John Akram, Faith Representative
John Akram, Muslim, and has made the Hajj to the Holy City of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Hajj is one of the Five Pillar of Islam where every Muslim is required to complete (if he or she can)at least once in their lifetime. He embraced Islam in 1981 at Masjid Jauharatul Islam, in Phoenix Arizona where he currently is still attending. He holds Associate Degrees in Social Services and Aircraft Maintenance Technology from the Community College of the Air Force. He earned a Bachelor of Science Degree at Embrey Riddle Aeronautical University and a Masters Degree in Organizational Management from the University of Phoenix. After 25 years in the U.S. Air Force, John Retired with his family in Phoenix where they make their home. After the Air Force, John became the Human Resources Manager for Pinal County and retired in 2009 and now spends most of his time in community services and has been a member of the Arizona Interfaith Movement for over 3 years. John believes in and is actively doing his best to live “The Golden Rule”.
Lucia Anderson, Faith Representative
Lucia Anderson, Unification, Lucia Represents the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification at AZIFM. Lucia Anderson was the Arizona Mother of Achievement for 2012, she has served on Arizona Interfaith Movement Faith-Forum Panels and has worked at the Arizona State Legislature. She is the wife of Judge Mark Anderson who was instrumental in both the State Golden Rule Resolution that made Arizona a Golden Rule State in 2003, and the Golden Rule license plate in 2008.
Dr. Lawrence Bell, Faith Representative
Dr. Lawrence Bell (Jewish) – A native of Phoenix, Dr. Bell is a graduate of Arizona State University and The Ohio State University. He serves as Executive Director of the Arizona Jewish Historical Society.
Karolyn Benger, Faith Representative
Karolyn Benger is the owner of KB Enterprise, a nonprofit consulting firm in Phoenix, AZ. Previously, she was the Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council in Phoenix and served as the Executive Director of the Jewish Interest Free Loan of Atlanta. She is a graduate of Emory University with a degree in Political Science and a specialization in the Middle East where she studied Arab and Islamist opposition groups in Egypt. Ms. Benger has taught at Emory University, Georgia Tech, and Emerson College and is passionate about interfaith dialogue, race relations, and community relations between Jews and non-Jews. She is a Modern Orthodox Rebbetzin who regularly speaks on Women in Orthodoxy, Women in Islam, Democratization in the Middle East, Social Movements, Anti-Semitism, and Islamist organizations. Her non-academic publications can be found with eJewish Philanthropy, Blue Avocado, Kveller, North Shore Children and Families, Times of Israel, and Binah.
Joe Blankenship, Golden Rule Partner
Joe Blankenship is a humanist and is the President of Americans United for Separation of Church and State – Greater Phoenix chapter. Americans United for Separation of Church and State is a nonpartisan education and advocacy organization dedicated to advancing the separation of religion and government as the only way to ensure freedom of religion for all. We advocate to ensure that; Religion does not dictate public policy; The government does not tell Americans what to believe or how to practice their faith; Discrimination is not practiced under the guise of faith. Joe supports and practices the Golden Rule.
Craig Bolton, Faith Representative
Craig Bolton, Jewish, Craig Bolton and his wife are converts to Conservative Judaism (about 16 years ago) He is a thirty year Arizona attorney who practices mainly in the fields of large judgment collection and Chapter 11. He has been previously associated with some of the largest regional and national firms in Arizona and recently spent seven years as inhouse Special Assets Counsel with a large regional bank. His hobby interests include collecting books, cultivating succulent plants and keeping a small managerie of household critters.
Ernest Bruss, Faith Representative
Ernest Bruss, Baha’i, Ernest Bruss joined the Baha’i Faith while living in Hawaii. He and his family have pioneered mission work in the Portuguese islands of Madeira in the Atlantic; served extensively on Baha’i governing institutions; developed numerous programs illustrating the diversity of the Baha’i world family. He attended the University of New Mexico and the Thunderbird School of Global Management. In his business career he has owned and managed companies in landscape contracting, oil-field, electrical generating, and truck and equipment manufacturing and distribution. He is a Certified Business Appraiser (CBA), Certified Business Counselor (CBC), and Certified Business Intermediary (CBI).
James Casey, Faith Representative
James Casey, Unity, Was brought up as a Roman Catholic in Connecticut, served as an altar boy and was inspired by a priest to enter a Jesuit seminary.
Ed Casper, Faith Representative
Ed Casper, SGI Buddhist, Ed has served for many years in many capacities to further the mission of the Arizona Interfaith Movement and is an active speaker on the AZIFM Speaker’s Bureau. He assists AZIFM educational program planning on all levels and is active in the community working for social justice and legislative support.
Angelina Ghrist, Faith Representative
Angelina Ghrist, Baha’i, "For us, warriors are not what you think of as warriors. The warrior is not someone who fights, because no one has the right to take another life.The warrior, for us, is one who sacrifices himself for the good of others. His task is to take care of the elderly, the defenseless, those who can not provide for themselves, and above all, the children, the future of humanity." ---Sitting Bull
Dr. Honora Norton, Faith Representative
Dr. Honora Norton, a Gilbert resident and lifelong Roman Catholic, is an accomplished visionary professional with domestic and international management experience within a wide variety of for-profit, non-profit and faith-based environments and industries. Dr. Norton states her personal strength is “connecting the unexpected". Now retired to rejuvenated action, Dr. Norton collaborates with various valley civic, business and faith-based leaders and volunteers to sustain and grow community organizations within the greater Phoenix-area. Dr. Norton currently serves on the Emeritus Board of Catholic Charities Community Services after serving a 2-year term as Executive Board of Directors Chair, Advisory Board Chair and volunteer since 2009. Dr. Norton currently serves as Public Relations Committee Chair of Town of Gilbert Mayor's One Gilbert Team addressing prevention of youth suicides. Dr. Norton is past Advisory Board Chair of Starlight Children's Foundation; former Interfaith Network of Scottsdale Steering Committee member; The Caring Place Founder & former Advisory Board Member; former Rotary International (RI) District Assistant Governor and Peace Fellows Chair; and currently serves on Rotary Club of Scottsdale's Board of Directors as Public Relations Chair and past officer. For full bio: see: www.LinkedIn.com/in/drhonoranorton/ Dr. Norton has earned a Doctorate in Ministry and her published “Stewardship is Spirituality” book is available via internet.
S.S. Gurukirn Kaur Khalsa, Faith Representative
Sardarni Sahiba Gurukirn Kaur Khalsa, Sikh – received her introduction to Sikhism in 1971 from Yogi Bhajan. She has a BA in Art, Teacher’s Credential and is Ordained as a Sikh Minister. She is an artist and poet and has written several books on Sikhism. She served as President of Sikh Dharma of Phoenix, Inc. She has also lectured at San Jose State University, and was featured on the “God Show” with talk show host Pat McMahon. She was President of the International Khalsa Council from 2003 – 2005 and was a delegate/ambassador to the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Barcelona & Melbourne.
Anthony Kamson, Faith Representative
Dr. Anthony D. Kamson, Baha’i, Social Entrepreneur, Visionary. His academic background in Communication and Education is from attending Kent State University, Michigan State University and Boston University. My working experience includes positions in management, research and training as well as ownership of a consulting firm. Current efforts as a registered investment representative involves an initiative for a more inclusive and equitable financing system for sustainable and 21st century lifestyles for middle market rural communities, worldwide.
Ozetta Kirby, Faith Representative
Pastor Ozetta Kirby, Holy Trinity Community African Methodist Episcopal Church, was born in Sebree, Ky. The family moved to Racine, Wis in 1962, to attain a better quality of life. She joined the African Methodist Church at age 10, and continues to the present time. She graduated from Washington Park High School, Dominican College of Racine, and The University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. She received her BA in Elementary Education, MS in Educational Psychology, and Certification as a School Principal. She worked for the Racine Unified School District for 32 years. In 2002 she retired and moved to Chandler, Az and worked for another 7 years in education. Ozetta received her call to preach in 1993, from God, at Wayman African Methodist Episcopal Church. She was ordained in 1996 as an ordained deacon, and in 1998, as an itinerant elder, both under the leadership of Bishop Robert Thomas, in the Fourth Episcopal District. She served at Wayman as an Associate Minister until 2002, when she retired and relocated to Chandler, AZ. She worked on numerous committees in Racine, Wis (Scholarship, Reading is Fundamental, NAACP, District Concerns, Established a GED program for parents to obtain their diploma, and NEA local, state & national committees. In AZ she continued with her involvement in various activities that helped to promote unity in the community in the East Valley. She currently serves as pastor of Holy Trinity Community African Methodist Episcopal Church in Mesa, AZ. She has been married to Prentiss L. Kirby for 41 years. They have 4 children, 8 grandchildren, and 3 great grandchildren.
Les Koel, Faith Representative
Les Koel, Scientology – In addition to being on the board, Les serves on several Arizona Interfaith committees. He is a South Dakota State University graduate with a degree from the College of Arts & Science. He makes his living in the arts as a professional singer. Les has been studying and practicing Scientology for over 40 years. He is a lecturer and an ordained minister trained to deliver Scientology spiritual counseling known as auditing.
Rev Dr Phil Ladd, Faith Representative
Rev Dr Phil Ladd is an Ordained Protestant Minister along with being a Licensed Psychotherapist. He moved here in June 2019 to be closer to kids and grandkids. He has pastored churches in Minneapolis and Chicago areas. He has also been an administrator of a Children’s Home. For the last two decades he was Co-Owner of a Psychological/ Counseling Practice in Peoria, Illinois. He has been involved with Interfaith ministries for decades. He is proud to be a part of the Arizona Interfaith Movement.
Glenda Lambert, Faith Representative
Glenda Lambert, Unification - Glenda is a native of Suriname and has lived in the US since 1989. Since 2004, Glenda has been an English as a Secondl Language teacher at Tempe Schools and Gateway Community college. Her bi-cultural background and focus on community collaboration has led her to a number of volunteer opportunities and community leadership roles. Glenda received her Bachelor of Arts in African American Studies and a Master degree in Education and TESOL at Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ. She is married to Maxwell and has 2 daughters Mahogany and Yasmine and a son Richman.
Courtney Lonergan, Faith Representative
Courtney Lonergan (Muslim) – Originally from Alaska, Courtney earned her BA from the University of Idaho in Anthropology and Spanish; and Masters from Oregon State University in Cultural Anthropology and Ethnic Studies; focusing on diversity and discrimination in the United States. After working for years with the Institute of Cultural Affairs. She teaches 300 level Anthropology classes at ASU and engages her students in local & global projects and initiatives. She facilitates the American Islamic Forum for Democracy’s programs; the Muslim Liberty Project (MLP) and the American Islamic Leadership Coalition (AILC).
Betty McGee, Faith Representative
Pastor Betty was born and raised in Calhoun, LA. She and her husband of forty three years, Tyronne, are both retired United States Air Force Veterans. They are the proud parents of three adult children and nine grandchildren, one of which is an LSU Tiger. Pastor Betty graduated Bible college and seminary, as well as the Chaplaincy (CPE) Program, Banner Desert Hospital and Cardon Children's Hospital and Medical Center, with a total 1200 clinical hours and 400 academic hours. She became an ordained Pastor, 26 Oct 2006, under the ministry of Dr. Albert Peyrerfitte, House of the Lord, Inc., Moreno Valley, CA. She presently serves along side Pastor Andre Miller, New Beginnings Church, Mesa, AZ, and as well as Glory of Zion Ministries, Corienth, TX. Pastor Betty is a member of the Use of Force Panel, Chandler PD, and also a member of Mesa, Tempe and Gilbert Police Department’s Community Forum, and Co-Chair, EVNAACP Legal Redress Committee. One of Pastor Betty's greatest desires, and is committed to seeing the female gender, of all ages, colors and ethnicities reach their highest God ordained potential.
Prayag Misra, Golden Rule Partner
Dr. Prayag N Misra is a representative for Goshala. Dr. Prayag Narayan Misra, born in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India. He is married, a Hare Krishna, and he moved to the US 40 years ago, and to Chandler, AZ, 24 years ago. His background is Naval Architecture. He has authored many Interfaith articles and participates in forums & discussions. • Member of the Board, Arizona Court Interpreters Association. • Founded Non-Profit GOSHALA in April 2010 for protection of cows. . Interpreter: 7 languages at Courts , Hospitals, Schools and Prisons.
Debra Robinson, Golden Rule Partner
Debra Robinson has been a former member of California Interfaith Community and is now an active representative of World Connections Foundation with AZIFM. She is an expert problem solver with demonstrated motivational leadership skills. Debbie has over 15 years’ experience in small business management, health care, higher education and health and productivity management. Debra’s core gift is seeing a vision to completion which was demonstrated in her role as Director of Membership for Institute of Health & Productivity Management. While working with many Fortune 500 companies to find global solutions to match client resources, she was able to focus on preeminent health and productivity issues. Debra is the past President of Alta Home Care of Arizona. In her leadership role at Alta, she managed critical care issues for hundreds of families struggling to care for their elderly loved ones. Previously, Debra led a 350-member multi-cultural non-profit women’s organization that contributed thousands of hours of community service. Addressing the issues of poverty and global development is her lifelong passion. The ability to focus singularly on ensuring the success of her business partners and creating an environment for learning and productivity is why Debra is a good match for our global expansion of World Connections Foundation.
Pratibha Somalia, Faith Representative
Pratibha (Patricia) Somalia - Hare Krishna is currently the managing director of the Hare Krishna Temple in Chandler, Arizona with her husband, Ramesh(Roy) Somaiya. Patricia and Roy moved to Arizona over 30 years ago from England. They are originally from East Africa where Patricia was a dentist and Roy was a CPA.
Jaswant Singh, Faith Representative
Dr. Jaswant Singh Sachdev, Sikh, Despite being a professional of highest cadre, Dr. Sachdev has been a humble volunteer for Sikh Faith spearheading the cause of Sikh Identity in Arizona. After having a bright academic career starting with a top position in the District of Patiala, Punjab India for the middle school examination and then achieving the third top position in the entire state of Punjab in Matriculation examination, he went on to join the Medical College at Patiala. He was declared the best graduate for the session of 1962-67 and awarded several Gold Medals for topping several examinations throughout his academic career. He immigrated to US in 1972 and spent four years in New York where he completed his specialty training in Neurology at NY Medical College. He then moved to Phoenix and joined the faculty of Carl T. Hayden Veteran Administration Medical Center where he is now practicing as a Neurologist. His job includes patient care, teaching Neurology to the resident staff as well as some clinical research.
Sid Shahid, Faith Representative
Sid Shahid, Muslim, Pres. of SAS Strategic, a domestic de-radicalization and counter-terrorism consulting firm. He works in conjunction with the U.S. State Dept. and has worked for agencies within the Federal Gov. He is also the VP of the Board of Directors of the Islamic Center of Peoria. He is a public speaker and he has written publications on issues surrounding Islam and counter-terrorism.
LeAnn Basha, Golden Rule Partner
LeAnn has served in many leadership positions both in her community and within her church. Most of her church service has been with the children and young adults. She has also had the opportunity to sit on many Boards in her community, one of her favorites being the Emily Andersen Center at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. LeAnn has a passion for children’s issues and things that effect their ability to grow up in a healthy community and world.
Plyush Shah, Faith Representative
Plyush Shah, Jain, Piyush is the Sunday School Coordinator and a Teacher for the Jain Center of Greater Phoenix community. He was actively involved in the construction and inauguration of the Jain Temple in Phoenix in 2008. He lives in Mesa with wife, Varsha, and two daughters, Mansi and Shebani.
Mahendra Shah, Faith Representative
Mahendra Shah, Jain, Mahendra has been an active Board member of Jain Center of Greater Phoenix (JCGP) and AIFM for a number of years. He is born in India and educated in USA. He has been living in greater Phoenix area since 1981. As a Jain teacher, he teaches Jain religion to Sunday school students at the temple built by JCGP. He was actively involved in building of the Jain Temple right from the beginning. He lives in Phoenix with wife Sandhya, son and daughter-in-law, and two beautiful grand children. His interest include travelling, religious studies, and community service.
Susan Taffer, Golden Rule Partner
Dr. Susan Taffer Founder & CEO World Connections Foundation Dr. Susan Taffer is an American business and social entrepreneur, a Transition Strategist, Global Educator, and a Humanitarian. She is an Intercultural Ambassador for Universities, businesses and Governments, an Educational Ambassador for Global Peace Initiatives, and the principal founder of World Connections Foundation, an Arizona Interfaith Movement Community Partner. A recognized national and global educator and an authority on thought leadership, Dr. Taffer has served as an advisor to educators, learning institutions, corporations and students around the globe for more than 25 years. She is a Doctoral Chair and Professor with Grand Canyon University and a Doctoral Consultant and Provost Elect for Acacia University’s International Educators' Graduate College. Her instructional guidance and multi-course knowledge have made her a distinguished and sought-after educator and speaker in doctoral studies, women’s leadership forums, and leading national organizations. Dr. Taffer has served on the Athena Valley of the Sun executive leadership team for over 2 years and is currently the Facilitator for the AVOS Executive Leadership Certificate Program for selected Athena Members. She serves as an executive advisor for the recipients of the Athena Principal Woman’s Leadership Award and counsels the Young Athenas Program Development. Expanding on her life-long passion to transition individuals to greatness, Dr. Taffer is aligning her talents and connections to create and produce a documentary film, entitled ‘As I Rise’. The film speaks to individuals of all ages. It is a story of courage and discovery; of women rising to their full potential and galvanizing change within their lives and communities. Featuring the true stories of three inspiring women, the film demonstrates that all of us have within us the potential to live a life of greater purpose, power and productivity. Their stories illustrate that no one is ever too far from making a difference – or from healing through education. It is a gripping reminder of the power of leadership. “You can’t emulate what you can’t see. With that in mind, we’re using the power of storytelling to inspire what is possible for every woman to achieve.” Dr. Susan Taffer. Dr. Taffer is available to speak at Local, National and International Forums. Contact Information: Cell: 602.361.6012 firstname.lastname@example.org www.wcfaz.org http://www.susantaffer.net/
Rev. Rock Fremont - Faith Representative
Rev. Rock Fremont is a spiritual director and ordained minister of the United Church of Christ, currently serving as Senior Pastor at Shepherd of the Hills UCC. Originally ordained in a uniting church in India, Pastor Rock has a passion for unity and inter-spirituality and is currently studying with a Roshi in the Diamond Sangha Zen Tradition. In the past, Rock has served in chaplaincy on Arizona’s Death Row and homeless populations, and brings a passion for lifting up those most vulnerable among us.
Dr. Elizabeth Ursic - Faith Representative
Dr. Elizabeth Ursic - Musician and professor of Religious Studies at MCC and holds an MD from Yale Divinity School & a PhD in Religious Studies from ASU. Her research focus is religion, gender and the arts and has a book, “Women, Ritual, and Power: Placing Female Imagery of God in Christian Worship.”