Loudoun Times-Mirror, November 23, 2013. From the print edition:
Talk Loudoun, January 11, 2012 (with photos).
On 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 https://www.loudouninterfaithbridges.org.
By 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.
Ezza 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.