 14 at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Royal Oak, she gave a presentation to promote its recent publication by Read the Spirit Books.


In addition to having published several books, Lynne Golodner leads workshops and retreats on writing, parenting, and yoga, is the founder of Your People, LLC, a public relations, marketing consulting, and business development firm, and is a mother of four children. Somewhere amongst all those responsibilities and accomplishments she managed to do the first-hand research and writing, and some baking experiments, required to compile this lovely book about the role bread plays in the gatherings and prayers of various religions.


The event lasted from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., starting with a presentation by Golodner regarding the history behind and content in Holy Breads, including what inspired her to write it. Golodner recounted how she became intrigued with bread as she was getting back in touch with her Jewish roots, and found that preparing food was an important part of her faith tradition. Bread is mentioned in so many Jewish, Christian, and other prayers, she said, and it plays a very important role in community-building and hospitality. The subject was even more fascinating to her because it required some reconciling of beliefs about this particular category of food. Our society has all but demonized bread with fad diets and food trends, she said, but grains have always been the staple of the human diet, even able to sustain people for periods of time when no other food has been available to them.


The book discusses and gives recipes for some of the most popular among Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Native American breads. Golodner explained how she got several of the stories, and clarified why some breads people initially expected to see in her book are not featured. The book’s scope is breads with a religious context, she said, and she conducted extensive inquiries to determine that East Indian breads such as naan, for example, are cultural rather than tied to particular faith traditions. Golodner also told some anecdotes from the book’s development phase, including about her visit to the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn where women bake bread every week to sell as the mosque’s primary source of revenue, and how she had to get details and recipes for the Native American breads in a sort of roundabout way.


The talk was followed by a socializing reception in which attendees were able to sample several of the types of breads mentioned in the book, including soft pretzels (Christian), challah (Jewish), cornbread (Native American), king’s cake (Christian), and pita bread (Muslim). The breads were all provided by local bakeries and vendors with the exception of the king’s cake, which was ordered and shipped from a special bakery in New Orleans.


This presentation was yet another example of the wide variety of interfaith events going on in southeastern Michigan, and was unique in that it focused specifically on interfaith awareness in the home. Golodner emphasized that the recipes chosen for the book are “simple,” making it feasible for people to try making types of bread developed in other faith traditions, and learn something about those traditions in the process. Golodner had fun experimenting with bread-baking with her children, and encourages others to give it a try with their families.


The event was sponsored by Women’s Interfaith Solutions for Dialogue and Outreach in MetroDetroit (WISDOM) and DION (Detroit Interfaith Outreach Network).


To order The Flavors of Faith: Holy Breads, visit its page on ReadTheSpirit.com:




Arabic bread from the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn


Jewish Challah from Avalon Bakery in Detroit

 King Cake from a bakery in New Orleans

  WISDOM and DION folks having a great time “breaking bread” together!!


From left to right:

Imam Arif Huskic from Hamtramck, Rabbi Dorit Edut from DION,

 Lynne Golodner, and Gail Katz from WISDOM

Check out this video of the program “Faith on Fridays” on Morning Joe!  A beautiful discussion that took place on Good Friday between a bishop, a rabbi and an imam!



Obama’s Seder and Seeing the Other

by  Rabbi Marc Schneier


On Monday, March 25th,  President Barack Obama gathered with his family, members of his staff and other guests, many of them Jews and African-Americans, to hold his fifth seder since coming to the White House.

In fact, this was a continuation of a longstanding custom by him and his wife Michelle of participation in Passover seders in their hometown of Chicago.

In fact, Obama began observing Passover after moving in the mid 1980’s to the mixed Jewish-African American Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, where he taught law at the University of Chicago, launched his political career and formed close personal relationships with a broad spectrum of Jewish academics, political professions and even rabbis.

The President explained that he decided to host the annual seder at the White House because “I wanted my daughters to experience the Haggadah and the story at the center of Passover, that makes this time of year so powerful,” a story which, as he noted, is both central to the Jewish people and which also “holds within it the universal human experience, with all of its suffering, but also all of salvation.”

Seeking to convey why Passover resonates so powerfully with him and with many other African-Americans, as well as with Americans of diverse backgrounds, Obama explained:

It’s a story of centuries of slavery, and years of wandering in the desert, a story of perseverance amidst persecution… It’s a story of finding freedom in your own land. In the United States – a nation made up of people who crossed oceans to start anew – we’re naturally drawn to the idea of finding freedom in our land. To African-Americans, the story of the Exodus was perhaps the central story, the most powerful image to emerge from the grip of bondage to reach liberty and human dignity – a tale that was carried from slavery through the Civil Rights Movement into today.

Permit me to suggest another aspect of the Passover narrative that resonates with President Obama as well. At the Passover Seder when we recall the Ten Plagues that God visited upon the ancient Egyptians, it is important to remember that not all of the plagues manifested themselves in the form of physical afflictions. Rabbinic sages explain that the Ninth Plague – the plague of Darkness – did not represent an actual darkening of the sky, but rather a darkness of the heart, a communal blindness, a plague which has afflicted human societies from time immemorial.

Exodus 10:23 states, “They saw not one another” – meaning the ancient Egyptians were blind to each other’s needs, and that their gross insensitivity and inhumanity in relation to the suffering of the Hebrew slaves living among them ultimately led to the breakdown of Egyptian society. The biblical narrative of Passover has reminded Jews and others throughout history that in order to avoid the fatal blindness of the ancient Egyptians we must feel and display empathy toward people of diverse backgrounds, faiths and ethnicities, including people with whom we may strongly disagree – the need for empathy and understanding of the pain of the ‘Other!”  The lesson of the Ninth Plague of the Passover story challenges us to see the humanity in all of God’s Children, and to free ourselves from the shackles of indifference. Let us celebrate this timeless message of Passover by keeping aglow the light of understanding in a world too often darkened by the inability to see and to feel for the Other.

Interfaith musical liturgy to remember Holocaust premiered Sunday April 7th

Daniel Gross, 39, cantor at Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills, composed "I Believe: A Shoah Requiem." It is believed be the first complete musical liturgy dedicated to Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Daniel Gross, 39, cantor at Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills, composed “I Believe: A Shoah Requiem.” It is believed be the first complete musical liturgy dedicated to Holocaust Remembrance Day. / Andre J. Jackson/Detroit Free Press
By Niraj Warakoo
Detroit Free Press Staff Writer

Jewish, Catholic and Protestant leaders lifted their voices in song Sunday afternoon at Orchestra Hall in Detroit for the premiere of a composition that is believed be the first complete musical liturgy dedicated to Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Composed by a cantor who gave up a critically acclaimed life as a professional opera singer to work in a Farmington Hills synagogue, the piece attempts to wrestle with the horrors of the Holocaust while offering hope for the future. It was performed on a day that is marked annually around the world to remember the murders of 6 million Jewish people and others.

“We have come here to remember those who cannot be forgotten,” a choir sings in the opening movement. “We have come to speak of that which cannot be spoken, but cannot be left unsaid.”

Daniel Gross, 39, a cantor at Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills, wrote the piece in tribute to his late grandmother, Masha Gross — the only member of her immediate family to survive the Holocaust, called Shoah in Hebrew.


Titled “I Believe: A Shoah Requiem,” the composition featured the voices of a Holocaust survivor and a range of religious leaders and choirs.

“It’s up to us to never forget,” Gross said. “I wanted to make sure this is an interfaith event, that it’s not just something the Jewish people should celebrate.”

The head of the Catholic Church in southeastern Michigan, Archbishop of Detroit Allen Vigneron,  participated in the concert, reading from Psalm 102 in the Bible.

“On this somber occasion … when evil became a tangible reality in the lives of millions of Jews and other human beings, we come together to share our sorrow and our fervent prayer” that the Holocaust never happen again, Vigneron said in an e-mail to the Free Press.

The Rev. Kenneth Flowers, president of the Michigan Progressive Baptist Convention and pastor at Greater New Mt. Moriah Baptist Church in Detroit, also took part in the concert.

The Holocaust was “one of the most grievous atrocities in human history, to lose 6 million Jews for no reason at all,” Flowers said. “I’m participating because I believe it’s something we need to reach out … to let them know they’re not alone. They have others with them in solidarity.”

“As an African American, we sympathize with our brothers and sisters because we’ve gone through the same sort of adversities. … I see the similarities between slavery and the Holocaust,” Flowers said.

Before Gross became a cantor at Adat Shalom, he and his wife were professional opera singers drawing plaudits from critics. Gross has a “fine, creamy voice” read a 2005 opera review in the New York Times.

But despite their success, something was missing.

“I was feeling less and less satisfied in the opera world,” Gross recalled. “The more my reputation increased, the more my happiness decreased. … The idea of being cantor was a perfect fit for me, using religion to touch people, be a part of people’s lives.”

He decided to join the graduate cantorial school at Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City. It was there — while trying to come up with an idea for this final thesis in 2009 — that he thought of writing a piece for Holocaust Remembrance Day. A complete liturgy had never been written for it, he said.

At first, his motivation to write it “was out of necessity” to complete his thesis, Gross said. “But then,” he said, “it consumed me,” as he thought of his family’s and others’ suffering.

Made up of 13 movements, the piece is a capella; it contains traditional liturgies, a children’s choir and some poetry by Holocaust survivors including Paul Celan and Primo Levi.

“Music often allows us to communicate when words aren’t sufficient, and often with the Holocaust, there are no words” adequate to describe what happened, he said. “Music transcends and transports people, makes them think or be in the moment.”

The piece doesn’t always offer answers for what happened during the Holocaust. Part of the composition says: “We have come to ask the questions that cannot be answered, but cannot be left unasked.”

At the same time, it offers hope, the idea that “the human spirit can recover from something so tragic,” Gross said. The end of the concert featured the words found on the wall of a cave in Cologne, Germany, where Jewish people were hiding:

“I believe in the sun, even when it’s not shining. … I believe in God, even when He is silent.”

Sharing Scripture: Interfaith Thoughts About ‘The Bible’
By Rabbi Michael Bernstein

George Bernard Shaw is often quoted as saying that the United States and Britain are two countries separated by a common language. Watching part of the celebrated production of “The Bible” that concludes this Sunday evening, I find myself thinking that Judaism and Christianity are two faiths separated by a common Scripture.

This approach may seem counter intuitive: Surely what separates Jews from Christians must be what Christians refer to as the “New Testament” — the story of the birth of Jesus and how his life, death and resurrection form the basis for a new religion. However, as a Jew and as a rabbi, I find that many of the stories of Jesus and his followers stand alone as sources that contain wisdom and depth that can inspire people to care for one another and seek closeness to G*d. While I, like many, do not include these Scriptures as a part of my personal faith, I can learn from them as I do the sacred Scriptures of other faiths.

Where the greater challenge arises, however, is seeing my own traditions, beliefs and sacred sources interwoven with Christianity in such a way that they become the prelude and later the counterpoint to the Christian faith. The stories told by “The Bible” are animated by this perspective and the producers in their choices of excerpts, casting and pacing have fashioned a testament to their deeply held belief of the univocity and seamlessness of their account that runs as a record of G*d’s interaction in history through prophets from Noah through Jesus, each in turn occupying the same stage and playing of a variation of the same script that begins with the Creation of the Universe and moves inexorably to a Day of Judgment. I have had mixed feelings watching it.

The parts that I saw made a strong impression and caused me to think differently about stories I have studied many times. However, the clarity of the television production is a blessing and a curse. The language of the Bible is often ambiguous, opening up multiple readings and spurring commentaries from scholars of Judaism and Christianity. While “The Bible” could be seen as just one more set of interpretations, the nature of the medium of television is to come across as the definitive version taking the written word directly to the screen. Instead of encountering the mystery and ambiguity that makes the Bible the fertile ground for new interpretations, the viewer is given a whole package that can stand on its own.

One episode, titled “Hope,” began with the dark days of the destruction of the first Temple and, after spending a significant time on the story of Daniel, shifted the scene to Bethlehem and the dawn of Christianity. Part of what was skipped was the story of Ezra and Nehemiah who help create the revival of the Jewish tradition after the Babylonian exile. These sections are more than just missing pieces to the picture. The significance of the role of Ezra is that he is seen in Jewish tradition as a precursor to the leadership that eventually will become Rabbinic Judaism, the Jewish heir to the Law of Moses and the foundation of Judaism as it is known today. The sages that carry this torch forward though the same period in which Jesus preached were neither automatons, nor monolithic in their understanding of the Law. They gave the world the humility of Hillel who declared, what is hateful to your neighbor do not do; the genius of Ben Zoma, who said that one who was truly wise was the one who learned from each other person; and the piety of Rabbi Akiba, who declared his faith in G*d even as his flesh was raked with sharp combs by the Romans. These sages were among those who are also known as the Pharisees.

Ironically, even as the series comes to an end, this week brings another overlap of the Jewish and Christian traditions. Jewish communities are celebrating the Passover holiday, highlighted by the ritual retelling of the Exodus at the Seder and Christians are reaching the pinnacle of a Holy Season with the observance of Easter. This used to be a time fraught with danger for Jewish communities in Europe as a toxic mix of suspicion, fear and bigotry would often spill over into blood libels, pogroms and other assaults on the Jewish minority. Some of this danger had its source in the emphasis on just those elements of the Gospels which focus on the complicity of Jews in the crucifixion of Jesus. However, while enmity between different faiths is by no means wholly resolved, more and more the confluence of Easter and Passover has become an opportunity for celebrants of different faiths to learn from each other. At our Seder, we had guests from all different backgrounds, including friends who wanted to learn about how Jews keep alive the memory of the Exodus and its message of both peoplehood and universal values of freedom. At the same time Easter has become an opportunity to learn more about how my friends and neighbors are inspired by their understanding of the Bible, especially the stories of the Gospel.

There are many ways to be Jewish and many ways to be Christian. My experience has been that we have much to learn and little to fear from exploring each other’s tradition. While an event like “The Bible” can be a conversation starter and in that way can initiate bridge-building and meaningful interaction, I much prefer the interaction that grows from being able to learn directly from one another, drawing from what is personally inspiring for my neighbor and sharing what is most meaningful in my own encounter with Scripture and tradition.

East Lansing church’s generosity

 impresses visiting Muslim


We’ve heard the stories about those of the Muslim faith finding it difficult to gain acceptance in America – how they feel untrusted and demonized because of crimes they did not commit. But a visitor from Canada felt compelled this week to share his account of the opposite reception he received last Friday while visiting an East Lansing mosque. Asim Ansari described it in his email as “an everyday act of kindness” that needed to be shared.

The feeling of grace and generosity that Ansari experienced went beyond a single handshake or helping hand. The welcome he felt was, as it turns out, the embrace of culture by a Christian church that has become almost second nature.

But it seemed extraordinary to Ansari, who lives in Mississauga, Ontario.

Ansari regularly visits family in the Lansing area, which has taken him before to the Islamic Center of East Lansing for Friday prayers. He also has gotten used to parking in the lot of the neighboring University Lutheran Church because of the inadequate size of the center’s lot.

This particular Friday was unusually busy, with Ansari and his cousins having to circle several times to find a parking space. Following his worship, Ansari decided to enter the Lutheran church to thank anyone he could find for allowing the mosque to use the lot. It was then that he began to feel overwhelmed.

Unlike most Fridays, the church sanctuary was filling up for a worship service. And a man he found in the office explained why: It was Good Friday.


“I hadn’t even realized it was Good Friday and it struck me how, even on such a holy Christian day, nothing was any different,” Ansari wrote in his e-mail. “Nothing had changed. Not only was the church larger in size than the mosque, but certainly bigger in heart.” And, he was impressed with how the man in the office apologized for the parking “clash,” especially since there seemed to be absolutely no disagreement over competing interests.


The church’s pastor, Fred Fritz, said the close relationship between the church and mosque pre-dates his more than nine years at University Lutheran. Church leaders never have given a second thought to allowing mosque-goers to use its parking spaces since the center outgrew its landlocked parking lot.

About seven years ago, the church and the mosque contributed together to a landscaping project between the lots and children from the mosque use the church yard as a playground.


The church never has asked for money in return but the mosque occasionally contributes a “free-will offering” to help pay for lot maintenance, Fritz said.

“We’ve all (leaders of the church and mosque) agreed that we can’t control what’s happening in other parts of world,” Fritz said. “All of us feel powerless at times. But we do have the power to make choices in our own neighborhood.

“Obviously, this is more than just tolerance. It’s trying to live together in peace and to set an example.”


Call Mark Mayes at 377-1175 or email mmayes@lsj.com

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!