Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee


Pardeep Singh Kaleka & Arno Michaelis IV
The powerful story of a friendship between two men – one Sikh and one skinhead – that resulted in an outpouring of love. Following the Sikh Temple tragedy, they co-founded the Serve 2 Unite mission. In defiance of one of the deadliest hate crimes committed in a place of worship, Arno and Pardeep force us to reexamine our own personal relationship to healing the wounds of the past and moving beyond coexistence. Pardeep is expanding that work as the Interfaith Conference’s new executive director. Retired Executive Director Tom Heinen will moderate their conversation.

Music by Susan and John Nicholson of FROGWATER and guest vocalist Cherrie Hanson.


Frank Zeidler Award
Janan Najeeb
A founder and president of the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition, Janan has been one of the best known and most active advocates for interreligious understanding, tolerance, and friendship in Southeast Wisconsin.

Rev. Herbert Huebschmann Urban Ministry Award
Acts Housing
Founded in 1995 at St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Milwaukee, Acts Housing has expanded to serve over 2,600 families of all faiths, reclaim over 880 foreclosed properties, and invest more than $151 million into the City of Milwaukee.

Mark Rohlfing Memorial Award
Barbara Beckert
Barbara, the Milwaukee Office Director for Disability Rights Wisconsin, has been a strong policy and systems advocate, working on such issues as mental health, Medicaid, children’s services, discrimination and transportation.

Emerging Leader Award
Darrin Madison

As a youth and young adult, Darrin taught environmental practices in communities of color, campaigned for new political leaders, and now as youth outreach coordinator for Youth Justice Milwaukee seeks alternatives to imprisonment.


Italian Community Center
631 E. Chicago St.
Milwaukee, WI 53202 - Map

Thursday, December 5, 2019
Registration: 11 a.m. to noon
Luncheon: Noon to 1:30 p.m.

For Questions: call (414) 276-9050 or email



Interfaith Conference selects new Executive Director
and welcomes two new member faiths

The Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee announced Thursday, June 27, that Pardeep Singh Kaleka will be its next executive director. Kaleka was hired after a long search process that included many candidates. He will begin
July 1. Tom Heinen,who has served for nearly a decade as executive director, will retire after a short transition period.

On Thursday, the Cabinet (our board of directors) also voted to welcome two new members: the Hindu Temple of Wisconsin in Pewaukee and the Western District of the Moravian Church. With these additions, the Interfaith Conference now represents the regional leaders and adherents of 20 different faiths and denominations.

Pardeep is a first-generation immigrant from India. He received a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice/Sociology from Marquette University and a master’s in Clinical/Community Psychology from Alverno College. He has served the community through multiple positions, as a police officer, educator for at-risk high school students, community consultant, and trauma therapist.

He is one of the co-founders of Serve2Unite, a nonprofit organization founded after the 2012 white supremacist attack on the Oak Creek Sikh Temple to counter extremism. His late father, Satwant Singh Kaleka, a founder of that temple, was one of six people slain in the attack. In 2018. Pardeep co-authored a memoir, “The Gift of Our Wounds,” with former white supremacist Arno Michaelis. Pardeep's columns on mental health and community trauma appear regularly in the Milwaukee Independent. He serves on the City of Milwaukee Mental Health Task Force’s Steering Committee and the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin’s board of trustees. An accomplished public speaker and advocate, he has spoken with groups locally and across the globe. He is married with four children.

“The hiring committee agreed that Pardeep is the right person to lead the Interfaith Conference into the future,” said IFCGM Chair Elana Kahn. "He is creative, energetic, innovative, and a proven community builder. We’re excited to go through this period of transition with Pardeep at the helm. Tom Heinen has accomplished so much over the last decade, and we will properly thank him for his faithful stewardship.”

"I’m so grateful to all the faith leaders, Cabinet members, executive committee members, elders....for the blessings and prayers offered," Kaleka said Thursday. "My simple hope is to continue in the legacy of those before me and the leadership surrounding us at The Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee and be true to our mission to uphold the dignity of every person and the solidarity of the human community.” The human condition is one that longs for connection, wholeness, oneness, and healing. We have been fortunate to be surrounded by a clergy and community who embodies this same transformational love. Today and always, we remain in a spirit of gratitude because of the great human family that loves us and we hope to make this the reality for all of God’s children. Peace."

The IFCGM will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2020, which will include unveiling transformative new initiatives that are now being planned.

Interfaith Safety & Security Symposium
draws diverse crowd of more than 250

The Wisconsin Interfaith Safety & Security Symposium on June 11 in downtown Milwaukee drew a diverse crowd of more than 250 people from many faiths, denominations, schools, and nonprofit organizations.

Speakers from federal and local security and law enforcement agencies and from the National Alliance on Mental Illness gave a broad overview and some specific advice on how to prepare for, de-escalate, and react to a range of real and potential threats.

The Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee partnered with the organizers, publicizing the free event broadly and offering some recommendations.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published a story. See: JS Story.

For questions, contact the Interfaith Conference at (414) 276-9050 or

May 13, 2019

Stand Against Hate in Waukesha County

The Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee notes with concern the use of the Waukesha County Exposition Center this past weekend by a group purporting to be a “Security Conference,” but with a roster of speakers who are known to have repeatedly engaged in virulent hate speech against Muslims as a group.

The IFCGM mourned with the Sikh community after the shooting in Oak Creek in 2012. In the last two years, we have prayed with the Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities after the violent events in Pittsburgh, California, Louisiana, Sri Lanka, and New Zealand. We have stood in solidarity with our local communities of faith as America faces renewed waves of white supremacy, Islamophobia and antisemitism. We condemn all forms of speech that judge people on the basis of their race, religion, gender, or any other generalizing factor that ignores the dignity of the individual human being that underlies the solidarity of the human community.

We are concerned that individuals indulging in hate speech have come to consider Waukesha County a friendly venue. While we appreciate the issues that flow from public facilities and free speech, we note that there are limits to which groups are given the implicit support of facility use. We would encourage the Waukesha County government to review its facility use policies to determine whether such use accords with the values of Waukesha County and its voters. If Waukesha County is “Leading the Way,” as its vision statement and logo proclaim, it must determine the direction that leadership is going in a time when minority groups are under increasing threat of persecution and violence.

We furthermore call upon the leadership of Waukesha County to issue statements explicitly affirming the welcome place of American Muslims and people of all minority races, religions, and ethnicities as residents of Waukesha County. Considering the virulence of the hate speech used in the past by the organizers and presenters who contracted to speak inside a county facility this past weekend, this intentional acknowledgment by our elected leaders of the contributions of American Muslims to the culture, civic life, and economy of Waukesha County is warranted.

The Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee is a 49-year-old nonprofit organization through which the regional leaders and adherents of 18 faiths and denominations: dialogue to build relationships; counter hate and fear with programming that fosters understanding, tolerance, and friendship; and work together on social issues to help create a better society for everyone.

Vigil draws more than 1,000 people of many faiths to Milwaukee Islamic Community Center in Response to New Zealand Shootings
& Rise in Divisive Language

In response to the horrific attack against the attendees of two Mosques in New Zealand, which resulted in the deaths of 51 individuals of all ages and backgrounds, the Islamic Society -- in partnership with other Muslim, interfaith, and community organizations -- held a public vigil on the evening of March 21 that drew more than 1,000 people to the Islamic Community Center, 815 W. Layton Avenue.

A series of religious leaders and public officials offered thoughts and prayers as a spiritual and visual sign of support for the Muslim community. The Rev. Dr. John R. Walton, Jr. -- pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Milwaukee's oldest African American Baptist congregation, and immediate past chair of the Interfaith Conference Cabinet -- spoke on behalf of the Interfaith Conference. Others with ties to the Interfaith Conference were among the presenters.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore also spoke.

A video of the event is available at: Vigil Video

A release from the event planning committee said, "Although we are gathering to mourn those recently killed, our goal is much larger. We want to deliver a message that we - as elected representatives, individuals, organizations and as a society - reject hate and intolerance directed against any religious, racial, ethnic or other group.

"We want to express our strong belief that the use or acceptance of divisive language directed against any such group has serious consequences. We have seen that the use of such language enables and empowers extremists, terrorists and those who hold similar views and are willing to act upon them."

The Interfaith Conference issued a statement Friday morning, March 15, about the horrific shootings at two mosques in New Zealand. The
Journal Sentinel quoted an excerpt from the statement later in the day in an online story: See: Mosque Story

Stand Against Hatred and Violence

The Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee strongly condemns the horrific attack on two mosques in New Zealand.

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. The rising tide of hatred across the globe affects us all.

Last night’s attack is another manifestation of the hatred and violence that has become all too common around the world, including Islamophobia in this instance but also hatred towards the stranger in general. In these challenging times, let us strive to advocate for understanding and justice and the basic precepts of mercy and compassion that underlie all of our faiths.

The Interfaith Conference reaffirms our common commitment to the inherent dignity of every human being – seen in many faiths as being made by a loving Creator -- and recommits itself to peacemaking and justice among our constituent bodies and beyond.

The Interfaith Conference is a 49-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.

Issued by the Interfaith Conference Executive Committee on March 15, 2019


Registration Deadline for the fourth lunch in our series
(March 26) is noon on Friday, March 22.


March 5, 12, 19, 26, 2019
Noon to 1:30 p.m.

First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee –
A Unitarian Universalist Congregation
1342 N. Astor St., Milwaukee

$65.00 - series of four
$20.00 - individual sessions

March 5, 2019 – Milwaukee's Changing Immigration Landscape
Barbara Miner, Award-winning Journalist & Author

March 12, 2019 – Human Rights & the Environment: Key Issues
Sumudu Atapattu, Director, UW Law School Research Center

March 19, 2019 – Where is the Welcome Mat for Refugees?
Refugee Resettlement Efforts

Mary Flynn, Program Mgr., Refugee Resettlement, Lutheran Social Services,
WI & Upper MI

March 26, 2019 – Tidal Wave of Changes in Law & Policies Affecting Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Other Immigrants
Barbara Graham, Managing Atty. Catholic Charities Legal Services
for Immigrants Program

Note 1: Representatives from organizations working with immigration
& refugee issues will be at tables with information and what you might do
to help. A suggested reading list on these topics will be available, as
well as opportunities for purchasing books authored by the presenters.

Note 2: We know parking can be a hassle. There is a HOP stop right at
the corner of First U (Ogden & Astor). It’s free to ride! Check out your
options for parking elsewhere and “hopping” on at

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.


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

Upcoming Events

The Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogue Project

Upcoming small-group dinner dialogues

Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019
A Special Dinner on Faith, Food & Generosity with the Rev. Christie Melby-Gibbons
4 to 7 p.m.

Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019
Hinduism:large-group dinner
at Hindu Temple of Wis.
in Pewaukee

6 to 9 p.m.

Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019
Small-group dinner
6 to 9 p.m.

Tables of 8-12 people of any faith or spiritual background, or none at all share a meal in an intimate space in a private home or at larger venue for a multi-table event 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:

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