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In the Media

The Interfaith Conference in the Media

The Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee holds many events, participates in many initiatives, and takes various actions throughout the year. Here are some moments
when our efforts garnered media attention.

New Executive Director

The Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee's Cabinet (board of directors) selected Pardeep Singh Kaleka at its meeting on June 27, 2019, to be the organization's 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.

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.

Several news outlets covered this transition:

See Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story at Kaleka Transition

Hear WTMJ Conversation's host Steve Scaffidi talk with Pardeep at WTMJ Interfaith.

Read NPR interview/story at Milwaukee Independent. See NPR/MI Story, Kaleka Transition

Hear NPR/WUWM's coverage on its Lake Effect program at Lake Effect Interfaith

See Wisconsin Muslim Journal story at New Executive Director

ALSO: On August 5, 2019, The Wisconsin Examiner did an in-depth story on the Interfaith Conference, anchored by an interview with Kaleka. See: Interfaith

Love in Action Midday Prayer in Catholic Cathedral

Pardeep Kaleka, executive director of the Interfaith Conference, was one of the presenters at a Love in Action Midday Prayer Service in the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, 812 N. Jackson St. A weekly service organized by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and the cathedral, this one drew about 100 people to pray for an end to racism and in response to the mass shootings in Gilroy (Calif.), El Paso (Texas) and Dayton (Ohio).

Pardeep began his remarks by telling about the history of the young man who killed his father and five other worshipers at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek on August 5, 2012 -- his failure to make it in the military, his dissatisfaction with his life, his feelings of rejection, his fascination with Columbine, his journey into a hate group, and his eventual shooting at the Sikh Temple. Pardeep spoke about the need for forgiveness, for hope, and for love if we are ever to move beyond such horror. He also called for action, both with within our faith communities and in our broader communities in order to address these issues.

August 9, 2019

For a Journal Sentinel story about this event, see: JS Story
For Journal Sentinel photos of this event, see: Midday Prayer

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

The Wisconsin Interfaith Safety & Security Symposium on June 11, 2019, 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.

April 30, 2019

Prayer Vigil for Sri Lankan Church Bombings
and California Synagogue Attack

A diverse crowd of 175 people gathered at St. Sebastian Catholic Church, Milwaukee, for this Interfaith Conference prayer service in response to the Easter bombings that killed nearly 300 people in Sri Lanka and the shooting on April 27th that killed one person and wounded three others at a synagogue near San Diego.

One of the Catholic churches bombed also was named St. Sebastian. The service also noted a recent shooting at a California synagogue. There were six Christian and non-Christian speakers, including Fr. Larry Chapman, the pastor. Tom Heinen, executive director of the Interfaith Conference, welcomed the crowd and made opening remarks. The crowd – with many Catholics, Muslims, Jews, and others – included the Milwaukee Jewish Federation’s new president/CEO, Greater Milwaukee Synod ELCA’s bishop, Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition’s president, Islamic Society of Milwaukee’s past president, Hindu Temple of Wisconsin’s secretary, Milwaukee Zen Center’s resident priest emerita, Sikh Religious Society of Wisconsin people and others.

Prayers and reflections were offered by:

  • Fr. Larry Chapman, pastor of St. Sebastian
  • Imam Noman Hussain, from the Islamic Society of Milwaukee's Brookfield Mosque
  • Senior Rabbi Noah Chertkoff from Congregation Shalom in Fox Point
  • The Rev. Tonen O'Connor, resident priest emeritus, Milwaukee Zen Center
  • Dr. Mohan Singh Dhariwal, from the Sikh Religious Society of Wisconsin in Brookfield
  • The Rev. Dr. Lisa Bates-Froiland, pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Milwaukee
  • Govardhan Katta, secretary of the Hindu Temple of Wisconsin in Pewaukee

Fox6 News did a story. See: Channel 6 News Story

Stand Against Hatred and Violence

After a white nationalist extremist fatally shot 50 people and wounded dozens more at two mosques in New Zealand, the Interfaith Conference executive committee issued a statement on behalf of our 18 member faiths and denominations condeming the rising global tide of hatred and violence. It said in part, "let us strive to advocate for understanding and justice and the basic precepts of mercy and compassion that underlie all of our faiths."

March 15, 2019

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel quoted an excerpt from the statement later in the day (March 15, 2019) in an online story: See: Mosque Story

The Journal Sentinel's NOW community papers also published a story, one that included a longer excerpt from the Interfaith Conference statement. See: Interfaith NOW

The statement is posted at: Interfaith Conference Statements


On March 21, 2019 The Interfaith Conference helped publicize and recruit leaders to participate in a "We Stand United Against Hate" prayer vigil that drew more than 1,000 people of many faiths to Milwaukee’s Islamic Community Center in response to the hate-motivated shootings that killed 50 people at two mosques in New Zealand. Many members of the Jewish community attended, including several rabbis. Organized by the Islamic Society of Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Muslim Women's Coalition, the event included comments from Congresswoman Gwen Moore, Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

Janan Najeeb, president of the Milwaukee Muslim Women's Coalition (and chair of the Interfaith Conference's Committee for Interfaith Understanding) presented a Muslim Community Statement.

Statements of unity were spoken by:

  • Imam Noman Hussain from ISM's Brookfield mosque
  • Randy Knie, lead pastor of Brew City Church, an evangelical congregation
  • Rabbi Marc Berkson of Congregation Emanu-El B'ne Jeshurun, River Hills
  • Dr. Swarnjit Arora, a Sikh Community representative (and a member of the Interfaith Conference Cabinet)
  • Rev. Dr. John Walton, Jr., senior pastor of Calvary Baptist Church (the oldest African American Baptist church in Milwaukee) and a current board member and past chair of the Interfaith Conference's Cabinet (board of directors)

A video of the event is available at: Vigil Video

Interfaith Earth Network Program Director Interviewed

Stephen Hawkins, program director of our Interfaith Earth Network, was interviewed by the national River Network organization about the Earth Network's mission and activities, about the connection between ecology and spirituality, and other matters. (The Milwaukee Water Commons partnered with our Earth Network in applying for and receiving a River Network grant to address the health issue of lead in Milwaukee's water system.)

River Network's website says, "Since 1988, River Network has been at the forefront of expanding national interest in protecting the waters of our country, encouraging diversity in the environmental movement, and helping engaged community members and local organizations take a stand for their waters."

To read the interview, see: Hawkins Q&A
March 2019

History & Importance of Immigrants/Refugees Opens Series

More than 100 people attended the opening session of the Interfaith Conference's annual Tuesdays-in-March luncheon lecture series to hear award-winning journalist and author Barbara Miner talk about Milwaukee's changing immigration landscape and related issues. This year's series is entitled "#Immigrants&RefugeesMatter, 'no one leaves home unless..." The series addresses the history and importance of immigrants, the coming wave of climate migration, current refugee resettlement efforts, and navigating the justice system. All sessions are being held at the First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee and are organized by the Interfaith Conference's Peace and International Issues Committee (PIIC).

The Milwaukee Independent published a story and several photos from the Tuesday, March 5, 2019 session.
See: Milwaukee Independent & Interfaith

Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogue Draws 90 People in Kenosha

A collaborative Interfaith Conference/CUSH Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogue drew 90 people to the American Albanian Islamic Center in Kenosha on January 23, 2019. The dinner, sponsored by the Kenosha-area Congregations United to Serve Humanity (CUSH) and its Religious Leaders Caucus, “brought together people of diverse faiths and religions — Buddhists, Christians, Jews and Muslims — and included those who also aren’t associated with a religion in a first-of-its-kind event during Kenosha’s annual Kindness Week.” Rhonda Hill, our Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogue Program Director, trained some CUSH members to serve as moderators at the tables and also arranged for some of our experienced AFDD moderators to volunteer.

This event was partly an outgrowth of a group Amazing Faiths dinner dialogue we previously held at Carthage College in Kenosha. There appears to be a strong hunger for people of different faiths to connect more widely in our region.

The Kenosha News did a feature story about this event. See: Kenosha Dinner Dialogue

Photo exhibition on Gratitude for Faith & Diversity
opens in City Hall rotunda with reception, program

An art exhibit created by Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD) students and the Interfaith Conference to celebrate gratitude for faith and diversity opened a few days before Thanksgiving in the rotunda of Milwaukee’s City Hall on Monday, Nov. 19, 2018. Mayor Tom Barrett and Interfaith Executive Director Tom Heinen made introductory comments, student artists were cited, faith leaders offered examples of calls to worship, and there was a reflective litany plus a sing-along. Fifteen photographic banners were hung from the second floor railing around the rotunda, and a display board describing the project was positioned on a ground floor easel.

Gratitude: A Celebration of Our Common Humanity, is a collaborative photographic exhibit. As part of their learning experience, MIAD students visited places of worship and meditation in the Milwaukee area and created photographic observations of their experiences while also reflecting on their own personal spirituality. A panel of judges reviewed about 400 photos and selected 15.The resulting images showcase the incredible diversity of faith traditions in our area while also acknowledging the similar threads that connect us to our fellow humans.

A 16th banner was added later to enhance the religious diversity. And 16 matted photographic prints measuring 11 by 18 inches were added to expand the venues where part of all of this traveling exhibit can be displayed.

The exhibition is generously sponsored by the ELM II Fund of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation.

The Wisconsin Muslim Journal published a story and several photos from the opening reception and exhibition in City Hall. See: Interfaith/MIAD Common Humanity Exhibition

More than 1,000 people attend vigil against hate at synagogue
Interfaith leaders stand in solidarity

After a gunman killed 11 people and wounded 7 at a Pittsburgh synagogue, the Interfaith Conference helped gather dozens of Milwaukee area religious leaders to stand in solidarity at a Jewish community gathering on Oct. 29, 2018

in Congregation Beth Israel Ner Tamid, Glendale. With the large group of religious leaders behind him on the synagogue's bimah (front platform), the Rev. David Simmons -- the Interfaith Conference's vice chair and the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee's Ecumenical and Interreligious Officer -- spoke these powerful words to the hundreds of Jewish community members who were facing them, "You are not alone!"

The Journal Sentinel published a story: See: Stand Against Hate

Urban Center and Baptist Housing Ministries Gather Panelists, Produce Video

Oct. 3, 2017 -- The Urban Center -- Milwaukee and Baptist Housing Ministries released a video that brought together a broad range of faith-based, community, political, and business leaders to discuss systemic issues Milwaukee is facing and to envision hopeful steps toward solutions. On, June 15, 2017, Interfaith Conference Executive Director Tom Heinen spoke as a panelist at an event that was included in the video as part of The Urban Center's focus on the theme "Poverty: Milwaukee's Power to Address the Systemic Issues." This event, termed a consultation, focused on "The Community's Power: The People. The Politics. The Purpose." This effort was organized by The Urban Center-Milwaukee and Housing Ministries of American Baptists in Wisconsin. Other panelists were: Milwaukee Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton; Dr. Patricia McManus, President and CEO of the Black Health Coalition; the Rev. Martin Childs of Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church; and Gerri Sheets-Howard, Administrative Director of Capuchin Community Services. Presentations at this session were combined with a separate panel presentation/discussion by other faith-based and secular community leaders on the same theme of addressing long-standing systemic issues related to poverty and the African-American community in the city, and with individual interviews, to produce a video. See: Urban Center Consultation Video

Faith Leaders Open State Assembly with Prayers of Hope, Unity

At the request of Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, the Interfaith Conference provided representatives of five faiths to offer prayers for hope and unity in front of the Assembly at the start of the its session after violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., captured nationwide attention. Presenters were Father Tim Kitzke, vicar general for urban ministry for the Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee; Rev. Dr. Marie Onwubuariri, regional executive minister of the American Baptist Churches of Wisconsin and a member of the Interfaith Conference Cabinet, Janan Najeeb, a founder and president of the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition; Rabbi Jonathan Biatch, spiritual leader of Temple Beth El in Madison; and Amarjot Singh, a 20-year participant in the Wisconsin Sikh community who is active in the Oak Creek and Brookfield Sikh Temples.

The session was Aug. 17, 2017. For a video of Vos’ introduction and the presentations, See Assembly Prayers

Peacemaking efforts in the aftermath of the Sikh Temple shooting

Efforts by the Interfaith Conference to oppose fear and hate by fostering understanding, tolerance, and friendship are cited in a Shepherd Express story that looks at the various local and national impacts since a white supremacist fatally shot six people and wounded four others at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek five years ago. (Story posted Tuesday, July 25, 2017) See Sikhs

Milwaukee Groups Use Books, Classes and Meals
to Promote Religious Tolerance

WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio reporter Ann-Elise Henzl did a report on April 17, 2017 describing how area groups,
including the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee, are working promote religious understanding, tolerance and friendship. See: Tolerance

Interfaith reacts to beating of Muslim woman in Milwaukee

The Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee issued a statement condemning the attack on a Muslim woman who was walking home from early morning services on April 10, 2017 and calling for the matter to be investigated as a hate crime. WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio did a report on reactions to the beating. See: WUWM

Religious intolerance, understanding and Interfaith Conference
featured Sunday, Feb. 26, on WTMJ-TV (Channel 4)

The "414ward [Four-one-forward]" show on WTMJ-TV at 9 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, focused on incidents of religious intolerance here and around the country, and on what the Interfaith Conference and some local people of faith who have experienced intolerance are doing to counter hate and fear with outreach and education.

One of the segments featured Interfaith Conference Executive Director Tom Heinen with Dr. Swarnjit Arora, a UWM professor who represents the Sikh community on our Cabinet (board of directors). Two other segments in the half-hour show included Elana Kahn, director of Milwaukee's Jewish Community Relations Council, and then two young local Muslims, Reema Ahmad and Masroor Ahmad.

The show is hosted by Charles Benson and Shannon Sims. For the Interfaith Conference segment, See "Turning Tradegy into a Teaching Lesson" at: 414ward

Groundbreaking technolopgy helps detect lead in water

Kirsten Shead, program director of our Interfaith Earth Network, was one of the people interviewed by CBS 58 for a feature that aired Feb. 9, 2017, on how researchers at UWM are developing new technology to quickly and accurately detect lead in water. Kirsten represents the Interfaith Conference with the Milwaukee Water Commons and also works for them as co-chair of their Drinking Water Initiative, which is working with Milwaukee officials to address health-threatening lead in the water system. She has a degree in chemistry and industry experience collecting water samples in the field and testing them in the laboratory for lead and other contaminents.
Feb. 9, 2017 See: Lead Testing

Refugee ban challenges faith leaders

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel interviewed a range of faith leaders for a story about their reactions to President Donald Trump's executive order barring refugees from seven majority Muslim countries. It included a reference to the Interfaith Conference's statement on the issue. The story was published Feb. 4, 2017. See: Refugees

City boosts funding for Housing Trust Fund
Interfaith Conference helped create fund

The Milwaukee Common Council approved a 2017 city budget amendment last week to increase funding for the Housing Trust Fund from $450,000 to $650,000 next year, strengthening the city’s push to leverage the development of housing units to address Milwaukee’s most vital housing needs while stimulating development activity and jobs.

The Interfaith Conference played an important role in creating the fund nearly 10 years ago and continues to have a representative on the fund’s advisory board (Currently Interfaith board member and UWM economics professor Dr. Swarnjit Arora).

Alderman Michael Murphy, who introduced the budget amendment, said that since 2008 the fund has awarded grants totaling just under $6 million leveraging projects valued at $103 million. During that time period, the fund has helped to create or rehab more than 760 housing units, at an average cost of $7,800 per unit. Mayor Tom Barrett said the Housing Trust Fund is playing a vital role in championing smaller projects that produce big results.

Tom Heinen, executive director of the Interfaith Conference, said, “When housing and homelessness arose as heightened issues in 2004, we helped create a broad coalition of community organizations that pushed for the creation of a housing trust fund. We hosted the meetings, served as the fiscal agent, hired a part-time staff person to assist, and were represented by our then executive director. This was truly a community-wide effort. Several people and dozens of organizations played important roles, including private leaders and public officials such as Alderman Michael Murphy.”

November 10, 2016 Urban Milwaukee Click here

Lead in water threat to day care children: Interfaith staff member
helping Milwaukee Water Commons address issue

Kirsten Shead, program director of our Interfaith Earth Network and co-chair of a major initiative by the Milwaukee Water Commons to resolve health threats to young children and pregnant women by addressing lead in Milwaukee’s water system, was one of the people interviewed by CBS 58 for a television report on day care centers. She was interviewed in response to Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett’s plans to spend $5.2 million in 2016 and 2017 to remove lead laterals/lines serving 385 licensed day care centers.

Kirsten represents the Interfaith Conference with the Milwaukee Water Commons and is co-chair of its Drinking Water Initiative. She and the Water Commons’ co-executive directors have had meetings with the mayor, with city departmental officials and with aldermen to raise serious health concerns while also striving for collaboratively crafted solutions. Kirsten is especially well suited in her role to bring both a voice of the faith community and a well-grounded science perspective. She has a degree in chemistry and formerly worked for WE Energies, where her duties included monitoring power plants, collecting water samples and testing them for lead and other contaminants.

Sept. 30, updated Oct. 11, 2017 See: Day Care and Lead

Diverse attendees pack Episcopal cathedral
for Orlando service of remembrance and hope

Milwaukee’s Episcopal cathedral was filled to near-capacity the evening of June 23 for an interfaith service of remembrance and hope in response to the fatal shooting of 49 people by a Muslim man at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fl.

It was a time for people of many faiths, philosophies, lifestyles and ethnicities to come to come together in unity to grieve for the deceased while refusing to be divided or defined by hate. They shared scripture, prayer, reflection, healing and fellowship. The Milwaukee Children's Choir provided moving, uplifting choral song, while the tolling of All Saints' Cathedral's largest bell for each of the victims as their names were read was a poignant and personalized reminder of the loss.

The evening event was co-sponsored by the cathedral and the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee.

A number of television stations covered the service, including Today's TMJ4, which did a detailed report. See it at: TMJ4.

See CBS58 coverage at: CBS58

Hundreds gather outside City Hall in solidarity, sadness for Orlando victims
Interfaith service of remembrance, hope to be held at Milwaukee cathedral
The Interfaith Conference and Milwaukee's Episcopal Cathedral are co-sponsoring a prayer service of remembrance and hope in response to the fatal shootings of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fl. It will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 16, 2016 at All Saints' Cathedral, 818 E. Juneau Ave.
Those offering Scriptural readings, prayers and reflections will include Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh representatives. During the service, the cathedral’s largest bell will be tolled once for each of the people who died in Sunday morning’s shooting at a gay night club in Orlando. The service will end on a note of hopefulness with a ringing of all of the cathedral’s bells.

An announcement of the interfaith service and some background information were included at the end of a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story about a gathering earlier in the week outside City Hall. See: JS STORY

Muslims, interfaith leaders say Trump's "Muslim ban" would further divide Americans
Fox6 News in Milwaukee quoted a number of local interfaith leaders, including Interfaith Conference Executive Director Tom Heinen in the following report on Dec. 8, 2015 -- WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Sending shock waves across the country, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump isn't backing down on his proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. This, as he's getting plenty of backlash from fellow presidential contenders and leaders in the Republican Party.

Here in southeastern Wisconsin, Muslims and other faith leaders say suggestions like that made by Trump only serve to divide Americans. (For the report, see: Newscast )

Huda Alkaff, Interfaith Earth Network Leader, a White House Champion of Change

Huda Alkaff, one of the founders of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee's
Interfaith Earth Network (IEN) and an IEN Steering Committee member,
was one of 12 people of faith honored by the White House

WASHINGTON, DC – On Monday, July 20th, the White House recognized twelve people of faith as “Champions of Change” for their efforts in protecting our environment and communities from the effects of climate change. These Champions have demonstrated clear leadership across the United States and around the world through their grassroots efforts to green their communities and educate others on the moral and social justice implications of climate change. The program featured remarks by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy and Senior Advisor to the President Brian Deese.

The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature individuals doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities. You can watch the event here. For more information on Huda Alkaff and the other amazing leaders, go to Champions of Change.

Interfaith Conference Co-Sponsors poverty forum at synagogue

Nearly 50 people attended a forum on solutions to poverty that the Interfaith Conferenced and two Jewish organizations co-sponsored on June 25 at Lake Park Synagogue on Milwaukee's east side. It was part of a statewide series of forums orchestrated by the Wisconsin Council of Churches, WISDOM, the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, and the Citizen Action Education Fund of Wisconsin. Interfaith Conference Executive Director Tom Heinen was the moderator at the synagogue forum. The Rev. Nancy Lanman, a United Methodist deacon who serves on the Interfaith board, offered the opening prayer. Rabbi Nisan Andrews from Lake Park Synagogue and Rabbi Tiferet Berenbaum from Congregation Shir Hadash provided reflections. Ken Taylor, executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, gave a compelling PowerPoint presentation on poverty across the state. Rev. Barbara Rasmussen, a retired ELCA minister, offered the closing prayer. The Jewish Chronicle published a story. See Poverty Forum

Mayor praises our Amazing Faiths dinners in response to Charleston shooting

Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi, who helped his community heal after a white supremacist killed six people at the Sikh Temple in his city, has authored a compelling OpEd piece for South Carolina readers in response to the fatal shootings at a historic African American church in Charleston. His message of sympathy and advice stressed the importance of making personal connections with people of other faiths, colors or beliefs. And he cited the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee's Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogues as an example, saying they bring "together small groups of people to share a meal and listen to and discuss our differences and common ground. These connections are long lasting and contagious." While we offer these dinner dialgoues throughout the metro area, Mayor Scaffidi has co-sponsored some specifically for Oak Creek residents. Earlier this year, he was a panelist for one of the talkbacks we presented in collaboration with the Milwaukee Repertory Theater after a performance of "The Amish Project," a powerful play based on the shootings of Amish school girls in Pennsylvania. His OpEd piece appeared June 24 in The Post and Courier, in Charleston. See: Scaffidi

Guest Post on Waters of Wisconsin Blog

Kirsten Shead, program director for the Interfaith Earth Network, wrote a guest post on the Waters of Wisconsin blog. Her narrative post on her experiences with water as a child and an adult is entitled Little Bluegills and Big Sharks: Exploring Waters in Wisconsin and Abroad. The Waters of Wisconsin initiative (WOW), part of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, launched their blog in October 2014 as an ongoing conversation about Wisconsin’s shared waters. Through this blog they aim to feature great ideas and poignant stories from writers, policymakers, farmers, scientists, and others that explore what healthy, abundant water means to Wisconsin and her people. Kirsten’s first post on water and faith was entitled Down to the River to Pray. She is a member of the WOW steering committee and communications team as an influential voice for people of faith and their role in celebrating and safeguarding our Wisconsin waters.

Kirsten Shead

More than 700 people attend faith-based Advocacy Day in Madison
Affirming that mutually shared, faith-based values have an important role to play in our democratic society, more than 700 people of many denominations and faiths gathered in Madison on April 29, 2015 to speak with one voice on issues of poverty, inequality and injustice. This day-long People of Faith United for Justice gathering was focused on the proposed Wisconsin State budget and was organized by the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee, the Wisconsin Council of Churches, WISDOM and six other organizations. It featured prominent keynote speakers, a march around the Capitol and visits with state legislators to discuss four main issues:

  • Criminal Justice Reform
  • Safety Net Issues (drug testing, Medicaid expansion, and long term care–IRIS)
  • Driver’s Licenses for Undocumented Immigrants
  • Public Transit Issues, including preserving/expanding funding and keeping transit funding in the state transportation budget

The news media coverage include a segment by Wisconsin Radio Network (click here) and a story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Interfaith Leaders at Opening of Brookfield Mosque
A large contingent of representatives from the Interfaith Conference Cabinet (our board of directors) and our Committee for Interfaith Understanding was present for inaugural ceremonies and an open house for a new mosque in Brookfield -- the first mosque to be built in Waukesha County, on March 2, 2015. Among the speakers were Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Shah, religious director of the Islamic Society of Milwaukee; Brookfield Mayor Steve Ponto; U.S. Attorney James Santelle; Ahmed Quereshi, president of the Islamic Society and an Interfaith Conference officer; Dr. Rob Shelledy, chair of the Interfaith Conference and coordinator of social justice ministry for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee; and Tom Heinen, Interfaith Conference Executive Director. A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story referenced the Interfaith Conference presence. See: Mosque
Churches try to bridge racial divide
The Interfaith Conference was mentioned in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story on March 2, 2015, about various efforts by Milwaukee-area Christian leaders to come together across racial, denominational and county lines to address violence, poverty, mass incarceration and other issues confronting the poor and minorities in the city of Milwaukee. The story noted our five-part luncheon lecture series in March on the theme, "Confronting the Realities of Segregation." See: Racial Divide

Wisconsin Council of Churches launches interfaith initiative
The Interfaith Conference was mentioned prominently and IFC Executive Director Tom Heinen was quoted in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story on January 22, 2015 about the Wisconsin Council of Church's release of a new statement on interfaith relations and its encouragement of interfaith dialogue statewide. See: Journal Sentinel Story For the WCC statement, "Loving Our Neighbors," and information about its initiative, see: WCC interfaith initiative

Screening of Civil Rights Movie "Selma"

The Interfaith Conference assisted St. Mark African Methodist Episcopal Church in promoting and selling tickets for a special screening of the movie "Selma" at Mayfair Shopping Mall on January 18, 2015, followed by a discussion in the movie theater and a talk-back at the church the next day. We acted as the fiscal agent on short notice and, In barely two days, sold nearly $700 worth of tickets online through our PayPal account on our website. The Journal Sentinel's coverage of church-sponsored screenings of the civil rights movie on January 21 included a large color photo of St. Mark's talk-back and a reference to the Interfaith Conference in the story.

Carol laid to rest in a field of wildflowers and grasses on Sept 4th

Natural Burial of an IEN Founder

The natural burial of Carol Waskovich, one of the founders of the Interfaith Earth Network, was featured in an extensive article on natural burials by the Milwaukee Jouranal Sentinel on Saturday, November 1, 2014. The story noted Carol's environmental work, spiritual motivation and her conviction that all of matter is connected and interdependant.

Carol was laid to rest surrounded by friends and loved ones in a field of wildflowers and grasses at Prairie Home Cemetary in Waukesha. It was an inspirational service and setting that deeply reflected Carol's values and spirit.

Read the story here.

Donations in memory of Carol were designated for the Interfaith Earth Network.

Greater Milwaukee CROP Hunger Walk

More than 500 adults and children of many faiths and ethnicities participated in the Interfaith Conference's 29th annual Greater Milwaukee CROP Hunger Walk at the city's lakefront on Sunday afternoon, Oct. 12, 2014. This year's walk took place during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot and featured a mobile Sukkah brought by Congregation Emanuel B'ne Jeshurun. Rabbi Marc Berkson explained the holiday to CROP Hunger Walk participants. The Jewish Chronicle ran a photo by photographer Kipp Friedman and short text.

Read the Chronicle coverage at:

Prayer Service for Middle East Peace

On Wednesday, July 13th, people of many faiths gathered at All Saints Cathedral to pray for peace in the MIddle East in a service organized by the Interfaith Conference. Local leaders from nine faiths and denominations offered their prayers.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel printed an announcement of the event as well as coverage afterward with excerpts from the prayers offered. The Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions reprinted the Journal Sentinel article on their blog, and the Wisconsin Conference of the United Methodist Church posted the event program and linked to photos of the event made public by the Milwaukee Jewish Federation.

Anyssa Johnson of the Journal Sentinel also wrote an article on the impact on Milwaukee's faith communities of current upheaval in the Middle East.

Faith leaders praying at the interfaith prayer service

Photo Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Interfaith Earth Network Program Director Kirsten Shead and Interfaith Conference Executive Director Tom Heinen caught the attention of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as well as WTMJ TV's Wisconsin Tonight, thanks to their ELF Organic Transit vehicle. The ELF is an electric-assisted recumbent bicycle in a egg-shaped shell, which recharges its battery through solar panels. Tom Heinen and Kirsten Shead, along with their respective spouses, share use of the ELF as a practice of sustainability and a mobile message of ecological hope. The Wisconsin Tonight segment features Kirsten Shead presenting and talking about the ELF, and the Journal Sentinel piece quotes both her and Tom Heinen.

Speaker Dismayed at Racial Segregation of City

In March, 2014, the Catholic Herald covered Marcus White's presentation at the Interfaith Conference's Cabinet Retreat. Marcus White, a former executive director of the Interfaith Conference and currently Vice President for Community Engagement of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, presented on "Vital Signs: Benchmarking Metro Milwaukee 2013," a report comparing the Milwaukee area to 15 other metro areas nationwide on a wide range of criteria. The data he presented to the Cabinet was troubling in many respects, including racial segregation and economic disparity, among a few more hopeful indicators.

Read the story here.

Marcus White

Media Coverage in 2014

Mar. 19. – On March 13, the Oak Creek Community Center hosted a screening of "Not In Our Town: Waking in Oak Creek," a short PBS documentary on the community response in Oak Creek in response to the 2012 Sikh Temple shooting. Oak Creek Now covered the screening and discussed the ongoing effort in Oak Creek to bring the community together and foster understanding, which includes a series of planned Amazing Faiths dinners for Oak Creek residents. The story included information about the first of these dinners, Read the story here.

Feb. Global Ties U.S., a national organization that partners with the U.S. Department of State's International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) to give visting foreign leaders useful and enriching experiences during visits to the United States, profiled the International Institute of Wisconsin (IIW) for its January-February 2014 newsletter. IIW partners with the Interfaith Conference as well as the Milwaukee Muslim Women's Coalition, and Tom Heinen, our Executive Director, was interviewed and quoted in the story. Tom Heinen has spoken on interfaith relations to groups brought here by the State department, including imams from Yemen, Muslim business leaders from Bulgaria, and heads of non-profits from Germany. Read the story here.

Jan. 24 On January 26, 2014, the Interfaith Conference's Interfaith Earth Network held an event called "Making Waves for Water," hosting networking for local faith-based and environmental groups, and launching GreenFaith's Water Shield Program. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran an excellent article preceding the event, which boosted attendance, and Wisconsin Public Radio aired a story on the event the next day. Read and Listen.

Media Coverage in 2013

Dec. 12 After we announced that Venice Williams would receive the Interfaith Conference's Frank P. Zeilder Award at our 2013 Annual Luncheon, the Journal Sentinel was prompted to profile Williams and cover the latest in her long sequence of inspiring works, blending faith and social justice. Read here.

Oct. 10 Norma Duckworth, our CROP Walk Director, did an extraordinary job organizing the 2013 Greater Milwaukee CROP Walk on short notice. Prior to the walk in October 2013, the Catholic Herald profiled her, highlighting her passion and her personal connection to the issue of hunger. Read their profile here

Oct. 8Before our Faith Connections event in October 2013, WUWM Public radio profiled our featured speakers for the event, Muhammad Isa Sadlon, former executive director of the Milwaukee Art Museum and President Emeritus of the Islamic Society of Milwaukee, and Tonen O'Connor, one-time managing director of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater and resident priest emerita at the Milwaukee Zen center. Listen to the piece here.

Sep. 28 As our Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogues were taking off in the fall of 2013, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran a profile of the program that added to the momentum. Read what they had to say here.

August – Oak Creek Sikh Temple Peace Vigil Coverage

In August of 2013, on the one-year anniversary of the shooting in Oak Creek, the Oak Creek Sikh Temple hosted a prayer vigil for peace, with leaders of various faiths gathered by the Interfaith Conference to participate. The Rev. Jean Dow, chair of the Interfaith Conference Cabinet, led the interfaith opening prayer. Rev. Suzelle Lynch, one of the interfaith leaders gathered for the event, blogged about the experience for Standing on the Side of Love. The Journal Sentinel covered the event in a story quoting Jean Dow's opening prayer: read here.

Other news outlets covered the event, including:
Oak Creek Now
The Navhind Times
Outlook India
Business Standard
Yahoo News

Feb. 19 – TMJ4 News ran a story on our Faith Sites Security Forum and spoke with Executive Director Tom Heinen: View here

Feb. 17 The Journal Sentinel's FaithWatch blog announced our Faith Sites Security Forum.

Feb. 5 In January of 2013, the Interfaith Conference's Interfaith Earth Network partnered with the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee and others to host The Most Rev. Katherine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, to hold an interfaith discussion on faith and the environment, followed by an evensong with interfaith participation on the theme of stewardship of the earth. The Living Church wrote about the event and preserved some of the Presiding Bishops's powerful words. Read their coverage here

Media Coverage in 2012

Dec. 6 – The Interfaith Conference brought Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, to speak at our 42nd Annual Luncheon about the rising number of hate groups and armed militias in the country, and what we as a community can do to combat this rising tide of hate. While in town, he spoke with Kathleen Dunn on Milwaukee Public Radio the morning of the luncheon, archived here.

Aug. 10, 2012 – The Rev. Jamie Washam, vice chair of the Interfaith Conference and pastor of Underwood Memorial Baptist Church in Wauwatosa, was interviewed with Interfaith Executive Director Tom Heinen for a WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio Lake Effect segment that was broadcast Aug. 10 and was titled “Bringing Together Communities of Faith after Temple Shootings.”

Aug. 7 – Dr. Swarnjit Arora, an economics professor at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and a longtime Sikh representative on the Interfaith Conference’s Milwaukee Association for Interfaith Relations (renamed in 2013 as our Committee for Interfaith Understanding) was interviewed by Wisconsin Public Radio’s Kathleen Dunn. The show is archived here.

Aug. 7 The Brookfield Patch covered interfaith participation in the vigil shortly after the Sikh Temple shooting. Executive Director Tom Heinen is quoted on the tremendous graciousness of the Sikh community's response. Read here.

Aug. 6 – Interfaith Conference Executive Director Tom Heinen was interviewed by Wisconsin Public Radio’s Kathleen Dun. about the Sikh Temple shootings, the community’s responses, religious diversity, interfaith relations, and other topics in a wide-ranging discussion. The show is archived here.

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