WISDOM Newsletter – September 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.  Flyer available soon!


Sunday, November 16

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


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 Jennifer Kaluzny, Temple Israel

                                   Muslim: Gigi Salka, Muslim Unity Center

               The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints: SusanMendenhall

                      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.


North America’s Assisi

26 States and Provinces – 

46 Locations on the Spiritual Spectrum

Attendees for the upcoming NAIN conference listed 26 US States and Canadian Provinces as home. But their spiritual homes are even more diverse. Participants listed 46 different religious affiliations, representing an impressive cross-section of North America’s religious thought and spiritual identity.


But whether they’re from Syracuse, San Francisco, Spokane or Sterling Heights, they are coming for a single purpose – to connect.

NAIN was born in 1988, the North American child of Pope John Paul II’s first World Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi, Italy, on October 27, 1986, when 160 of the world’s religious leaders gathered in prayer.

“We said, ‘why don’t we have a North American Assisi?’,” says Samuel Muyskens, who was one of the original NAIN board members, and chair of the first NAIN connect in Wichita, Kansas.

He goes to NAIN connects “because I see our world being torn apart by religions not understanding each other. I can’t think of anything more critical than to increase the effectiveness of interfaith,” says Muyskens, “And here’s a chance.”

Muyskens works with Global Faith in Action in Wichita, focusing on ways to dialogue “that aren’t panels.” That includes facilitated dinner conversations in people’s homes, and creating a music dialogue between world class improvisational musicians who play off of each other’s traditional music.

Rachel Watcher, a Wiccan from San Francisco and a NAIN board member, says that the NAIN purpose “is to come together in celebration of our diversity. NAIN in particular is a place where people want to share what they’re doing.”

Watcher has been involved in NAIN for over a decade. She says that it has “allowed me to look at my religion from a different point of view, to challenge my own beliefs. It’s this wonderful opportunity to explore your own spirituality.”

“NAIN tends to draw the scholarly and having those conversations is so enriching. I don’t get that in everyday life. No one does,” says Watcher, who runs a contracting business in California. “We don’t talk about those things while we’re nailing up walls.”

Part of the fun of NAIN is sharing different traditions in a very personal way. Watcher says that she’s had Sikhs unwrap and rewrap to show her how it’s done, and show her how they tie up their beards.

“How many places can you get people to undress for you,” she jokes.

Although it’s a gathering to celebrate and enjoy diversity, it’s not all just kumbaya, says Watcher. “It’s basically a time we can come together from all over North America to share our best practices.” 


Watcher is pleased to be headed to Detroit. “It has an incredibly strong interfaith community.” Watcher says that because of and despite the incredible challenges here, “some of the interfaith work that’s being done in Detroit is just amazing.”


Visitors are coming from the following physical and metaphysical states:

Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, Ontario, New Jersey, California, Saskatchewan, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Alberta, Minnesota, Nevada, Washington, Georgia, Nebraska, New Mexico, DC, Florida, Massachusetts, Utah, Oregon, Tennessee, South Carolina, Kansas, British Columbia, Virginia. Unitarian, Baptist, Presbyterian, Interspiritual, Scientology, Roman Catholic, Pantheist/Naturalist/Taoist, Muslim, Jewish, Baha’i, Episcopal, New Thought, United Church of Christ, Wiccan, United Church of Canada, United Methodist, Protestant Catholic, Lutheran, Sikh, Vedanta, Christian Mystic Taoist, Buddhist Christian, Unitarian, Assembly of God, Secular Humanist, Mennonite, Christian, Mystic, Cooperative Baptist, Church of Jesus Christ – Latter Day Saints, Buddhist, Zorastrian, Shia Ismaili Muslim, Hindu, Baptist, Interfaith Sufi, Unity, Centers for Spiritual Living – Sacred Threads Study Group, Pentacostal, Christian Science, Progressive Christian, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

The 2014 NAIN Conference at 

Wayne State University in Detroit

Posted by Robert Bruttell, Chair of the IFLC

Gail Katz and Paula Drewek, Chairs of the NAIN Conference

Despite the deluge, 155 men and women of all faiths from across North America listened, learned, and shared, creating connections across the boundaries of almost fifty different faith traditions. Starting with our local favorite interfaith performers, Brother Al Mascia and Maggid Steve Klaper of Song and Spirit, through to the final plenary on Sacred Storytelling, it was a non-stop opportunity to absorb new ideas and new energy. In the opening plenary, Rev. Dr. Dan Buttry charmed and inspired, encouraging us to talk to each other, to respect each other’s basic humanity and use that communication and respect as a basis not just for connection, but also for collaboration. He told the story of his first date with his wife Sharon, who, not knowing that he didn’t care for popcorn, made him some. He ate the whole bowl because he didn’t want to risk losing the second date, he said. Eventually their relationship grew into one that could tolerate more honesty. Interfaith relationships, he says, must have that higher level of honesty, must include and be able to survive talking about “the real stuff.”

“We will never transform the world with interfaith first date moments,” said Buttry. Effective interfaith work means deep community building so that, in times of crisis, those connections hold fast. He emphasized the need to work together doing “the nitty gritty nuts and bolts of community building.” And he sent participants back to their own religious communities with a mandate to open conversations there. “If we are silent in our own communities,” said Buttry, “intolerance will win.”

The tone of openness and honesty carried through the conference, with feedback from participants being almost unanimous on several points: They had great conversations; they thought the conference was very well executed; that Meredith Skowronski and all the committee members and volunteers did an outstanding job; and they didn’t care for the weather. The historic downpour did not stop anyone from enjoying an excellent dinner at the Islamic Center of America, where Brenda Rosenberg, moderating the “From Hate to Hope” panel on misconceptions about different groups, echoed Buttry’s call to share difficult truths. “Tonight we are going to talk about what divides us,” said Rosenberg. “You cannot build a bridge without points of tension.’ To see what misconceptions are out there about Islam, said scholar and activist Saeed Khan, “turn on the television.” There needs to be a safe space for discussion and trust building exercises, said Khan. “This isn’t an easy task.” “Let’s put it on the table and move forward, as a nation should,” echoed First Nation representative Myeengun Henry. “We can’t be scared of those tough questions anymore.”

Parvinder Mehta talked about being Sikh in America, raising the challenging question of what it would take for a minority to be accepted in the melting pot, which she called a “traditional euro-centric notion.” “As a Sikh in American,” she asked, “do I need to melt away all my differences? Do I have to assimilate to be ‘American enough’?”

The conference afforded participants to see the melting pot of metro Detroit first hand, with tours of Hamtramck, the DIA, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, The Arab American Museum, the Holocaust Memorial Center, and a tour of Dearborn led by Mayor Jack O’Reilly. Mayor O’Reilly also participated on a panel called Picking up the Pieces, with Warren Mayor Jim Fouts, and Hamtramck Mayor Karen Majewski. “Having the three mayors present, talking about their approach to inclusion and respect was mind-blowing!!” said one participant.

From the NAIN Young Adult Scholars to Peace! Love! Mosaics! to The Next Frontier in Interfaith, participants expressed enthusiasm and delight at the diversity of topics and the quality of the presentations and interactions.

IFLC President Robert Bruttell opened the final evening’s event at Livonia’s beautiful St. Mary’s Antiochan Orthodox Church with a few humorous biblical flood references, going into a more serious vein on the subject of the Religious Leaders Forum’s work on violence prevention, literacy and energy self-sufficiency.


The Rev. Dr. Stephen Butler Murray, newly arrived President of the Ecumenical Theological Seminary, moderated the panel “City on Edge: Leading the Fight against Enmity.” The panel included Superintendent Marcus R. Ways, Rabbi Michael Moskowitz, Imam Steven Mustapha Elturk, and St. Mary’s Father George Shalhoub. In an intensely personal and heartfelt discussion, all four shared their stories, answering questions from Dr. Murray about how they came to interfaith work and how to sustain it. Rabbi Moskowitz concluded with this: “We create friendships, we create relationships. And I think God is in the relationships. The bridges, the friendships will last. This is America. We stand together.”


On Friday, August 22nd a group of WISDOM Board members met with some of the women from Greater New Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church on Owen in Detroit to stuff backpacks with school supplies.  WISDOM helped to finance the cost of the backpacks and supplies for the Detroit children who could use the help getting ready for school this fall.  It was great to interact together.  This project is very meaningful to WISDOM because Sandra Kay Gordon, Former Assistant to the Pastor Rev. Kenneth Flowers, was also a WISDOM board member.  Sandra passed away on June 4th, and left the members of her church and the board members of WISDOM quite devastated!!  In memory of Sandra Kay Gordon, WISDOM has chosen to partner with Greater New Mount Moriah on the backpack project, as this was one of Sandra’s favorite activities, and one of WISDOM’s missions is to engage in community service projects and impact our youth!  Linda Bassett, coordinator of the Ruth Circle at the church, was instrumental in putting together our joint partnership.

Paula Drewek, WISDOM President, joined the Rev. Ken Flowers at the church the following Sunday, August 24th to distribute the backpacks to the children!
WISDOM looks forward to a continuation of this joint endeavor with Greater New Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in the future!!

The Jewish and Chaldean Community Come Together at

St. Thomas Chaldean Catholic Church


By Gail Katz

Jewish/Chaldean Social Action Initiative Chair


On Monday evening, August 18th, about 100 Jews and Chaldeans came together for a potluck dinner and a social action project at St. Thomas Chaldean Catholic Church on Maple Rd. in West Bloomfield.  For the fourth year running, the Jewish and Chaldean communities have joined together as part of the larger Jewish News and Chaldean News “Building Community Initiative” to reach out to each other, visit each other’s holy places of worship, participate in each other’s cultural events, and bond with each other as human beings with similar needs, wants, and emotions. 


Gail Katz kicked off the evening with a welcome and a reading of Naomi Levy’s beautiful and meaningful “Prayer for Tolerance.”  Martin Manna, Editor of the Chaldean News, then addressed the gathering with some history of the Building Community Initiative, and what is still going on today.  There continues to be a teen forum in the Walled Lake Schools that includes Jewish, Chaldean, and African American students to further understanding and reduce bullying.  Jewish and Chaldean entrepreneurs continue to meet together and share their business ideas.


Martin Manna then gave all of us an update on the terrible situation in Iraq and how the Chaldean community there has been impacted. Since 2008, the Chaldean Community Foundation in Southfield has been helping thousands of refugees and immigrants coming from Iraq to the United States. But in the last few weeks, their phones have been ringing non-stop. Many towns of Iraq have been run down by ISIS – the Islamic State in Iraq, which is fighting to take over the country. Thousands of Christians have been killed in the name of religion, and the Chaldean community has suffered terribly. For the first time in 1600 years, mass was not celebrated in Mosul, Iraq, which used to be heavily populated by Chaldeans, who have now fled or have been killed.  As the Chaldeans and other Christians fled, their possessions were taken from them, their villages were shelled, and their churches were desecrated. Martin mentioned the website www.helpiraq.org and asked the audience to go there to find out how to write letters or donate to the cause.  The number of Chaldean immigrants to the Detroit area, which has been about 200 people a month, will most likely double or triple due to the crisis in Iraq. 

Father Andrew Seba then invited everyone to join him in the sanctuary for a discussion about the Chaldean Catholic religious practices. He explained that St. Thomas Chaldean Catholic Church is the largest English speaking Chaldean parish in the world.  There are five masses every weekend – three in English, one in Chaldean, and one in Arabic. The church serves over 3,000 families, and uses its social hall for youth groups, socials, bingo and classes.  Father Andrew went over the details of how the Chaldean church differs from the Roman Catholic Church. According to legend, the Chaldeans were converted to Christianity by the Apostle Thomas on one of his missionary journeys to the East. In 1445, Chaldeans were received into the Roman Church and they were permitted to retain their historic rituals and the Chaldean/Aramaic language for mass and other ceremonies. Before leaving the sanctuary,  Father Seba pointed out the beautiful ceiling with the image of God, and the Chaldean symbol below the depiction of God that included three dots for the Trinity, the Chaldean letters Y and H which stood for the Hebrew word “Yahweh,” and one dot below the letters, which represented one God!



Following Father Seba’s remarks in the sanctuary, we all went back to the social hall to enjoy the Chaldean and Jewish culinary delights that everyone brought to the potluck.  We sat at a table with folks that we didn’t already know so that we could make some new interfaith friendships.  The end of the evening was spent in an assembly line, filling the many backpacks that we had purchased with the school supplies that each attendee to the potluck had brought.



Wisam Brikho, Refugee and Immigrant Consultant for Oakland Schools, took the backpacks with him to deliver to needy elementary students when school starts in September.  We all left with the wonderful feeling of having made new friends, and having learned something new about the Chaldean history, culture, faith, and current challenges. Our interfaith initiative has made a difference in the lives of our local young students with the backpacks that we stuffed.  We look forward to the next coming together of the Jewish/Chaldean Social Action Initiative.

Missouri interfaith leaders 
say spiritual power ‘is greater than tear gas”
                                                                   By Chico Harlan
Mark Kelly Tyler, a pastor at Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, speaks into a megaphone.
About 10 miles from Ferguson, an interfaith group gathered Wednesday at dusk in front of the St. Louis County Department of Justice Services. They marched from a nearby high school, tailed by police.

“We must be an intimidating group, because they barricaded the sidewalks,” said Mark Kelly Tyler, a pastor at Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. “They must have seen all these preachers, imams and rabbis coming out.”

Their spiritual power, Tyler said, “is greater than tear gas.” The religious leaders had come from across the United States in recent days to demand what they described as justice for Michael Brown, the unarmed teen shot by a police officer on Aug. 9. Tyler said the group of about 200 was “only loosely organized,” but its members shared the sentiment that the events in Ferguson represent an American, not a St. Louis-specific, problem. During the protest – which included a several speakers, including a rabbi and a St. Louis-based preacher – police stood off to the side. The event lasted about an hour, and took place in a neighborhood with a few well-maintained government buildings, tree-lined sidewalks, a Starbucks, and a Chipotle. After the protest ended a few from the gathering went for burritos.


The Spirit of Shanti and Salaam (Part 2):
American Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus Standing Together


As Americans of all backgrounds continue to try to achieve the ideals of the Civil Rights Movement on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, members of three growing religions in the United States have a unique opportunity to stand together for equality and shared human dignity.

Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs together make up less than 3 percent of the American population, but they have become increasingly prominent in the American social fabric, thanks to the advocacy efforts of all three groups in the wake of 9/11 and the similar experiences members of each religion have faced in being recognized and respected in the United States. They have been victims of violence, too, as exhibited by the attacks by members of all three groups over the past decade.

While the post-9/11 era has created a shared sense of struggle, the experiences of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs actually dates back to the early 20th century, when laborers from colonial India were brought to work jobs that whites wouldn’t do. A number entered the United States through Angel Island, where immigration officials would try to find excuses to reject them from entry. Americans often failed to distinguish between them, as Indian Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims were all classified as “Hindoos.” In 1907, the Bellingham riots in Washington targeted Sikhs (mistaken for Hindus), who were driven from the town by mobs of white men. Throughout much of the 20th century (until the end of the Asian Exclusion Act in 1965), all three groups struggled — often together — to deal with systematic discrimination, isolation and marginalization. Much of that history, however, has remained in the shadows, though groups such as South Asian American Digital Archive and the Smithsonian’s “Beyond Bollywood” exhibit have tried to underscore those shared stories.

Today, Muslim-Americans, Hindu-Americans and Sikh-Americans have a unique opportunity to work together to combat racial and religious profiling, hate crimes, along with bullying in the classroom. That’s why in honor of the legacy of civil rights champions from half-a-century ago, we are working to find a common thread of advocacy in which members of all three faiths can strive for equality and pluralism in America.

This isn’t to downplay the differences, or occasional tensions that come up within our communities, often as a result of conflicts that continue to flare up across the South Asian region. Too often, our communities fail to see the common ties that bind us, including the shared struggles to acculturate while maintaining a semblance of our respective faith and cultural traditions. The generation of immigrants — whether they were Muslim, Sikh, Hindu (or Jain, Zoroastrian, Christian or Buddhist) — wanted better lives for their children, and in many ways, we have inherited an opportunity to grow up and be educated with each other. With that opportunity comes a greater possibility: the chance to stand with one another to fight hate and injustice.

School bullying is one of the key platforms in which we can stand together. Already, groups representing our communities have undertaken campaigns to fight bullying. The Sikh Coalition, Hindu American Foundation and Islamic Networks Group have all undertaken anti-bullying campaigns, but perhaps more can be done to coordinate anti-bullying efforts from an interfaith perspective. We can share resources, conduct joint trainings and presented a unified voice that religious bullying is unacceptable. After all, our communities feel this shared pain because we are often confused for one another. As a result, we have an opportunity to stand up with and for one another.

Similarly, as Pew surveys show continued negativity towards Muslims in the United States (and only lukewarm feelings towards Hindus), Sikh Americans continue to deal with the memory of one of the worst hate crimes in modern U.S. history. Nearly two years ago, several Sikhs were killed at a temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. This tragedy demonstrates hate crimes, negative attitudes and racial profiling continue to be our shared burden as marginal communities in America. One sign of hope is that people are less likely to view minorities in a negative light if they have even one friend from that community. This underscores the need to come together and ensure that we speak as one.

As we remember the sacrifices of civil rights leaders in their fight for equality, we have the unique opportunity of inheriting their legacy and adding to the ongoing struggle to make this country a more perfect union. We hope our communities will embrace this challenge.

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!!


 1)  Go to http://www.readthespirit.com/religious-holidays-festivals/ for fascinating information about upcoming Religious holidays that your neighbors of different faith traditions may be celebrating!!

2)   Go to http://www.readthespirit.com/were-making-news/ for a listing of all the articles written about the WISDOM Book Friendship and Faith: the WISDOM of Women Creating Alliances for Peace.

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!