Religious Diversity News

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New Buddhist Center in Florida

Source: The Tampa Tribune

On May 8, 1999, The Tampa Tribune reported that the
Parbawatiya Buddhist Center will open a new home in Safety Harbor,
Florida, with opening ceremonies to be held May 15-16. The Center,
which is moving from a house in Clearwater to a former cafe and gift
shop in downtown Safety Harbor, will provide a greater “sense of
belonging” for the 50 regular attendees of the Center’s programs.
Nick Gillespie, resident teacher of the Center, stated: “With the new
center, we are looking to establish some program to give back to the
community. Now that we have our own place, we want to become part of
the community.”

The Changing Face of Judaism

Source: Omaha World-Herald

On May 8, 1999, the Omaha World-Herald published an
article on a talk by historian Jonathan Sarna concerning the changing demographics of Judaism in the United States.
According to Sarna, the Jewish population in
America in the 1940s was 3.7 percent – now it is 2.2 percent. Israel
will soon displace the United States as the largest Jewish community
in the world, but American Judaism has spawned many new movements.
Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox are “sharing the stage” with
Jewish New Age, transdenominational, and other movements. Sarna
believes that this adds up to an identity crisis, in which the
options are assimilation, revitalization, and renewal. Sarna stated:
“The decisions we make will make the difference. The future belongs
to Jews with the vision and fortitude to shape the future.”

College Students in World Religions Class in California Learn from Visits to Communities

Source: The San Diego Union-Tribune

On May 7, 1999, The San-Diego Union-Tribune published an
article on the experiences of students in a world religions class at
Cuyamaca College in El Cajon, California. Paul Carmona, chairman of
humanities and performing arts at Cuyamaca and professor for the
course, asks that his students visit two religious communities other
than one’s own, one Eastern and one Western. Carmona commented on the
changes that take place within the students as a result of these
visits: “There seems to be a paradoxical side of it, where a lot of
them aren’t ready to accept the equality of other religions but
somehow or other they are more accepting and tolerant.” Student Wendy
Palladino mentioned that the visits “break down a lot of
stereotypes.” Heather Elliott was one of the few students to visit a
mosque, a situation that Carmona feels is partly to be blamed on
“unflattering media depictions.” Elliott stated that she was hesitant
to go at first, but she feels more informed now. Student Rebecca Kane
stated: “I think doing these projects allowed me to have an open
mind.” Student Said Habib stated: “I honestly feel that this class
has changed me.”

The Changing Face of Judaism

Source: The Indianapolis Star

On May 7, 1999, The Indianapolis Star reported on the
growing trend of American conversions to Judaism. Rabbi Dennis Sasso
of Congregation Beth-El Zedeck in Indianapolis stated: “During the
last 30 years, pluralism in this country has created a greater social
and cultural interaction among people of different faiths and
traditions. In that context, Judaism has become a meaningful option
for people who are searching.” Congregation Beth-El Zedeck, which
offers regular classes for those seeking conversion to Judaism, is
embracing what Gary Tobin, a San Francisco writer and Jewish
activist, has called a “proactive conversion,” a kind of marketing of
Judaism. This view of Judaism emphasizes Jewish identity as a people,
not just as a religion, and seeks to create a vital and welcoming
community. Rabbis have devised a Service of Acceptance for new
converts, a liturgy that is similar to a bar or bat mitzvah. For more
information on Jewish conversion, visit Jewish Outreach.

Celebration of Religious Pluralism in Milwaukee

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

On April 26, 1999, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
published an article on the Celebration of Religious Pluralism at the
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Union, held on Sunday, April 25th,
and sponsored by The Milwaukee Association for Interfaith Relations.
About 150 people participated in small group discussions, a peace
dance, and other activities. Rev. Martin E. Marty, a retired
University of Chicago professor and director of the Public Religion
Project, was the keynote speaker. Marty stated: “those of you who
sometimes think it’d be nice if we were all one faith: In the United
States, where we have all this pluralism, you have the highest
participation in religion of any of the industrialized nations in the
world.” Judi Longdin, chairwoman of the Milwaukee Association for
Interfaith Relations, stated that despite the relative lack of
diversity in Milwaukee as compared to the two coasts, it is “seeing
rapid growth in the Muslim and Buddhist communities.”

The Changing Face of Judaism

Source: Los Angeles Times

On April 26, 1999, the Los Angeles Times published an
article on Temple Beth Solomon in Arleta, California, which is the
only temple in the United States founded by and for deaf Jews.
Established in 1960, Temple Beth Solomon has served the community of
30,000 to 50,000 deaf Jews in this country who want to learn Torah
and study Hebrew. Ancient Jewish teachings barred deaf Jews from
undertaking bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies because the rabbis could
not communicate with them. Now, deaf Jews have the opportunity to
undertake bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies, but they have to learn how
to speak Hebrew and how to do phonetic signing of Hebrew and learn
its signed meaning. Many of the students grew up in hearing temples
where they didn’t know what was going on. Temple president Roz
Robinson stated: “We (deaf people) own it, we run it. This is
about deaf people deciding what deaf people want. The idea that we
have our own synagogue, controlled by us, is really amazing.”

Kosovo Coverage

Source: No source given.

On April 20, 1999, CAIR announced that more than $300,000
had been collected in a fund-raiser on Sunday, April 18th held by
Muslims in Southern California for the innocent civilians of Kosovo.
Nationwide, American Muslim organizations have collected more than $2
million for Kosovo relief. (April 20, 1999, Council on
American-Islamic Relations)

Sikhs Celebrate 300th Anniversary of the Khalsa

Source: Sacramento Bee

On April 19, 1999, the Sacramento Bee reported on the
300th anniversary celebrations of the Khalsa which took place on
Sunday, April 18th in Sacramento and Yuba City, California. Even with
all of the celebrations, the Sikh New Year, Vaisakhi, is supposed to
be reflective. Dr. Narinder Singh Parhar, a Roseville, CA internist
who maintains Khalsa practice, explained that, “it’s a time for
(believers) to see if they’ve been good Sikhs. Are they sticking to
the principles? Are they sticking to the causes?”

Sikhs Celebrate 300th Anniversary of the Khalsa

Source: The Atlanta Journal and Constitution

On April 17, 1999, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution
reported on the celebrations in the Sikh community of Atlanta for the
300th anniversary of the Khalsa to take place on Sunday, April 18th
in the community’s gurdwara.

Sikhs Celebrate 300th Anniversary of the Khalsa

Source: The Indianapolis Star

On April 17, 1999, The Indianapolis Star reported on the
new Sikh temple in Indianapolis. Though the Sikh community
established itself in Indianapolis in the 1960s, Sikhs have been
worshipping in rented houses and community centers for the past
several decades. Today, more than 200 Sikh families are a part of the
new temple community. They are happy to be able to celebrate the Sikh
New Year, Vaisakhi, and the 300th anniversary of the Khalsa in their
own temple.