2019 Events and Activities
Events and Activities in 2019
New Leadership & New Members
New Executive Director
June 27, 2019 -- The Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee announced that its Cabinet (board of directors) selected Pardeep Singh Kaleka at its June 27th meeting to be the organization's next executive director, effective July 1. 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.
The IFCGM will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2020, which will include unveiling transformative new initiatives that are now being planned.
(For print, television, and radio coverage of the transition - and for other interviews with Pardeep -- go to our
Two New Member Faiths/Denominations
June 27, 2019 -- The Interfaith Conference Cabinet (our board of directors) voted unanimously to welcome two new members: the Hindu Temple of Wisconsin (based in Pewaukee) and the Western District of the Moravian Church in America. With these additions, the Interfaith Conference now represents the top regional leaders and adherents of 20 different faiths and denominations. We are judicatory-based rather than congregation based. Our member "judicatories" assist, oversee or manage multiple congregations, with the exception of some small faiths that have only one or two worship sites in Southeastern Wisconsin.
New Staff Member
August 26, 2019 -- New Interfaith staff member -- Interfaith Conference agreed to train an Intern in partnership with the Department of Workforce Development, Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, a social service organization that helps people with diabilities find a job, keep a job, or in the case of Cherrie Hanson, learn new skills in order to seek employment outside of the field she has worked in for 30 years, but is unable to continue full time because of a serious injury. The decision of the Interfaith Conference to train and teach her a plethora of new skills was an opportunity to make a difference in public service to the State of Wisconsin. The Department of Workforce Development has a mission to advance Wisconsin's economy and business by empowering and supporting the workforce. She has now been officially hired as a parttime employee.
Dec. 5, 2019 -- 49th Interfaith Conference Annual Luncheon -- "GOING BEYOND COEXIST"
"Going Beyond Coexist" was the theme at this year's annual luncheon at the Italian Community Center. The center's Festa Ballroom was filled to capacity, demonstrating the enthusiasm and support for the Conference. Our new Executive Director, Pardeep Singh Kaleka, with his friend and co-author, Arno Michaelis delivered this year’s keynote. Our Executive Director Emeritus, Tom Heinen, interviewed them about their experiences on both sides of hate and its destructive behaviors. Pardeep and Arno joined forces to write a book, “Gift of our Wounds” published in 2018, and created a mission based program called Serve 2 Unite for at-risk teens.
We thanked our extraordinary 20 faith members and their staffs, partners and friends for supporting the Interfaith Conference.
We honored our exemplary award recipients: The Frank Ziedler award went to Janan Najeeb, founder and president of the Milwaukee Muslim Women's Coalition and chair of the Interfaith Conference's Committee for Interfaith Understanding. The Rev. Herbert Huebschmann Urban Ministry award went to Acts Housing. Barbara Beckert from Disability Rights Wisconsin received the Mark Rohlfing Memorial Award, and Darrin Madison received the Emerging Leader award.
We were grateful for the great remarks by the Interfaith Cabinet's Chair, Elana Kahn (director of the Jewish Community Relations Council) and the opening invocation by the Rev. Christie Melby-Gibbons (Moravian minister serving on Interfaith Cabinet and executive director of Tricklebee Cafe emerging ministry). Many thanks to our Executive Committee, our Cabinet members, and our Interfaith Conference Staff. We thank our good vibe musicians, Susan and John Nicholson of Frogwater and their guest vocalist, and our newest staff member, Cherrie Hanson. Gratitude for our photographer, Dean Johnson. Lastly, we appreciate the never-ending leadership for our Executive Director Emeriti, Tom Heinen, Marcus White, and Jack Murtaugh.
Gold Level Table Buyers -- Milwaukee Muslim Women's Coalition
Silver Level Table Buyers -- Jewish Community Relations Council/Milwaukee Jewish Federation; M.T.O. Shahmaghsoudi School of Islamic Sufism - Franksville (Racine County); Rohlfing Family
Bronze Level Table Buyers -- Archdiocese of Milwaukee (2 tables); Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee; Islamic Society of Milwaukee; Redeemer United Church of Christ - Sussex; St. Matthew's Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELCA) - Wauwatosa; Sikh Temple of Wisconsin - Oak Creek; Tom & Katie Heinen
Supporting Level Table Buyers -- Acts Housing; BEGIN - Brookfield-Elm Grove Interfaith Network; Congregation Shalom - Fox Point; Disability Rights Wisconsin; Rev. Sue & Richard Lindberg; Presbytery of Milwaukee; Rockwell Automation; Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom; Southeastern Wisconsin Association United Church of Christ; South East District United Methodist Church
Other judicatories, congregations, and organizations with attendees at the luncheon included: American Baptist Churches of Wisconsin; Buddhist Peace Fellowship Milwaukee; Greater Milwaukee Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA); Hindu Temple of Wisconsin; Western District Moravian Church; Milwaukee Friends Meeting (Quakers); Unitarian Universalist Congregations of Southeast Wisconsin; First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee; Milwaukee Zen Center; Wisconsin Council of Churches; Brown Deer United Methodist Church; Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield Milwaukee; Good Earth Church of the Divine - East Troy; Bethel-Bethany United Church of Christ - Milwaukee; Catholic Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist - Milwaukee; Christ Church UCC - Milwaukee; Tippecanoe Presbyterian Church - Milwaukee; Immanuel Presbyterian Church - Milwaukee; First Congregational Church - Port Washington; St. Benedict the Moor Parish - Milwaukee; Bay Shore Lutheran Church; Redeemer Lutheran Church - Milwaukee; Western District Moravian Church & Tricklebee Cafe emerging ministry in Milwaukee; Village Church - Milwaukee; Milwaukee Islamic Dawah Center; Lake Park Lutheran Church; St. John's on The Lake - Milwaukee; Companions in Ministry; Unitarian Universalist Church West - Brookfield; St. Sebastian Church - Milwaukee; St. Sebastian Catholic Parish - Milwaukee; St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish - North Lake; First Congregational Church - Wauwatosa; Congregation Emanu-El B'ne Jeshurun - River Hills; YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee; St. Michael's Catholic Parish - Milwaukee; Rogers Behavioral Health; Hephatha Lutheran Church - Milwaukee; Church of the Gesu (Catholic Parish) - Milwaukee; The Nehemiah Project - Milwaukee; Common Ground; Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council; Calvary Baptist Church - Milwaukee; St. Mark African Methodist Episcopal Church - Milwaukee; St. Luke's United Church of Christ - South Milwaukee; St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church - Milwaukee; Kingo Lutheran Church - Shorewood; Ahmadiyya Muslim Community; Unitarian Church North - Mequon; Marquette University; Milwaukee Water Commons; Frank P. Zeidler Memorial Lecture Committee; St. Mary Catholic Faith Community - Hales Corners;
Opposing Hate (Also see "Advocacy" below)
Oct. 30, 2019 -- Past Interfaith Executive Director Moderates Presentation and Q&A about Border Immigrants/Refugees --The Catholic-Jewish Conference of Milwaukee presented an evening program titled "Faith & Action: A Rabbi and Nun at the US-Mexico Border" at Congregational Beth Israel Ner Tamid in Glendale. It drew about 120 people and featured two nationally prominent, faith-motivated advocates for immigrants and refugees, Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz, president and dean of the Valley Beit Midrash, and Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, spoke about their experiences on the U.S.-Mexican border in Arizona and Texas and shared stories of how immigrants have impacted their lives. Tom Heinen, the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee's newly retired executive director, was the moderator. Yanklowitz is the founder of Arizona Jews for Justice. Pimentel is a member of the Missionaries of Jesus and has been recognized by Pope Francis for her work. Sponsors of the event were the Catholic Jewish Conference, a program of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation; the Archdiocese of Milwaukee; and the Wisconsin Council of Rabbis.
The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle did a story. See: Rabbi & Nun
Oct 28, 2019 -- New Interfaith Conference Executive Director Writes Article for Religion News Service -- Pardeep Kaleka wrote an article titled “Before another shooting, let's do these necessary things to stop hate.”(RNS)
He wrote, in part, "This weekend in Pittsburgh and across the country, Americans remembered the 11 Jewish worshippers who were killed and seven others who were injured by a gunman at the Tree of Life Synagogue. Tragically, the attack, though the worst act of anti-Semitic violence in U.S. history, was far from an isolated event. Hate is on the rise in the United States, documented by the annual increase in reported bias-related crimes over the past three years and illustrated all too graphically by a string of shootings targeting ethnic and religious minorities dating back at least to the attack on a Sikh Gurudwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin in 2012.
"As a Sikh and a person of faith, I know that hate cannot answer hate. Yet as we move on from this anniversary, I'm also increasingly convinced that it is simply not enough to both engage those who are fearful of us and summon our forgiveness for those who commit these acts of violence.
"I urge all Americans to come together in care and compassion for Jewish communities across our country and advocate for real action to stop the scourge of hate.
"It is time for us to act with force and conviction.
To read the full article, see: Stopping Hate
Sept. 5, 2019 -- "From Lament to Hope" -- Interfaith Conference Executive Director Pardeep Kaleka was a guest speaker, and Interfaith program assistant Cherrie Hanson played guitar and sang a Sanskrit prayer, at "From Lament to Hope: An Ecumenical Witness of Solidarity with Victims of Gun Violence," at Marquette University. The vigil/service began in front of the St. Joan of Arc Chapel, with participants then singing and going in procession towards the campus' Central Mall, ending in the Chapel of the Holy Family in the Alumni Memorial Union. Dr. Michael Lovell, Marquette's president, participated and spoke. The event was sponsored by Marquette's Campus Ministry, Lutheran Campus Ministry, and the Canterbury Fellowship. Presiders were Fr. Michael McNulty, S.J., Pastor Jessica Short and Fr. Michael Cover. Ecumenical guests included Auxiliary Bishop Jeffrey Haines from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee; Bishop Paul Erickson from the Greater Milwaukee Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), and Deacon Kevin Stewart from the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee.
Aug. 9, 2019 -- 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.
For Journal Sentinel photos of this event, see: Midday Prayer
August 9, 2019 -- Lanterns for Peace event with Peace Action at Washington Park Urban Ecology Center, 1859 N. 40th St., Milwaukee. Speakers included Pardeep Singh Kaleka, Executive Director of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee. The event commemorates the victims impacted by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This educational vigil including making art, lighting and floating lanterns at the lagoon, instrumental music, and the folding of origami peace cranes.
Aug. 5, 2019 -- Vigil Against Hate, Walkers Square Park -- The Interfaith Conference and its executive director, Pardeep Kaleka, partnered with Darryl Morin from Forward Latino to hold an evening prayer vigil at Walkers Square Park in remembrance of the lives lost in mass shootings in Oak Creek, Gilroy (Calif.), El Paso (Texas), and Dayton (Ohio). Representatives of 35 faith-based and community organizations from the Milwaukee area came together to pray for the deceased and to demand an end to gun violence, to take steps to reduce violence in the United States and to halt the promotion of hate. A crowd estimated at 200 or more people participated.
- U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, United States House of Representatives
- Mayor Tom Barrett, City of Milwaukee
- Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, State of Wisconsin
- Ald. Jose Perez, Milwaukee Common Council
- Heidi Rose WAVE (Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort) read the names of the deceased in Gilroy, CA
- Ahmed Quereshi, past president, Islamic Society of Milwaukee, and a member of the Interfaith Conference Cabinet
- Bishop Steven A. Miller, Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee
- Rev. Jennifer Nordstrom, senior minister, First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee, representing Unitarian Universalist Congregations of Southeast Wisconsin
- Representative of LULAC WI (League of United Latin American Citizens) read names of deceased in El Paso, TX
- WAVE Representative read additional names of deceased in El Paso
- Ann Jacobs, Chairwoman, Jewish Community Relations Council/Milwaukee Jewish Federation
- Rev. Kevin Stewart, missioner for community engagement, Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee, and religious affairs representative of the NAACP Milwaukee Branch
- Women’s March representative read names of deceased in Dayton, OH
- Primitivo Torres, Voces de la Frontera
- Rev. Walter Lanier, MICAH (Milwaukee Inner-City Congregations Allied for Hop
- Gurjit Sigh, Sikh Priest from Oak Creek, WI
- Anne Haines, Episcopal Representative and Director of Archdiocese of Milwaukee's UrbanInitiativeMKE
- Pardeep Kaleka, Sikh Temple of Wisconsin and executive director of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee
- Darryl Morin, President, Forward Latino
See Fox6 News coverage at: Walkers Square
See Spectrum News1 coverage at: Vigil
See Milwaukee Independent online coverage and photos at Milwaukee Independent
June 5, 2019- Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice, San Diego, CA. “A Path Forward,” was held there in the wake of the recent shooting at the Chabad of Poway and featured a panel of speakers from throughout the country to share the lessons they’ve learned from dealing with crisis and tragedy in their communities. One of the panelists was Pardeep Kaleka, who was hired in June as the Interfaith Conference’s new executive director, effective July 1. The speakers included:
- Pardeep Singh Kaleka, author of “The Gift of Our Wounds,” Oak Creek, Wis., helped found the organization Serve 2 Unite, which brings together young people from different religious and cultural backgrounds. His father was among the victims killed at the 2012 Sikh temple shooting in Oak Creek.
- Rev. Tracy Howe Wispelwey, founder of Restoration Village Arts in Charlottesville, Va., is a songwriter, producer, activist and minister. She played a role in organizing efforts to counter the now infamous Unite the Right rally in 2017.
- Rev. Kylon Middleton, pastor, Mt Zion AME Church, Charleston, S.C., is the leader of Charleston’s Illumination Project, which aims to unite the community and strengthen citizen-police relationships. His best friend, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, was among the nine people killed at the mass shooting at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church.
- Joshua Sayles, director of community relations, Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, is a member of the crisis management team that responded to the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting on Oct. 27, 2018. He is vice president of the board of the Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition.
The forum was sponsored by the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice, the National Conflict Resolution Center, and The San Diego Union-Tribune “A Path Forward,” was held in the wake of the recent shooting at the Chabad of Poway and featured a panel of speakers from throughout the country to share the lessons they’ve learned from dealing with crisis and tragedy in their communities.
April 30, 2019 – Standing with Catholics and Other Christians – Response to Sri Lankan bombings – 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. 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
March 21, 2019 – Standing with Muslims – 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 Statements.
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
May 29, 2019 -- "Interrupting Racism - A Community Conversation: Planting a Seed of Change within the Workforce" -- Rhonda Hill, program director of the Interfaith Conference’s Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogues, was the guest speaker at a community workshop at the Goodman Center in Madison sponsored by Journey Mental Health Inc. and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. There she gave a keynote address about racism in the workplace to about 75 people. Rhonda, who has master’s degrees in marriage & family therapy and theological studies, has significant experience in race relations. She made this presentation under the auspices of the Race & Faith consulting business that she operates with Marquette University Professor Sharon Chubbuck.
Intercultural Outreach through the Arts
August 3 & 4, 2019 -- Rag Head -- The Interfaith Conference partnered with actress/playwrite Sundeep Morrison, and Co-producer Deanna Singh, to bring Rag Head: An American Story to the Broadway Theatre Center's black box stage for three sellout performances. Since 9/11, there has been an alarming increase in hate crimes committed against Sikhs, Muslims and other immigrant communities. With their turbans and long beards, Sikhs have become increasingly targets in the United States. According to the Sikh Coalition, there are roughly 500,000 Sikhs in the U.S., many of whom have been subject to xenophobic harassment or violence. The show explores Sikhs and xenophobia in a post 9/11 America. Inspired by actual events, Sundeep Morrison’s one woman show addresses hate, hope and American identity.
For TV Story see: WTMJ
Sept 20, 2019 - “Sanctuaries or Soft Targets.” As houses of worship are grappling with the threat of attacks, the Religious News Association convened a conference panel discussion in Las Vegas. Panelists included Pardeep Singh Kaleka, executive director of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee; Deepa Bharath - Staff Writer, Southern California News Group; Rev. Mark Whitlock – Senior Pastor, Reid Temple AME Church; and Captain Sasha Larkin – Las Vegas Metro Police Department, who highlighted a community approach to response and prevention of targeted hate towards faith communities and places of worship.
Sept 27, 2019 - Department of Homeland Security, CISA, FBI and Department of Justice Meeting at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek with the Subcommittee for the Prevention of Targeted Violence Against Faith-Based Communities. Goal of the meeting was for the subcommittee to gather information regarding the response to the August 5, 2012 shooting at the Sikh Temple by a white supremacist who killed six people. The goal was to discern best practices moving forward to prevent further hate attacks on faith members and buildings, and to improve responses. Interfaith Executive Director Pardeep Kaleka, whose father was among those slain in the temple shooting, participated in this meeting.
June 11, 2019 – Interfaith Safety and Security Symposium -- Working in partnership with federal, state, and local law enforcement/security agencies, we helped draw a very diverse, interfaith crowd of more than 250 faith leaders to a free, half-day Wisconsin Interfaith Safety & Security Symposium in the Miller High Life Theatre's Plankinton Hall. With a rising tide of hate and an increase in violent attacks on faith sites across the nation and world, this was an exceptionally timely event. The Journal Sentinel covered the event and published a story: See JS Story
Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogues Program
AMAZING FAITH DINNERS 2.0 In October and November we offered expanded versions of the basic dinners which featured speakers presenting more in depth information about specific religions, religious practices, or social issues and outreach.
Nov. 7, 2019 - Our Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogue programs this year included a fantastic introduction to Hinduism, including a tour of the temple spaces. The Hindu Temple of Wisconsin is the most recent addition to the Interfaith Conference. Deepest thanks to our new friends at the temple: President Himanshu Parikh, Girish Shah, Govardhan Katta, Pavan Attili, Subba Rao and more.
Nov. 3, 2019 - The Reverend Christy Melby-Gibbons was our featured speaker for the 1st Annual Faith, Food and Generosity – hosted by the Turkish American Society of Wisconsin. Christy’s mission and ministry at Tricklebee Cafe, Milwaukee’s only pay-what-you-can-pay cafe is food and faith in practice.
Oct. 10, 2019 - The Greater Milwaukee Foundation asked us to participate in this year’s On The Table MKE event to discuss actions around gun policy, hate crimes, and to address inequities in our state. Governor Tony Evers, Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes, Mayor Tom Barrett, Reggie Moore, Senator Lena C. Taylor, Maria A. Hamilton spoke at the event The Milwaukee Asian market. Market owner, Mayhoua Moua provided food as did Damia Causey and Laura Reizner Emir. Guests also included Darryl Morin, Tom Heinen, Rhonda Hill, Cherrie Hanson, Elana Kahn, Tammy Athena, Lee Matz, James Causey, and our entire faith based, mental health, advocate and gun survivor community.
Oct. 15, 2019 - FAITH & POLITICS Amazing Faith Dinner Dialogue hosted by former U.S. Attorney Jim Santelle. Our panel included former District Attorney E. Michael McCann and Organizer of Wisconsin Voices, Markasa Tucker.
In the first half of 2019, through mid-June, we have held six Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogues for a total of over 150 people. Two dinners happened at universities- Cardinal Stritch and UW-Milwaukee. Two large-group dinners happened in the wider community, with one being held at the American Albanian Islamic Center in Kenosha and the other being held in the Grand Hall at Hoyt Park in Wauwatosa. The other two dinners were held in private homes. The variety of place in which this program happens proves that it is suitable for a variety of audiences ranging from 8 to about 100 in size. As we strive to expand our work throughout the community, we hope to engage more corporations, high schools and universities. This summer we have three dinners planned in personal spaces of hosts, with two dinners being hosted on a pontoon boat in Pewaukee Lake, Waukesha County.
On June 26, 2019 there will be a moderator training in Racine, WI from 3:00-6:00 p.m. People should contact Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogue Program Director Rhonda HIll to register, at Rhondah@interfaithconference.org.
June 23 to July 10, 2019 -- The Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogue program is well has been cruising through this summer. We had our first dinner of the summer aboard a pontoon boat on Pewaukee Lake on June 23rd. The eight of us gathered and shared deeply while admiring the beautifully view. The next gathering of this type is August 11th, 5-8 p.m., also on Pewaukee Lake. We also had the opportunity to host a group of visitors from the Philippines on July 10th. This gathering happened due to our collaboration with the International Institute of Wisconsin. The intimate gathering of ten gave those gathered an opportunity to not only share stories of faith but to also examine how interfaith dialogue can promote peace and security.
February 24, 2019 -- Amazing Faiths 2.0 Dinner Dialogue featuring Baha'i Faith -- Nearly 30 people attended the year's first Amazing Faiths 2.0 Dinner, on the Baha'i Faith. These large-group dinner dialogues go beyond our the personal sharing that is at the heart of our home-based Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogues. A faith group hosts a 2.0 event and presents some in-depth information about that faith; then participants dialogue and share, using question cards that include some themes and topics highlighted in the presentation.
The Baha'i event was hosted by the Baha'i community and was held in the grand hall at the "Tosa pool at Hoyt Park" in Wauwatosa. Speakers included:
- Martharoot Malungu,a pre-med student at Wisconsin Lutheran College. She was born in Macau, China. Twenty-five years ago her Ugandan father and American mother moved to Macau as temporary pioneers of the Baha’i Faith. Martharoot’s growing up in China as an African American has imprinted the importance of having a world-embracing vision of humanity. She intends to continue her career in the medical field and to further develop her ability to best serve others.
- Dan Conlon, a business owner, mentor, author and business coach. He and his wife live in Cedarburg. They have been married 32 years, have two adult children and are about to be promoted to grandparents. Dan became a Baha’i when he was a young man and has served the Baha’i Faith in numerous capacities.
Jenny Wanasek, a founder of the Center for Applied Theatre. She has worked as a professional director and actor with the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, Next Act, Renaissance Theatre, and First Stage, among others, and is an instructor at UWM. She has earned numerous teaching and acting awards. Jenny’s training includes interactive and transformative theatre with Nobel Prize nominee Augusto Boal, Beyond Racism and Ally building with Healing Our Nation, and The Virtues Project. Jenny’s applied theatre work includes interactive projects, new play development, and communication technique workshops. She has conducted Applied Theatre technique workshops at conferences and seminars throughout the United States and in Vienna.
January 27, 2019 -- Rabbi Michal Woll hosted an Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogue at her home, and IFC Executive Director Tom Heinen served as the moderator.
January 23, 2019 -- CUSH/Interfaith Dinner Dialgue in Kenosha Draws 90 People -- A collaborative Interfaith Conference/CUSH Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogue drew 90 people to the American Albanian Islamic Center in Kenosha. The dinner, sponsored by 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
January 20, 2019 -- Amazing Faiths Dinner & Panel Discussion at Cardinal Stritch University -- Rhonda Hill, director of our Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogues program, moderated a panel discussion at a workshop on religion, sprirtuality and behavioral health care at Cardinal Stritch University and then held an Amazine Faiths Dinner Dialogue for about 15 students.
Rhonda, who has a broad background of experience in the non-profit and faith-based communities, has mater's degrees in marriage and family therapy, and in theological studies.
Committee for Interfaith Understanding
July 17, 2019 - Sacred performing arts event to celebrate 2020 anniversary year. A subcommittee is created to plan the concert for next year. Committee includes Cherrie Hanson, Pardeep Kaleka, Janan Najeeb, Nooshin Nekooei, Dan Di Domizio, Donna Neubauer, Katie Heinen, Rhonda Hill.
CIU Committee welcomes new member, Cherrie Hanson
May 13, 2019 - Regarding hate group that held “Midwest National Security Conference” in Waukesha at the Waukesha County Expo Center from May 10-11, 2019
Janan Najeeb's initial action was to inform a variety of people and organizations that this group was advertising this conference. Letters, emails, and telephone calls were sent/made to the offices of the Waukesha mayor and Waukesha County executive. The general response was that freedom-of-speech rights prevented a public venue from cancelling the event.
We learned later that the Waukesha County and Milwaukee County Republican Parties helped promote the event.
The tactic that was agreed upon prior to the event was to put pressure on public officials but to avoid organizing a demonstration or holding a news conference because that would give the group a public platform to spread their hateful information and could help them boost attendance. A member of the Interfaith Conference Cabinet and others who drove past the Expo Center during the event counted only 30 cars in the parking lot, which probably included Expo Center staffs’ cars.
A statement entitled, "Stand Against Hate in Waukesha County" was issued by Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee.
Mid-May through August, 2019 -- Part of our traveling exhibition of photographic banners and matted prints titled Gratitude: A Celebration of our Common Humanity will be on display through the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Interfaith program director Rhonda Hill arranged for this display and is discussing with college officials the holding of some related programming there in the fall. (More information about this exhibition, which was created in collaboration with faculty and students at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, is in the item below and in our 2018 summaries.)
January 6 to 15, 2019 -- Traveling Interfaith/MIAD Art Exhibit at Immanuel Presbyterian Church -- After opening in the rotunda of Milwaukee City Hall during Thanksgiving week in November of 2018, our traveling art exhibition entitled Gratitude: A Celebration of our Common Humanity moved to Immanuel Presbyterian Church, 1100 N. Astor St., for a 10-day showing. Under a generous grant from the ELM II Fund at the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, the Interfaith Conference partnered with the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design for this project. Students from a MIAD class visited sites of worship and meditation in the Milwaukee area and took photos that reflected those experiences and their personal spirituality or philosophy. A panel of judges selected 16 photos from 400 submissions. Large photo-printed banners and smaller, matted photos were produced and are available for display.
Interfaith Earth Network
October 9, 2019 – Strong Baby Sabbath – The Interfaith Earth Network participated in Ascension healthcare system’s “Strong Baby Sabbath” event at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Milwaukee. The event, designed to educate churches on practices to reduce infant mortality, was attended by Mayor Tom Barrett and City Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik. Following a presentation on maternal and infant health by Ascension doctors, IEN connected with members of 20 area churches from low-income neighborhoods, distributing 40 lead filter pitchers and 40 replacement cartridges. Each church received instruction on the proper use of lead filters and a letter from IEN outlining our plans to provide future in-house lead education at their churches in the coming year.
September 26, 2019 – Lead-Free Summit – The Interfaith Earth Network and multiple community partners helped organize the Coalition On the Lead Emergency's (COLE's) Lead-Free Summit at Hephatha Lutheran Church. Those in attendance heard from six Milwaukee alderpersons voicing support for funding a new "Birthing Moms Pilot Project" that would provide free lead education kits with filters for all birthing moms from lead-poisoning dense zip codes prior to being discharged from the hospital.
July 10, 2019 – Vacation Bible School & Lead Education – The Interfaith Earth Network assisted Cross Lutheran Church in preparing educational activities for pre-school and elementary school children as part of the church’s Vacation Bible School summer programming. Coordinating the guest presenter (Patti the Lead Clown), take home educational material from the Hunger Task Force, and water filters through Hephatha Lutheran Church, we reached 18 children from K4 – 5th grade along with their parents.
May 21, 2019 – Lead Education & Community Celebration – The Interfaith Earth Network and our partners of the Coalition On the Lead Emergency (COLE) collaborated with the Milwaukee Health Department to celebrate the progress made over the past year to reduce lead exposure in the Amani neighborhood and the surrounding area. The celebration included games and music for children, food and door prizes for adults, and presentations from COLE leaders on our advocacy work in the community. More than 65 adults and 37 children participated in the celebration. Families were also given the opportunity to learn about ways to protect themselves from lead exposure in paint, water, and soil while also receiving free filters from the Milwaukee Health Department and Hephatha Lutheran Church.
April 30 & May 2, 2019 – Lead Water Filter Campaign Presentations; Marquette University – Seventy-eight Marquette University undergraduate students from Dr. Stacie Waites's two marketing classes presented their semester-long projects on lead water filter promotion. IEN Program Director Stephen Hawkins invited leaders from four Milwaukee neighborhoods (Amani, Metcalfe Park, Clarke Square, and Riverwest) to serve as panel judges in order to provide feedback to students. Each lead water filter campaign was evaluated based on the accuracy of the customer profiles, the ability to capture an observer's attention, and the feasibility of implementation by non-profits with limited financial and personnel resources. The campaigns were then given to these community leaders for potential implementation in their local neighborhoods. This provided students with the opportunity to experience what it is like to "pitch" a marketing campaign while also meeting some of the city's non-profit environmental leaders.
April 28, 2019 – Earth Day Worship Service Presentation; Underwood Memorial Baptist Church, Wauwatosa – Our Program Director Stephen Hawkins was asked to share about IEN's mission to "serve as a catalyst for people of faith to live, work, and worship in environmentally sustainable ways" during the congregation's Earth Day celebration. Emphasis was given to our "unleaded" initiative, while information was also provided regarding "green" burials and sustainable celebrations.
April 16, 2019 – Rotary Club of Beloit, WI: “Wisconsin Un|Leaded” Presentation – After attending our breakout session presentation at the American Baptist Churches of Wisconsin’s Annual Gathering in Milwaukee last October, the First Baptist Church of Beloit invited our Interfaith Earth Network to share its ongoing lead educational outreach and advocacy efforts at the Rotary Club of Beloit’s weekly lunch meeting. With approximately forty Beloit-area community members in attendance, the presentation outlined the negative health effects of lead, the prevalence of lead service lines throughout the state of Wisconsin, and the steps IEN is taking to reduce residential lead exposure through neighborhood workshops and coalition creation. According to a recent Beloit Daily News article, “Beloit's public water system has around 17 percent of lateral connections to the city's water mains that are lead” (Montgomery 2019).
March 2019 -- 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.) To read the interview, see: Hawkins Q&A
February 27 - March 1, 2019 – River Network Drinking Water Conference – As recipients of an eighteen-month grant initiative, our Interfaith Earth Network (IEN) partnered with Milwaukee Water Commons to host participants from the River Network's "Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Peer Learning Cohort," a national conglomerate of grantees charged with exploring "policies and practices that communities can use to effectively engage a broad range of stakeholders in order to secure safe, clean and affordable drinking water." Fourteen organizations from seven cities across the US participated in this conference, sharing lessons learned and best practices for improving access to cleaner, more affordable drinking water in their communities. As a cohort, we also visited the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee's School of Freshwater Sciences and TRUE Skool, Inc. while also listening to local coalition efforts focused on reducing lead exposure in Milwaukee residential neighborhoods. Two IEN members served as guest panel speakers during this conference.
Outreach into the Workplace
July 22, 2019 -- More Interfaith Corporate Outreach -- Interfaith Conference Executive Director Pardeep Kaleka and Executive Director Emeritus Tom Heinen met with an employee interfaith leadership team at Rockwell Automation's corporate headquarters to talk about future educational and dialogue programming there and to discuss the employees' desire to help Interfaith bring such workplace interfaith programming to other industries and businesses. Interfaith has a $4,500 grant from the ELM II fund at the Greater Milwaukee Foundation to do that outreach. The efforts at Rockwell have been coordinated by its Faith Friendly & Allies Employee Resource Group.
June 26, 2019 -- MMWC Presentation at Rockwell -- Janan Najeeb, a founder and president of the Milwaukee Muslim Women's Coalition, gave a lunchtime presentation titled "Women in Islam: Unveiled!" at Rockwell Automation's corporate headquarters to members of the company's Faith Friendly & Allies Employee Resource Group. This was an outgrowth of the Interfaith Conference's partnership with Rockwell employees and executives over the past several years as, together, we developed interfaith programming for the workplace that ranged from small-table dialogues to presentations about specific faiths.
January 24, 2019 -- World's Religions Fair at Rockwell Automation Corporate HQ -- We helped provide some of the table presenters at Rockwell Automation's annual World's Religions Fair at the global corporation's corporate headquarters on Milwaukee's south side as part of our continuing collaboration with Rockwell and its Faith Friendly & Allies interfaith employee resource group.
Wisconsin Immigration Network (WIN)
January to June, 2019 -- In November of 2018, the Interfaith Conference Cabinet (our board of directors) formally endorsed a new organization that is now called the Wisconsin Immigration Network (WIN) and placed a Cabinet representative on the WIN Steering Committee. Begun as a group of private individuals with ties to various organizations, WIN has benefited thus far in 2019 both from the Interfaith endorsement and from the expertise and energy of the Cabinet's representative, Patricia McFarland, who is from the First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee and the Southeast Wisconsin Unitarian Universalist Congregations.
WIN is led by a group of individuals from significant Southeastern Wisconsin religious, civic, immigraton and health care organizations. WIN's immediate objective is creating an effective system of information and referrals so that Wisconsin immigrants and their families can identify and use honest, competent, accessible and affordable immigration legal services. It does this through research, surveys, interviews and follow-up to attorneys and to non-profit, U.S. Department-of-Justice "Recognized Organizations" authorized to prepare immigration applications and petition. WIN plans to launch a user-firendly website and print materials that publicizes comprehensive, up-to-date and accurate information on where and how to procure immigration legal services, and how much they cost.
In early 2019, the Steering Committee researched the five agencies that are recognized by the DOJ to provide services for immigrants and determined the status, actual services, and capacity of each. In the process, the committe learned that much of the current information about legal services for immigrants is outdated and/or wrong. Committee members also did research to create a list of credible attorneys who offer their services pro bono or at low cost to immigrants.
And committee members did extensive community outreach to learn more about immigrants' experiences here and to make contacts,. In one week in April, they visited 10 Milwaukee Public Schools on the south side of the city. That month, they also visited: Central United Methodist Church, the Consulate General of Nicaragua, CORE El Centro, Ghana Milwaukee Association; Hmong American Women's Association, Hmong-American Friendship Society;Iglesia Pentacostal, International House, Irish Immigration Services, Islamic Society of America, Jewish Family Services of Milwaukee, Korean Baptist Church of Milwaukee, Korean United Methodist Church of Milwaukee; Lutheran Social Services; MATC Office of International Student Admissions, Mercado El Rey, Mexican Consulate of Milwaukee, St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Waukesha, St. MIchael's multicultural Catholic Church in Milwaukee, St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Milwaukee, the Sixteenth Street Community Health Center, United Migrant Opportunity Services (UMOS), and the UWM Center for International Education.
Interfaith Restorative Practices Coalition (Click here for Coalition information)
Restorative practices are listening and communication skills that honor the dignity of each one of us. Restorative practices can be used with adults, youth, and children to prevent conflict, to manage conflict, or to heal broken relationships that have been impacted by conflict.
People are coming to recognize restorative practices as ways to form trusting relationships, build community, and manage conflict that can be implemented in any venue.
In response to requests, the IRPC was able to help coordinate two events in May:
May 2, 2019 -- Escuela Verde -- Cynthia Gonzalez from Escuela Verde reached out to our coalition in search of speakers for their students. Thursday May 2nd, four speakers from IRPC agencies spoke on how they use restorative justice in their work to four groups of about 20 students each. Speakers were: Myron Edwards (Safe and Sound), Sharon Lerman, (Working Innovations), Cathy Warmington (WCS) Michele Wink (MCCY)
Quotes from some of the students in attendance:
- "They gave us info about both sides of a crime and how both sides can come together to fix the past."
- "I thought the presentation was pretty interesting. I particularly liked the life changing stories you shared. Thank you for coming :)"
- "I feel like I gained more information about how people can help kids understand what they did wrong and help the victim get closure."
Cynthia asked that Escuela Verde be added to our coalition of restorative agencies and that her name and contact info be added to our roster. Bethany and Fernando from Escuela Verde will attend the next coalition meeting.
May 13, 2019 -- International Institute -- Heather Sattler and Alliance School students hosted a restorative circle for International visitors from the Middle East. This was coordinated by the International Institute and the IRPC.
Other Outreach, Presentations & Representation
December 2019 -- Staff member Cherrie Hanson pens a feature article about Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee for The Washington Heights Highlighter. This quarterly magazine of the Washington Heights Neighborhood Association is delivered to the neighborhood surrounding the Conference office. As a longtime resident, Cherrie felt it was important for the neighbors nearby to know what the office on Vliet St. was all about.
Nov. 24, 2019 – Interfaith Executive Director Pardeep Kaleka and immediate past Executive Director Tom Heinen were among the attendees at the Archdiocese of Milwaukee's 175th Anniversary Closing Mass at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki presided. This was followed by a reception at the Pfister Hotel – Grand Ballroom.
Nov. 10, 2019 – Interfaith Executive Director Pardeep Kaleka spoke and offered a reflection during Kristallnacht Remembrance at the Ovation Jewish Home presented by the Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center to never forget the violence unleased by the Nazis in Germany on Jewish synagogues, shops, and people Nov.9 and 10,1938. Dr. Shay Pilnik, Executive Director of the Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center, was one of the main speakers.
Nov. 6, 2019 – Interfaith Executive Director Pardeep Kaleka was the keynote speaker at a National Council of Jewish Woman's "Advocacy, Agency, and Action” event held at the Shorewood Public Library. Pardeep spoke on the role of taking care of ourselves when advocating for others. The event was held In partnership with Pathfinders, Moms Demand Action - WI, Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort, Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters - HIPPY USA, Tables Across Borders, and the City of Milwaukee Election Commission.
Oct 31, 2019 – Milwaukee Archdiocesan Auxiliary Bishop Jeffrey E. Hanes spoke about the history and importance of the Interfaith Conference's work as part of an ecumencial gathering of religious leaders commemorating the 10th anniversary of the historic national/international Lutheran-Catholic agreement about the doctrine of justification. Disagreement over this doctrine, which involved how a person achieves salvation, through good works or God's mercy, was a major cause of the Protestant Reformation. This Oct. 31 event was held at the Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee's Mary, Mother of the Church Pastoral Center in St. Francis. Participants acknowledged the progress made in the 20 years since the original Joint Declaration was signed, and did a resigning. Faith leaders who signed the declaration included Bishop Hanes; the Rev. Paul D. Erickson, Bishop, Greater Milwaukee Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; the Rev. Dr. Christian D. Boyd, Stated Clerk, Presbytery of Milwaukee, the Rt. Rev. Steven Miller, bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee; the Rev. Forest R. Wells, SE District Superintendent, Wisconsin Conference United Methodist Church.
Oct. 24, 2019 - Interfaith Conference Executive Director Pardeep Kaleka offered comments and a reflection about the importance of helping to provide employment opportunities, especially in the central city, at the opening of a Transitional Jobs Expo at the Archdiocese of Milwaukee's Mary Mother of the Church Pastoral Center in St. Francis. The Interfaith Conference's executive director position has had a seat on the Milwaukee Transitional Jobs Collaborative since it was formed 10 years ago. Transitional jobs are subsidized jobs that offer real work experience for real pay, leading them to full-time non-subsidized employment and independence. In Wisconsin, these government-funded programs offer employment for up to six months at minimum wage. There is no expense to the employers, though some choose to pay more than minimum wage. This offers many people with limited work histories and skills, including those with prison records, an opportunity to prove themselves, gain experience, and remain in the workforce.
Oct. 7-8, 2019 – Reflections Offered at SDC Poverty Conference -- Pardeep S. Kaleka, Interfaith Executive Director, provided an opening Interfaith Invocation and Rev. Reirin Gumbel, a member of the Interfaith Conference board and resident priest at the Milwaukee Zen Center, provided a guided meditation at the 2019 Summit on Poverty/SWIM Conference hosted by the Milwaukee County Social Development Commission (SDC) and Marquette University. Nearly 900 people convened at the Wisconsin Center to explore the themes of Self-Reflection, Hope, and Collective Impact.
Oct. 9, 2019 – Participation at Yom Kippur Study Session -- Interfaith Conference Executive Director Pardeep Kaleka was one of the speakers at "Sleepless in Milwaukee," a study session held at Congregation Shalom in Fox Point on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. Leaders of several faiths shared what keeps them up at night and what they are doing to address such challenges. Organized by Congregation Shalom, the event featured comments by: .
- Father Thomas Brundage of St. Jerome Parish, Oconomowoc, WI
- Very Rev. Javier Bustos of Archdiocese of Milwaukee/Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, Milwaukee, WI
- Rev. Chris Davis of North Shore Presbyterian Church, Shorewood, WI
- Rev. Joy L Gallmon of St. Mark African American Methodist Episcopal Church, Milwaukee, WI
- Rev. Marilyn Miller of Lutheran Church of the Reformation and MICAH, Milwaukee, WI
- Rabbi Ronald Shapiro, D.D., Congregation Shalom, Fox Point, WI
- Rev. Tory V. Topjian, Senior Pastor of Milwaukee Metropolitan Community Church, Milwaukee, WI
- H. Steven (Hillel) Moffic, M.D., member of Congregation Shalom, Fox Point, WI
- Father Thomas Brundage of St. Jerome Parish, Oconomowoc, WI
- Pardeep Singh Kaleka, Executive Director of Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee·
Sept 20, 2019 – Interfaith Executive Director Pardeep Kaleka gave a presentation on interfaith engagement and outreach to Catholic seminarians, priests/educators, and staff at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology in Hales Corners. Also participating were Dr. Stephen Shippee, and Bonnie Shafrin,
Sept. 8, 2019 - Somos Agua: We Are Water event by Milwaukee Water Commons, which brought together 300+ Milwaukeeans to explore their relationship to the earth and their water story. As part of the program, Interfaith Executive Director Pardeep Kaleka shared a story about Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism and the first of 10 Sikh gurus, which illuminated the relationship between faith and water. Interfaith staff member Cherrie Hanson chanted a prayer of peace and harmony.
August 3, 2019 – C.A.F.E. Day—The Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee and the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin partnered with the city of Oak Creek and the Oak Creek Farmer’s Market to celebrate Southeastern Wisconsin’s growing cultural diversity through educational interaction and thoughtful conversation. This community event was made possible through the participation of organizations sharing their history and culture to create a global experience. C.A.F.E. Day highlights the unique aspects of participating groups through: Culture, Art, Food, and Entertainment. Highlights included music, turban tying, sharing ethnic foods, and dancing events in Drexel Square.
Aug. 8, 2019 -- Participation at national ELCA Churchwide Assembly -- Several local Interfaith Conference leaders were among a group of national and international guests from diverse Christian and non-Christian faiths who stood on the wide presentation platform and received an extended standing ovation from more than 900 delegates at the Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in downtown Milwaukee on Aug. 8.
Prior to that, a few national and international representatives of different faiths offered greetings and gave brief presentations. Dr. Sayyid Syeed, president of the Islamic Society of North America, had been scheduled to speak but was unable to attend because his wife had a serious medical issue while traveling in India. Ahmed Quereshi, past president of the Islamic Society of Milwaukee and a Cabinet member and Executive Committee member of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee, represented ISNA on his behalf and spoke.
After some brief discussion and debate, and with the guests waiting on the platform, the Assembly overwhelmingly approved “A Declaration of Inter-Religious Commitment.” There was resounding applause throughout the massive hall in the Wisconsin Center, and many of the interfaith leaders on stage clasped the hand of the person next to them and raised their arms in unison. It was a moving and historic moment.
A draft of the statement, which was not amended, can be read at: ELCA Policy Statement.
Guests representing the Interfaith Conference and/or their respective faiths were introduced individually before the discussion and vote. They included:
Pardeep Kaleka, the Interfaith Conference’s new executive director, and his wife, Jaspreet; Interfaith Executive Director Emeritus Tom Heinen and his wife, Katie; Kishore Acharya, a board member of the Hindu Temple of Wisconsin in Pewaukee; The Rev. Reirin Gumbel, a member of the Interfaith Conference Cabinet (board of directors) representing the Buddhist Peace Fellowship and resident priest of the Milwaukee Zen Center; Elana Kahn, chair of the Interfaith Conference Cabinet (our board of directors) and director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation; Nooshin Nekooei, a member of the MTO Shahmaghsoudi School of Islamic Sufism in Franksville and Vice Chair of the Interfaith Conference’s Committee for Interfaith Understanding; Ahmed Quereshi, treasurer of the Interfaith Conference and past president of the Islamic Society of Milwaukee; Girish Shah, a member of the board of the Hindu Temple of Wisconsin; and Dick Smith, the Baha’i Faith’s representative on the Interfaith Conference’s Committee for Interfaith Understanding.
Housing Trust Fund
July 19, 2019 -- Dr. Swarnjit Arora, who represents the Interfaith Conference on the City of Milwaukee Housing Trust Fund Advisory Board, was present with Interfaith Executive Director Pardeep Kaleka and former Interfaith Executive Director Tom Heinen for the grand opening of a new affordable apartment building, SEVEN04 Place, at 704 W. National Ave. The building was constructed on an empty lot with a vacant warehouse that has been transformed into a vibrant new community that includes 46 units of affordable housing for working individuals and families. UnitedHealthCare provided much of the $12.2 million cost of the project. There were several other funders, including the Housing Trust Fund. The building was designed to meet Wisconsin Green Built Home certification standards.
UCC General Synod
June 21, 2019 -- Interfaith Conference Workshop at national UCC gathering -- Three Interfaith Conference leaders gave an "educational intensive" presentation and Q&A on interreligious relations and responding to religious bigotry to about 40 people at the United Church of Christ's General Synod -- a national gathering -- in the Wisconsin Center in downtown Milwaukee as preparation for the Synod adopting a resolution reaffirming the UCC's commitment to interreligious relations and deploring religious bigotry. Speaking were Elana Kahn, chair of the Interfaith Conference Cabinet (our board of directors) and director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation; Janan Najeeb, chair of the Interfaith Conference's Committee on Interfaith Understanding and president/founder of the Milwaukee Muslim Women's Coalition; and Tom Heinen, executive director of the Interfaith Conference.
The Rev. Bob and Julie Ullman, who reached out to the Interfaith Conference in organizing this workshop, later wrote:
"Many thanks for your willingness to do an Educational Intensive presentation on the resolution reaffirming the UCC's commitment to interreligious relations and deploring religious bigotry for the recent UCC General Synod in Milwaukee. We are so grateful that the three of you were willing to make this collective witness to this important issue. We were heartened by the committee chair's remarks to the plenary session that the EI had been most helpful for the committee's understanding of the issue as they deliberated what to recommend about the resolution. We thought you might be interested to see the press release after the Synod voted on the resolution. See link below. Also if you go to http://ucceverywhere.org/synod/resolutions and click on View All Resolutions you'll be able to see the progression of the resolution through the committee process to the final amended resolution as adopted by the General Synod.
"Again, many thanks for what many delegates said was one of the highlights of their Synod experience. We hope our paths will continue to cross as we support this important work. As a personal and side note, we are delighted by the Interfaith Board's decision to call Pardeep Kaleka as your new Executive Director. We look forward to new and renewed collaboration with you. All the best."
Peace and International Issues Committee (PIIC)
March 2019 -- Tuesdays-in-March Luncheon Lectures -- History and Importance of Immigrants/Refugees Opens Series -- About 112 people attended the opening session of our 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).
Slightly more than 100 people attended the second session, on March 12, to hear Sumudu Atapattu, director of the UW Law School Research Center, talk about climate change and its current and future causes of refugees in the context of human rights, the environment, and international law.
The final two sessions, which averaged attendance of more than 100 people, featured:
a) March 19 -- Mary Flynn, program manager of refugee resettlement for Lutheran Social Services, Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, talking about "Where is the welcome mat for refugees? And refugee resettlement efforts.
b) March 26 -- Barbara Graham, managing attorney for Catholic Charities Legal SErvices for Immigrants Program, talking on "The Tidal wave of changes in law and policies affecting asylum seekers, refugees and other immigrants.
The Milwaukee Independent published a story and several photos from the Tuesday, March 5, 2019 session. See: Milwaukee Independent & Interfaith
July 25, 2019 -- Detention Statement -- The Interfaith Conference Cabinet (board of directors) adopted a statement on the United States' detention centers for asylum seekers, saying that it sees our nation at the crossroads of a spiritual crisis because of the inhumane conditions created by our government. "The spiritual and ethical future of our nation is being determined by how we react in this humanitarian and spiritual crisis. If we fail to act and build compassionate policy and infrastructure surrounding asylum-seekers, we will not only cause irreparable harm to those in detention today - we will morally wound our nation and the generations to follow." For the full statement, see: Interfaith Advocacy.
May 13, 2009 -- Statement Against Hate in Waukesha County -- The Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee issued a statement that noted 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. See: Interfaith Advocacy.
April 11, 2019 – People of Faith United for Justice -- Over 80 religious leaders and laypersons from across Wisconsin gathered at First United Methodist Church in Madison to add their voices to debate surrounding the state legislature’s 2019-20 budget process.
Participants at the sixth biennial “People of Faith United for Justice” advocacy day heard from Rep. Melissa Sargent, who provided a legislator’s perspective on advocacy and the need to hear a social justice perspective in the Capitol.
Preparation for legislative visits was provided by workshops led by experts on the three social justice issues of importance to all the people of Wisconsin – ensuring there is access to clean drinking water in every part of the state; accepting federal funding to expand BadgerCare so more can afford health care; and support for more affordable early childhood education for working parents.
Co-sponsors included: the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee, Wisconsin Council of Churches, WI Faith Voices For Justice, Lutheran Office for Public Policy, Madison Area Urban Ministry, Milwaukee Jewish Federation, Jewish Federation of Madison and Wisconsin Jewish Conference. For more details, see: Advocacy Day
March 15, 2019 -- Stand Against Hatred and Violence -- The Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee issued a statement strongly condemning 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. See: Interfaith Advocacy.
Awards & Honors
Oct. 8, 2019 – Heinen honored by Archdiocese -- Immediate past Interfaith Conference Executive Director Tom Heinen, who retired this summer after 10 years in that position, received a Vatican ll Award for Service in Ecumenism from Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki in the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. The criteria for receiving this annual award include being active "in works of ecumenism and interfaith concerns, promoting love, understanding, and unity." Tom led a significant expansion of Interfaith Conference programming and the addition of seven new member faiths and denominations from Sept. 1, 2009 to July 1, 2019. The Archdiocese has been a member denomination since the Conference's founding in 1970 and has consistently had representatives in key leadership positions. The Conference now represents the regional leaders and members of 20 faiths and denominations. Tom and his wife, Katie (a very active Interfaith Conference volunteer), are longtime, active members of St. Michael's Catholic Church, a multicultural congregation on Milwaukee's near west side with many refugees and immigrants, and a Mass in eight languages and dialects.
Vatican II awards for other types of dedicated service to the Catholic faith, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, and to society were given to 13 other individuals in the cathedral with Tom.
Sept. 17, 2019 – Heinen honored by Rockwell -- Tom Heinen, who concluded 10 years of service as executive director of the Interfaith Conference when he retired July 1, was later honored by Rockwell Automation during an employee awards ceremony in the lounge atop the corporation's giant four-sided clock in recognition of his "valuable contributions, dedication, and services to the Faith Friendly & Allies Employee Resource Group." Steven Etzel, vice president/treasurer of Rockwell and the executive sponsor for this employee resource group, signed the certificate of recognition and participated in its presentation. Tom also received a mall crystal globe that had the Faith Friendly & Allies logo on it. Rockwell previously has honored the Interfaith Conference for its corporate outreach to them, which has included conducting lunchtime employee dialogues and arranging for presentations that provide in-depth information about diverse faiths.
June 20, 2019 – Pardeep & Arno Honored -- Pardeep Singh Kaleka and Arno Michaelis received the Robert H. Friebert Social Justice Award at the annual meeting of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation at Renaissance Place, 1451 N. Prospect Ave. A week later, on June 27, Pardeep was appointed executive director of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee, effecive July 1. At the time of the JCRC award presentation, he was a co-founder and head of Serve2Unite a nonprofit organization founded to counter extremism after the 2012 white supremacist attack on the Oak Creek Sikh Temple. 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 Arno Michaelis, a former white supremacist. He and Arno have spoken together about hate and reconciliation throughout the Milwaukee area, especially in schools, and elsewhere in the United States and overseas.