Stories of Friendship & Faith: The Wisdom of Women Creating Alliances for Peace

April 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

opening hearts, opening minds, opening doors

By Brenda Naomi Rosenberg

WisdomWomen_PROMOcover In Metro Detroit, a mostly segregated area of isolated and sometimes hostile communities, with almost every person affected by the failing economy, a devastated auto industry, sky- rocketing unemployment, an area where homes have been devalued by as much as 50%, I saw a spark of hope. A spark ignited with my friends from WISDOM (Women’s Interfaith Solutions for Dialogue and Outreach in MetroDetroit), women who share my passion for opening hearts and opening minds, women who dare to cross boundaries to make friends. Together, we created FRIENDSHIP and FAITH; the WISDOM of women creating alliances for peace, a book that offers hope and the possibility of how we can create peace if we are willing to extend our hands in friendship and formulate meaningful connections.

Twenty nine of us, ages 20 to 80 from seven different faiths -Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Baha’i, Sikh, and Buddhist-collaborated for a year to produce a collection of inspiring stories, stories of creating friendships across religious and cultural divides. Stories that describe everything from surviving flat-out hatred—to the far simpler challenge of making friends with someone of a different religion and race when you share a hospital room; stories that describe making friends at school, overcoming misunderstandings with colleagues at work and even daring to establish friendships that circle the globe; stories that will lift spirits—perhaps even inspire people to spark a new friendship wherever they live.

Our Journey to create Friendship & Faith began on January 24, 2009, when 14 WISDOM leaders gathered for a retreat at the Muslim Unity Center in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, led by the Rev. Sharon Buttry, whose story appears in the book. The retreat was called “Building Bridges”. Together we explored ways to strengthen relationships between women and create innovative projects for the future. To deepen our reflections that weekend, we divided into pairs— I teamed up with Gigi Salka, a Muslim friend and board member of the Muslim Unity Center. Our first exercise was to draw the bridge that connected us. Our bridge was a beautiful rainbow of colors; filled with many of the interfaith and educational projects we had worked on together, including placing a mini Jewish library, a gift of the Farbman family, at the Muslim Unity Center.  I wanted to share not only our bridge-building efforts but all the stories in the room. I proposed a book of our personal stories of how we built bridges across religious and cultural divides, with the hope to inspire others to reach out and to expand the circle of WISDOM.

The group’s enthusiastic response led to a task force focused on gathering stories from dozen of women from diverse backgrounds. Our task force includes WISDOM members Padma Kuppa, Sheri Schiff, Gail Katz, Trish Harris, Ellen Ehrlich, Judy Satterwaite, Paula Drewek and me. We turned to another friend: David Crumm, (founding editor of Read The Spirit www.ReadTheSprit.com, an online magazine, and publisher of ReadTheSpirit Books. David not only published our book, but helped us expand our creative circle. We invited writers from a similarly wide range of backgrounds to help us. Some of the writers are still in college—and some are veteran, nationally-known writers.

As you open the book, you’ll meet my three dear friends; Gail Katz, (Jewish) Trish Harris, (Catholic) and Shahina Begg, (Muslim) who will invite you to sit down with them around a kitchen table. They’ll tell you about the creation of WISDOM – their meeting at an interfaith event, the documentary premier of “Reuniting the Children of Abraham” at Kirk in the Hills Presbyterian Church, and how WISDOM has developed into a dynamic women’s interfaith dialogue organization hosting many successful educational and social-service programs.

Many stories will feel like you’re witnessing events unfolding in your back yard – stories about overcoming tough problems with relationships at school—or finding solutions when families suddenly encounter friction over interreligious marriages. Other stories take you to times and places around the world that you’ll find so compelling—so memorable—that you’ll want to tell a friend – two girls in Iran risking the wrath of religious authorities with their interfaith friendship,  a Jewish woman, child of holocaust survivors, who finds an unexpected friendship when a German couple moves in next door – a Muslim-Hindu marriage that raises cross-country anxiety in India—and a rare true story about an innocent Japanese girl who bravely faced hatred  in an internment camp here and also in Japan during World War II.  You will read the heartfelt stories of personal struggles. One Muslim woman shares her story of how challenging it was for her to start wearing a head scarf after 9/11, and another about how she ended an abusive marriage, stopped wearing her head scarf and started helping other Arab woman in all their relationships. And, some stories like mine show how a lunch with an Imam led to creating an interfaith project  “Reuniting the Children of Abraham”  that has crossed race, faith, cultural barriers and  international boundaries.

Read our book with a friend or neighbor. Meet us online at our www.FriendshipAndFaith.com web site.  Look for our stories on www.ReadTheSpirit.com.,and our book on www.Amazon.com.  We would love to come to your congregation or organization and present our program 5 Women 5 Journeys, an insightful exchange about our faiths, beliefs and challenges as women. If you are interested in organizing a congregational –wide “read” of this book contact: Gail Katz at gailkatz@comcast.net

12-15

A New Kind of IT Advice

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

This is the shape of things to come…

Recently I came across a young man who had just got married. When I asked him how he is getting along with his bride, he replied “ She is alright but she is not very user friendly”. Read on:

INSTALLING HUSBAND?

A woman writes to the IT Technical support Guy

Dear Tech Support,

Last year I upgraded from Boyfriend 5.0 to Husband 1.0 and I noticed a distinct slowdown in the overall system performance, particularly in the flower and jewellery applications, which operated flawlessly under Boyfriend 5.0.

In addition, Husband 1.0 uninstalled many other valuable programs, such as Romance 9.5 and Personal Attention 6.5, and then installed undesirable programs such as  NEWS 5.0,   MONEY 3.0  and SOCCER 4.1 .

Conversation 8.0 no longer runs, and House cleaning 2.6 simply crashes the system.

Please note that I have tried running Nagging 5..3 to fix these problems, but to no avail.

What can I do?

Signed,

DEAR  Madam,

First, keep in mind, Boyfriend 5.0 is an Entertainment Package, while Husband 1.0 is an operating system.

Please enter command: ithoughtyoulovedme. html and try to download Tears 6.2 and do not forget to install the Guilt 3.0 update.

If that application works as designed, Husband1.0 should then automatically run the applications Jewelry 2.0 and Flowers 3.5..

However, remember, overuse of the above application can cause Husband 1.0 to default to Silence 2.5.

Whatever you do, DO NOT under any circumstances install Mother-In-Law 1.0 (it runs a virus in the background that will eventually seize control of all your system resources.)

In addition, please do not attempt to reinstall the Boyfriend 5.0 program. These are unsupported applications and will crash Husband 1.0.

In summary, Husband 1.0 is a great program, but it does have limited memory and cannot learn new applications quickly.

You might consider buying additional software to improve memory and performance.

We recommend:  Cooking 3.0 and  Hot Looks 7.7.

Good Luck Madam!

IT SUPPORT DESK

12-9

Once More to Gaza

February 11, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, MMNS

Readers of The Muslim Observer are familiar with the Free Gaza Movement which in August of 2008 sailed two ships from Cyprus to Gaza breaking a decades long blockade by Israel. Four more missions followed successfully. The sixth voyage resulted in an attack by Israeli Naval forces that severely damaged the ship putting the lives of all aboard in jeopardy. The captain was able to bring the ship safely to a port in Lebanon; during the seventh attempt Israeli threats to the safety of the passengers along with terrible weather forced the ship to return to port.The eighth vessel was hijacked by the Israeli Navy, resulting in the confiscation of the vessel and the imprisonment of its passengers and crew in Israel. Despite repeated requests from Free Gaza attorneys, the ship has not yet been returned.
This courageous undertaking was the inspiration for other subsequent movements to aid the beleaguered people of Gaza.

Those who believed that the mission was over, that the dream had ended, did not reckon correctly with the dedication and courage of the people of the Free Gaza Movement. This spring a flotilla of six to ten boats will again sail to Gaza. Of these, five have been funded by IHH from Turkey, and a third, a cargo ship, has been funded by donations from the people of Malaysia. This time the Israeli Navy will be faced with a small navy, a navy of freedom fighters.

The ships will carry reconstruction material essential to the rebuilding of Gaza yet forbidden to them by the Israelis.

Fundraising is essential as is maximum publicity. Returning members of Viva Palestina and the Gaza Freedom March make excellent speakers for fundraising events. Since the Israeli occupiers do not permit the importation of paper or paper products, the Free Gaza Movement has launched a campaign which it has titled: The Right to Read. Books that are desperately needed are listed on the group’s web site: <www.freegaza.org>. If reconstruction material is to be donated, please contact friends@freegaza.org.

Three leaders and founders of the Free Gaza Movement were recently honored by the San Jose Peace and Justice Center. Greta Berlin, Paul Larudee and Kathy Sheets were each given a Gertrude Welch Peace and Justice Award.

The California organization established the award to honor those who made an outstanding contribution to social justice and peace both locally and globally.
Those who support the goals of the Free Gaza Movement but are not able to make the trip are urged to work in an auxiliary capacity.

In addition to fundraising and publicity supporters can urge their members of congress or parliament to join the voyagers. The Movement already has Members of Parliament from South Africa, Turkey, Malaysia, Europe, and South America on board.

Members of a land crew, support crew and media are also needed for the coming journey.

Suggestions, volunteering and contributions may be made at the above cited web site.

12-7

Listen to Your Soul

December 31, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

With ALLAH’S name, The Merciful Benefactor, Merciful Redeemer

By Imam Abdullah El-Amin

“He it is Who has sent down to thee the Book.  In it are verses basic and plain, clear in meaning: they are the foundation of the Book.  Others are not entirely clear.  But those in whose hearts is perversity or wickedness follow the part that is not entirely clear, seeking disharmony and searching for its hidden meanings.  But no one knows its true meanings except ALLAH.

And those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say: “We believe in it.  The whole of it is from our Lord:’ and none will grasp the Message except men of understanding.”

Ali Imran:7

(Repeated from earlier column.)  Many people seek the magic formula for guaranteeing success and the pleasure of ALLAH.  After all, isn’t that what we all are seeking?  I think that most people, whether they are Muslim, Christian, Jewish, or other, have this basic innate characteristic that has us seeking the pleasure of G-d, no matter what we call Him.

ALLAH says the plain and basic teachings of the Qur’an are what He desires us to focus on.  If we adhere to the basic tenants of the religion, we are virtually guaranteed paradise.

I’m talking about not imbibing intoxicants, not eating pork, not brutalizing your wife or children, not committing adultery and fornication, being charitable to your neighbor, and many other basic, common-sense directives.  These teachings are inherent in all of us.  They just have to be enhanced.

This brings me to the point of reminding us to revisit some of the teachings and tenants of our religion that we felt a special affinity for, or which was instrumental in sparking our faith in the first place.  Whether you were born into a practicing Muslim family, or you reverted, it was most probably the plain and basic teachings that ALLAH sent through His prophet, Muhammad (s) that endeared you to the faith.

When I first became Muslim in 1976, the teachings of Imam W. D. Mohammad had me spellbound most of my waking hours.  Granted, I was fresh from a different experience and therefore enthralled by the common sense explanations of Islam that were so explicit and plain – and remain so today.  Imam Mohammed is credited with almost single-handedly turning an entire community of people from false worship of Elijah Muhammad, to the clear universal teachings of Islam.

ALLAH, in His message to the world, constantly tells us that He is Lord and there is nothing equal to Him.  He further tells us that Adam (human beings) is next in line to Him.  He (ALLAH) tells us that we have nothing to submit to except Him.  This was great news to me.  It took a person who had bred-in inferiority complexes and elevated him to the lofty station right under the Lord, Master, Ruler, and Boss of all creation.  Imam Mohammed brought this point home beautifully utilizing the foolproof beauty of ALLAH’S Word.   I don’t believe there is anything in the worlds as powerful as this.

Read and listen to what ALLAH says in His Book.  Listen to ALLAH for true success.

As Salaam alaikum
Al Hajj Imam Abdullah El-Amin