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The Interfaith Conference in the Media

The Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee holds many events and participates in many initiatives throughout the year. Here are some moments when the efforts of our programs and/or partners garnered media attention.


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. See individual segments 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: http://www.jewishchronicle.org/article.php?article_id=15599

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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