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An Evening for Interfaith Peace-Builders (IFPB)

On Saturday evening, November 4th, we went to the Cleveland Racquet Club on Chagrin Blvd. in Pepper Pike for a benefit for "Interfaith Peace-Builders" (IFPB) sponsored by the "Palestine Culture Society" where we were treated to good fellowship, informative speeches and terrific performances of music.

As its literature states, in the course of its 16 year existence, "Interfaith Peace-Builders" has escorted 60 delegations consisting of approximately 1,200 people to Palestine and Israel. These delegations are composed of people of diverse religious faiths who very much value the opportunity "to meet courageous peace makers on both sides of the conflict, people who risk their lives and freedom to convey a message of reconciliation. The delegations are a transformative experience for most participants. With support from IFPB's Education and Advocacy Program, returning delegates become forces for change in their own communities. IFPB provides ongoing training in community activism, media engagement, educational programming and advocacy."

This event was presided over by Dr. Fadi Karim who immigrated to the United States from Lebanon back in the 1980's with the help of Ms. Margaret W. Wong. His wife, Ms. Randa Karim (herself of Palestinian descent) helped us to register at the very last minute and we are grateful to her for it. Dr. Karim praised the courageous and tireless work of Ms. Ruth Tracy as well as  Dr. Douglas Kerr and his wife, Ms. Mary Ann Kerr who have devoted much to their lives to building the Cleveland chapter of IFPB. We were particularly touched when Dr. Karim noted that a close relative of Dr. and Mrs. Kerr was killed as a result of conflicts in the Middle East and instead of succumbing to bitterness and hatred they decided to devote themselves to the pursuit of peaceful solutions.


The speakers for the evening were Ms. Lorraine LeBlanc, Chairperson of the Board of IFPB who made a special trip from New Orleans to be there with us and Mr. Mark Weber who is the leader of the Cleveland chapter of "Jewish Voice for Peace" and himself an IFPB delegate for an excursion that took place just this year in May, 2017. Both of them spoke of how inspired they were by the number of people from both Israel and Palestine who are working together often under sometimes dangerous conditions on behalf of social justice. Regarding the occupants of the refugee camps, Ms. LeBlanc testified that she had never witnessed people of such resilience and shared with us a story of how she formed a close friendship with a woman that transcended language barriers; they still managed to communicate and establish common ground by sharing information about their families.

Among the old friends that we encountered here were Ms. Janet Lau, Mr. Ron and Ms. Mary Ober, Ms. Nina McClellan, and Mr. Don Bryant who helped to organize a rally on behalf of immigrants facing deportation earlier in the year. Also, we shared a table with Mr. John McCumber who organized a "Teatime for Peace" in March, 2016 at his church in Lyndhurst and got to meet Reverend Sandy Seaton-Todd, the pastor of "Church of the Western Reserve" which is very active in social justice issues.

In additional to the presentations of Ms. LeBlanc and Mr. Weber, the high point of the evening was two musical interludes by the wife/husband team of Ms. Wende Van Nes (flutist) and Mr. Zeger Verhage (pianist/clarinetist). Ms. Van Nes and Mr. Verhage started off the evening with "A Musical Soiree" consisting of seven beautiful selections composed by renowned musicians from all over the world.

Towards the end of the evening, however, what we really appreciated as film buffs was when they played the background music to such films as "Up", "Cinema Paradiso", "Amadeus", "The Mission", "Schindler's List", "and "The Lion King" as clips from these movies were projected on the screen. This selection was billed "A Night at the Movies" and we would have attended this event for this half hour alone because we and everyone else loved it so much and it seemed to enhance our already strong ties as we came together in gratitude for the gifted filmmakers, composers, and, especially, the musicians standing before us.


Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

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