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Devastation and Faith
Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston

May, 2011

The Strength of Shared Beliefs

Tuesday Memo

May 3, 2011


Tonight we celebrate IM's 2011 Tapestry Gala with a bang.  Thanks go to Philamena and Arthur Baird, our Tapestry Chairs; to our Honorary Chairs, Peggy and Bill Barnett and Jan Duncan and to our noted honorees, the Honorable Arthur Schechter and the Honorable Fred Zeidman.  What a night we anticipate.  Hundreds of people from every corner of Houston will be out, joined by Mayor Annise Parker and County Judge Ed Emmett, who will be presenting awards to our honorees.  We will also honor the incredible career of Rabbi Roy Walter who after 40 years is retiring from his position of Senior Rabbi at Congregation Emanu El.  Roy has been a long-term friend of IM and a former Board President.  We are so pleased that Lester Smith, a long-time member at Emanu El will present a life-time achievement award to his dear friend, Roy.  We owe a debt of gratitude to Shell Oil Company and Motiva Enterprises LLC for being our Presenting Sponsor this year.

We will be excited to announce our fundraising efforts tonight (they are BIG!). All of these funds go to support the important work of IM - to assure that 4,600 home-bound seniors get a nutritious meal each day; that more than 500 refugees are settled here in the safety of our dynamic city; that IM is prepared to shepherd the resources of the faith community in time of disaster; and that all of the important dialogue work we do grows.  Over the past five years we've seen our budget grow from about $7.5 million to almost $13 million this year.  None of this is possible without the support of thousands of donors, almost 150 staff members, hundreds of volunteers and a strong Board of Directors led by Bill King. 

We like to believe that Houston is a better city because of IM's work.  We hope you agree.


One of IM's most important roles is to collaborate with many of Houston's most incredible organizations.  We are proud that we are asked to shepherd so much through Houston's diverse faith communities.  This past weekend and next IM, has been hard at work producing one of the many events for this year's International Festival.  The production called "Religions of the Silk Road " was the brain-child of our very own Lauren Santerre, IM's Director of Interfaith Relations.  She has been hard at work with the iFest Team and the High School for Performing and Visual Arts and together they have put on a wonderful show that showcases the many faith traditions along the Silk Road, which is the theme of this year's iFest. 

The iFest still has one more weekend of activities, and IM's production will be showing Sunday, May 8th at 12:30 pm on the Kid's Stage.  To learn more about iFest just click here.


It was devastating to hear about the terrible loss of life and property all throughout the south this past week.  Living in "hurricane alley" gives us some perspective, I guess. We are a bit lucky, I suppose, that hurricanes take a bit of time to make their move. Not with these tornados. Most of the people had precious minutes to decide what to do. 

We've all seen the photos and are awestruck.  It's amazing that anyone survived the brutality of nature.  But one thing has struck me to my core.  There are countless accounts of people who just lost everything and they are not wallowing in self-pity.  In the face of the stories we hear about Americans becoming flabby and lazy we see countless people stepping up to help in such unselfish ways it makes my eyes grow wet.

Once again we've proven to be a country with heart.  While the people of Japan are stoic and heroic; we Americans are caring and giving.  I believe so much of that comes from the source of our blessings - our faiths.  There is good that comes from believing in something larger than oneself.

Here's a quote from the AP news service that pretty much sums up what I am talking about:

Niki Eberhart, whose home in the Alberta City neighborhood of Tuscaloosa was shredded by the tornado, said Saturday that her husband and two children are getting everything they need at the shelter. And it isn't the first time they've counted on the Red Cross. When their home in Meridian, Miss., burned down last year in an electrical fire, Eberhart said the Red Cross responded within an hour.


"We feel like we've been blessed," she said. "Both times it could have been much worse. We lost things. Material possessions can be replaced."


Eberhart and her husband, Shane, also had already gotten help from FEMA workers at the shelter. And while they waited for a response from the federal government, Eberhart dismissed relatives' offers of sympathy.


"I told them we're having great luck because it could have been so much worse," she said. "If you don't have any bad times, how are you going to appreciate the good times?"

I have great respect for the Eberharts because they see the big picture.  Thankfully they didn't lose anyone close to them.  All they lost was stuff and stuff can be replaced.  Don't get me wrong, theirs is a situation no one would wish on themselves.  But with the help of their friends, their community and I am guessing their church, they will do fine. 

You can do your part.  Give to the Red Cross by going here.  They will make sure that your dollars go to good use.  And let's pray that when the rains come to Houston (we need rain!) they come in a more gentle fashion.  But if not, it's good to know that we have each other to count upon.  I have faith in all of you.


Talk to you in two weeks.


Elliot Gershenson

President and CEO

Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston 


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