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Interfaith Inform
October 18, 2022
Kaufman Interfaith Institute


Looking back and looking forward: interfaith in West Michigan
By: Douglas Kindschi, Director, Kaufman Interfaith Institute, GVSU 
Last month the Aspen Institute released their report, Building Interfaith Bridges: West Michigan’s Journey toward Principled Pluralism. The occasion was the 10th anniversary of the Religion & Society Program held at their headquarters in Washington, D.C.  We are excited that our local and regional efforts are being recognized by this respected national organization. I was also on a panel with other interfaith leaders including Eboo Patel, president of Interfaith America, and Kelly Brown Douglas, dean of the Episcopal Divinity School at Union Seminary.  
The report traces the beginnings of interfaith relations and the Kaufman Institute going back to the 1980s in Muskegon and in Grand Rapids. It also documents the development of Jewish-Christian-Muslim dialogues, the Academic Consortium conferences, and the various special years beginning with the Year of Interfaith Understanding, as well as the years which focused on Service, Friendship, and Healing. 
The report explores the beginning of interfaith efforts going back to the Jewish-Christian Dialogue initiated by Sylvia Kaufman in the 1980s in Muskegon. In that same decade three women from the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths in Grand Rapids began meeting in homes. Lillian Sigal, Marchiene Rienstra, and Ghazala Munir soon invited others from various faith communities to join in. This led to the formation of the Interfaith Dialogue Association that has now merged with the Kaufman Interfaith Institute. 
You can read the electronic version of this report by clicking here.
It is noteworthy that both in Muskegon and in Grand Rapids it was Jewish women who took the leadership in bringing a wider and more accepting approach to the interfaith understanding. In an environment of increasing hate and violence it is often anti-Semitism that is expressed.  From the radical white nationalists in Charlottesville carrying their torches and shouting “Jews will not replace us,” to the tragic killing of Jewish worshippers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Pittsburgh community, our Jewish brothers and sisters are often the target. When it comes to racial and ethnic hatred, we must always remember the extremes of this which emerged in the Holocaust and the systematic genocide perpetrated by Hitler and the Nazis.  
The recent Ken Burns series on “The U.S. and the Holocaust” exposes the depth of anti-Semitism in our own country that contributed to the tragedy. It is important that we never forget, and some upcoming events in our community will be important in that effort. 
On Wednesday Nov. 30, the Jewish Federation of Grand Rapids in cooperation with WGVU will sponsor a screening of portions of the Ken Burns video along with a panel discussion. This will be held at Celebration Cinema North at 7:00 p.m.
Next week Wednesday, at Temple Emanuel, there will be a presentation “Stories of Hope & Courage from the Holocaust.” This interfaith presentation will feature Cassandra Kroondyk from Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church sharing vocal and violin musical responses. Please respond to bevkagan@hotmail.com to RSVP for this program on Oct. 26 at 10:30 a.m.
On the following Tuesday, Nov. 1 at 7:00 p.m. we are co-sponsoring the Padnos Public Engagement lecture at the Loosemore Auditorium at the GVSU downtown campus. “Remnants of a Mighty Nation: Jews through the Eyes of American Christians” will be presented by Dr. Julian Levinson, the Samuel Shetzer Professor of American Jewish Studies at the University of Michigan. RSVP for this event here
This year's Intefaith Thanksgiving Celebration, themed "Choosing Gratitute," will talke place on November 21, 7pm, at Temple Emanuel featuring a community refelction from Rabbi Michael Schadick. Many traditions and cultures will come together to give thanks for one another and to actively choose gratitude, even in the midst of uncertainty and division. A virtual freewill offering will be taken for Feeding America West Michigan. RSVP for this event here
Looking even further ahead, in February 2023 we are most pleased to bring a rising star from the Sikh community, Valarie Kaur, to our campus to talk about her book See No Stranger and her concept of revolutionary love. The Sikh community, along with other minority groups, is also discriminated against and even killed because its members look different. We must all be vigilant in living by the precept to love our neighbor and to love the stranger.  
A new book discussion group will begin this November reading See No Stranger. For more information and to join this group meeting by Zoom click here
As we seek peace among the religions, let us also work against the divisions that often become toxic, leading to hate and even violence.  This is so contrary to the religious teachings that we all share and to the basic concept of human dignity. 
Interfaith Book Discussion - SEE NO STRANGER, Fall Kick-off October 12th 2:00pm-3:30pm
Virtual via Zoom
We are pleased to announce that our book discussion for this season will be See No Stranger by Valarie Kaur, a renowned civil rights leader, lawyer, award-winning filmmaker, educator, innovator, and author.  The book was recommended by Grand Valley’s new provost and is being used by various campus groups as a reading book for discussion.  Her book is filled with personal stories and challenging messages for us all.
We will meet on alternate Wednesdays starting on Wednesday, November 2, 2022, and continuing through February 15, 2022.  These sessions will be co-facilitated by Ms. Karen Meyers and other members of the Kaufman staff. Our study will culminate in an opportunity to hear Valarie Kaur speak at a Kaufman/GVSU event on February 23, 2023. Reading the book together will be great preparation for hearing her message of “revolutionary love.”
Stories of Hope & Courage, October 26th 10:30am 
Temple Emanuel 
An interfaith program featuring stories of hope and courage from the Holocaust, with Cassandra Kroondyk, from Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, sharing vocal and violin music, accompanied by Dr. Ken Bos.
Dessert and coffee with e served following the program.
Please RSVP to bevkagan@hotmail.com to attend.
Remnants of a Mighty Nation: Jews Through The Eyes of American Christians, Novemer 1st 7:00pm 
Loosemore Auditorium, GVSU Downtown Campus
The Padnos Public Engagement on Jewish Learning Event, to take place on November 1 at 7 pm, will feature Dr. Julian Levinson, Samuel Shetzer Professor of American Jewish Studies, University of Michigan. Dr. Levinson will present a lecture called “'Remnants of a Mighty Nation': Jews Through the Eyes of American Christians” at the Loosemore Auditorium at the Richard M. Devos Center on Grand Valley State University's Campus.
The event will also be virtually simulcast via Zoom. Immediately following the lecture at approximately 8:30 there will be a light reception in the adjacent Lubbers Exhibition Hall.
Film Screenin and Discussion - Mission: Joy - Finding Happiness in Toubled Times, Novemer 3rd 7:00pm 
Celebration! Cinema, Studio Park
Join The Mosaic Film Experience, Celebration Cinema, and the Kaufman Interfaith Institute as we welcome award-winning photojournalist Jane Feldman to Grand Rapids for The Mosaic Film Experience’s screening of  Mission: Joy – Finding Happiness in Troubled Times .
Mission: Joy – Finding Happiness in Troubled Times is an exploration of the remarkable friendship between Archbishop Desmond Tutu and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The film shares the humor and wisdom of two of the world’s most beloved icons. Poignant, powerful, and practical — see never-before-seen footage of profound conversations and outrageous moments between these two fast friends.
Talking Together: Strengthening our communities through conversation
Tired of the toxic level of polarization in the U.S.? Interested in talking with people whose perspective differs from your own in ways that stay constructive? We invite you to join us for a year focused on creating a culture of conversation rather than division. 
The Padnos/Sarosik Center for Civil Discourse, Kaufman Interfaith Institute, Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies, and WGVU Public Media are pleased to partner for Talking Together: Strengthening our Communities through Conversation, a dialogue initiative aimed at interrupting polarization and investing in the principles of civil discourse and respectful conversation. Each month will feature at least one structured activity for students, staff, faculty, and community members to engage in conversation with one other across differences in perspective, identity, and life experiences.