2012 Events and Activities

2012 Report 

Annual Luncheon 

Dec. 6, 2012 – We drew 345 people to our annual luncheon in the Italian Community Center to hear Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, tell of tracking and countering the rapidly rising numbers of hate groups and armed militia groups. We honored the Sikh community with a citation and standing ovation for its remarkably peaceful, forgiving response to the temple shootings. 

At the luncheon, we gave our Frank Zeidler Award for involving faith communities in social issues to Dr. Lakshmi Bharadwaj, UWM sociology professor emeritus and longtime Hindu Temple of Wisconsin representative to our Milwaukee Association for Interfaith Relations (now renamed our Committee for Interfaith Understanding). We gave our Rev. Herbert Huebschmann Urban Ministry Award to Tikkun Ha-Ir (a Jewish organization with a dynamic Surplus Harvest Project), our Youth Leadership Award to Ma’ruf ( a Muslim social-justice organization that engages youths in volunteer service projects), and our Mark Rohlfing Memorial Award to Dr. Francine Feinberg, former executive director of Meta House (one of the first programs in the nation that allowed women with alcohol and drug dependencies to live with their children while undergoing treatment.)

Our emcee was the Rev. Jean Dow, chair of the Interfaith Conference Cabinet and associate pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church on the city’s east side.

Wisconsin Public Radio’s Kathleen Dunn interviewed Richard Cohen on her show from 9 to 10 a.m. the morning of our luncheon. The interview is archived at www.wpr.org/kathleendunn

Milwaukee Labor Press Editor Dominique Paul Noth also interviewed Cohen that morning 


Dec. 3, 2012 – We arranged a meeting of some 20 lay and ordained leaders from several denominations and faiths with James Santelle, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, and visiting Assistant U.S. Attorney General Tom Perez, who oversees all civil rights enforcement nationwide, to talk about bullying, security, religious freedom, immigration reform and more. Santelle asked us to make and coordinate the invitations.


Nov. 17, 2012 – Interfaith Conference Executive Director Tom Heinen gave a plenary presentation on the Conference, on our co-sponsorship of a “Season of Civility” project with the Wisconsin Council of Churches, and on related topics at “In Defense of Civility: A one-day conference on today’s challenge to our religious and political communities.” Held at Immanuel Presbyterian Church on Milwaukee’s east side, it was organized by Immanuel and the Covenant Network of Presbyterians. The Rev. Jean Dow, associate pastor of Immanuel and chair of the Interfaith Conference Cabinet, introduced him. 


Nov. 12, 2012 – Our Interfaith Earth Network piloted a new “Celebrate Sustainably” workshop program at St. Therese Catholic Church in Milwaukee. At different stations, speakers demonstrated how to decorate sustainably, gift sustainably, shop sustainably, wrap gifts sustainably, and send/reuse cards sustainably.


Nov. 8, 2012 – Interfaith Conference Executive Director Tom Heinen introduced Jay Williams, former mayor of Youngstown, Ohio, and current executive director of the U.S. Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers, at a “Job Clubs and Career Ministries Symposium” at Hales Corners Lutheran Church. The event was organized by the U.S. Labor Department’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.


Oct. 21-22, 2012 – We drew more than 200 people to “Ground for Hope – Wisconsin,” a two-day regional environmental training conference for clergy, seminarians and lay leaders of many faiths. Our Interfaith Earth Network Steering Committee and the national GreenFaith organization were the two main organizers, with key help from 20 major co-sponsoring organizations, and with supplemental funding from the High Wind Association. The first day was held at the Islamic Community Center; the second at the Archbishop Cousins Center. Keynote speakers included renowned Native American environmentalist Winona LaDuke and Ken Leinbach, executive director of the Urban Ecology Center. There were many workshops and three optional eco-spirit bus tours to inspirational secular and faith-based sites of environmental and sustainability projects.


Oct. 14, 2012 – Despite rainy, cool weather, we raised more than $56,000 in donations and more than 16,000 pounds of food from more than 500 walkers and 74 congregations and groups with our annual lakefront Greater Milwaukee CROP Hunger Walk. One new addition, the Kohl’s Design it! Mobile Lab, provided on-site craft-making activities for children. There was live music by the Caupolicán (Toqui) group, and later drumming by Jahmes Finlayson of Hands with Heart, which included audience participation on instruments.

Oct. 5, 2012 – Terri Lowder, chair of our Interfaith Earth Network Steering Committee, gave a lunch-hour PowerPoint presentation on the links between faith and ecology to about 20 seminarians and faculty members at Sacred Heart School of Theology in Hales Corners. Interfaith Conference Executive Director Tom Heinen also spoke, emphasizing our upcoming interfaith Ground for Hope – Wisconsin environmental training conference for clergy, seminarians and lay leaders.


Sept. 24, 2012 – In response to the Sikh temple shooting, we organized “Know Your Neighbors: Exploring Our Diverse Faiths” and filled Oak Creek Community United Methodist Church with a diverse, regional crowd of more than 200 people on a Monday night when the Green Bay Packers played on national television. Sikh priests chanted from their holy book; Sikh leaders talked about their faith and customs; we presented a check to the Sikh leaders for slightly more than $5,500 in donations to aid the temple shooting victims; representatives of Hinduism, Judaism, Islam and Buddhism gave shorter presentations. Many people lingered to socialize. Our Interfaith Earth Network had a display, and IEN leaders interacted with several people, including some young adult Sikhs who are very interested in environmental issues and sustainability.


Sept. 20, 2012 – We helped plan and present the 5th Annual Frank P. Zeidler Memorial Lecture, which marked the 100th anniversary of the former Milwaukee mayor’s birth by featuring daughter Jeanne Zeidler sharing stories and reflections about him and his legacy in the Milwaukee Public Library’s Centennial Hall. Jeanne served 12 years as the mayor of Williamsburg, Va., and oversaw the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown as executive director of Jamestown 2007. She currently is president and CEO of the Williamsburg Community Health Foundation. Interfaith Conference Executive Director Tom Heinen serves on the lecture committee, which is comprised of representatives of organizations that Frank Zeidler founded, led or supported during his lifetime of public service.


August, 2012 – In response to the Aug. 5, 2012 fatal shootings of six and the wounding of four others by a white supremacist at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek, many Interfaith Conference leaders offered support. They attended prayer vigils at the Sikh Religious Society of Wisconsin’s temple in Brookfield, at the Hindu Temple of Wisconsin in Pewaukee and in the park near the Oak Creek Community Center. Many also attended the wake at Oak Creek Middle School for those slain in the shootings. We solicited and shared compelling prayers and statements by religious organizations and individuals on our website, and by year’s end we raised more than $5,625 from the public and from our supporters for the victims and their families, including the wounded Oak Creek police officer. 


Aug. 12, 2012 – Interfaith Conference Executive Director Tom Heinen was one of several speakers at a community commemoration of the Sikh Temple shooting that also called for solutions to violence in our society. It was organized by several grass-roots community organizations and was held in Pere Marquette Park along the Milwaukee River in the heart of the city’s downtown.


Aug. 10, 2012 – The Rev. Jamie Washam, vice chair of the Interfaith Conference and pastor of Underwood Memorial Baptist Church in Wauwatosa, was interviewed with Interfaith Executive Director Tom Heinen for a WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio Lake Effect segment that was broadcast Aug. 10 and was titled “Bringing Together Communities of Faith after Temple Shootings.” The show is archived at www.wuwm.com/programs/lake_effect/


Aug. 8, 2012 – Interfaith Conference Executive Director Tom Heinen spoke at a prayer vigil for the Sikh Temple shooting victims, organized by the Hindu Temple of Wisconsin and held at the Hindus’ temple in Pewaukee.


Aug. 7, 2012 – Dr. Swarnjit Arora, an economics professor at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and a longtime Sikh representative on the Interfaith Conference’s Milwaukee Association for Interfaith Relations (renamed in 2013 as our Committee for Interfaith Understanding) was interviewed by Wisconsin Public Radio’s Kathleen Dunn on her show from 10 to 11 a.m. The show is archived at www.wpr.org/kathleendunn


Aug. 6, 2012 – Interfaith Conference Executive Director Tom Heinen was interviewed by Wisconsin Public Radio’s Kathleen Dunn on her show from 10 to 10:30 a.m. about the Sikh Temple shootings, the community’s responses, religious diversity, interfaith relations, etc. The show is archived at www.wpr.org/kathleendunn


July 27, 2012 – Terri Lowder, chair of our Interfaith Earth Network Steering Committee, led an Eco-Spirit tour to area sites of creative environmental/sustainability efforts for visitors from Germany. Their hosts were two Waukesha County congregations – Redeemer United church of Christ in Sussex and Evangelical and Reformed United Church of Christ in Waukesha. The visitors were from St. Lukas-Gemeinde Congregation in Paderborn, Germany.


July 17, 2012 – We drew more than 370 people from many congregations and faith communities for our third annual Interfaith Day at Miller Park, with t-shirts that said “Going to bat for a better world.” This is a fund-raising and a consciousness-raising event, as well as a community building event for participating congregations. Passion for sports is almost a religion in itself, and it is quite fitting that we bring our people and our message into the region’s largest sports venue. We also collected food for the Hunger Task Force at Miller Park from our participants. 


June 10, 2012 – Our Milwaukee Association for Interfaith Relations (a committee of the Interfaith Conference) organized and held “Interreligious Dialogue: A Friendship” with the Hindu Temple of Wisconsin. The event that drew more than 220 people to the Hindu Temple in Pewaukee to hear a prominent Hindu speaker, Dr. Anantanand Rambachan, professor of religion, philosophy and Asian studies at Saint Olaf College in Minnesota. Panelists representing Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Hinduism gave shorter responses. The event included tours of the temple, and an Indian dinner. Dr. Rambachan used Mahatma Gandhi and Gandhi’s closest friend, Anglican priest Charles Freer Andrews, as a model for interfaith relationship. Dr. Rambachan’s many honors and accomplishments include giving the distinguished Lambeth Lecture at Lambeth Palace in London at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury in 2008, and delivering the invocation address at the historic celebrations of the Hindu festival of Diwali in the U.S. White House in 2003 and 2004.


June 9, 2012 – Interfaith Conference Executive Director Tom Heinen was one of three panelists who presented a workshop entitled “Interfaith Experiences in Local Communities” at the annual meeting of the Wisconsin Conference, United Church of Christ, at the Green Lake Conference Center.


June 3, 2012 – We co-sponsored and helped plan “Responding to Hunger: Creating Local Solutions” at Marquette University with the Jewish Community Relations Council, the Hunger Task Force, and three other organizations. It featured a screening of the movie “Food Stamped,” a presentation by the Hunger Task Force, and several workshops on topics ranging from hunger advocacy and victory gardens to a farm bill policy update and examples of innovative projects started by congregations.


April 20, 2012 – Our Interfaith Earth Network piloted its new “Trash Talking” educational program during High Interest Day at St. Sebastian School in Milwaukee. An IEN team obtained a large, laminated map of the world. The team then collected selected “trash” items days in advance from trash cans at the school, washed the items supplemented them with some additional items such as an old tennis shoe. Several successive groups of grade school students and some accompanying adults were told the dump the “trash” on the floor atop the map of the world (trashing the world) and then decide whether each item could have been reused/repurposed or recycled, or whether it needed to be thrown out. Participants also were given a creative multiple choice quiz featuring interesting/compelling environmental facts related to trash, pollution, etc. 


April 2012 – We co-sponsored the Wisconsin Council of Churches’ “Season of Civility” project to encourage and train dialogue groups at congregations statewide in how to discuss volatile issues civilly in our polarized society. The project was based on Madison author Parker Palmer’s book, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage of Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit and on an accompanying discussion guide. At least 200 representatives of congregations participated in regional training sessions later in the year. Our Milwaukee Association for Interfaith Relations (renamed in 2013 as our Committee for Interfaith Understanding) broadened a Christian supplement to the study guide by producing Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Baha’i and Unitarian Universalist supplements.


March 21, 2012 – Interfaith Conference Executive Director Tom Heinen gave a presentation on the Conference’s history, goals, membership and accomplishments in 2011 to the board of the Jewish Community Relations Council at the Jewish Federation building on Milwaukee’s east side.


March 6, 13, 20, 27, 2012 – Our annual Tuesdays-in-March luncheon lecture series at the First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee drew about 150 different people for a series of presentations on the theme, “Standing Up for Democracy: From the Middle East to the Capitol Rotunda.” Wisconsin Conference United Methodist Bishop Linda Lee anchored the series by reflecting on the other presenters’ comments and offering her own insights in a talk on March 27 entitled, “Responding to Democracy’s Challenges: Spirituality, Hope and Action for People of Faith.” Earlier speakers in the series included Rob Ricigliano, director of the Institute of World Affairs at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee; Ruth Conniff, political editor of The Progressive magazine; and Mike McCabe, executive director of Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a nonpartisan watchdog group.


Feb. 12, 2012 – We assisted Joan Plumley, director of faith formation at Milwaukee’s St. Sebastian Catholic Church, in organizing a Generations of Faith panel presentation for a large group of parishioners in the church hall this Sunday morning. Interfaith Conference Executive Director Tom Heinen moderated a panel discussion by faith representatives on how the principles, values and teachings of their faiths support social justice, peace and interfaith dialogue.Panelists included Moshe Katz, chairman of the board of the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center; Janan Najeeb, president of the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition; the Rev. Andy Oren, a United Methodist minister who serves on the Interfaith Conference Cabinet; and Judi Longdin, director of the Office of Ecumenical and Interfaith Concerns for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and a member of the Interfaith Conference Cabinet. 

Jan. 26, 2012 -- The Interfaith Conference Cabinet (our board of directors) changed its practice of requiring that the Cabinet chair be a judicatory leader (such as a bishop, district superintendent, etc.) and opened that office to any of the ordained and lay members of the Cabinet. It then voted on a slate of officers for 2012 that included the Rev. Jean Dow, associate pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church on Milwaukee's east side, as the chair. That motion was unanimously approved.