Interfaith Institute

Wildacres Interfaith Institute
July 30 – August 2, 2018

The Wildacres Interfaith Institute brings together
clergy and lay people of all faiths to gain understanding
towards the Wildacres goal of “betterment of human relations.”


Our annual Interfaith Institute at Wildacres Retreat Center off the Blue Ridge Parkway in Little Switzerland, North Carolina, is open to clergy and interested lay people from all religious traditions.  Come and join us for fellowship, discussion, and fun on the mountaintop. Wildacres provides a magnificent vista of the Blue Ridge Mountains, including stately Mt. Mitchell across the way. Our study sessions are supplemented by plenty of good food (strictly kosher), a daily happy hour, evening entertainment, morning prayer services, and opportunities to explore the area.

Wildacres patio-003


In a world suffering from divisiveness, negativity and partisanship, the 2017 Interfaith Institute will bring a special group of four presenters together from the three Abrahamic Faiths, each one living into their message of inter-religious respect, openness and understanding.  Each of our speakers has professional and personal insight to share with us as we engage this year’s theme: “How Religions See Each Other.”  They will delve deeply into their areas of history, science, education, human development, theology, and the diversity of modern life, to offer insight and practical tools for living in a 21st century world with understanding, a deep faith commitment, honest dialogue and a diversity of difference.  They will engage participants in a lively discussion of the “Elephant in the Room” situation we face when folks of different faiths, cultures, and traditions gather together; helping us dig into the “do’s” and “don’ts” inherent in multi-culture environments.

liechty3Dr. Dan Liechty grew up in a small Mennonite community in Indiana.  After completing a seminary degree in 1978 he studied in Budapest, Hungary completing a doctoral degree in historical theology at the University of Vienna, Austria.  He is trained as a group therapist (the Institute of Pennsylvania Hospital), served as a hospice social worker, is currently Professor of Social work at Illinois State University. Liechty holds four graduate degrees, and has authored numerous books and articles in the area of religion, psychology, death and dying, and is especially interested in the intersection between religion and mental health. For the past 20 years he has been a gentile member of a Reform Jewish congregation, and is also an initiate in the American Ruhaniat Sufi Order.

schenkerDr. Daniel Schenker is originally from Syracuse, New York, Dr. Schenker holds a bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University, and master’s and doctoral degrees from Johns Hopkins University. For thirty years (since 1984) he has served on the faculty of the English Department at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, along with teaching, presenting and working with various programs of the North Alabama Interfaith Community. Additionally he taught English as a Visiting Professor at Osaka University in Japan. He is a long-time member of Temple B’nai Sholom in Huntsville, Alabama, where he has served in various lay capacities including multiple terms on the Board of Directors.

deborah-snead-abu-alrubDr. Deborah Snead Abu-Alrub born and raised in Huntsville, AL as a Methodist and granddaughter of a Methodist preacher.  Deborah converted to Islam 27 years ago.  She is one of the founders of the Islamic Academy of Huntsville, Pre-K through 7th grade where she taught for 7 years before entering the nursing field. She completed her Doctorate of Nursing with a focus on depression in cancer patients and developed the “Coping with Cancer” program for patients at the Clearview Cancer Institute to address the psychosocial aspect of the cancer experience. Dr. Abu-Alrub additionally works with patients as a Nurse Practitioner in Oncology, leads workshops and works closely with regional interfaith and multicultural programs engaged in interreligious dialogue and deeper multicultural understanding.

abugideiriSalma Elkadi Abugideiri is a founding board member of the Peaceful Families Project, an organization dedicated to educating Muslim community leaders and members about domestic violence. Salma provides educational workshops and develops resources related to mental health issues and domestic violence among Muslims, as well as workshops on healthy relationships. She is a contributing author to several books including Counseling Muslims: Handbook of Mental Health Issues & Interventions, and Change from Within: Diverse Perspectives on Domestic Violence in Muslim Communities. She has co-authored a Guidebook for helping professionals, entitled What Islam Says About Domestic Violence. She has also co-authored Before You Tie the Knot: A Guide for Couples. Ms. Salma is a licensed professional counselor in private practice in northern Virginia.

Kathleen Maloney-Tarr will also be returning to conduct her popular writing workshop for those who wish to work on their creative writing skills.

Click here for a sample program schedule.

Our Interfaith Institute is subsidized by the Blumenthal Foundation to keep our costs low and to encourage participation of Jews, Christians, Muslims, and others. Registration fees for 2017 include the cost of the program and room and board at Wildacres for the three days of the conference. 

$275 per person for clergy and spouse
$300 per person for laity
$110 per child age 6-12
$70 per child 3-5

A limited amount of scholarship assistance is available.

A Wildacres Interfaith Institute experience provides:

  • Learning experiences that are stimulating and inspiring.
  • Fellowship that is warm and genuine.
  • Friendships that are enduring.
  • Accommodations that are comfortable.
  • Food that is kosher and delicious.
  • Mountain views that are gorgeous!

For more information, please contact: or Rabbi Edward Friedman (