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Jewish High Holy Day Primer 2019

From: Interfaith@Augsburg and Hillel at Augsburg

Below is a “High Holy Day Primer”-

  1. This is the Jewish High Holy Day season, which runs for the entire lunar month of Tishrei this year from Sunday evening, September 29 -Tuesday, October 30. Though Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur are on secular calendars, there is another 9-day holiday called Sukkot, right after Yom Kippur. It is a big harvest celebration.
  2. For college students, being away from home for these holidays can highlight the homesickness and the yearning to be in the nest, and for some, quite the opposite. If you celebrate Christmas, imagine staying on campus while most students return home for the holiday. If you celebrate Ramadan, this season is similar to that month of observance. There is now a Jewish student organization on campus called Hillel and students will try to find places for meals and for services. All synagogues and the University of Minnesota Hillel will welcome students, and we can help connect them.
  3. The second set of holidays, Sukkot, is likely much less observed among our students and faculty, though some students will not go to class on the first and last days of Sukkot. Supplemental reading can be found in Exodus 34:22 and Leviticus 23:42-43 for the biblical source of this holiday).
  4. There is a wide swath of Jewish observance among your Augsburg students, faculty and staff. Some adhere closely to the traditions, so they don’t write or use electricity on these major holidays. Others have very secular experiences, don’t celebrate these at all, or focus mostly on the feasting, not the religious and spiritual aspects of these holidays.
  5. The appropriate greeting for this season is, “Sha-NAH to-VAH”. meaning Happy New Year.
  6. How to be an ally:  All of this is to encourage you to have conversations with your Jewish students and colleagues about their observances. The Jewish students may or may not self-identify, so you may want to invite any Jewish students/faculty to talk with you about what this next month is for them, vis a vis classes. They will likely welcome the questions or the greetings. And you could also move important meetings or events away from Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur.  The 2019 dates for these holidays are:

Sunday, September 29, Rosh Hashannah begins at sundown.

Monday, September 30 is the first day of Rosh Hashannah.  Some American Jews celebrate for one day, others for two (we can discuss the lunar calendar another time).

Tuesday, October 1 is the second day of Rosh Hashannah for some Jews.

Tuesday, October 8, Yom Kippur begins an hour before sundown. Yom Kippur ends around 7:30pm Wednesday, October 9.

Sukkot begins at sundown on Sunday, October 13, and the first two days are “Holy Days” where some Jews don’t work, use electricity, engage in commerce. We build a sukkah (booth) and eat most of our meals there for 8 days, even if it rains or snows. The first half of Sukkot ends at an hour after sundown Tuesday, October 15.

Sukkot ends at sundown on either on October 18 or October 20, depending on personal observance. Again, a majority of American Jews do not celebrate this holiday or even know what it’s about.

2019-20 Augsburg Interfaith Fellows

We are pleased to announce Augsburg’s Interfaith Fellows for the 2019-20 academic year: Busshō Lahn, Chris Stedman ’08, and Ger Vang

The Augsburg Interfaith Fellows are charged with deepening and extending Augsburg’s calling to interreligious engagement, preparing students to live and serve in contexts of religious pluralism. Their work is coordinated by the newly created Interfaith at Augsburg: An Institute to Promote Interreligious Leadership and includes participating in classroom and campus discussions and events; working with students named as Interfaith, Christensen, and Sabo scholars; and engaging with Augsburg’s Interfaith Coordinating Committee and various religious groups on campus.

Bussho LahnBusshō Lahn is a Senior Priest at the Minnesota Zen Meditation Center and is on the leadership team of Aslan Institute in Eagan, MN. Busshō came to Zen Buddhism in 1993, was ordained in 2009, and received dharma transmission in 2015. He is a certified spiritual director, connecting with and walking with those who wish to deepen an intentional and contemplative spiritual life. He sees the intimate connection between our deeply held spiritual beliefs and the workings of our day-to-day mind and heart. The connection between spirituality and psychology is the area Bussho loves to explore, as well as encouraging and supporting spiritual lives, regardless of faith tradition.

Bussho is grounded in contemplative spirituality, interfaith experience, addiction recovery, and shadow integration. He is experienced in overseas pilgrimage and retreat facilitation, classroom education, and public speaking on a variety of spiritual subjects. His special interests include Zen ritual and ceremony, poetry, interfaith dialogue, and the works of the great mystics. He lives in Eden Prairie with his wonderful wife Karen.

  • From Bussho –  I wish to keep offering myself as a resource on Zen, Buddhism, meditation, and mindfulness to classes & students in whatever capacity I can. I have a relatively flexible schedule, with normal class/working hours being especially available. I’d love to meet more Auggies!

Chris Stedman 2019Chris Stedman is a humanist community organizer, interfaith activist, and writer living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is the author of Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious, “an intimate and deeply affecting portrait… [that] proves [he is] an activist in the truest sense and one to watch” (Booklist, Starred Review). Chris is also the founding executive director of the Humanist Center of Minnesota, a project through which he and a group of researchers at the University of Minnesota are studying the beliefs, practices, and community involvement of the religiously unaffiliated. Formerly the founding executive director of the Yale Humanist Community and a fellow at Yale University, he also worked as a humanist chaplain at Harvard University and a content developer for the Interfaith Youth Core.

Chris has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, PBS, and Fox News, has spoken at hundreds of conferences and universities, and has written for publications including The Guardian, The Atlantic, Pitchfork, BuzzFeed, VICE, The Los Angeles Review of Books, CNN, MSNBC, USA Today, Salon, The Washington Post, and others. Details magazine named him one of “five next-gen gurus who are disrupting religion’s status quo” and Mic called him “the millennial who’s busting every stereotype about atheists.” He is currently finishing work on his next book, IRL: Finding Realness, Meaning, and Belonging in Our Digital Lives (forthcoming from Fortress Press), which examines what it means to be human in the age of social media, and he also writes THREAD, an occasional newsletter exploring the threads that connect online and offline life. Chris holds a summa cum laude B.A. in Religion from Augsburg (with minors in English and Social Welfare) and an M.A. in Religion from Meadville Lombard Theological School at the University of Chicago, for which he was awarded the Billings Prize for Most Outstanding Scholastic Achievement. In 2018 Augsburg selected him for their annual First Decade Award, which recognizes alumni “who have made significant progress in their professional achievements and contributions to the community” ten years after graduating. Learn more at chrisstedmanwriter.com.

  • From Chris – “I’m thrilled to start my third year as an interfaith fellow at Augsburg and can’t wait to continue learning from and with this wonderful community. I especially love visiting classes and engaging in conversation with students about humanism, secular worldviews, interfaith work, and my own undergraduate experience at Augsburg. Please reach out if you have any ideas or questions about ways we might work together.”

To invite Bussho or Chris to your speak with your class or connect with your group, please contact interfaith@augsburg.edu for their contact information.


Batalden interfaith Fellow


Ger Vang

Ger Vang is Hmong Shaman currently living in Saint Paul. He is from a family and culture with long history of shamanism and spiritual healers. His late father was a gifted healer; his grandfather was also a shaman. Ger began his own spiritual journey as a healer six years ago. The Power of Spiritual Healing chose him. The spiritual guides, the source of his healing gift, provide him with the necessary spiritual training in diagnosing illnesses and healing practices. Besides being a spiritual healer, he is a musician. He is also the Vice President of Training and Development for the Generational Financial Group, a local insurance firm. If you’re interested in having Ger visit your class, please contact him at gervang2222@gmail.com. If you have any questions, please feel free to email Bibiana Koh, Batalden Scholar in Applied Ethics, at koh@augsburg.edu.

Leadership for Interfaith at Augsburg: An Institute to Promote Interreligious Leadership

Rev. Mark S. Hanson headshot

We are pleased to announce Mark Hanson has transitioned from his role as executive director of the Christensen Center for Vocation (CCV) to help develop Augsburg’s new institute to promote interreligious leadership.

Bio for Mark S. Hanson

Serving as the Founding Director of Interfaith at Augsburg: An Institute to Promote Inter-Religious Leadership, Rev. Mark S. Hanson leads Augsburg University’s commitment to interfaith leadership being a core aspect of Augburg’s academic mission. Interfaith leadership presumes knowledge, skills and sensibilities and is embedded in both curricular and co-curricular dimensions of the Augsburg experience. It involves theological education, spiritual engagement, everyday experiences, global education and social action.

Prior to his current appointment, Hanson served as presiding bishop of the ELCA. He was elected to this position by the Churchwide Assembly of the ELCA in August 2001 and was reelected in 2007. In 2003, he was elected to serve, concurrently, as president of the Lutheran World Federation, a position he held until 2010.

Before being elected as ELCA presiding bishop, he served as bishop of the Saint Paul Area Synod (3H). He had been elected to serve a second term in Saint Paul earlier that same year. Prior to being elected synod bishop, he served as pastor of three Minnesota congregations: Prince of Glory Lutheran Church, Minneapolis; Edina (Minnesota) Community Lutheran Church; and University Lutheran Church of Hope in Minneapolis. 

Born in Minneapolis on December 2, 1946, he graduated from Augsburg College with a B.A. in sociology. He was a Rockefeller Fellow at Union Theological Seminary, New York City, and received a Master of Divinity degree there in 1972. He also attended Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota, and was a Merrill Fellow at Harvard Divinity School in 1979. 

In his work as president of the Lutheran World Federation and as presiding bishop of the ELCA, Hanson has traveled widely throughout the world, sharing a confident hope in God’s promises and a vision of the joyful freedom in Christian community and mission. 

Hanson is widely known as a leader with an evangelical passion and imagination who embraces the Christian tradition, the Christian community, and the world with both generous goodwill and thoughtful insight. He has been an articulate advocate for the renewal of the church’s preaching and public voice, for the strengthening of ecumenical and inter-religious relationships, and for reconciliation and justice in society, with attention especially to those who live with poverty and discrimination. 

Hanson has received several honorary degrees, including Doctor of Humane Letters from Augsburg College, Wittenberg University, and Grand View University, Doctor of Humanities from Capital University, Doctor of Divinity from Lenoir-Rhyne College, Wartburg Theological Seminary, Susquehanna University, Wartburg College, and The Academy of Ecumenical Indian Theology and Church Administration.

He is the author of Faithful Yet Changing, the Church in Challenging Times and Faithful and Courageous, Christians in Unsettling Times both from Augsburg Fortress, Publishers. 

Married to Ione (Agrimson), they are the parents of Aaron, Alyssa, Rachel, Ezra, Isaac and Elizabeth, and grandparents to Naomi, Kingston, Sam, Danielle and Sophia. Before moving to Chicago, Ione was the director of social work at Minneapolis and St. Paul Children’s Hospitals.

2018-19 Christensen Interfaith Fellows

We are pleased to announce the Christensen and Batalden Interfaith Fellows for the 2018-19 academic year:

Christensen Interfaith Fellows – Wendy Goldberg, Busshō Lahn and Chris Stedman ’08

Batalden Interfaith Fellow – Ger Vang

The Christensen and Batalden Interfaith Fellows are charged with deepening and extending Augsburg’s calling to inter-religious engagement, preparing students to live and serve in contexts of religious pluralism. Their work will be coordinated by the Christensen Center for Vocation and Batalden Professor in Applied Ethics. It includes participating in classroom and campus discussions and events; working with students named as Interfaith, Christensen, and Sabo scholars; and engaging with Augsburg’s Interfaith Coordinating Committee and various religious groups on campus.
Continue reading “2018-19 Christensen Interfaith Fellows”

2017-18 Interfaith Scholars

CHUNG EANG LIP (CHUILL) ’18
Chung Lip

Hometown: Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Major: Biology
Minor: Psychology

This community is special for everyone. It is not just a place to come and get a degree, but a place that I have learned to care, to love and after all, to explore my life-long core commitment. With the resources given by this community, I have exposed to many experiences, just to list a few, being a Certified Nursing Assistant at St. Lucas Health Care Center, Faribault, MN, Genetic research intern with Dr. Matthew Beckman through URGO, and Mayo Innovation Scholar and many more opportunities that I would never have dreamt of. My proudest academic achievement was the 2016-2017 Linda Schrempp Alberg Endowed Leadership Award. After graduation, I plan to attend a graduate program in Public Health.


HA DONG (CASSIE) ‘18Ha Dong Cassie

Hometown: Hanoi, Vietnam
Major: Marketing and International Business
Minor: Graphic Design

I enjoyed working for non-profit organization where I know that I can use my passion and talents to benefit people in need. Last year, I was a Digital and Graphic Design Intern for The Arc Greater Twin Cities, a non-profit organization that supports and promotes the rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. I am currently a Graphic Design Intern for Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota, helping them to design and create promotional materials to support various social services. I love how Augsburg University is inclusive, welcoming, and open-mined. I feel inspired seeing so many students, professors, faculties, and staffs who are extremely involved in community engagement, building a supportive, diverse community at Augsburg and the wider Twin Cities.


BLAIR STEWIG ‘18Blair Stewig

Hometown: Buffalo, MN
Major: Biology
Minors: Chemistry, Religion, Environmental Studies

My favorite thing about Augsburg is the welcoming community and all of the wonderful experiences I have had here, including studying abroad with the Augsburg River semester and a Trip to Peru with the Augsburg cross country team and doing research in the Augsburg Biophysics lab. Outside of Augsburg, I was a summer research fellow for the Lupus Foundation of Minnesota at the Mayo Clinic and a summer research fellow at Baylor College of Medicine. After graduation, I plan to conduct research through a Post-bac program and then enroll in an MD/PhD program.


FRANCESCA CHIARI ‘19Francesca Chiari

Hometown: Reggio Emilia, Italy
Majors: Communication, New Media Science
Minors: Psychology, Film

Augsburg has helped me by pushing me to challenge myself to a point I did not know I could. I became more educated on the social aspect- related to current issues, and more open minded, as well as more willing to make a change. This year, I am collaborating with faculty to improve services offered on campus as well to have more efficient Diversity, Inclusion and Equality education for students. My proudest academic achievement was winning Junior of the Year last spring and making it into the Dean’s List every semester since I arrived to Augsburg. After graduation, I plan to travel as much as I can before stabilizing in one place.


KITANA HOLLAND ‘19Kitana Holland

Hometown: Brooklyn Park/Coon Rapids
Major: Sociology
Minor: Religion

My first time out of the country was participating in the Central America: Faith, Vocation, and Social Change in Nicaragua during spring break of 2017. Following that, I studied abroad in Oslo, Norway as a Peace Scholar studying welfare state and Peace studies regarding immigration policies, a research project, and brainstorming ways to build a divided world at International Summer School. I have also had the chance to travel to Berlin, Germany to visit a concentration camp, the Holocaust Museum, East Side Art Gallery, Berlin Wall Memorial, and met a Holocaust survivor.


CHAD BERRYMAN ‘19Chad Berryman

Hometown: Midland, Michigan
Majors: Philosophy, Spanish, and Religion

Augsburg provides myriad opportunities for its students to explore how education fits into the bigger picture of one’s life. I spent last summer studying in Cuernavaca, Mexico, and that experience has helped me identify and question assumptions which would not have been brought into focus had I stayed in the comfort of Minneapolis.  Also, small class sizes have allowed me to truly get to know my professors, and those relationships have deepened my passion for learning.  After graduation, I plan to pursue a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature.


LEX DORFMAN ‘19Lex Dorfman

Hometown: Hopkins
Major: Religion
Minors: Spanish and Leadership

I enjoy dancing, camping, cooking, and hanging out with friends. I love building communities as well. My favorite thing about Augsburg is how supportive the faculty and staff members are.


LUCY SUKAR ‘18
Lucy Sukar

Hometown: Prior Lake, MN
Major: Computer Science

My favorite thing about Augsburg is the community it creates. There is so much support not only from the students, but also from the faculty to succeed and support each other in personal and professional development. The summer of my first year, I interned with The Washington Center internship program, in which I studied in Washington, D.C for the summer, attended networking and career exploratory events, and spent 40 hours a week at an internship site of my choice. After graduation, I plan to work for a nonprofit or government position so that I may help further cultivate the future of our country.


SARAH ANN ELIZABETH ESTEY ‘18
Sarah Estey

Hometown: Minneapolis, MN
Major: Art History
Minor: Psychology

My favorite thing about Augsburg is the school’s commitment to integrity and accountability to the tenets of faith. Outside of class, I raise my two children Shea Apollo and Sidra Alia with the aid of my mothers, spiritual mentors, their Early Childcare center, and the Minneapolis Public schools early intervention program. I am an Intern for the Saint Hildegard Von Bingen Archives at The Archdiocese and Chancery of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. I had a study abroad experience in Assisi Italy, summer of 2009, Assisi Performing Arts Festival chorale student. After graduation, I plan to achieve my Master’s in Art History with a focus on Arts of Faith and Sacred Spaces.


DAVID WICK ‘19

Hometown: Denver, Colorado
Major: Exercise Science

For the past three years I have worked as a Personal Care Attendant for seniors living with Alzheimer’s and dementia. My experiences in this field have taught me how to exercise empathy and compassion, which are two qualities that Augsburg has further invoked and nurtured in me. I am incredibly proud to be an Auggie, Interfaith Scholar, and a part of this vibrant community in which I can work, learn, and grow alongside others.

 

Christensen Interfaith Fellows, 2017-18

The following three individuals have been appointed as Augsburg’s inaugural Christensen Interfaith Fellows for the 2017-18 academic year: Abdisalam Adam, Wendy Goldberg, and Chris Stedman ’08.

The Interfaith Fellows are charged with deepening and extending Augsburg’s calling to inter-religious engagement, preparing students to live and serve in contexts of religious pluralism. Their work will be coordinated by the Christensen Center for Vocation and includes participating in classroom and campus discussions and events; working with students named as Interfaith, Christensen, and Sabo scholars; and engaging with Augsburg’s Interfaith Coordinating Committee and various religious groups on campus. Continue reading “Christensen Interfaith Fellows, 2017-18”

2016-17 Interfaith Scholars

YOUSIF AL-HAJIBY ‘17Yousif Al-Hajiby

Hometown: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Majors: Accounting and Finance

Professors, faculty members, mentors, and friends always make me feel like we are a big family that is trying to learn from each other at Augsburg. The strong communication between me and the professors always push me to go the extra mile. Augsburg has opened my eyes to many opportunities such as internships and potential future jobs. Also connected me with mentors that helped me to understand the work environment and how to be more productive. After graduation, I plan to work for the government and start my own company.


grace corbin ’17Grace Corbin

Hometown: Grantsburg, Wisconsin
Major: Youth and Family Ministry
Minor: Peace and Global Studies

I am involved in Campus Ministry, Campus Kitchen, and admissions tour guide. I am also in Student Government, serving as Senior Class President and on the Environmental Action Committee. I worked at the Restoration Center at Central Lutheran Church in downtown Minneapolis and I studied abroad in Namibia and South Africa. Augsburg has changed me in many ways. I have become more open-minded and politically engaged. Augsburg has taught me how to be an informed, active citizen.


JEHAN ELSAGHER ’17Jehan ELSAGHER

Hometown: Burnsville, Minnesota
Major: Biopsychology

I’m currently a Hospice Volunteer through HealthPartners Hospice and Palliative Care and I volunteer in the kids department at my Church. I’m an Academic Coach at a local high school, helping students learn how to work in small groups to prepare them for college. I’m also a Personal Care Attendant, I’ve been with my client for four years and we do lots of fun activities together! After graduation I plan to go to graduate school to obtain my Masters in Counseling and become a Licensed Professional Counselor. I know that my purpose in life is to help those who are struggling with mental illness.


CLAIRE FELKNOR ’18CLAIRE FELKNOR

Hometown: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Majors: Communications and Sociology

Augsburg has definitely contributed to a more holistic understanding of the world around me and it’s diverse population, all with different circumstances that shape their experiences in society. Understanding these differences is extremely valuable, especially considering my privilege. I have a weekly service commitment at a club off campus that is very near and dear to my heart. Last year, I served on StepUP’s Leadership Team and assisted in the coordination of a host of events for StepUP Students. I’m an advocate for animals and work with SecondHand Hounds as a foster for animals who are waiting to be adopted.


BLAKE A. halvorson ’17Blake Halvorson

Hometown: Faribault, Minnesota
Majors: Management Information Systems and Marketing

Community service and volunteer activities I am involved with include StepUP Leadership Team’s Trusted Servant, StepUP Solutions Board, Contact for multiple treatment center service opportunities, Interfaith Scholar, Augsburg Intramurals, StepUP Tour Guide when needed, StepUP mentor for new students, Daily Miscellaneous Service when presented with the opportunity. My proudest academic achievement was getting Outstanding Junior of the Year.


Imann hodleh ’18Imann Hodleh

Imann Hodleh ‘18

Hometown: Born in The Netherlands, Resident of Plymouth, Minnesota
Major: Political Science
Minor: Management Information Systems

Getting into the Model United Nations program was my proudest academic achievement. Prior to it I didn’t think I’d actually like it but after getting accepted into it I decided to just give it a chance. I ended up loving it and learning so much about international politics. It inspired me to want to work with foreign policy post-graduation. Taking part in the debates and discussions surrounding global affairs taught me a lot and just travelling to New York City, that experience alone opened doors for me as I got to visit the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees headquarters. After graduation, I plan to travel for a year, learning the history of the world. When I come back however I’d like to connect back with my supervisor from the International Institute of Minnesota and work there for a couple years, learning more about the way refugee services function on a national level. I hope to then move on to doing foreign policy work overseas regarding refugees. I’d also at some point like to aid in the rebuilding of Somalia’s infrastructure and hope to use my political and historical knowledge in doing so.


blake Miller ’17Blake Miller

Hometown: Staples, Minnesota
Major: Biology
Minor: Religion

My favorite thing about Augsburg is the intimate class setting and the ability to immerse myself in various different environments. Augsburg has taught me to always be questioning and searching for the truth, and to understand when that might not be possible. After I graduate I plan on applying to dental school and work in a biology research lab.


Danny Polaschek ’17Danny Polashek

Hometown: Coon Rapids, Minnesota
Majors: English (Literature, Language, and Theory) and Creative Writing
Minor: Business Administration

My favorite thing about Augsburg is the general inclusivity, coming here has opened my eyes and vastly broadened my horizons. During the fall semester of my junior year, I was an intern at the Ranelagh Arts Centre in Dublin, Ireland. This year, I will be working with Bob Cowgill and Doug Green on a short story collection.

 


Casey Regnier ’17Casey Regnier

Hometown: Neenah, Wisconsin
Major: Biopsychology
Minor: Peace and Global Studies

I regularly teach swimming to a multi-generational group of East African women in my local community through the Health Commons. After graduation, I plan to take a gap year and go to Physician Assistant school.

Muslim Identities in Minnesota

PMuslim Voices MNresentations by Cawo Abdi and Nahid Khan (University of Minnesota)

Moderated by Fardosa Hassan (Augsburg College)

Date & Time: Tuesday, October 4, 2016, 7:00 PM

Admission: free and open to the public

Location: Hoversten Chapel, Foss Center, Augsburg College

In the 21st century there is a plethora of clichés, stereotypes, and over-generalizations about Muslims in Minnesota, where there are also a variety of different ways of being Muslim. In this panel, Professor Abdi and Ph.D. candidate Khan will explore the diversity of Muslims in Minnesota today and the many contexts shaping their lives and identities. Professor Abdi will draw on her recently published book on the Somali diaspora, Elusive Jannah, and Khan will present data from her research on the portrayal of Islam and Muslims in Twin Cities media over the last several decades.  This is the second in a series on Muslim Identities co-sponsored with the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning at the University of St. Thomas.  The first, “Muslim Identities in North America,” features Professors Meena Sharify-Funk (Wilfred Laurier University) and Nahid Khan, speaking at 7pm, Monday, September 26, in Woulfe Alumni Hall, University of St. Thomas.

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Cawo Abdi

Cawo Abdi is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Minnesota and a Research Associate at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. Professor Abdi’s research areas are migration, family and gender relations, development, Africa and the Middle East. She has published on these topics in various journals and is the author of a book, “Elusive Jannah: The Somali Diaspora and a Borderless Muslim Identity,” University of Minnesota Press, 2015.

nahid
Nahid Khan

Nahid Khan is a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication with a religious studies graduate minor at the University of Minnesota. Khan also serves as special consultant to the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning at the University of St. Thomas. Active in community interfaith dialogue since the 1980s, with a particular focus on Muslim-Jewish dialogue, she was a Muslim delegate at the North American Interfaith Colloquium held at the Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research in 1999 and 2000 and she served for eight years on the board of the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition, an interfaith advocacy group addressing social justice issues in Minnesota.  She is also a trained guide for the Collection in Focus program at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and a board member of Mizna, an Arab-American cultural and arts organization based in the Twin Cities.

Sponsored by the Bernhard Christensen Center for Vocation at Augsburg College in collaboration with the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning at the University of St. Thomas, as well as the Muslim-Christian Dialogue Center and the Department of Communication and Journalism at the University of St. Thomas.

 

Interfaith Student Reflection by Joseph Kempf

Joseph Kempf, Class of 2016

joe-kempf

“(And Jesus Said) You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.” Matthew 5:13

You are…a people of faith. You are…a city on a hill. You are…the Salt of the Earth. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus calls his followers salt, of all things! Don’t get me wrong, salt is delicious and needed. But we could be something great! We could be legends, we could be a mountain, instead Jesus charges us with salt. While there are numerous interpretations of what exactly is meant by being the Salt of the Earth, I personally hold this verse in the Gospel of Matthew to indicate how followers of Jesus should engage in the world. I am going to do this with a little bit of Chemistry.

I wanted to be scholarly and a little rebellious so I researched what Salt of the Earth even means. According to the Wikipedia page devoted to Matthew 5:13, it reads “Salt itself, Sodium Chloride, is extremely stable and cannot lose its flavor…(then some author notes) Jesus is ‘not giving a chemistry lesson’” I’m almost a little offended. Who are they to decide when chemistry stops. If there is one thing I learned at Augsburg…chemistry never stops. Since Jesus clearly was not teaching chemistry, I think I will step up to the plate so to speak.

I’m sure all of you are familiar enough with cooking. You know with all of your might that oil and water will never mix, no matter how much you stir. Oil is simply too big for water to take on. Long chains of carbons and hydrogens are not attractive to water’s oxygen and hydrogen combo. Maybe for too long, Christians have become oily in practice and deed. We have become too engrossed with our beliefs, what road to heaven or what does this passage actually mean. If water represents the world, sometimes we just sit on top, looking at the world below us but never submerges ourselves. We see our neighbors of various religions, but we may seldom act. What we need is a radical shift in ideas and our approach to other religions. But Jesus doesn’t call us the ‘oil of the earth’ we are the ‘salt of the earth’! You know perfectly well what salt does in water- it breaks apart and fully involves itself in waters affairs. An important thing to note is that the salt is never destroyed in this transaction. Often what holds us back from working or engaging in interfaith dialogue and service is the simple fact that we are afraid of losing our faith. Of changing for the worse or even where to begin. But of course these actions can be learned. WE are called to engage the world and serve our neighbor. How much longer are we going to separate ourselves from this sacred service?

Continue reading “Interfaith Student Reflection by Joseph Kempf”

Interfaith Student Reflection by Jasmine Eltawely

Jasmine Eltawely ’16jasmin-etlawely

Growing up as a Muslim in the US has never been an easy thing for me. I have constantly had to deal with people forming misconceptions about me due to what they’ve heard about Muslims, before they have even gotten the chance to get to know one. This led me to always feel a bit ashamed of my religious identity and I would constantly feel the need to hide it from people. Though I have always been devoted to my faith, I just felt it would be easier for people to not know I was Muslim, due to fear that I would be deemed an outcast. This caused me to never discuss religion with anyone outside of my family, and to not wear the hijab or pray in public places, up until I started attending Anoka Ramsey Community College.

There, I became involved in student organizations that dealt with interfaith engagement and dialogue. Through my experiences I was able to find that it was okay for me to be who I am and not feel like I would be judged or mistreated due to my identity as a Muslim. I was able to interact with people that didn’t have the same beliefs as me, but I could talk with them about religion in welcoming conversations to explore our ideologies. It was an amazing experience that I hoped to continue, and I was able to do just that when I transferred to Augsburg College. I was able to continue to be involved in such organizations on campus, and continue to reach out to the Muslim community and work to bridge the gaps of misunderstanding that currently exist.

Islam has always been such a key part of my life, and much of who I am is shaped by it, but it has taken me a long time to be comfortable enough to say that to others. Through interfaith engagement I have been given the opportunity to truly find who I am and not be ashamed of it. Working with students on campus to create an inclusive environment for people of all faiths has been an amazing service that I have been blessed to be a part of. Not only have I been able to give back to my community, but I was also able to learn about myself through the process. Not only is interfaith engagement very important to me, it has become a big part of my life and who I am.

I believe that God has blessed us all with many great things, things that we should never take for granted. And if we are fortunate enough to be given an opportunity that others don’t have access to, then it is our responsibility to reach out. I feel that through Interfaith engagement, I am able to do just that. I’m able to be involved in creating community amongst people in a time where conflict seems to always block understanding and hate is so easily spread. My faith has inspired me that one of the beauties of life is the diversity that we are surrounded with, and it is important that we embrace these differences rather than shame and criticize. There is an ayah in the Quran in which Allah tells the people of the Earth that He created us different so that we would get to know one another. And I feel that only with interfaith engagement can we truly strive for this universal understanding. Continue reading “Interfaith Student Reflection by Jasmine Eltawely”