WISDOM Newsletter – November 2014

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events  

Sunday, November 9

Dr Wayne Baker presents “United America.”  Birmingham Community House, 380 South Bates, Birmingham, 7:00 PM.  See Flyer Below!

Sunday, November 16

Interfaith Leadership Council presents “Marriage and Divorce Across the Faith Traditions.” See Flyer Below!

Wednesday, December 10

Women of Vision photography exhibit at the Cranbrook Museum

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

Details Coming Soon!

Sunday, March 8th

“Empowering Women” a WISDOM and National Council of Jewish Women joint program – Details forthcoming


“Marriage and Divorce

Across the Faith Traditions”

A panel discussion sharing and comparing

 Religious Rituals and Practices

 Our interfaith panel will include:

                             Jewish: Rabbi Ariana Silverman, Grosse Pointe Jewish Council

                                   Muslim: Gigi Salka, Muslim Unity Center

               The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints: Polly Mallory

                      Roman Catholic: Rev. Kurt Godfryd, Archdiocese of Detroit


Sunday, November 16th, 3:30 PM – 6:00 PM

St. John’s Episcopal Church 

26998 Woodward Avenue, Royal Oak, MI 48067

(corner of Woodward & 11 Mile Road)


Cost $10 per person.  Light refreshments available.


To register, please visit the IFLC website www.detroitinterfaithcouncil.com

And click on the EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS tab on the top of the homepage.

Questions?  Contact the Rev. Bob Hart at 248-703-0389. You can also pay at the door!!  This discussion is the third part of a series about life cycle events across faith traditions.



Temple Israel Sisterhood Visits

Hartford Memorial Baptist Church in Detroit

on Sunday, September 28th to celebrate Women!!

By Gail Katz



From Left to Right

Karen Sherbin, Lisa Corey, Gail Katz, and Lynn Aleman

Not featured are Julie Phillips and Shellie Achtman


As part of a continuing interfaith initiative between the Sisterhood of Temple Israel and Hartford Women United, Temple Israel women were invited to share Hartford’s Sunday morning mass on this special day that was set apart to celebrate women. The service began at 11:00 AM with choral music, hymns, a prayer of invocation and intercession, and the Hartford Liturgical Female Dance Ministry.  Rev. Cecilia Holliday gave all the visitors that morning a very special welcome from the altar.  The highlight of this fascinating and energetic service was the passionate sermon by guest pastor Rev. Dr. Gina Stewart from Christ Missionary Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, about Esther saving the Jewish people in Persia from destruction, and how all of us need to stand up for what is the right thing to do!!



Rev. Dr. Gina Stewart


Praising the talents and abilities of women, the congregation (mostly women) got very emotionally involved in this sermon, raised their arms, clapped their hands, and felt united!!  This special Sunday service was quite an experience for our Temple Israel Sisterhood guests!  We were so honored to be invited to join in this celebration of women!! We hope to continue our joint interfaith “Sisters” initiative by sharing  a Passover seder in April at Temple Israel, and organizing another potluck event in June when we can share our Jewish and African American Baptist culinary delights and tie more fleece blankets to donate to Alternatives for Girls in Detroit!


Launching the Sandra Kay Gordon Scholarship Award

By Paula Drewek, WISDOM President

 Saturday, October 25, the fans (or friends and relatives) of Sandra Gordon met to launch “Believe,” a scholarship for women who wish to go into ministry in Sandra’s honor.  Sandra (or Kay as many of her friends called her) was a magnate of a woman.  She was gutsy enough to launch the “Daughters of Deborah” 15 years ago to assist women who wished to move into leadership roles with support, counseling and encouragement.  Her pastor, Rev. Ken Flowers, of the New Greater Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit gave his blessing to Sandra’s initiative.  It has since helped launch about 150 women into various leadership roles according to Connie, a longtime friend of 40 plus years.  Connie described the multi-generational weaving of her relationship with Sandra that included church, friendship, children and neighborhood – which reveal much about Sandra Kay’s influence and impact on others.  Sandra Kay Gordon was funny, was a good friend, a good listener and counselor.  She was always available to share herself and her skills.  Her vision was to make this possible for other women, hence the scholarship fund launched this evening.


The event was held at Studio D in Birmingham and attracted 40 or so donors to the scholarship fund to gather and celebrate Sandra’s influence and her vision for women in ministry.  She was lauded and described in the program by a series of “Daughters of Deborah”, family members, and the Rev. Ken Flowers.  The Women of WISDOM enjoyed the fellowship of all and a buffet meal while we chatted and relaxed in the the informal surroundings.  What a legacy to leave behind!




 In Jewish and Islamic Holidays, a Reminder of Commonalities

 Muslim pilgrims pray at Jabal Al Rahma, or the mountain of forgiveness, during the annual pilgrimage, known as the hajj, near Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on Friday, Oct. 3.  Associated PressThe world’s Jews begin marking the holiest time of their year Friday, October 2nd in Yom Kippur. The Day of Atonement, which begins at dusk, is observed with reflection, repentance for sins of the past year, and fasting. Also that same Friday, Muslims around the world begin marking the holiest day on their religious calendar. The Day of Arafat, the most important part of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, is a time of atoning for past sins and praying for forgiveness. Many Muslims who are not in the holy city of Mecca often fast from afar. 

If only…


It is no accident that the two faiths share common history and common prophets. For Jews, Abraham was the first of their faith, its literal father. His life is chronicled in the Old Testament. For Muslims, Abraham is the father of all three monotheistic religions beginning with Judaism. The Eid al-Adha, part of the Haj immediately after the Day of Arafat, marks Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son to prove his love and loyalty to God. His life is chronicled in the Koran.


If only…


For all their rivalries, the two faiths have played important roles in each other’s past-in positive ways. The Ottoman empire formally invited Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal to immigrate in the late 15th century. Sultan Beyazid II reportedly said, “Ye call Ferdinand a wise king, he who makes his land poor and ours rich!”

During World War II, Morocco’s King Mohammed V decreed that the 200,000 Jews in the predominantly Muslim country should not wear the yellow star, as they did in Nazi-occupied France. “There are no Jews in Morocco. There are only subjects,” he said. One of Judaism’s most important rabbis was Maimonides, who was appointed court physician by Saladdin, one of history’s most powerful Muslim leaders. Maimonides’ philosophical works were recognized in both the Islamic and Jewish worlds. The two religions share many practical traditions too: Their traditional calendars are lunar, based on the cycles of the moon instead of the sun. The observant practice the same dietary laws of no blood, carrion, or swine. The observant require modest dress of women, including hair covering, and beards and a prayer cap for men. They both believe in the core daily struggle to faithfully observe the faith. The two religions have much more in common, even their greetings: Shalom in Hebrew, Salam in Arabic. Both mean peace.


If only….


Robin Wright is a joint fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. She is on Twitter: @wrightr.

For his bar-mitzvah, American chooses 
his grandfather’s Polish birthplace
Donald Snyder  |  Sep. 24, 2014
Jacob Wisnik holds the covered Torah during his bar mitzvah
 in the Zamosc Synagogue in Poland July 3. (Photos by Krzysztof Galica)

There has not been a Jewish service in the Zamosc Synagogue since before the Holocaust. But on July 3, the Renaissance building in this Polish city once again became a synagogue when 13-year-old Jacob Wisnik from Westchester County, N.Y., celebrated his bar mitzvah.

More Catholics than Jews attended the event, as there are no Jews in Zamosc. Of the 70 guests, 55 were non-Jewish Poles, and most had never attended a Jewish service. Some had never met a Jew. Among the non-Jewish guests were members of the Forum for Dialogue Among Nations, a nonprofit organization that fosters Polish-Jewish conversation, promotes tolerance through education, and seeks to eradicate anti-Semitism.

In 2013, the forum invited Jacob’s parents, Eva and Robert Wisnik, to Poland on separate visits. Both are of Polish-Jewish descent. Eva and her parents came to the United States in 1968 when the Polish communist government launched an anti-Semitic campaign. Robert’s family came from Poland to the United States in the 1920s.

For both Wisniks, the trips fostered an appreciation for the country’s Jewish history. Their experience with the forum influenced the family’s decision to hold Jacob’s bar mitzvah in Zamosc, where Eva’s father was born. Jews had lived in Zamosc since 1588. When the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, there were more than 12,000 Jews in the city, almost half its population. Today, Zamosc has no Jews among its 70,000 residents. Its synagogue, once home to a vibrant community, is now devoid of Jewish life. Built between 1610 and 1618, the Zamosc Synagogue was severely damaged and vandalized during the Nazi invasion. It was used as a carpenter’s shop, and then used as a public library during the communist era until 1989. In 2009, a major restoration began under the auspices of the Warsaw-based Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland. The synagogue is now a cultural center that’s used for lectures and concerts.

But the sounds of Torah chanting have not been heard there for 75 years. No one has read from a sacred Torah scroll or intoned ancient prayers in Hebrew and Aramaic since before the Holocaust. jacob chose Zamosc for his bar mitzvah to honor the memory of his maternal grandfather. “My grandfather, Abram Szlak, who was born in this town, would have become a bar mitzvah in this very synagogue if not for World War II,” Jacob said in his bar mitzvah speech. Jacob’s grandfather, born in 1935, escaped the Nazis as a small child when his family fled to the Soviet Union, as did approximately half the Jews then living in Zamosc, located 154 miles east of Warsaw near the Ukrainian border. The Nazis murdered those who remained in the city.

In his speech, Jacob referred to his Torah reading, from the Book of Numbers: “How lovely are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel.” People have tried to destroy the Jews for thousands of years, he said, as the Nazis tried during the Holocaust, but his bar mitzvah in Zamosc was proof they hadn’t succeeded.

Rabbi David Holz, from Temple Beth Abraham in Westchester County, said the message is that the Jewish people have survived and thrived despite many attempts to destroy them.

“Jake, you are the newest link in the unbroken chain of Jewish tradition through 3,000 years, from Moshe [Moses] to this day,” the rabbi said. Jacob’s father, Robert, noted that all the family ancestors were from Poland, where Jews lived for a thousand years until the Holocaust. “Jake, all of your ancestors are proud of you today,” he said.

The bar mitzvah was a new experience for Zamosc high school teacher Beata Pisarczyk-Zabiciel. “I thought it would be more formal,” she said. “I was surprised by the guitar a lot, and the clapping and singing. It was so joyful. I wanted to sing along.”

Pisarczyk-Zabiciel’s student, Ewa Broszko, 18, said she’d read about Jews and Judaism, but actually seeing the bar mitzvah made her studies real.

Following the bar mitzvah and a luncheon celebration, Pisarczyk-Zabiciel’s students led the guests on a tour of Zamosc that focused on its Jewish history. The tour included former homes of renowned Jewish intellectuals and politicians, and the Rotunda fortress where the Germans murdered thousands of Jews.

The idea for the tour came from the forum, which through its School of Dialogue program sends educators to Polish towns and villages to teach young people about the Jewish history of their hometowns.

There were 3.3 million Jews in Poland before the Holocaust. Today there are 10,000. Most young Catholic Poles have never met a Jew and are ignorant of the Jewish life that once existed in Poland. The forum’s goal is to help form relationships between the youngest generation and descendants of Jews who lived in Polish towns and villages before the war.

The forum also fights anti-Semitism, which remains a problem in Poland. With a population that is 95 percent Catholic, Poland is Europe’s most Catholic country. It’s also one of the most anti-Semitic, opinion polls show.

A majority of respondents in a recent national survey, conducted by the Center for Research on Prejudice at Warsaw University, believe there’s a Jewish conspiracy to control international banking and the media. At the same time, 90 percent of these respondents say they’ve never met a Jew. The study also found an increase in traditional, religion-based forms of anti-Semitism, such as blaming Jews for the murder of Jesus Christ and the belief that Christian blood is used in Jewish rituals. Anti-Semitic graffiti appeared on Zamosc Synagogue in September 2013, said Monika Krawczyk, who attended the bar mitzvah and heads the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland. In June, anti-Semitic graffiti appeared on another synagogue in a town 50 miles north of Zamosc.

Such incidents underscore the importance of the forum’s work in teaching Polish Catholics about the Jewish religion and the country’s rich Jewish history. With Jacob’s bar mitzvah, this history came to life for one day. Proud of his roots, Jacob is hopeful for the future. “Perhaps my bar mitzvah is the first of many more in Zamosc,” he said.

Saif Ali Khan: Intermarriage is not jihad, it is India – 

 I am the son of a sportsman, I grew up in England, Bhopal, Pataudi, Delhi and Mumbai, and I am more Indian than any Hindu or Muslim I know because I am both. I wrote this piece not to comment on the masses or the problems of communalism in India and its villages, but because this is an issue that concerns my friends and their families. It wasn’t peacefully accepted by anyone, initially, when my parents wanted to marry. The royals had their issues; the Brahmins theirs. And, of course, extremists on both religious sides issued death threats. But the marriage still happened – the fact that my grandmother also had to fight to marry the not-as-wealthy and therefore not-so-suitable nawab of Pataudi might have helped things along. We grew up on real-life romantic stories about our elders marrying for love and not worrying too much about tradition. And we were brought up to believe that god is one, with many names.

When Kareena and I married, there were similar death threats, with people on the Net saying ridiculous things about “love jihad”. We follow whatever religion or spiritual practice we believe in. We talk about them and respect each other’s views. I hope our children will do the same. I have prayed in church and attended mass with Kareena, while she has bowed her head at dargahs and prayed in mosques. When we purified our new home, we had a havan and a Quran reading and a priest sprinkling holy water – no chances taken!

What is religion? What is faith? Does a perfect definition exist? I don’t know. But I know doubt. I’m intrigued by the politics of doubt. Doubt gives us faith. Doubt keeps us questioning what keeps us alive. If we become sure of something, then there is a danger of becoming fanatical. Religion needs to be separated from a lot of things. Our religions are based on fear. The Old Testament spoke of a Promised Land for a people, but there were people already living there. The problem is still burning today. There have been too many atrocities committed in the name of god.

I know good people are scared of marrying their daughters to Muslims. They fear conversion, quick divorces, multiple marriages – basically, it suits the boys a bit more than the girls. All this is undoubtedly outdated. A lot of Islam needs to modernise and renew itself in order to be relevant. We also need a loud moderate voice to separate the good from the evil. Islam today is more unpopular than it has ever been. This is a great shame to me, as I have always thought of Islam as the moon, the desert, calligraphy and flying carpets, the thousand and one nights. I have always thought about it as a religion of peace and submission. As I grew older, I saw religion twisted and used so badly by men that I distanced myself from all man-made religion. I choose to be as spiritual as I can be.

Anyway, I digress. The good news is that no one needs to convert from their religion to get married. The Special Marriage Act, when applicable, is the paramount law of the land. If you marry under this, it is upheld over any religious law. It is truly secular. The fabric of India is woven from many threads – English, Muslim, Hindu and many others. A major concern in today’s India is that we keep deleting our past. To say Muslims don’t have a role in India is denying their importance and contribution. It is like saying women don’t have a part to play in India. Why do we need to deny Islam? It’s what we are. We come with our mix. To deny this is to cheat us of our inheritance. I don’t know what “love jihad” is. It is a complication created in India. I know intermarriages because I am a child of one and my children are born out of it. Intermarriage is not jihad. Intermarriage is India. India is a mix. Ambedkar said the only way to annihilate caste is intermarriage. It is only through intermarriage that the real Indians of tomorrow can be truly equipped to take our nation forward with the right perspective. I am the product of such a mixed marriage and my life has been full of Eid and Holi and Diwali. We were taught to do adaab and namaste with equal reverence.

It is sad that too much importance is given to religion, and not enough to humanity and love. My children were born Muslim but they live like Hindus (with a pooja ghar at home), and if they wanted to be Buddhist, they would have my blessing. That’s how we were brought up. We are a blend, this great country of ours. It is our differences that make us who we are. We need to get beyond mere tolerance. We need to accept and respect and love each other. We are most certainly not a secular country. The intention was to become one and our Constitution has provided every framework to make that possible. But, more than six decades on, we have still not separated religion from the law. To make matters worse, different laws apply to different people, making it impossible for us to think as one. There are different laws for Hindus and different laws for Muslims. This is bound to create trouble.

I think we should have one law for all Indians, a uniform civil code, and we should all think of ourselves as one nation. All our religions must come later and be by the way. Teach our children about god and his thousand names, but first we must teach them respect and love of their fellow man. That is more important.

I stopped believing in the Tooth Fairy first, then Santa Claus, and finally, I really don’t know what I feel about a personal god. But I believe in love and in trying to be good and helping the world. I don’t always succeed and then I feel bad. My conscience is my god, I think, and it tells me that that one tree in Pataudi near which my father is buried is closer to god than any temple, church or mosque.



Tess Tchou grew up in the largely Catholic and often anti-semitic Phillipines. She didn’t know any Jews, but she had heard the slurs.

“Whenever I was a bad kid or disrespectful, they would say, are you being a Jew?” says Tchou.


It wasn’t until she came to the United States as a student that the stereotypes were challenged. As a student, she boarded with several Jewish families, who included her in their rituals and celebrations.


“I had such a wonderful experience with the Jewish community,” says Tchou 

Tchou is excited to give back by organizing the screening of the film An Open Door: Rescue of the Jews, on Sunday, November 23, 2014 at the Philippine American Community Center of Michigan (PACCM). (17356 Northland Park Ct., Southfield)
The film details the rescue of 1,300 Jews by the Phillipines. 
The Phillipines, an archipelago of over 7,000 islands is located geographically at the crossroads of commerce, and therefore religion, in Southeast Asia. Although there is a strong undercurrent of pluralism, mixing indigenous animist traditions, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, among other faiths imported from the region, the citizens are 80% Catholic. 

In a place where the common perception of Jews was that they had killed Jesus, and at a time when the US State Department was opposed to the move, then President of the Phillipines, Manuel Quezon offered to admit one million Jews to the Phillipines, saying “We have to save the Jews because they gave us Christ.”


“There’s an absolute respect for authority,” says Tchou of the Phillipines. “He was able to do that partly because of his position, partly because his words were persuasive.” “Part of the sympathy for the Jewish people was a result of experience,” says Tchou. Having been through Spanish conquest, forcible “civilization” at the hands of missionaries, and US colonialism, the people of the Phillipines understood subjugation.


The film, which tells the story of how the Jews found safe haven in the Phillipines, is directed by filmmaker Noel M. Izon, as the third in his trilogy of forgotten World War II stories. stories. His two previous documentaries, An Untold Triumph and Choc’late Soldiers from the USA have been screened at Smithsonian museums. And An Untold Triumph aired on PBS. Producer Sharon Delmendo, author of The Star-Entangled Banner: 100 Years of America in the Philippines, will be at the screening to introduce the film and take questions.

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!