Category Archives: News

Continuing to build BRIDGES

Talk Loudoun, January 11, 2012 (with photos).

talkloudoun_dot2011On November 13, members of Loudoun Interfaith BRIDGES hosted the third annual Day of Thanks, an event designed to express gratitude for Loudoun’s openness and acceptance of religious and cultural diversity. Participants enjoyed traditional Thanksgiving fare and ethnic and vegetarian specialties, as well as live musical performances to inspire awareness and understanding.

Event emcee Bill Aiken, chairman of the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington, added extra depth to the evening with commentary on his experiences working with interfaith communities throughout the world. Aiken premiered the English language edition of the video “2010 Washington D.C. Area Interfaith Activities,” which has been shared with Farsi speakers throughout the world and features international voices, including founding BRIDGES members sharing what interfaith dialogue and cooperation mean and how they manifest themselves in their own communities.

A highlight of the annual program is the annual BRIDGES Award presentation to a citizen of Loudoun County who has put forth exemplary effort to promote peace and understanding among diverse faiths. The 2011 award was presented to Mitchell Jacobson of the Northern Virginia Baha’i Center. Jacobson worked throughout the year to support BRIDGES projects and interfaith activities.

Donations of non-perishable food were distributed through Loudoun Interfaith Relief to local residents. To learn more about Loudoun Interfaith BRIDGES, visit their website at http://www.loudouninterfaithbridges.org.

Celebrate Holidays with Joy and Mutual Respect

dsc_0009__2_Published in the Leesburg Today, December 29, 2009

Dear Editor:

In light of the recent controversy over holiday displays, the undersigned members of Loudoun Interfaith BRIDGES wish to express our gratitude to the members of Leesburg’s Christian community who reached out last year to include other faiths in this long tradition. While not all in our group agreed that the courthouse grounds are an appropriate venue for religious displays, several of our congregations responded to the gracious invitation. Beth Chaverim Reform Congregation and the Sikh community provided holiday displays to join the creche on the courthouse grounds, and speakers from the Muslim, Jewish, Christian, and Sikh faiths provided remarks for an invocation given in the spirit of holiday celebration and community. This simple celebration of faith and understanding across boundaries remained throughout the holiday season for passersby to enjoy; readers can find photos and more information at www.loudouninterfaithbridges.org.

Unfortunately, some of the public comments following the prohibition of displays indicate a lack of awareness of these events. Many seem to believe that the display prohibition was intended as a ban on expressions of the Christian faith; some who signed the petition demanding reversal of the decision even made hateful remarks directed at other faiths. This misdirected anger is as disheartening as it is destructive.

Now that the Board of Supervisors has reversed the display prohibition, our hope is that in coming years we can return to the example put into practice last year, and that those communities of faith who wish to share a public celebration of the holiday season will do so with mutual respect, reverence, and great joy.

Unity of Loudoun County
St. James United Church of Christ, Lovettsville
Unitarian Universalists of Sterling
Sheila Kryston, Debra Dalby, Goose Creek Friends Meeting
All Dulles Area Muslim Society, Main Center
All Dulles Area Muslim Society, Ashburn
Guru Angad Institute of Sikh Studies
Rev. Dr. David Milam
Beth Chaverim Reform Congregation, Ashburn

Students honored for interfaith initiatives

Ezza Anees, Youth Award winnerBy Paul Smith
Loudoun Times-Mirror, November 17, 2009

Two high school students won awards for their interfaith work during the Day of Thanks celebration Nov. 8 at Ida Lee Recreation Center in Leesburg. Nearly 200 attended the event, hosted by Loudoun Interfaith BRIDGES. It was the first such event in Loudoun for interfaith leaders and community members.

Celia Lechtman, Youth Award winnerEzza Anees, a senior at Broad Run High School, and Celia Lechtman, a junior at Stone Bridge High School, won Loudoun Interfaith BRIDGES Youth Awards. Each received a cash award of $750 to be used toward their college education or to support their future interfaith initiatives.

Ezza received the award for participating in several multicultural forums and events, and for organizing a Muslim Student Association at Broad Run to foster interfaith dialogue among students and faculty. Celia was recognized for having sung at and participated in interfaith activities, and for her vision to produce a CD featuring the melodies and songs of various faith traditions.

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Celebration highlights Loudoun’s diverse faiths

Dinner buffet, provided by member congregationsProgram is adjusted after shootings at Fort Hood

By James Hohmann
Washington Post, November 15, 2009

Loudoun County religious leaders privately wrestled with how to address the shootings at Fort Hood, Tex., in the days before a long-planned interfaith celebration drew together more than 175 people from six faiths in Leesburg last Sunday.

For three years, the monthly gatherings of people interested in networking across religious boundaries had grown. The first annual Day of Thanks event at the Ida Lee Recreation Center was to be a culmination of these efforts, the biggest event to date sponsored by what in now known as the Loudoun Interfaith BRIDGES group. Three days before the event, authorities say, a gunman who seemed motivated in part by religious fervor killed 13 people on the Army base.

The group decided that the Rev. Anya Sammler-Michael of the Unitarian Universalists of Sterling would address the 800-pound elephant in the room during her opening words.

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Day of Thanks Celebrates Interfaith Community in Loudoun

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 7, 2009

Leesburg, VA — Loudoun Interfaith BRIDGES, an association of congregations comprised of Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, Ba’hai, and Unitarian Universalist faiths, invites people of all faiths to the Day of Thanks event on Sunday, November 8, 2009 from 5:00-8:00 p.m. at Ida Lee Recreation Center in Leesburg – to celebrate cultural and religious diversity in Loudoun County.

The event features keynote speaker Ben O’Dell, Deputy Director at the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, which builds partnerships between government, faith-based and neighborhood organizations to better serve individuals, families and communities. The program also includes a multicultural buffet dinner, musical performances, including world renowned percussionist Tom Teasley, among others, and the honoring of Interfaith BRIDGES adult and youth award recipients.

Tickets are $15/adult, $10/ child, $40/family of four or more. Children under 6 are free. Visit the website: www.loudouninterfaithbridges.org to purchase tickets and for more information.

The mission of Loudoun Interfaith BRIDGES (which stands for Building Relationships for Interfaith Dialogue, Goodwill, Education and Service) is to bring together communities of different faiths to collectively address common challenges, and to build bridges of understanding and respect between diverse religious and ethnic entities.

Day of Thanks event sponsors include INOVA Loudoun Hospital and faith communities.

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Loudoun Interfaith BRIDGES Community Youth Award

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 1, 2009

Loudoun Interfaith BRIDGES is proud to announce that it is accepting applications for the Loudoun Interfaith BRIDGES Community Youth Award. This is the first year that student residents of Loudoun County, grades 9-12, are urged to apply for one of two grants awarded on the basis of their leadership in the area of interfaith activities. One grant of $1000 and another of $500 will be presented at the Interfaith Day of Thanks on Sunday, November 8, 2009 at the Ida Lee Recreation Center in Leesburg Virginia.

The awards will be based on completion and submission of an application which describes the student’s involvement in a community service activity that fosters interfaith or multicultural understanding. Applications must include letters of recommendation and other documentation which supports their involvement.

Applications can be obtained from the BRIDGES website, loudouninterfaithbridges.org. They must be submitted by October 25 after which they will be reviewed by a selection committee of BRIDGES members. Loudoun County students are encouraged to celebrate the cultural and religious diversity in our county and be recognized accordingly. Contact youthaward@loudouninterfaithbridges.org with questions.

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In Focus: Ray Daffner

Washington Jewish Week
June 3, 2009

Ray Daffner was taken aback by the prejudices that seemed so common in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center.

“My son was in high school then,” Daffner says. “The amount of prejudice I saw and that he talked about that was taking place among both adults and youth he was around was just shocking,” the Waterford, Va., resident recalls.

“It made me think about how Jews were portrayed at different points of our history around the world.”

And, it led him to action a few years later, after his congregation, Beth Chaverim Reform Congregation in Ashburn, received an anonymous donation to be used for two purposes: one, for the wandering shul to get a home of its own, and, two, for interfaith work.

As for the latter, Daffner was among a small group of people to come up with the idea of joining with other faith groups. “We ended up with 15 congregations, representing 15,000 families,” he says about Loudoun Interfaith BRIDGES (Building Relationships through Interfaith Dialogue, Goodwill, Education and Service), which joins together representatives from Sikh, Muslim, Unitarian Universalist, Jewish, Baha’i, Roman Catholic, Quaker, Hindu and several Protestant congregations.

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No Library Is an Island: Community Collaborations

Published on Programming Librarian

…Linda Holtslander, Loudoun County (Va.) Public Library, talks about the diversity of both the library’s programming and the interests of county residents as one big reason why collaboration pays off. By tapping into local organizations, the library not only reaches specific audiences but benefits from the implied endorsement of those connections. Whether it’s a local newspaper, health club, or religious organization, it connects patrons with programs.

Holtslander offers these examples from the programming they’re doing for Mental Health Month in May and their current Let’s Talk About It: Love and Forgiveness series:

You might think mental health isn’t the easiest topic to draw audiences, but we have done this series for five years, with programs on stress, a yoga series, Qi gong, and writers’ workshops, such as In Our Own Voices, for those who have and are dealing with mental illness. We have tremendous support in getting the word out from the Department of Mental Health and various groups in the area— in the long run more people learn they are not alone and that these hurdles in life are shared by many. This year, we brought in two authors, both of whom had personal connections to mental health and also offered some name recognition—Pete Earley, former Washington Post reporter, whose book about his son was a finalist for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize, and Sally Quinn, also of the Washington Post, who appeared with her son, author Quinn Bradlee. Not only are the two authors coming to talk about what they care about emotionally, they are well-known individuals. I guess the term for this would be “spin” in marketing—bring in the celebrity and give them the motivation of the program (mental health awareness).

For our Love and Forgiveness series, we did this panel discussion with speakers from nine different faith groups. Our partner was an interfaith organization called Bridges—they are our messengers to the community that this type of programming is what we do really well. I have been here nineteen years and have seen the county go from 60,000 to almost 300,000, so I know that we are not just one thing, but a lot of things, lots of concerns and causes.

Supervisors urged to ‘join hands’

Published in the Loudoun Times-Mirror, March 10, 2009

Dear Supervisors,

Loudoun Interfaith Bridges is a local association of faith communities. Combined, our congregations involve several thousand Loudoun residents.

This economic recession will affect all of Loudoun’s residents, but none so much as those who are at the bottom of our economic ladder. There is no doubt that, as the recession deepens, more Loudoun residents will be seeking services and traditional sources of nonprofit funding will diminish.

Nonprofits are efficient. In 2007, volunteers coordinated by Loudoun Volunteer Caregivers gave 7,000 hours and 4,152 services that enabled frail elderly and adults with disabilities who live in Loudoun County to continue living independently.

Health and human service nonprofits received slightly more than $800,000 from local tax dollars for FY09. This amounts to 0.094 percent of tax dollars going to agencies feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, providing after-school programs to low-income children, giving hearing to the poor and much more. This funding is spread across 18 deserving nonprofits.

Our communities of faith will continue to do our part to support Loudoun citizens who need extra help during these challenging economic times, but we cannot do it by ourselves. You, as government leaders, can join hands with us and help lead the way.

We pray that you will not decrease the funding to the Regional Organizations budget, but rather, it is our earnest prayer that you will strengthen your support to these deserving service providers.

Signed, The membership of Loudoun Interfaith Bridges

Salam, Shalom

ADAMS and Beth Chaverim become neighbors.

By Jennifer Lesinski
Cascades Connection, June 4, 2008

Last September, Beth Chaverim Reform Congregation celebrated moving into its permanent home on Beaumeade Circle in Ashburn. The congregation had spent 11 years in a sort of nomadic state, renting space where it could.

In late May, the congregation extended a hand to another religious community looking for a home. The Beth Chaverim congregation agreed to sublease a 3,000-square-foot portion of its synagogue to the All Dulles Muslim Society (ADAMS) for its new Ashburn center.

“Like the ADAMS Center’s satellite location, we too, have been out and about,” Marshall Medoff, president of Beth Chaverim Reform Congregation, said. “To be able to give back to another faith community the hospitality we have been shown is unbelievable.”

TO CELEBRATE, the ADAMS Center held an open house Saturday, May 31, which included members of both faith communities. The celebration included food, guest speakers and a program by the ADAMS Center Scouts.

‘We Are All Neighbors’: Religious Leaders Build ‘Bridges’ Amid Immigration Debate

By Margaret Morton
Leesburg Today, August 24, 2007

As debate over the local impacts of illegal immigration continues to spark divisions among Loudouners, one organization is working to bridge cultural gaps using the county’s religious diversity as its foundation.

About 150 people from a wide variety of religious faiths gathered last weekend at Algonkian Regional Park to participate in the first event held by an organization called Bridges-Building Relationships for Interfaith Dialogue, Good Will, Education and Service. The group is composed of religious leaders from various faiths, including Muslims, Christians, Baha’is, Jews, Sikhs, Buddhists, Quakers and Hindus working to find common ground among different faiths in Loudoun’s religious and spiritual community.

Ray Daffner, a member of Beth Chaverim Reform Congregation, who began the effort in January, said the event went very well. He said the gathering was important because it generated enthusiasm for the group’s goals and it “set the stage for us to do other things in service as a diverse community.”

Daffner said effort started in January. “We invited a dozen different faith communities to participate in a series of meetings, that involved building understanding, trust and education,” he said.

Sikh leader Sher Singh was among the earliest to support the idea. “The purpose of Bridges is to have a community dialogue between different faiths on issues that matter to all of us,” he said. To that end, the group looked at a number of issues and decided to bring in representatives of as many faiths as possible to examine various areas “we wanted to work on,” he said.

“It’s an expanding group,” Singh said Tuesday. First, its members decided to start with a small, “baby step” event, on which larger events and projects can be built.

Singh and Quaker Sheila Kryston, a retired clinical social worker, said the group would look at areas of service in which Bridges could help, perhaps medical services or improvements to existing services.

“We also want to work more with local governments in providing an interfaith liaison as some other local governments do,” Singh said.

The strong attendance from so many different faiths, surprised some participants and organizers. Kryston said she hadn’t even known there were that many different faiths represented in Loudoun and thought one benefit was that the gathering brought together a wide variety of people, who probably might not have known each other otherwise.

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