Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee

We need you to stand with us!

Dear Friends,

These are turbulent, challenging times. The Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee has stood against social tidal waves of hate, fear, inequity, and uncertainty many times in its 48-year history, but never quite like these, and never alone. We need you.

When an anti-Semitic gunman killed 11 people this fall at a Pittsburgh synagogue, we could respond quickly because of our interfaith relationships. We gathered dozens of faith leaders to stand in solidarity at a Jewish community gathering in Glendale as the Rev. David Simmons, our vice chair, spoke the powerful words, “You are not alone!”

As drumbeats of hate and fear intensify against African Americans, Jews, Muslims, and other religious and racial groups, we counter with educational programs, urban/suburban outreach, dialogues and other ways to break through silos of ignorance and isolation.

Some people describe these as dark times but see an opportunity for action and hope.

At the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Toronto this year, where we demonstrated our Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogues, a Sikh woman strongly proclaimed, “What if this darkness in the world is not the darkness of the tomb but the darkness of the womb?”

And at the Interfaith Conference’s annual luncheon this month, Keynote Speaker Pastor Hurmon Hamilton ignited many hearts with his exhortation to dream crazy big, to let our imaginations bust paradigms and bring light to darkness.

We’ve done this. We helped light the night at community candlelight vigils after a white supremacist slayed six Sikhs at the Oak Creek temple. But we absolutely cannot do this alone. Please donate generously. If you do, or already have, we are deeply grateful!

Or mail checks made out to Interfaith Conference to:

Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee
5409 W. Vliet St.
Milwaukee, WI 53208

We've had a busy, effective year
Some 2018 Highlights

STANDING AGAINST HATE – After a gunman killed 11 people and wounded 7 at a Pittsburgh synagogue, we helped gather dozens of Milwaukee area religious leaders to stand in solidarity at a Jewish community gathering on Oct. 29 in Congregation Beth Israel Ner Tamid, Glendale.

PRESENCE AT THE PARLIAMENT – We presented a workshop on our creative use and expansion of our Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogues to 40 people from various countries at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Toronto on Nov. 4. The dinners evoke deep personal sharing across faith and racial lines.

MORE AMAZING FAITHS – More than 300 people have experienced our Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogues and variations of them in 2018 in private homes and other sites. We also launched a 2.0 version, where a faith community provides more in-depth information about one or more faiths. Some examples:

  • 40 people at our inaugural 2.0 in-depth dialogue, held at the M.T.O. Shahmaghsoudi School of Islamic Sufism in northern Racine County, with Muslim and Jewish speakers
  • 70 Congregationalists and Sikh Community members, and 60 Congregationalists and Muslim Community members, at First Congregational Church, Wauwatosa, joined by a delegation of U.S. State Department guests from Burundi, Costa Rica, Egypt, Macedonia, Sierra Leone, Thailand, and Turkey.
  • 100 faculty and staff at Pius XI Catholic High School in Milwaukee
  • 24 students and faculty at Carthage College in Kenosha
  • 28 people for two student dinners at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee

GRATITUDE FOR DIVERSITY – On Nov. 19, our Committee for Interfaith Understanding opened a traveling exhibition in Milwaukee City Hall’s rotunda titled “Gratitude...A Celebration of Our Common Humanity.” A collaboration with the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, it features 15 photos taken by MIAD students during visits to places of worship and meditation. The banners and matted photos are available for display.

“ONE COMMUNITY PROGRAM”Launched to address structural causes of the area’s severe racial and economic segregation, it has thus far walked 110 members of 11 urban/suburban congregations through a four-session process. Corrections reform arose as a top goal with them and during interactions with state legislators.

GETTING THE LEAD OUT – Our Interfaith Earth Network continues to address the health threats of lead in the city’s water system. One of our events distributed water filters to households reporting 83 children under the age of six. We sparked formation of a coalition, held in-depth meetings with 25 community leaders, and are partnering with Marquette University and UWM’s Zilber School of Public Health.

UNDERSTANDING MARY – 200 people attended our event on Mary, Mother of Jesus, to deepen their understanding of Mary: her Jewish roots, her position of honor in both the Christian and Muslim traditions, and different perspectives across the spectrum of Protestant and Catholic theologies and devotional practices.

TUESDAYS-in-MARCH – The annual luncheon-lecture series organized by our PIIC Committee was titled “The Danger of Silence: Using Our Voices, Hands, Feet & Pocketbooks to Effect Change” and focused on human trafficking, homelessness and lead in the water. Attendance averaged over 100 per session.


Pastor Hamilton energizes
Interfaith annual luncheon

With arm gestures, inflections, a beaming smile, and a booming voice, Pastor Hurmon Hamiton urged the more 240 people at the Interfaith Conference's annual luncheon on Dec. 6 to bust paradigms and "dream crazy big." We can all make a difference, with steps large and small, in a world that needs our light to overcome the darkness, he said.

Hamilton, pastor of a nondenominational congregation in California that is racially and politically diverse, exhorted people to listen to others, understand their pain, and not demonize them because they hold different political or social views. In his keynote presentation, he drew upon his nearly 10 years experience as a founder and president of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization and 17 years as senior pastor of Roxbury Presbyterian Church in Boston. During that time, he oversaw that interfaith group's rise as a significant political and moral change agent in Massachusetts.

Also at the luncheon, the Interfaith Conference presented: its Frank Zeidler Award to the Rev. Tonen O'Connor, resident priest emerita of the Milwaukee Zen Center; its Rev. Huerbert Huebschmann Urban Ministry Award to the Milwaukee Transitional Jobs Collaborative; and its Mark Rohlfing Memorial Award to Renee Elias, executive director and co-founder of the Rides and Reins therapeutic, horse-assisted program in Slinger, Wis., that serves children with special needs.


Interfaith Conference Stands with Jewish Communities,
Condemns Anti-Semitic Violence at Pittsburgh Synagogue

The Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee strongly condemns the anti-Semitic violence carried out against worshippers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Although this atrocity has not taken place in our geographic area, we are aware of the effect such acts of terror can have on our local community.

Our prayers, our support, and our commitment to continue to act in solidarity are with those in Pittsburgh and our local Jewish community as they mourn and continue to struggle with the immoral scourge of anti-Semitism. The Interfaith Conference reaffirms our common commitment to the inherent dignity of every human being as made by a loving Creator and recommits itself to peacemaking and justice among our constituent bodies and beyond.

The Interfaith Conference is a 48-year-old nonprofit organization through which the regional leaders and adherents of 18 member faiths and denominations:

  • Dialogue to build personal relationships
  • Conduct public programming to counter hate and fear while fostering interfaith, intercultural and interracial understanding, tolerance and friendship
  • Work together on hunger, unemployment, environmental challenges and other social issues to create a better society for everyone

Nonmember faiths and denominations also help plan and participate.





Amazing Faiths reunion draws diverse crowd
New phase announced; offers more in-depth understanding

Our Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogue (AFDD) program hosted its Annual Reunion Dinner on July 22, 2018 at Plymouth Church UCC, giving those who attended previous dinners the opportunity to rekindle old relationships and establish new ones.

Thirty-one dinner guests from eight faith traditions participated in the dinner dialogue with the theme “Stirring the Waters: An Interfaith Perspective on Water.” Stephen Hawkins, Program Director for our Interfaith Earth Network (IEN), opened the dialogue by sharing personal stories from his agricultural work with religious leaders in Uganda, where together they created community gardens able to withstand both droughts and flooding. Dinner guests were then served a vegan meal while they used our appreciative inquiry process to talk about the sacred qualities of water within their faith traditions.

At the event, AFDD Program Director Rhonda Hill also announced the introduction of our first Amazing Faiths Dinner 2.0 for those wishing to deepen their interreligious understanding. Hosted by faith communities, these dinners will combine presentations about the host faith with personal sharing. The M.T.O. Shahmaghsoudi School of Islamic Sufism in Franksville (northern Racine County) will host the inaugural 2.0 dinner on Sunday, August 19, 2018 from 3:00 – 6:00 p.m. The event comes shortly before the Muslim Eid Ghorban or Eid Al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice) and will include Muslim and Jewish explanations of the story of Abraham being told by God to sacrifice his son. To attend, please contact Rhonda at (414) 276-9050.


Lead-Safety Event Distributes
58 Water Filters

Our Interfaith Earth Network (IEN) sponsored a lead-safe homes open house event on June 7, 2018 at Hephatha Evangelical Lutheran Church for families in Milwaukee's Amani neighborhood. This was part of IEN's broader Justice at the Tap initiative.

In collaboration with the Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers' Lead Outreach staff, blood testing was available for children while parents learned about the dangers of lead exposure through paint, water, and soil. With the help of the Dominican Center and the Social Development Commission, 58 lead water filters (NSF/ANSI 53) were distributed to households with a total of 83 children under the age of six. A nutritionist was also present to share information about the importance of a healthy diet in preventing lead absorption. Refreshments high in calcium were served.


Event on "Mary" Draws 200 People

An Interfaith panel presentation on Mary drew some 200 people on Wednesday evening, May 9, 2018 to St. Mary Catholic Faith Community, 9520 W. Forest Home Ave., Hales Corners.

(For a YouTube video of the program, see Mary Video)

Titled “Mary, Mother of Jesus: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives,” it provided an exceptional opportunity for attendees to deepen their understanding of Mary: her Jewish roots, her position of honor in both the Christian and Muslim traditions, and different perspectives across the spectrum of Protestant and Catholic theologies and devotional practices.

Judith Longdin, former director of the Archdiocesan Office of Ecumenical and Interfaith Concerns, was the moderator. Presenters included: Mary Matestic, Catholic educator and writer; Dr. Sherry Blumberg, Jewish educator and lecturer; Janan Najeeb, president of the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition; and the Rev. Karen Sundland, an American Baptist minister.

The free event was open to the public and was organized by our Committee for Interfaith Understanding. Najeeb is the current chair of that committee, and Sundland is a past chair.


Panel Presentation on Arranged Marriages

The Interfaith Conference arranged for a dynamic panel of five women from different faith and cultural backgrounds to give responses after the free screening of a movie about arranged marriages on the evening of May 7, 2018 in the
UW-Milwaukee Union Cinema. “Arranged,” the final offering in this year’s Milwaukee Muslim Film Festival, focused on a Muslim woman and an Orthodox Jewish woman who are friends and first-year teachers as their respective families strive to arrange marriages for them.

About 200 people attended the movie, and many remained to hear the presentations afterwards. Panelists commented on the movie and on traditional practices and contemporary changes in arranged-marriage customs in their faith and cultural traditions.

Panelists included:

  • Shauna Singh Baldwin, an award-winning Canadian-American novelist and playwright of Indian descent, who lives in Milwaukee and attends the Sikh temples in Brookfield and Oak Creek
  • Chava Metzger, Director of Educational Support at Yeshiva Elementary School (an Ultra-Orthodox Jewish school) and a practicing school psychologist
  • Liliane McFarlane, Grants Manager for the Greater Milwaukee Foundation and a co-founder and member of the Milwaukee African Women’s Association
  • Mayhoua Moua, Executive Director of Southeast Asian Educational Development, founding president of the Hmong American Women’s Association, and founder of a consulting firm that provides translations and diversity training
  • Zehra Tahir, Vice Principal of Salam Middle and High School, school counselor, and board member of both the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition and the Islamic Society of Milwaukee

The moderator was Janan Najeeb, a founder and president of the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition, which organizes the film festival.

Donate

Please make a donation to support the vital work of the Interfaith Conference in these challenging times.

Or send checks to Interfaith Conference, 5409 W. Vliet St., Milwaukee, WI 53208

Upcoming Events

Interfaith Earth Network

Faith & Ecology:
A Conversation

Every 3rd Tuesday

Based on the book
"Moral Ground"
A reflective call to ethical action for environmental justice

Actualizing the
On the Table conversations.

Do we have a moral obligation?

Yes.....

Dec. 18 ....because we love the world.

Jan. 15 ....to honor and celebrate the Earth and Earth systems.

Feb. 19 ....because our moral integrity requires us.

7 to 8:30 p.m.
Free & open to the public!

Urban Ecology Center
Riverside Park
1500 E. Park Pl.
Milwaukee, WI

For more information,
email Stephen Hawkins

This series invites persons of all faiths and spiritualities to gather
to reflect upon and converse about a chosen word or topic.

The Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogue Project

8-12 people of any faith or spiritual background, or none at all, share a meal in an intimate space and discuss their beliefs and experiences in a moderated format that makes them feel safe and welcome.

For more information see the Amazing Faiths Page or call
(414) 276-9050

Also, check out Amazing Faiths on Facebook!

Contact Us

Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee
5409 W. Vliet St.
Milwaukee WI 53208

(414) 276-9050

Email Us:
Office@Interfaithconference.org

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