Seeking Wisdom (1/1/2016)

Hello Soul Women,

In Proverbs 3, we read, "Blessed are those who have discovered wisdom." Wisdom, that deeper understanding, comes from reflecting on our experiences and learning in a fuller way.  The wise ones we encounter see more broadly, listen deeply, weigh alternatives, discern choices, draw from the large and small insights, and share generously.  They study, play, work and pray. 
In the Scriptures, cited by some scholars as a bridge to the Christian New Testament, Wisdom is often personified as feminine.  She is radiant and unfading and the inference is she draws her light from the abundant fullness of God.
Often we assume Wisdom is the domain of those who have lived long, yet age is not a guarantee, nor a qualifier.  Just listen to the observations of a 4 year-old and try to answer her probing questions.  You will watch the seeds of wisdom sprouting.
As women of Faith, we may grow in wisdom when we share the influences in our lives, who guides us and how, where we struggle and flourish, when we expand our acceptance of the stranger, what we learn from grappling with the complex and detecting the essentials in our world.  Wisdom shows herself: " her ways are filled with delight", according to the Book of Solomon.
Wise ones in my life have often asked questions I was not quickly ready to answer.  Questions that are seeking more than facts or information take time to ponder.
One such question is:  How does living in abundance affect us?  A corollary might be: What is enough and how does it help us live well?
If you are reading this, you are likely among our circle of wise women.  Would you consider sharing with our online gallery Reflections which features art, photography, music, and written musings from Soul Women who are living out questions?
Please take a look at our guidelines and email your ideas or submissions to
We are all the better for our shared wisdom as is our community and world.
Marilyn Gehant

A Call for Solidarity and Compassion (2/19/15)

In 2004, the follower of a white supremacist drove through West Rogers Park, where I then lived, shooting at my Orthodox Jewish neighbors, killing and wounding several.  As I faced the fear and loss of my neighbors, I found words inadequate, yet necessary.  I was shaken as well, but not as they were.  I was not the target of the hatred and violence, yet here I was living with them and needing to respond.  In silence, I prayed for our community.

I believe that recent violence has targeted Muslims in two ways.  First, media coverage of extremist attacks in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere reminds the viewer of the terror and the threat of Islamist political groups and fails to counter those reports with accurate details of the central tenets of the faith of Islam which promotes peace.  Secondly, all Muslims can then become the target of suspicion and fear.  The particular incident becomes the general impression in the minds of the uninformed.  Domestic occurrences such as that in Chapel Hill may be connected to the charged atmosphere Muslims find themselves enduring.

SoulSpace has from its inception bracketed political discourse, both the long standing divisions of the Middle East and the religious warfare each of our traditions has initiated.  We have instead focused on conversation, an exchange of increased understanding and awareness of our common call to act with justice and kindness to one another, and this we pledge to continue.

In light of the pervasive violence in our culture, both religious and racial, I am reviewing my own faith response and the challenge of the Christian gospels to love and care for my neighbor and my sisters in faith.  And I ask our soul sisters, Jews, Christians and Muslims to stand with one another, in solidarity and with compassion.  Silence must be broken when our sisters come under siege in response to their faith. Kismet felt she had no voice at the dinner table, but others had one and chose to stay quiet.  The voice of discrimination was loudest and might well remain in the minds and hearts of those who heard it.

As supporters of SoulSpace, we stand with one another not only in times of peace and safety, but also when comments around us would undermine or actually assail our sisters.

Years ago, when I worked to promote Peace Awareness in the schools and communities north of Chicago, I was always heartened by the words, Think Globally, Act Locally.  I affect the world in my neighborhood, workplace, and home.  We have an opportunity as faithful women to mediate the shrillness and potential destruction of hatred, in all its forms, by standing with one another and adding our truth simply and clearly as we are able.  The more we grow to know and understand one another, the better we are able to do so.

We have seen in our own past and in our history the high cost of people saying nothing. Our reflective personal response makes all the difference.
Marilyn Gehant, Founder of Soul Space Interfaith Women's Group

Resurfacing (10/2/14)

My three and a half year-old granddaughter, Zoe, is learning to swim and her favorite move is to dive under the water and resurface arching upward, arms stretched forward, hair sleek, eyes flashing open and wide triumphant smile.

I wish I could say I am mimicking the young mermaid, but I am happy to be resurfacing, writing, post total-knee-replacement and well along with physical therapy, my range of motion within a couple of degrees of my recommended goal.

As I adopt some of Zoe's adventuresome and trusting spirit, I now look at the Providence of the last two months.  My surgeon, touted as technically the best in the Bay Area, prayed for me the morning of my surgery.  He had spent extra time with me in consultation, explaining the process and making sure I had adequate support post surgery including two weeks of home more

He wanted to know that family and friends would boost me up as I went through the arduous work of restoration.  "I will be taking away your independence," he cautioned.  He had no idea that Zoe would be my coach, "You can do it Gran," mimicking my grunts as she stretched her knees.  We would share icing time too, she with her own small bag of frozen peas.

Chicago friends sent encouraging words and more prayers.  Geographically distant family checked in.  My most experienced  double-knee replacement sister heralded each milestone I met. My spouse became aide, take-out cook, driver, and consoler when I became frustrated.

My, oh my, how Providence has held me.

My physical therapist, Maude, is a former Chicagoan.  We laugh and talk a lot as she massages and manipulates my joint. One day, she told me that she is a Eucharistic minister at my now favorite parish, St Nicholas.

I am so much more aware that our lives can shift from ordinary to challenged, from planned to out of our control. Yet our trust in God can shed light on how our needs are being met.

My plan to find a permanent home has been deferred, leading me to new strength ( I now walk cane free with ease) and more gratitude for the many blessings throughout my recovery.  Being chauffeured has helped me notice the synagogue, church and mosque neighbors in Mountain View and Palo Alto.   I am now turning my focus and energy to preparing a fall Reflection issue, one of the ways to celebrate the remarkable SoulSpace that we share.

Marilyn Gehant
October 2, 2014

Soul Space Maker [Guest Blog] (10/2013)

It was 2002 when I met Marilyn Gehant, founding mother of SoulSpace for coffee and a muffin at a Corner Bakery located between our homes, and for the eleven years that I have known and worked with her, this how it has always been: Marilyn makes a mission of finding the middle space where women meet and share, literally and spiritually.

Her mission, and her ability to create middle ground for other women is, I believe, Marilyn’s divine gift. And the women who have been active in, or just passing through, Soul Space, have experienced this just by being in her presence. Marilyn is a soul space maker.  She taught so many of us how to create it for ourselves, first in small group settings in living and dining rooms across Chicago and then, in larger, more traditional sacred spaces - synagogues, mosques and churches - for Sunday afternoon themed-retreats with panelists, table discussions, shared prayer and food, attracting up to 40 women.

In 2010, Soul Space entered ever-expanding cyberspace by way of a website - a project I was blessed to be a part of with Marilyn and SoulSpace’s president and new director, Kismet Saglam. We were a strong trio of interfaith women - Christian, Muslim and Jewish - in active pursuit of communicating what we were about and to encourage others to join in. When the website was enhanced with an online publication, Reflections in 2011 (the third issue was released in September 2013) it was another form of what Marilyn has been inspiring in us since her interfaith work began, another in a long line of shared, interfaith goals that we had the great pleasure of reaching, together.

Marilyn would say that all of these years of interfaith exchange, creative circling, retreating and publishing are the result of many women’s hands. And it would in fact, be so. But because so much of this work also comes from our
souls, we’ve needed a certain kind of leadership, a deeper, more extraordinary form of inspiration. And Marilyn has been this for us. Perhaps her most poignant legacy is that no matter where she is, geographically speaking - there are plans in the works for Marilyn and her husband to move west to be closer to family – that like the original space that Soul Space moved out of to inhabit the yet-to-be-filled spaces, she will always be a guiding light for us in this

Just this year, I took leave from the SoulSpace Board to recover some much-needed time for writing. I am finding that my writing has been deeply impacted by my years working with SoulSpace. It has been a hugely soul shaping experience for me, touching all facets of my life – family, friendship, faith, as well as my work. These years of interfaith exchange  - finding the right words to express my faith as well as doubts - have strengthened my Judaism, something that I will be speaking about in more detail later this month as a presenter at Soul Space’s ninth retreat on October 27th. I’m also writing a series of Jewish spiritual essays, some of which I hope to share on this site in the months to come.

I am so grateful for that first coffee with Marilyn which led to many more shared exchanges over food, each richer than the one before it. What a banquet it has become! I look forward to helping to nurture and encourage other hungry souls, like I continue to be, in shared spaces near and far, literally and spiritually.

Ellen Blum Barish

Transitions (8/18/13)

Imagine a trumpet flourish.  I am honored to announce Kismet Saglam as President and New Director
of Soul Space Interfaith.  Kismet has been a dynamic force in our Core Group tenaciously forming stronger ties in the Chicago-area Muslim community, establishing an active Web presence for Soul Space and nurturing our gatherings
in spirit and body with both her wisdom and gourmet treats.  Her energy will carry Soul Space forward as she, (with the help of Leslie Fischer and Anjum Ali, oversees the retreat programming), Reflections, and communication with all of

As the one who has shepherded Soul Space until now, I am thrilled to have worked side by side with Kismet, listening to her insights,  feeling her enthusiasm and counting on her follow through and honest feedback.  I am gratefully confident entrusting the Soul Space mission to her.  I wish Kismet special blessings and ask you to support her as Soul Space continues its interfaith work of gathering women of faith.

To all of you, my heart is full of gratitude for the many voices I have heard lifted in our Soul Space gatherings from the days on Sheridan Rd, to our homes and sacred spaces. We have been an extraordinary presence to one another, a peaceful and powerful sign of what is possible when women of faith come together to share and learn from one another.  You, the women of Soul Space will be in my thoughts and prayers as I pack and shift my mind and body westward.

Ramadan and Interfaith (7/31/13)

Dear Soul Women,

We've learned recently that Marilyn Gehant, our Soul Space foundress will be embarking on a new and exciting chapter in her life - moving to California to enjoy the beauty that part of the country has to offer and to be closer to dear ones that bring her and her beloved husband much joy.  It is a happy occasion of course, but a sad one as well because we know that after our Fall, 2013 retreat in October, we will bid a fond farewell to Marilyn from Chicago. Marilyn has promised to carry on with Soul Space Interfaith from her new location and be with us via Skype and other mediums. She will continue to edit our Reflections publication. We'll count on her visits when she can make it, and we will of course find "reasons" to visit California. 

As I reflect on what is now the almost the end of Ramadan (the month of fasting observed by Muslims each year), it has been wonderful to partake in interfaith iftars (dinners to break the fast) with Jewish and Christian organizations that
embrace the true essence of interfaith relations. Iftar at the Synagogue just celebrated its ninth consecutive year hosting Muslims for the breaking of the fast and dialogue. In fact, one of the speakers at the event, Ms. Tahera Ahmed
will grace us with her presence as a speaker at our Fall 2013 Retreat. Muslim Education Center (MEC) in Morton Grove, IL has hosted an interfaith iftar that included among guests a large contingent of parishioners
from Winnetka Presbyterian Church which has had year long interfaith exchange with MEC. The event featured speakers from the Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Bahai communities.

With all that is going on in the world, it's nice to know that in our little corner called Chicago, a lot is going right. There is ample evidence that people of faith truly care about coming together. For Soul Space, Marilyn set us on this path, and we will carry on her mission and her vision for as long as God allows.

Kismet Saglam, Soul Space Interfaith

Inspiration for Spring Retreat (5/1/2013)

Soon after we announced our Spring Retreat, I heard the poetry of
Emily Dickinson and Jane Kenyon put to music, and performed in my parish
church by a gifted soprano, Jessica Usherwood. 

Two verses stand out as we prepare to consider "How Women of  Faith Care for the
Sick, the Dying, and Those who Survive."

In 'Tis Not That Dying Hurts Us
So' by Emily Dickinson, she begins
      'Tis not that dying hurts us so--
      'Tis living hurts us more--
      But dying --is a different way
      A Kind behind the Door.

With 'Let Evening Come' Jane Kenyon
closes with these lines:
     Let it come, as it will, and don't
     Be afraid, God does not leave us
     comfortless, so let evening come.

Each poet probes the struggle and pain that we and our loved ones
endure during illnesses and injuries, and where we turn for strength and comfort
during these times.

Marilyn Gehant, Soul Space Foundress

An Interfaith Service of Lament (08/06/2016)

The setting was beautiful and intimate in a small A-frame chapel. Attendees sat in a circle of chairs while listening to recitation of holy scriptures and reflections. The service began with these words:

"Tonight, we name the fear that reduces community to a collection of competing individuals. Tonight, we name the patriotism that absolutizes one way of being human. Tonight, we name the lust for power that turns God into a weapon for personal gain. Tonight, we name the biases that turn basic human rights into privileges. Tonight, we gather together under one roof to express our common grief over the violence and the bloodshed of this past summer."

A list of victims was named from innocent people killed by gun violence in Chicago, to victims of many horrific acts of terrorism around the world, and the killing of police in places around the country. Victims from Orlando, Nice, Istanbul, Germany, and Syria were named as were all victims of hateful speech and rhetoric, those who go unnamed and forgotten, and who are held to be of little importance. We acknowledged that there are countless victims of senseless violence all over the globe, even if the stories do not make the headlines, and we prayed for each and every one.

In communal reflection, we asked God to hear us as we prayed for His mercy for:

  • the human family, especially for all who are suffering or are in any affliction, and for all victims of violence everywhere.
  • the weak and to comfort to those who suffer, that their sickness and pain may be turned into health.
  • an end to the sickness of the world, especially violence, terrorism, war, and their causes.
  • healing of humanity’s brokenness and bless all efforts for renewal and cooperation among peoples.

We were all then invited to come to the center of the circle to light one of the long, thin candles provided. As we placed them upright in plates of sand, we were asked to say an internal prayer of peace. It was a beautiful moment.

Faith leaders closed the service with a Proclamation of Hope:

"Tonight, individuals break the barrier of isolation to come together as one community. Tonight, different ways of being human find common ground in a shared experience of life. Tonight, people with different and sometimes conflicting experiences of God bow down in worship before the Holy Mystery that is the Divine. Tonight, privilege is laid aside as we recognize our common humanity. Tonight, we gather together under one roof to express our common hope that the violence which threatens our cities will end and the healing we so desperately need will come with the new light of dawn." 
In these times where sorrow and pain permeate the world, this service was so necessary and so touching. It is my prayer that similar services take place in large numbers across the globe so that we can maintain hope and faith in God, the Almighty and in our fellow humans such as those wonderful people who attended this service tonight.
Wishing us all peace and healing, today, tomorrow and always. 

Kismet Saglam
Director, Soul Space Interfaith

Search for Good in One Another

Dear Soul Women,

I sense my anxiety rising when I read or hear of Islamaphobic or anti-Semitic incidents in our national print and online press. Fully aware that we are bracketing political discussion in Soul Space Interfaith, I am compelled to restate our need for more encounters and increased understanding of people of faith we do not yet know.

The Catholic bishop of San Diego, at a national Catholic-Muslim dialogue warned that social and spiritual isolation can contribute to religious bigotry.

We, the early founders of SoulSpace, thought we were initiating a timely process of connecting women believers, Jewish, Christian and Muslim; encouraging spiritual growth in an interfaith community, selecting themes we could probe together, and identifying the ethics that bind us.
Little did we foresee, when we gathered with our sacred texts one week before 9/11, how that violence would release a siege of anti-Muslim sentiment even as terrorists laid claim and misused Islam to bolster their actions, and ... how important our response.

I recently met a Muslim women who told me, in our brief conversation, how much hope she holds for us as people. More good is coming, she quietly avowed. My eyes brimmed as I realized that we are all called to look harder, longer for good to reveal itself in words and actions.

Soul Space Interfaith pledges to continue our search for good in one another.

Marilyn Gehant, Founder of Soul Space Interfaith