November 2012


1. Interfaith “Harmony House” Dedicated. When a crowd gathered this past Sunday to dedicate a Habitat for Humanity house in Altamonte Springs, it was a first: a joint project involving Christian churches, Jewish synagogues and Muslim mosques. It was called Harmony House.  The Miller family were the home’s new occupants. Participants in the dedication were: Imam Muhammad Musri, Islamic Society of Central Florida; Reverend Bryan Fulwider, Building US and Interfaith Council of Central Florida; Ms. Penny Seater, Habitat for Humanity; Reverend Gus Davies, Northland Church; Pastor Ron Torkelson, Markham Woods Seventh-day Adventist Church; Mr. Brent Holladay, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; U.S. Congressman John Mica; Rabbi David Kay, Congregation Ohev Shalom. As the sign that stood on the property during construction announced, this venture involved an array of individuals, businesses and houses of worship–in addition to a lot of coordinating by Habitat.

2. A Hindu First. The first Hindu to be elected to national legislative office, Tulsi Gabbard, 31, won Hawaii’s Second Congressional District on November 6, receiving 81 percent of the vote. Gabbard had earlier made history when at the age of 21 she was elected to the state legislature. According to Wikipedia, “Gabbard’s first name, ‘Tulsi,’ comes from the name of a plant sacred in Hinduism. She is a vegetarian and a Hindu who follows Gaudiya Vaishnavism, and specifically follows Sanatan Dharma and the Brahma Madhva Gaudiya Sampradaya. She especially appreciates the Bhagavad Gita as a spiritual guide.” Gabbard has packed a lot into her 31 years, including two tours of military duty in the Middle East as well as having been awarded the Meritorious Service Medal.

3. A Buddhist First. On November 6, Mazie Kelko Hirono became the first Buddhist (though she’s non-practicing, she says) to be elected as a U.S. senator, filling the position vacated by Daniel Akaka. According to Wikipedia, Hirono will be “the first female Senator from Hawaii, the first Asian-American woman elected to the Senate, the first U.S. Senator born in Japan, and the nation’s first Buddhist Senator.” Hirono, whose childhood story and political career make for an interesting read, served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives before her run for the Senate. She is one of 20 women who will be in the Senate when it begins its next session, the largest number of women senators ever.

4. Cool Congregations. Congregation Ohev Shalom and Sunshine State Interfaith Power and Light are partnering in a workshop titled “Care for God’s Earth: Faith Perspectives on Why and How.” In this three-hour program intended for clergy and lay leaders of all faith traditions, participants will consider: (a) faith perspectives on caring for God’s earth; (b) the current state of the earth and its interrelated life systems; (c) practical actions that individuals and congregations can take in order to be more faithful Caregivers of Creation. You will leave with new insights and resources to use in your home and/or your congregation to reduce your energy bill, save precious water and reduce the impact on the earth. From 2:00 to 5:00 pm, Sunday, December 2, at Congregation Ohev Shalom, 623 Concourse Parkway South, Maitland, FL 32751. For more information, contact Alex at 407-246-4819 or Cost: $10. Register online: 

5. Orange County Public Schools Need You. OCPS, like many school systems throughout much of the United States, face challenges because of social fragmentation. But OCPS superintendent Barbara M. Jenkins is determined to overcome the obstacles by cultivating “continuous community involvement in neighborhood schools.” Among the already-organized-for-service groups in the community are faith-based entities. While proselytizing in public schools is (appropriately) forbidden, faith-based organizations provide an excellent infrastructure for organizing student mentoring programs, life-skills education, after-school and summer recreation and academic assistance, and much more. Thus, Dr. Jenkins is inviting the spiritual and organizational leaders of faith-based entities to a “Kickoff Breakfast” on Tuesday, December 4, to hear about the possibilities and to give their feedback. Check-in and seating begin at 7:30 am, with the breakfast and program going from 8:00 to 10:00 am in the Lakeside Room, First Baptist Church of Orlando, 3000 South John Young Parkway, Orlando, FL 32805. The cost is $10. Please register in advance: Go to, then click on Faith-based Adopt-A-School.

6. “Religion 101″ Series in December. Are you interested in a quick overview of the teachings and practices of the various faith traditions in Central Florida? The Holocaust Center and the Interfaith Council of Central Florida are partnering on a “Religion 101″ Series to make it easy and fun for the busy person to become much more knowledgeable without a huge investment of time. This nine-segment, once-a-month series features a free, open-the-public, one-hour presentation and half hour of Q & A. So far we’ve featured Buddhism, Islam and Judaism. On Tuesday, December 4, at 7:00 pm at the Holocaust Center (851 North Maitland Avenue, Maitland, FL 32751), the Reverend Bryan Fulwider will present an overview of Christianity. For more detail, go to the Holocaust Center’s website. January’s presentation will be on Sikhism.

7. “Name That Tune” is the title of a fun interactive program that matches bird calls to photographs of the region’s resident and migrant birds. The program will be presented by David Williamson and the Seminole County Audubon Society on Sunday afternoon, December 9, at 2:00 pm at Seminole County Public Library, North Branch, 150 North Palmetto Avenue, Sanford. The event is free and open to the public. For more detail phone 941-302-1808.



1. Multi-Faith Workshop to Focus on Human Values. To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Hindu Temple of Orlando, the Hindu Society of Central Florida’s New Age Group (NAG), in collaboration with Hindu University of America, Chinmaya Mission and the Sikh Society of Central Florida, invite the public to a multi-faith workshop focusing on human values. The event will be held this Sunday, November 4, from 1:30 pm to 4:00 pm, at the Community Hall of the Hindu Society of Central Florida (1994 Lake Drive, Casselberry, FL 32707). Following the event, tea, coffee and snacks will be served and attendees will have opportunity to get acquainted and interact socially. The event’s objective is to promote universal brotherhood. Speakers have been invited from Orlando’s many faith traditions, with each speaker being asked to take up to five minutes to provide a brief history of his or her faith and outline the main human values the faith teaches. Direct inquiries to:

2. Kristallnacht Remembrance. You’re invited to a community program in remembrance of “Kristallnacht–The Night of Broken Glass,” this Sunday, November 4, at 4:00 pm at the Hy and Harriett Lake Auditorium on the Jewish Community Center campus (851 N. Maitland Avenue, Maitland, FL 32751). Each year the Holocaust Center invites the community to remember the infamous nights of November 9 and 10, 1938, a date many scholars identify as the beginning of Hitler’s Final Solution. We meet to acknowledge the great loss of life and culture that grew out of that terrible night. We also remember those who survived and those who rescued them. For more detail about the event, go to the Holocaust Center’s website. For a brief essay on why non-Jews as well as Jews should participate in this event, go to “This problem belong everybody” on the Interfaith Council’s website.

3. “Religion 101″ Series Continues. Are you interested in a quick overview of the teachings and practices of the various faith traditions in Central Florida? The Holocaust Center (851 N. Maitland Ave., Maitland, FL 32751) and the Interfaith Council of Central Florida are partnering on a “Religion 101″ Series to make it easy and fun for the busy person to become much more knowledgeable without a huge investment of time. This nine-segment, once-a-month series features a free one-hour presentation and half hour of Q & A. The series started in September by examining Buddhism. In October we looked at Islam. On November 8, at 7:00 pm at the Holocaust Center, Rabbi David Kay will present an overview of Judaism. For more detail, go to the Holocaust Center’s website. December’s presentation will be on Christianity.

4. Harmony House to Be Dedicated. History will be made when from 3:00 to 4:30 pm on Sunday, November 11, a Habitat for Humanity House is dedicated at 111 East Street, Altamonte Springs 32701. The project, dubbed Harmony House, is believed to be the first of its kind in Central Florida–because it was a joint effort between Christian churches, Jewish synagogues and Muslim mosques. Thus the title Harmony House. The public is invited to share in the celebration of this interfaith milestone. Although an array of individuals and congregations played at least some part, the major participants were Congregation Ohev ShalomFirst Congregational Church of Winter ParkIslamic Society of Central FloridaCongregation of Reform Judaism; Orlando Florida Stake, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day SaintsNorthland, a Church Distributed; and Markham Woods Church of Seventh-day Adventists.

5. Interfaith Adoption and Foster-Care Event. In all faiths, it is the believers’ responsibility to take care of orphan children. Make sure representatives of your faith-based group are attending this special event to heighten awareness concerning foster-care and adoption programs in Central Florida. Join us for a panel of speakers including Judge Daniel Dawson on how faith-based groups can, by working together, take the first steps in helping these children find their forever homes. This event, which is free but requires registration, is sponsored by the Islamic Society of Central Florida. It will be conducted on Thursday night, November 15, at 7:00 pm at 1021 North Goldenrod Road, Orlando, FL 32807. Direct inquiries to 407-273-8363. Download flyer for registration details: foster care event flyer PDF.pdf  668K   View   Download.

6. Your Chance to Help Feed 1 Million People! The Catholic Diocese of Orlando, in conjunction with Catholic Relief Services, is hoping to enlist 4,000 people of all faiths and no faith to participate in a simple, practical, enjoyable challenge: package 1 million meals for people in Burkina Faso, the world’s  third-poorest nation. This is a great opportunity for our community to band together to do something significant for those in real need. And the simple meal being provided is not only nutritious but is something those in Burkina Faso are used to eating. For details of how you can participate in this exciting adventure on November 18 and to see the poster for the event, check out the following: CRSmealpacking7-26.pdf 359K   View   Download.

7. Save the Date/Register for Kushner Lecture. Last month we mentioned that Congregation Beth Am and Congregation of Reform Judaism (CRJ) will sponsor a community-wide interfaith presentation by Rabbi Harold Kushner on January 23, 2013, at the Congregation of Reform Judaism at 7:30 pm. (Please note the change of location.) Full details and registration are available at To hear a brief version of the story that led to Rabbi Kushner’s writing of the book When Bad Things Happen to Good People, check out The Impetus Story.mp3
4797K   Play   Download.

8. Change Starts With Me. On October 23, Keith Baber of Change Starts With Me addressed the Executive Committee of the Interfaith Council concerning his organization’s objectives. The goal is to instill values at schools, in the workplace, in the public forum–everywhere, really. Or, as they describe it in their advertising, to create “A Community with Honorable Character.” The values promoted are common to all faith traditions but might not be well-received if presented directly from a faith perspective in certain settings. Change Starts With Me seeks to package these values/virtues in a neutral manner that can be promoted in any context. The organization’s website is worth checking out. The values/virtues are packaged in an attractive, eye-catching way that could be useful in the houses of worship of all faiths, especially in dealing with children and youth.

9. Christians–and possibly others–may wish to register for GladdeningLight’s third annual symposium, titled “Love, Now,” which will be held at the Winter Park Civic Center, February 1-3, 2013. Matthew Fox (, the symposium’s featured speaker, has been called “the most creative, the most comprehensive, surely the most challenging spiritual teacher in America.” An Episcopal priest and founder of the Creation Spirituality movement in Oakland, California, Fox is the author of 31 books, including Original BlessingThe Coming of the Cosmic Christ and Creativity (our text for the symposium). Four practicing artists will embody Fox’s vision of creativity—the Via Positiva, Via Negativa, Via Creativa and Via Transformativa. GladdeningLight is a Winter Park-based organization “whose mission is to explore the nexus of faith & art through spiritual retreat, hosted conferences and religious pilgrimage. GladdeningLight is a progressive Christian initiative open to all faith disciplines, representative of thoughtful spiritual seekers both inside and outside traditional religious practice.”


Artwork above: Joy by Marni Goldshlag

10. Check Out the Interfaith Council WebsiteOur time, funds and website expertise are limited, but we’re slowly putting together a collection of writing, resources and links that we feel will be helpful for any who are interested in greater interfaith knowledge and involvement. We have a plan concerning the range of information we want to make available. Some categories have attracted a lot of material; some are still blank. But we invite you peruse what we’ve posted so far. Please keep coming back, because more will be added regularly.