Winter 2021 Newsletter~ Transitions and New Opportunities

President’s Message

The first months of 2021 have brought change to our national landscape and to the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom. After being the voice of the Sisterhood for more than ten years, co-founder Sheryl Olitzky will be stepping down as executive director as of March 1. The Sisterhood will remain in good hands under the interim guidance of Ceres Group Advisors, who will work closely with the staff, board, and our dedicated volunteers.

The next chapter of the Sisterhood’s journey will be a renewed commitment to our membership, our adult and teen chapter members and our community members. We will continue to provide forums for building friendships across lines of difference, whether those newfound friends live across town or across the country. New initiatives and training will focus on facilitating meaningful dialogue, addressing social injustice, cultivating leadership potential, and serving local communities.

As we launch a national search for a new executive director, we look forward to the next few months and the work we will do together.headshot of woman with cropped grey hair in black turtleneck resting against chair

Please feel free to contact me directly or Samantha, Assistant Director, with feedback or questions- [email protected].

In Sisterhood,
Roberta Elliott, Board President
[email protected]

Saying Goodbye and a Hearty Thank You to Sheryl Dark haired woman in red top and blonde woman in turquoise scarf smile with heads close together

When Sheryl Olitzky and Atiya Aftab invited a handful of Muslim and Jewish sisters to a get-together over ten years ago, they couldn’t imagine the demand for interfaith dialogue that would follow, nor the network of leaders that would develop over the next decade. Today, the Sisterhood has grown from that single Charter Chapter to an organization spanning hundreds of adult and teen chapters and thousands of members spread throughout the world. After dedicating so many years to the organization, on March 1, Sheryl will be stepping down as Executive Director.

Following Sheryl’s retirement, Ceres Group Advisors, comprised of Samantha AndersonDebra Feldstein, and Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson, will spearhead the interim leadership team, and the Succession Committee will conduct a search for a new executive director.

During this transition, we will continue to offer a robust array of programming and opportunities for connection. These initiatives include:

– Muslim Engagement and Empowerment Taskforce (MEET), which will create space for intrafaith dialogue, strengthen the engagement of Muslim women, and elevate leadership opportunities for our Muslim sisters

– Redefining Membership, broadening avenues for participation for non-chapter members, now called community members, for more information, email Samantha

– Social Justice Action Groups: Learn more and sign up to be involved in Immigration CommunitiesRacial Justice, and Uyghur and India action groups

– Expansion of our Regional Coordinators program, which offers programming and support for local members, for more information, contact Samantha

– National rollout of our documentary, Stranger/Sister, which will be available beginning on March 10 for screenings in local communities

-A national food relief service project in partnership with Islamic Relief USA, to join the planning committee, email Janet 

– Annual Conference 2021

and many more!

Pink flowery background with words "Virtual Gala Honoring Sheryl Save the Date May 23, 2021 Stay tuned for details"

Stranger/Sister Documentary Film Release Stranger/Sister film title, two women's heads back to back, one in hijab, reflection of women at rallies and holding hands in their silhouette

The Sisterhood, in conjunction with Odyssey Impact/Transform Films, is thrilled to announce that our documentary, Stranger Sister, is now available for chapter and community screenings nationwide! We know many of you have been eagerly awaiting this announcement. Join the film rollout committee and representatives from Odyssey Impact on March 8th at 8 p.m. EST as we learn how you can bring this film to your community. Registration is required.

Wish to host a screening in your community but can’t make the rollout discussion on March 8th? Learn more and request a screening online.

Sisterhood Leads National Food Relief Effort

The Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, in partnership with Islamic Relief USA, is preparing to conduct a nationwide program addressing food insecurity in the U.S. We hope the program can be put into action this summer and invite interested individuals to join our planning committee, forming now. If you are organized, passionate about issues of food security, and have time to get involved in a meaningful project, email Janet, Director of Programs, Resource Development, and Training at [email protected] to learn more. Stay tuned for information on how all our members can get involved with this great initiative in the coming months!

Regional Roundup

We are looking for Regional Coordinators in several areas, including in Westchester County, NY, Toronto, Metro NY, Metro DC, and greater Philadelphia. To learn more, contact Samantha at [email protected].

Metro DC Cooks Together Sisters in the greater Washington DC area have missed sharing meals during the pandemic, so they took their cooking online! Under the guidance of Regional Coordinator Nazli Chaudhry, who provided recipes and grocery lists to attendees ahead of time, sisters came together online to prepare masoor daal, saffron rice, and kachummer (chopped salad). Then, they invited their families to join them for a Sisterhood dinner. Check out Nazli’s recipes for a meal you can replicate with sisters wherever you live!

Bay Area Event Bay Area Baby Games In the greater Bay area, to mark an upcoming birthday, one sister suggested a baby game! Sisters submitted photos of themselves as babies or young children, and during a Zoom meeting, everyone had to guess which photo matched which adult! Along the way, women shared stories of birthday customs in their families. It was a lighthearted activity that granted sisters the chance to learn more about one another (and to fawn over some adorable photos)!

Nearly everywhere we turn, sisters have personal stories of challenge and loss. Through Sisterhood-wide healing circles and one-on-one connections, the Sisterhood has provided space in which members can share grief and uncertainty. Individual chapters have created their own spaces for healing as well. In the Bay area, sisters will soon gather to commemorate 40 days since the passing of a Muslim sister’s father, who died in Turkey. She particularly asked for her sisters to be with her, as they are her local family. Together, sisters will read from the Quran, give sadaqa, and share homemade Turkish baklava. Wherever you are, whether you are in a chapter or are a community member, we hope you find strength and nourishment in the connections you make through the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom.

Five Ways to Stay Connected Zoom squares, headshots of women speaking over Zoom

One of the biggest challenges during the pandemic has been staying connected, including to fellow Sisterhood members! We present five easy activities chapter and community members can use to connect with one another. Have a great activity to share? Email [email protected]. Other Sisterhood members would love to hear your ideas!

1. Read one of Sisterhood member Sabeeha Rehman’s books, either Threading My Prayer Rug or her soon-to-be released, We Refuse to Be Enemies, and invite her to be a guest speaker at your book group discussion.
2. Pick a new recipe from Sacramento sister Susu’s online cookbook, send out the grocery list, and host a virtual cooking class.
3. Invite a fellow Sisterhood member for a walk and talk through a favorite park.
4. Invite a small group of friends to take turns offering a daily “lift,” whether it be a photo of a bird or flower, a favorite poem, or a quote that brings a smile.
5. Meet a new friend through our Virtual Coffee Connection. Sisters have this to say- “THANK YOU! THANK YOU! I have a smile in my heart for [my new friend]. The conversation just flowed and was peppered with lots of laughs. We’re excited about our next get-together and can’t wait to talk again.”

Zoom Friendly Meeting Ideas

In addition to our previously released guide on Best Practices for Meeting Members’ Needs on Zoom, Janet Penn has been compiling Zoom Friendly Meeting Ideas. Bookmark this web page and check back as we add new suggestions. Have a great meeting idea others will enjoy? Please email Janet at [email protected] with details.

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