Posts Tagged ‘Interfaith’

Everest: A Climb for Peace

January 21, 2012

After two years of talk, we’re finally bringing the film Everest: A Climb for Peace to OWU.

Mark your calendars for January 31st at 7PM (Corns Hall Room 312)

Past Hillel Vice President Sally Elkind-Goldstein brought this film to our attention upon returning from a college leadership convention.  It “chronicles the spectacular journey of 9 ‘peace climbers’ from different faiths and cultures as they climb to the summit of the tallest mountain in the world.”  Since the focus of the film is on a pair of climbers one of whom is Israeli the other Palestinian, we thought it would be an excellent piece to bring to campus.  Sometimes we struggle to talk about the fighting between Israelis and Palestinians.  This film will give us a glimpse of what is possible when people from these groups work together for a common goal.

A discussion of the film will follow.  And, filmmaker Lance Trumbull might even join us via Skype!


How the Holocaust Changed Interfaith History

November 1, 2011
If the title of this post interests you, you won’t want to miss this year’s Kristallnacht Commemoration Speaker.  

Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, marks the beginning of the Nazi Holocaust against the European Jews. For two days and nights, Nov. 9 and 10, the Nazis carried out pogroms, or riots, against the Jews.

This year, the Columbus Jewish Federation, the Interfaith Association of Central Ohio, Trinity Lutheran Seminary, and Ohio Wesleyan University will commemorate Kristallnacht by welcoming a scholar-in-residence from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

Victoria Barnett, staff director of the national museum’s Committee on Church Relations and the Holocaust, will discuss “How the Holocaust Changed Interfaith History” at 7 p.m. Nov. 8 in Room 312 of the R.W. Corns Building.

Barnett, a graduate of Union Theological Seminary in New York, is a scholar of the Holocaust and of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran theologian known for his resistance to the Nazis.

Dedicated in 1993, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum seeks to inspire citizens and leaders worldwide to confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity. Since the museum opened, it has welcomed more than 30 million visitors and 91 heads of state. Learn more at

Challah for Hunger

November 10, 2010

"International Order of Challah Makers: For challah bakers, challah lovers, and everyone who knows what bread makes the very best french toast!" from

[I’m very excited to be writing this post!]

Over a year ago, I stumbled upon Challah for Hunger (CfH) somewhere online.  CfH is a non-profit with a straightforward mission: “Challah for Hunger raises awareness of and money for hunger and disaster relief through the production and sale of challah bread.”  I thought this program would be a perfect fit for OWU Hillel.  Afterall, some of our best times have been had in the kitchen.  With our Hamantashen for Haiti effort last year, we married that experience with social action and found that cooking can be used as the basis for tzedakah (charity).

This fall, I received an email from a young Jewish woman, Caryn, who is spending a few years in Delaware as an intern with the Public Health Department through the Center for Disease Control (CDC).  Caryn asked about the kinds of activities available through OWU Hillel and mentioned that she founded a chapter of CfH at UCLA while she was a student.  I could not believe our good fortune!  Since September, Caryn has been a supportive ally in our efforts to start a chapter of Challah for Hunger at OWU – attending meetings, sharing recipes and information, and connecting us with the national network and resources.

CfH was started in 2004 at Scripps College in California.  It was the vision of a single student who loved to bake and wanted to put her talent to work helping those in need.  Since 2004, Challah for Hunger has spread to nearly 40 campuses worldwide and has raised close to $200,000.  Each CfH chapter agrees to send 50% of it’s proceeds to American Jewish World Service for their Darfur Action Campaign.  The other half goes to an organization of the chapter members’ choosing – some local, some national, and others international.  When folks come to buy Challah, they are presented with information about these efforts and ways to get involved in voicing concern and support.  In the words of CfH founder Eli Winkelman, “Our sales table is not just a bake sale, it is a learning opportunity” (WeJew interview, see link below.)

As Bill Clinton mentioned in his discussion of CfH in his book Giving, Challah for Hunger is an interfaith venture.  “I find this effort particularly touching and relevant because it was started by a Jewish student, and is funded by the sales of traditional Jewish bread for the benefit of poor Muslims whose plight has been ignored for too long by Muslim nations much closer to them” (cited @ CfH).  Likewise, we hope that students of all faiths and no faith will participate in this effort at OWU.

In fact, OWU Hillel President Caroline Miller and University Chaplain Jon Powers will be including Challah for Hunger in their response to President Obama’s call for campus-based interfaith action.  (See more about this in upcoming months and read about the Interfaith Youth Core in my previous post.)  We look forward to kneading, braiding, and baking bread with all of you.

CfH @ OWU will begin Spring 2011.  If you or your organization would like to volunteer, please let us know – Email Caroline ( or Jodi (  We’ll be running a trial baking session November 17th – Big shout out to Gene Castelli and the catering staff for their support and cooperation!  Free samples will be passed out around campus on Thursday, November 18th – cash donations welcome.

Learn more about Challah for Hunger all over the www including:

@ Challah for Hunger

@ Jewcy – An interview with CfH founder Eli Winkelman

WeJew – Interview with Winkelman, views of CfH in Action, and Bill Clinton on CfH

Interfaith Youth Core Leadership

November 5, 2010

The weekend of October 22nd, OWU Hillel President Caroline Miller took a ride with University Chaplain Jon Powers to the Washington, D.C.  This was not a spontaneous site-seeing trip.  This trip required advanced background checks by the Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security.  The pair’s final destination: The Interfaith Youth Core‘s Interfaith Leadership Institute at the White House.

The IFYC was founded about 10 years ago by Eboo Patel, President of Barack Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith Based Neighborhood Partnerships.  The non-profit program runs workshops and provides advice for national and international initiatives to foster inter-religious understanding and tolerance.  The conference in Washington was part of the group’s Campus Partnership program.

Caroline and the Chaplain were part of a select few (200 students and 100 faculty and staff representing all 50 states and 131 schools) invited to participate in this conference. The underlying premise; religion is a powerful force that can unite and divide people.  The goal; to start a nationwide effort to make interfaith dialogue, respect, and collaboration the norm through the IFYC’s Better Together initiative.  (Read more about it in The Washington Post.)

In her application essay, Caroline described her past experiences with interfaith dialogue as strained, but she remained optimistic.

“Since coming to Ohio Wesleyan, a very diverse campus indeed with about a full quarter of our small student body being international, my eyes have seen people of all backgrounds becoming friends, my lips have tasted delicious foreign foods and my ears have heard a lot of discomfort to those unaware of the beauty of interfaith discussion…

While our campus is extremely diverse in its ethnic and religious denominations, there is not much interaction amongst them…

This theme of interfaith cooperation has not just become a fascination, it has become a way of life … People are scared of what they don’t know. By fostering these types of open and safe dialogues we can remove the fear and replace it with faith.”

Caroline and other student leaders at OWU will be promoting Interfaith activity and conversation throughout the school year.  Look for more news about a speaker in January and a campus-wide celebration of diversity, akin to the Love Day on the Jay, this spring.

IN THE NEXT OWUJEW POST: Challah for Hunger, a Hillel/Interfaith Initiative coming soon to OWU!  For information on this concept, go to

Festivals of Lights

December 18, 2009

Growing up in Great Neck, NY, the “quintessisal Jewish suburb” (Goldstein, 2006), December was a time for Chanukah candles, not Christmas trees.  Sure, we went to Rockefeller Center to visit the green giant holding court there.  But since most of my friends were Jewish too, so I didn’t develop the tree envy I’ve heard about from Jews who grew up in predominantly Christian communities, decorating Chanukah bushes.

Today, I live in Columbus, OH where nearly all of my family, friends, and neighbors celebrate some derivation of Christmas or Winter Solstice rather than Chanukah.  As a result, I’ve been exposed to new ways of marking this time of year – when the skeletons of trees are exposed, when cold weather keeps me indoors most of the day, and when dark evenings send me to bed early with thick, hard-covered novels.

At times I have felt uneasy participating in non-Jewish seasonal traditions, particularly those associated with Christmas.  Afterall, the Macabees fought the Syrians for the right to be different, not to blend in, right?  But, I now feel comfortable sharing the joy my friends and family feel at this time of year.  In turn, I’ve shared my Chanukah traditions and together, we’ve found light in the darkness.

Some friends helping us light our Chanukiah.

*I look forward to Mike and Sally’s late night campfire around which we howl at the moon each December 21st.

*I enjoy days off spent in the kitchen with my family – and the warm oven – baking cookies.

*I love watching my step-children show their friends how to twist the light bulbs to illuminate our electric Chanukiah.

There is one truly awesome tradition in my neighborhood, which I don’t completely understand, but I appreciate and take full advantage of.   On Christmas Eve each year, every house on the block one away from our sets out a row of milk jugs with lit candles inside along the curb.  These homemade luminaria mark nearly a half mile stretch.

I still remember the first time I happened upon them.  Elsa (our dog) and I walked down our dark street, around the corner, and there they were.  I find hope in these lights; hope that neighbors can come together to make something beautiful happen.  I think that hope has something to do with Chanukah, with our belief that miracles can happen in our time, as they did in times of old.  This season as I admire them I might say to myself, as they say in Israel, Ness Gadol Hayah Po.  A great miracle happened here.

*** Happy Chanukah ***  Happy Solstice *** Merry Christmas ***

Blessing the Chanukah Candles (w/o God)

December 15, 2009

My family is “blended.” My husband was raised Catholic but is non-practicing, and my step-kids are growing up without any formal religious structure or education. This can make sharing the Jewish holidays a challenge. The first year we lit the Chanukiah together, I struggled with how to address the blessings.

The fact that my own relationship to the concepts of God and prayer are tenuous, was a factor. Their mother’s concern that I might confuse them or try to convert them also played a role. While part of me longed to recite and share the traditional blessings, I was hesitant.

As a result, we came up with our own blessing. It is something both my husband and I feel comfortable saying and something the kids can remember. It is a blessing that we can share with our friends and family who are not Jewish so that they can participate in the ceremony of lighting Chanukah candles, without feeling obligated to say a prayer that they don’t understand or feel forced to adopt. Feel free to borrow it for your own interfaith holiday gatherings.

“Thank you for being here with me tonight,
to celebrate the miracle of the Chanukah lights.”