Turkish Social Night At Turkish Cultural Center; 25th annual St. Nicholas Spaghetti Dinner; 8th annual Carols for Quire from the Old and New Worlds; Living Our Faiths; A Pledge to Protect
On Saturday night, December 3rd, we went to "Turkish Social Night" at the Turkish Cultural Center on Madison Avenue in Lakewood. Here, as always, we enjoyed delicious food, said hello to old friends, made some new ones and listened to a short presentation on some aspect of Turkish life/culture.
On this occasion we chatted about possible future trends of U.S. immigration policy with a young scholar from Turkey who was working on his advanced degree and would like to remain in the U.S. after he graduates. We also encountered several people who were at Margaret W. Wong and Associates' holiday party earlier in the day like Mr. Pierre Bejjani, Ms. Laura Fruscella, Mr. Asim Datta, and our co-worker Mr. George Koussa.
The topic for the evening was "Sufi Music and Rumi" and the presenter was our good friend, Mr. Murat Gurer, the Director of the Center (who was also at our holiday party). We learned that even though Rumi; depicted by Mr. Gurer as being a "poet, jurist, Islamic scholar, theologian, and Sufi mystic"; lived in the 13th century, his works are still very popular and wide-read. As Mr. Gurer explained, Rumi was an advocate for "unity, co-existence, peace, and dialogue" all of which are very much in need at this time. Mr. Gurer made effective use of slides which described Rumi's beliefs in more detail and gave examples of his poetry.
We needed a definition of "Sufism" so we found one on a website titled "Nimatullahi Sufi Order" which defines it as "a school for the actualization of divine ethics. It involves an enlightened inner being, not intellectual proof; revelation and witnessing, not logic. By divine ethics we are referring to ethics that transcend mere social convention, a way of being that is the actualization of the attributes of God." This is entirely consistent with what Mr. Gurer imparted about Rumi.
Along these lines, several of the slides presented "Sufi Music" as "the devotional music of the Sufis, inspired by the works of Sufi poets like Rumi" which is "vital" in the ceremony of the Whirling Dervishes which represents "a spiritual journey; the seeker's turning toward God and truth, a maturing through love, the transformation of self as a way of union with God." Mr. Gurer showed a short video that depicted the colorful, energetic ceremony and then we listened to some other examples of Sufi music played and sung by two talented men named Hamza and Murat (not Mr. Gurer though).
The next day was Sunday, December 4th, and our first event was the 25th annual "St. Nicholas Spaghetti Dinner" put on at St. Malachi's for the benefit of St. Herman House. It certainly was a good way to start the day with a plate hot spaghetti and a concert by the "Mud in Yer Eye" band which plays there every year. As was the case last year, Margaret W. Wong and Associates purchased donated ten tickets and we, ourselves, made use of an additional two.
We got to meet Mr. Jerry Young who grows a beard each fall so he can play Santa Claus which he has been doing in some capacity since 1974.
In addition, we spoke to Ms. Mary Hillman, a wonderful woman who is the child of Hungarian immigrants and has thus attended St. Emeric Church her entire life. Ms. Hillman has been volunteering at St. Herman's House consistently since 1980 and it is now her job to distribute St. Herman's leftover bread to grateful people in her own building of residence. No small feat for someone, who we learned, was 103 years old!
Later in the day we attended 8th annual "Carols for Quire from the Old and New Worlds" concert at the historic St. Peter Church at East 17th and Superior Avenue. This was the third night of this concert; on Friday it took place at Trinity Cathedral and on Saturday it was at St. Paul Episcopal Church in Akron.
This was the first time that we had been to a "Quire Cleveland" concert. As our program stated, "Quire Cleveland is a professional chamber choir established in 2008 to explore the vast and timeless repertoire of choral music over the last 9 centuries. Quire's program introduce our audiences to music not heard in the modern era-including modern premieres of works newly discovered or reconstructed-breathing life into the music of our shared heritage."
We first learned about this holiday concert from Clevelandpeople.com website which read, "you'll hear exquisite choral music from many lands and centuries, enjoying favorite tunes and making new discoveries. The joyful sentiments are familiar, the beautiful language is universal."
What's more the selections for this year would be sung in 3 North American Indian languages as well as others including English, Finnish, Spanish, and Afro-Portuguese.
No doubt the tour-de-force of the day was a twenty minute piece dubbed "A Spanish Christmas 'Salad'' which depicts a village near the Nativity (only on this occasion it takes place in Spain) wherein people from various Hispanic countries come to pay songful tribute to Mary and Jesus in their own unique dialects.
We had the opportunity to introduce ourselves to Father Robert Kropac of St. Peter Church and meet Mr. Ross W. Duffin, Quire's founding Artistic Director. Mr. Duffin who told us that the 19 person choir had to learn to sing in more languages for this performance than ever before.
Our last event for Sunday was a program titled "Living Our Faiths; A Pledge to Protect the Vulnerable" which was sponsored by the Songsten Gampo Buddhist Center of Cleveland, the Sisters of St. Joseph and the Third Order of St. Francis, and the River's Edge: A Place for Reflection and Action where it also took place.
Ms. Ani Palmo Rybicki, Director and Resident Teacher of the Songsten Gampo Center, presided over the interfaith gathering which took place, as the notice we read stated, in order to call on "religious organizations to pledge out loud that they will protect the vulnerable and disenfranchised who now feel more threatened as a result of the recent election."
"Our country is suffering," said Ms. Rybicki, "We are suffering from the viral disease of hatred and fear. And we have the power to heal it. But only if we stand. If we stand up for our neighbors. If we stand up to the hatred. If we stand with one another for peace and justice."
Ms. Rybicki went on to say that "as faith leaders, we have the power to influence people for the good. Let us use it! Every religion has the same moral code: do onto others as you would have them do unto you. Be kind. Be patient, loving, compassionate."
And she effectively continued, "these are qualities we are charged with bringing out in our communities. These are the qualities we are meant to emulate as faith leaders, as faith practitioners, and simply as decent people. We have been preaching forever about love and compassion. But what good is to profess love in our places of worship, if we haven't the courage to carry that love into the outer world? Now, more than ever, we need to live our faiths in earnest. And we need to encourage, even demand, that our congregations do the same...."
"With humility and fearlessness, we need to look into our own faiths for what we may be saying, or not be saying, that may unintentionally lead our followers or fellow congregants to believe that there is a place for misogyny, for homophobia, for anti-immigrant sentiment, for contempt toward others who believe differently, and so on. If it is there, we must then have the courage to speak out against it at every level. And further, we must work to change it. We, all of us, must take great care that our own religions are not part of the fuel that fires this hatred and intolerance. And we must speak out in public against those who would hijack our faith and use it as a weapon against others. We must all start to speak out. And we must do it now. We must urge our congregations to speak up, telling them, it is our duty to stand up for the oppressed. It is our duty to look bigotry and hatred in the face-on the bus, on the street, the office, the home-and say 'this will not stand,' and act to protect our brothers and sisters who are under attack..."
Ms. Rybicki's remarks were followed by eloquent testimonies by over 12 religious leaders including Rabbi Enid Lader; Sister Donna Wilhelm, SSF-TOSF; Mr. Andrew Lent of the Black Sun Lodge-Ordo Templi Orients; and Dr. Thomas Uthup, Ph.D., of the Friends of the UN Alliance of Civilizations.
We learned that there has been an action planned on January 15, 2017 and we will follow its progress on circlethecitywithlove.com
We engaged in a meditation exercise and concluded the evening by taking an oath that read:
"To our LGBTQ friends, to people of color, to women, to Muslims, to Jews, to immigrants, to all and any who feel disenfranchised, to all who are suffering: We pledge to be a refuge for you. You are welcome with us, you are loved, and we will do everything in our power to support, protect, and stand with you in this time of uncertainty."
We were then given special buttons that we could attach to our coats with safety pins. These were modeled after those fashioned by a person in England in response to the violence against immigrants that took place after the Brexit vote. These buttons signify that the person wearing one of them is "a safe person who you can rely on as a refuge."
Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC