Religious Diversity News

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Festival of Chariots in Los Angeles

Source: Los Angeles Times

On July 29, 1999, the Los Angeles Times reported that the
Hindu Festival of Chariots, the 23rd annual Americanized version of
the celebration held in Orissa, India, will take place on Sunday,
August 1st. Instead of three chariots, three 10-story floats, which
represent the effigies of Krishna, his brother Balarama, and his
sister Subhadra, will be pulled by people in a festive procession
down Ocean Front Walk from Santa Monica to Venice. This festival in
India marks the end of summer and the growing season. The celebration
will feature a sitar player, a spiritual rock band, two dance groups
from Los Angeles, and a theatrical troupe from Florida. Exhibits will
include vegetarian cooking demonstrations, clothing and jewelry
booths, and a photo display of chariot festivals from around the
world.

New Hebrew-English Tanakh

Source: Los Angeles Times

On July 27, 1999, the Los Angeles Times reported that the
Jewish Publication Society has just published a Hebrew-English
Tanakh. Rabbi David Sulomm Stein, the managing edito, stated: “There’s an increasing number of
people who want to figure out where the Bible came from and how it
makes sense…This translation is one place to start.”

The United Against Hate Gospel Concert

Source: Sacramento Bee

On July 25, 1999, the Sacramento Bee reported that the
United Against Hate Gospel Concert took place on July 24th at the
Samuel C. Pannell Community Center in the Sacramento area of
California. More than 200 people attended the interfaith concert to
show support for one another in the aftermath of the three synagogue
arsons. Rev. Ronald E. Bell, a Progressive Church of God in Christ
minister who planned the event, stated: “These events are vitally
important because people need to know that any time a church is
attacked, we’re all coming together…It doesn’t matter if it’s a
Baptist church, a Buddhist church – we’re going to come together.”
Sarah Richey, a Sacramento resident who attended the event, stated:
“This is very encouraging…We’re getting to know each other’s
cultures so we can learn to love.” At the concert, more than $1000
was donated to the Unity Fund for synagogue rebuilding efforts.

The Omaha Center for Torah Learning

Source: Omaha World-Herald

On July 24, 1999, the Omaha World-Herald reported that
the Omaha Center for Torah Learning, a privately funded educational
institution that is part of the Kollel Torah MiTzion group, will open
on September 1st in Nebraska. Kollel Torah MiTzion is a
Jerusalem-based initiative that helps Jews outside of Israel to
create learning centers and recruit faculty. The first programs were
established in 1994 in Cleveland, Ohio and Cape Town, South Africa.
Now there are 22 programs in 8 countries, including 12 in the United
States. Along with Omaha, Syracuse, New York and Detroit, Michigan
will also be opening study centers with the help of Torah MiTzion.
These programs are open to all Jews at all levels of
knowledge.

Wicca Becoming More Popular on College Campuses

Source: The Plain Dealer

On July 24, 1999, The Plain Dealer published an article
on the presence of Wicca on college campuses. Practitioners and
scholars agree that college is a gateway for many into Paganism
because of the “usual willingness of the young to experiment with the
new and unfamiliar.” College students are attracted by Paganism’s
reverence for the Earth and nature and its flexibility and individuality.
“I like it because it’s a very self-styled religion…There’s not
very much dogma,” said Andee Brown, a computer science major at Smith
College who became a Wiccan two years ago. At least 75 college pagan
groups have internet web sites and the list keeps growing. “We’ve
seen an explosion of interest…It’s really been snowballing in the
last couple of years,” said Cairril Adaire of the Pagan Educational
Network. Although the exact number of Pagans can’t be determined, the
Pagan Educational Network estimates there are at least 150,000 to
600,000 Pagans in the United States.

First Buddhist Temple in Western New York

Source: The Buffalo News

On July 24, 1999, The Buffalo News reported that the Chau
Tu Hien Buddhist Cultural Center in Buffalo, NY will be dedicated on
July 25th. The Center will serve the growing Vietnamese Buddhist
community in the Buffalo area, which numbers about 400 to 500
families, and 70 to 100 American families. The Center consists of a
main worship hall, a reception area, a kitchen area, a small room for
praying to ancestors, living quarters for monks, a hall used by the
Buddhist Youth Association, and a room that will eventually become a
library. The temple features a 600-pound handmade statue of Buddha
and a 1,000-pound metal bell used to call temple members to worship.

The Day of Mindfulness in Oakland, California

Source: The San Francisco Chronicle

On July 24, 1999, The San Francisco Chronicle published
an article on the upcoming Day of Mindfulness to be held in Oakland,
California in mid-September. As many as 5,000 people are expected to
flock to Lakeside Park on the shores of Lake Merritt to experience
the first-ever day of meditation in an urban setting. The event will
be lead by Vietnamese meditation master Thich Nhat Hanh and will
include walking and sitting practice and a discussion on how to
employ Buddhist practices in everyday life. Mayor of Oakland Jerry
Brown will introduce Hanh and kickoff the ceremonies. We The People,
Jerry Brown’s organization, will be an event sponsor. Tickets for the
Day of Mindfulness are $75, with those under 18 and low-income asked
to pay $25. Organizers have urged that no one will be turned away for
lack of funds. Money raised by the event will be used by Hanh to
continue his work to fund medical clinics and schools in Vietnam.

Los Angeles Muslims and Jews Try to Move Beyond Conflict

Source: Los Angeles Times

On July 23, 1999, the Los Angeles Times published an
article on the efforts of Los Angeles Muslims and Jews to renew
efforts to create a code of ethics for civilizing Muslim-Jewish
relations. In the wake of the national controversy over the
appointment of Salam Al-Marayati to a national counter-terrorism
commission, the two sides are trying to salvage public relations.
Mather Hathout, spokesman for the Islamic Center of Southern
California, stated: “We have got to learn how to disagree-with
respect and civility and a touch of piety…and without lying about
each other.” On July 22nd, the Islamic Center of Southern California
held an hour-long meeting that drew 45 participants from major Jewish
and Muslim organizations. Jewish representatives from organizations
that campaigned against the Al-Marayati nomination, such as the
Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, were not
invited to the meeting.

Lubavitch Rabbis Offering Classes in Seattle, Washington

Source: The Seattle Times

On July 21, 1999, The Seattle Times reported that two
Brooklyn, NY-based rabbis from Project Talmud, the Lubavitch World
program, will spend three weeks in Bellevue, Washington offering free
classes for individuals and groups in the beliefs and practices of
Judaism from August 1 through August 20 at the Eastside Torah Center.
Project Talmud is being held in more than 100 cities in the United
States and Canada.