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Speaker unites local faiths

In their continuing effort to reach across faith lines, the Islamic Congregation of La Cañada Flintridge invited Michael Josephson to speak at last Friday’s potluck meeting.

Josephson, who is known for his Character Counts commentaries on KNX radio is also founder of the Joseph and Edna Josephson Institute on Ethics, spoke to the audience of their common ethics.

Members from all religious backgrounds including Jewish and Christian faiths joined the congregation at the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge to share a meal and find common ground, said Levent Akbarut, of the Islamic Congregation.

“He spoke in the content that character counts and encouraged us to build bridges instead of building walls,” Akbarut said.

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He added that many times diversity in faith is emphasized more than what unifies different congregations. A unity of family love and respect is a foundation that is not only just based in Islamic faith, but in many other faiths as well.

“What is really exciting is the Islamic Congregation is reaching out to the rest of us,” said Pastor Skip Lindeman of La Cañada’s Church of the Lighted Window. “I thought it [Josephson’s speech] was terrific. I’ve heard him a lot on the radio but this way he could elaborate a little more. I thought it was worthwhile to see him in the flesh.”

Josephson, through his institution, founded Character Counts, an educational program that has a widespread partnership with many schools and youth organizations.

Akbarut said that having him come to speak fit perfectly with the congregation’s outreach to the community.

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“[Josephson’s philosophy] is not to focus on what makes us different but what brings us together,” he said. “He represented an ideal speaker.”

Many issues Josephson touched on in his speech rang true to all in the audience.

“He made the point we all have differences,” Lindeman said. “But instead of building walls we should be building bridges.”

“He [Josephson] read a poem at the end of his speech that really hit the mark,” Akbarut said.

He quoted the poem: “Living a life that matters doesn’t happen by accident. It’s not a matter of circumstance but of choice. Choose to live a life that matters.”


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