Study and Discussion Groups

Oreck-Alpern Interreligious Forum

All study groups are free and open to anyone. All welcome new members anytime. Contact the facilitator below if you have interest in participating. For additional information about the Oreck-Alpern Interreligious Forum, please contact Jim Perlman, Study Group Coordinator at or visit

NEW STUDY GROUPS in Spring 2015

Beyond Tolerance
Facilitator: Deborah Faul,
In these times of racial, ethnic, gender-based and religious strife, we are all urged to be tolerant toward one another. But what, exactly, does tolerance mean? What does tolerance look like in everyday life? What does being tolerant say about us and our place in society? What happens to tolerance in times of crisis? And perhaps most importantly, is being tolerant the best we can do? While reading Beyond Tolerance: How People across America Are Building Bridges between Faiths, by Gustav Niebuhr, we will examine these and other questions. Although the book focuses on religious tolerance, the discussions and the conclusions that we reach will be relevant to all forms of social conflict. The book is available from, and some additional readings will be provided. We will meet on the four Mondays in February from 5:30 to 7 pm. Please contact Deborah Faul at the email address above to register and learn of the location, which is being determined.

Sacred Poetry Study Group
Facilitators: Deborah Cooper and Ann Neidringhaus, 728-2097;
We are pleased to have Duluth poets Deborah Cooper and Ann Neidringhaus offering another "Sacred Poetry" study group. Study group participants will read and reflect upon poems from a variety of faith traditions. There will be an opportunity to create and share poems. No experience in writing poems is necessary. We will meet four Thursdays, starting February 26th, 2015, 6:30 to 8:30 pm. at Peace Church, Music Room, 1111 North 11th Avenue East, Duluth.

ONGOING STUDY GROUPS (always welcoming new members):

Interfaith Memoir Writing Group
Facilitator: Linda Glaser,
We all have stories to tell-stories that are unique and important. In this interfaith memoir writing group we will unearth stories from our particular faith (and perhaps non-faith) traditions. We'll explore aspects of "faith identity," by writing stories about loved ones, food, holidays, ritual objects, traditions, etc. There will be a relaxation exercise before each writing session to help us connect more deeply with our memories. Everyone is welcome. Through sharing our stories, we celebrate our differences, discover our deep commonalities, and create meaningful connections. Participants will help determine how the group evolves. Please bring a pen and notebook with you. The group is limited to 10 participants (please email Linda to register), and meets at Temple Israel (1602 E. 2nd Street), every two weeks, with the next meeting taking place Wednesday, January 28, 6-7:30 pm in the Temple Israel library.

Torah Study
Facilitator: Rabbi David Steinberg, 724-8857
This group is a part of the regularly scheduled Hebrew Bible study held every Shabbat morning at Temple Israel. Rabbi David leads an interactive reading and in-depth discussion of the text of the Parshat Hashavua ("weekly [Torah] portion") and encourages participants to read their own stories, experiences, wisdom, questions and struggles into these texts. We read the text in English but frequently consult the original Hebrew language of the text, although knowledge of Hebrew is not required. The study takes place at Temple Israel (1602 E. 2nd Street) in the Communal Hall on Saturdays from 9:15-10am.

Religion & Science in Dialogue
Facilitator: David Carlson,
Relating these two realms of meaning is the focus of this discussion group, led by David Carlson, pastor of Gloria Dei. To borrow some terms from Ian Barbour, a pioneer in this interdisciplinary field, are science and religion enemies, strangers, or partners? How might a person be faithful and at the same time take scientific methods, theories, and findings seriously? How might questions raised by the scientific community impact faith? The purpose of this discussion is to honor the value and integrity of both religion and science and seek a constructive dialogue to which all are welcome. We meet at Valentini's (1400 London Road), the third Wednesday of the month from 8:00-9:00 a.m.

The Lakeside Conversation Group
Facilitator: Martha Coltvet, 218-464-4271,
The Lakeside Interfaith Discussion Group is working its way through the essays in Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer all of this year. We are periodically bringing in speakers from the Indigenous community to share their knowledge and be part of the discussion. We meet at Lakeside Presbyterian Church, 4430 McCulloch Street (we generally park on 45th), on Mondays from 10:00 am - 11:30 a.m.

Evangelical, Orthodox & Progressive Christians in Dialogue
Facilitator: Doug Bowen-Bailey, 722-7166
This group includes members from congregations from a variety of denominations and traditions. Theological topics and social issues are discussed by the group on an agreed-upon basis (and nothing is off-limits.) Members of the group rotate the responsibility of providing an opening meditation and then the free-ranging discussion begins. The monthly meetings are hosted at members' congregations and scheduled according to member availability. Please contact the facilitator for more information. We meet the third Thursday of each month at 10 a.m. but are open to adjusting our time to facilitate other people included in our discussions.

Fiction Group
Facilitator: David Bard,
"Through the imagination we are able to develop our ability to see the full humanness of people" - Martha Nussbaum. Our energetic and diverse group seeks to see more deeply into the humanness of others, especially the religious humanness of others, by engaging works of fiction written by and about people from a variety of cultural and religious traditions. We meet monthly over coffee (tea if you prefer) at the Jefferson People's House to discuss our reading (typically a novel a month). New members are always welcome. Please contact David Bard for dates of scheduled meetings.

Interfaith Women in Action
Facilitator: Judy Gordon, 724-4145,
This is a group of women presently including Muslims, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, and Unitarian Universalists who plan and put on a yearly Interfaith Peace Feast open to the public. This dinner features interfaith dialogue and raises money for Men as Peacemakers. The group gathers at least monthly, mostly in homes. They do service projects together such as serving at Project Homeless Connect and cooking meals for teens living in the LSS Renaissance House. Their discussions focus on planning and developing the projects they are involved in and getting to know each other as friends. Their slogan is "Celebrate Diversity, Promote Equality, and Live in Harmony." Please contact Judy Gordon for the monthly meeting schedule.

The Oreck-Alpern Interreligious Forum promotes understanding, respect, and peace among the diverse religious communities of our region through sustained cross-cultural discussion, shared study, and collaborative projects and events. The Interreligious Forum is made possible by the generous support of the Oreck-Alpern family, the Overman Trust, and other donations to the College of St. Scholastica.