Religious Diversity News

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Mosque Vandalized in Illinois

Source: Chicago Sun-Times

On May 24, 1999, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the
mosque at the Islamic Foundation in Villa Park, Illinois was
vandalized when a basketball-sized concrete block was thrown through
the mosque’s windows on the morning of May 15th, 1999. Though the
vandals left no sign of anti-Islamic graffiti, members of the mosque
believe it was a hate crime because of the size of the rock and the
repeated presence of a white van with four teenagers outside the
mosque on the morning of May 15th. Religious leaders in the Chicago
area have announced their support for the mosque and decried the
vandalism. About 20 religious leaders and local politicians
symbolically carried the stone out of the mosque on a sheet,
re-enacting an episode from the life of Muhammed that quelled a
dispute.

The Changing Face of Judaism

Source: The Boston Globe

On May 24, 1999, The Boston Globe published an article on
the changes affecting Reform Judaism. Describing the Pittsburgh
Principles, Jonathan Sarna, professor of American Jewish History at
Brandeis University, stated: “In many ways, it’s a little bit like a
political platform. It seeks to allow large numbers of people to feel
comfortable and tries not to alienate anybody. And in a voluntary
religious environment where you want as many members as possible,
that’s probably wise.” Rabbi David Wolfman, executive director of the
Northeast Council of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations,
stated: “We (as Reform Jews) feel very comfortable as
Americans and now we are reclaiming those traditions that have always
been ours. It doesn’t mean we’re going to become less liberal or less
progressive.”

Religious Leaders in Cleveland Attempting to Help Poor

Source: The Plain Dealer

On May 20, 1999, The Plain Dealer reported that a dozen
Muslim, Christian, and Jewish clergy, representing about 1.2 million
Northeast Ohioans, met at a Cleveland mosque on May 19th to discuss
how they can more effectively deal with the growing numbers of poor
people who are seeking their aid. An interfaith coalition has formed
around this issue due to the recent experiences of many religious
communities in attempting to help those whose public assistance
benefits have run out. Welfare caseloads in Ohio are at their lowest
levels since 1970 and cash assistance has decreased 60 percent since
March 1992. Rabbi Elliot Kleinman, a regional director of the Union
of American Hebrew Congregations, stated the goals of the new
coalition: “We want social policy that is created not just out of a
sense of political effectiveness, but also out of a moral sense of
what is right. We want to insure everyone is cared for and nobody is
left out.”

The Changing Face of Judaism

Source: The Jerusalem Post

On May 19, 1999, The Jerusalem Post reported that Los
Angeles’ University of Judaism graduated the first group of
Conservative rabbis to be ordained outside of New York. Four men and
four women made up the graduating class of the four-year-old Ziegler
School of Rabbinic Studies at the University of Judaism, which is
affiliated with the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.
Originally, Jewish Theological Seminary opposed the idea of a second
rabbinical school, but now tempers have “cooled down and officials at
both schools, though still competitive, expressed high esteem for
each other.”

Islamic Community in Boston to Build Large Center

Source: The Boston Globe

On May 18, 1999, The Boston Globe published an article
on the new Islamic Institute of Boston, a planned 60,00-square-foot
facility that is expected to open late next year on city-owned
property next to Roxbury Community College. The Islamic Society of
Boston has been using a mosque in Cambridge for the past four years,
but soon it became inadequate for the growing Muslim population in
Boston. The Muslim population in Massachusetts has been estimated at
40-50,000, which is about double that of 20 years ago. Dr. Muhammad
Attawia, acting director of the Islamic society of Boston, expressed
the overcrowded situation of the current mosque: “We’ve had people
praying in the rain, the snow, and in the hot sun. Inside, we have
people praying in the stairwells, in the corridors, everywhere.
That’s why we need this new institute.” The new complex is slated to
cost $7-8 million, with financing provided by the United Bank of
Kuwait, and will include a school, library, and prayer hall that can
accommodate as many as 1,700 worshipers. Attawia stressed that the
Islamic Society of Boston wants the new facility “to be a resource to
the community so it can learn more about Islam. We want to share this
center with everybody.”

Controversy over Religious Rights of Pagans in the Military

Source: No source given.

On May 18, 1999, Representative Bob Barr’s press release
called for the exclusion of the Wiccan religion and Witchcraft from the countries’ military bases. Barr’s attack has been countered by many voices from within the Pagan community. The Witches’ Voice reports that “John Machate, Coordinator/CEO of the Military Pagan Network responded in a letter to Congressman Barr, “This is a direct attack on the Constitution of the United States. All religions are protected, not just those that Congress, the President or the Supreme Court determine. All religions are and should be permitted free practice on military bases, within reasonable limits, to insure that the service can accomplish its mission, and to quote Chief Justice Rehnquist, ‘foster instinctive obedience, unity, commitment, and esprit de corps…’ . Wicca, also known as witchcraft, in no way prevents the military from accomplishing its goals. By allowing service members and dependants to worship on post they are increasing morale of the troops and families as well as fulfilling their Constitutional obligation.”” Lady Liberty League is maintaining an updated news alert as this situation progresses.

The Changing Face of Judaism

Source: The Denver Post

On May 17, 1999, The Denver Post reported that 100
volunteers from the Jewish community in Denver cleaned up the
paupers’ section of Golden Hill Cemetery, which contains the graves
of Jewish tuberculosis victims from the early 1900s who fled from New
York to Denver to seek treatment. Historian Ron Sladek stated: “In
those times, when people got on the trains to Denver, their families
would just kiss them goodbye and basically write them off for dead.
They knew they weren’t ever going to see them again.” The clean-up
continues a 10-year effort to maintain the paupers’ section of the
cemetery. Rob Rubin, executive director of the Synagogue Council of
Greater Denver, stated: “The dead cannot come back and thank us or
try to repay us for what we have done. Carrying out this mitzvah is
the most selfless act we can do.”

The Changing Face of Judaism

Source: Los Angeles Times

On May 16, 1999, the Los Angeles Times published an
article on the Conservative rabbis ordained in Los Angeles. Rabbi
Lawrence Goldmark, president of the Southern California Board of
Rabbis, stated: “The signal is obvious. The West Coast, and
especially Los Angeles, has become one of the most important centers
of Jewish life in America.” Many Jewish leaders feel that “a
different kind of rabbi willing to break the mold is likely to come
out of Los Angeles schools.” The Reform movement, whose ordinations
in the United States have only been in Cincinnati and New York, is
also planning to ordain rabbis in Los Angeles in the next several
years.

Bomb Plot Against Denver Mosque

Source: The Denver Post

On May 15, 1999, The Denver Post reported that Jack M.
Modig was charged with attempted first-degree arson of the Colorado
Muslim Society’s Islamic Center southeast of Denver. He was caught on
the night of May 12th in front of the mosque in a car that had a
“small arsenal of weapons, black clothing, tactical goggles, and
writings indicating his hatred for Muslims and his desire to bomb the
mosque.” Some Muslims were hesitant to attend services on Friday, but
others wanted to come to midday prayers in order to show that the
mosque belonged to them. Emameudin Ghiasi, a member of the Center’s
board of directors, discussed implementing increased security
measures with the board, though no decisions have been made. Ghiasi
stated that “Muslims promote peace. We don’t teach terrorism or how
to bomb and blow up buildings. If he (Modig) knew any Muslims he
wouldn’t have any hatred in his heart for us.” Modig is being held in
Arapahoe County Jail.