At the publishing party for Friendship & Faith, I marveled at all the players in the one room: Hindu, Muslim, Jew, Baha’i, Buddhist, Baptist pastor, Catholic educator, Japanese-American Presbyterian. They were dressed in pants, skirts, and saris, hair covered by the hijab, in high heels and barefoot. We ate ruggelach, baklava and a delicious mango pudding I still want the recipe for.
The Women of WISDOM (Women’s Interfaith Solutions for Dialogue and Outreach in MetroDetroit) is a network of women from many religious and cultural backgrounds committed to creating peace, friendship by friendship. They have come together to learn from one another and build bridges at a time when it seems all that is being built are barriers.
Friendship & Faith is a collection of their stories, accounts of discovery and transformation, courage and enlightenment, struggles to understand the other and grow past personal prejudices. I had the honor of interviewing two of the women in the book and writing their stories for the project.
At the party we stood in a circle as each woman was introduced and a short preface to her story was read. One woman, small and dark-haired smiled at me from across the circle. Semitic looking yet dressed thoroughly modern she looked familiar. I had been in synagogue youth group with girls who could have grown up to look like her. The smile from across the room was a touchstone in an unfamiliar setting.
The short accounts that were read were powerful. “You’re an American Caucasian woman — so how can you be a Buddhist?” one woman related in her story. Another expressed my sentiments precisely. “I don’t like the word ‘tolerate’ ” she wrote. “We need more than that in our relationships.”
When it came time to introduce my smile-friend across the room, I learned that Mona Farroukh, Muslim from birth, is called “Tiny Mighty” for all the empowerment work she does in her community. Ending her sixteen-year marriage to an abusive husband, Farroukh completed her bachelor’s degree and is now pursuing a master’s degree, determined to help the women in her community find, and keep, their voices. The moments we spent talking afterward were pure WIDSOM. One Jew, one Muslim. Or simply two women talking about their lives, sharing stories of work and child rearing
The book, edited by David Crumm, founder of ReadtheSpirit.com, and published by Read the Spirit Books, profiles the stories of twenty-eight extraordinary women. The Women of WISDOM are committed to building a peaceful world. And they are doing it — one friendship at a time.
Read the first story in the book.