Religious Diversity News

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Wiccan Reflections on Halloween/Samhain

Source: Los Angeles Times

On October 31st, while many Americans celebrate Halloween as trick-or-treating and costume-wearing, Wiccans celebrate Samhain or Hallowmas, which is the Wiccan New Year.

Two articles were written which engage Halloween as a Wiccan holiday. On October 29, 1998, the Los Angeles Times published an article entitled, “Their Guiding Light.” Ruth Barrett, instructor and co-founder of Circle of Aradia in Southern California, describes Samhain as the “night where the veil between worlds is thinnest: between this world and the spirit world, light and dark, the old year and new year.”

Jewish Exploration of Tibetan Buddhism

Source: Sun-Sentinel

On October 23, 1998, the Sun-Sentinel issued an article
about a series of events to take place at the Temple Beth El of
Hollywood, Florida from October 30th – November 5th exploring the
relationship between Judaism and Tibetan Buddhism. The events will
be based around a set of screenings for a new film entitled, “The Jew
in the Lotus,” which is based on a 1995 book by poet Rodger Kamenetz.
The book tells of a 1990 journey of eight Jewish leaders to meet
with the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India. On October 31st, Temple
Beth El hosted a special Seder for Palden Gyatso, a Tibetan monk who
was released from a Chinese prison in 1992 after 31 years of

First American Woman Becomes “Roshi”

Source: Chicago Tribune

On October 23, 1998, the Chicago Tribune published an
article concerning the official transmission of Sherry Chayat as
“roshi” in the Rinzai Zen sect of Buddhism at a special ceremony at
the Syracuse Zen Center on October 18th, 1998. Sherry Chayat is an
adjunct art instructor at Syracuse University, an affiliate Buddhist
chaplain at the university, and the abbot at the Syracuse Zen Center.
Her transmission as roshi, a “venerable teacher” who is able to pass
down the teachings of Rinzai Zen, marks the first time an American
woman has been transmitted as a roshi by any Rinzai Zen sect. Chayat
commented on her transmission: “It is an acknowledgment of a meeting
of minds between teacher and student…but the path itself is
endless, and understanding is boundless…and I’ve just begun.”
Concerning the ceremony, Chayat mentioned that it is not a personal
achievement but an “opening up to the truth in the universe.”

Fire at Connecticut Sikh Association

Source: The Hartford Courant

On October 22, 1998, The Hartford Courant reported on a
massive fire that destroyed a large commercial building in downtown
Hartford on October 20th. The Connecticut Sikh Association, which
rented the second floor of the building and used it for worship
services and other activities, had stored their copy of the Sikh holy
books inside the building. The fire gutted most of the second floor,
but the holy books and many religious artifacts survived the fire.
Hargurpreet Singh, a member of the Connecticut Sikh Association,
stated “we respect that book more than out lives…you can buy
another copy, but to Sikhs it is a living book.” No one was hurt in
the fire.

Haitian Vodou Exhibition

Source: Newsday

On October 21, 1998, Newsday reported on an exhibition at
the American Museum of Natural History entitled, “Sacred Arts of
Haitian Vodou.” The exhibition, which runs through January 3rd, has
come to New York as the last stop of a two-year tour. With more than
500 objects, it is the “most exhaustive exhibition ever devoted to
the artifacts of voodoo.” Vodou art “sanctifies the ordinary” such
that mundane objects, like Coke bottles and tin cups, can be
transformed into devotional objects. Vodou, which fuses the beliefs
and practices of African traditions, Roman Catholicism, Freemasonry,
and European occultism, began to form when African slaves were
imported to Hispaniola from 1680 to 1791. During that time, the
slaves began to merge their native beliefs with the colonist
religions which confronted them. Despite the “much maligned”
treatment of the vodou religion in Western culture, the reviewer
believes this exhibition “can erase some long-cherished

Conservative Judaism Issues New Manual Responsive to Women’s Issues

Source: Chicago Sun-Times

On October 21, 1998, The Chicago Sun-Times issued an
article concerning the new “Rabbi’s Manual”, which is published for
750 Conservative synagogues in North America and 200 other synagogues
worldwide. The new Manual, an updating of the 1965 edition,
establishes a “grieving ritual” for couples after abortions and
includes gender-neutral language. Rabbi Reuven Frankel of B’nai
Tikvah Synagogue in Deerfield, Illinois, approves of the changes:
“It’s a very necessary updating….Necessity is sometimes determined
by new perceived needs. Certain things that are painful were not
being addressed.” Rabbi Michael Siegel of Congregation Anshe Ernet
Synagogue in the Lake View neighborhood of Chicago also approves:
“The voice of women, which was silent across the ages, is now being
heard in a much more meaningful way.” The Conservative branch of
Judaism, which began to allow women rabbis in the early 1980s, is in
the “center” of American Judaism, between Orthodoxy and the Reform

Buddhist Temple in Cleveland Notes Increase in Teen Participation

Source: The Plain Dealer

On October 7, 1998, The Plain Dealer reported that the
Cleveland Buddhist Temple is experiencing an upsurge of student
participation in Buddhist meditation classes. Dennis Edwards, a
part-time volunteer instructor at the Cleveland Buddhist Temple,
leads a beginners class on Buddhist meditation and says that the
class attracts students studying religion at area colleges and an
increasing number of high school students from local private schools.