Highlights from the First Semester

October and November have been really exciting months for the Interfaith Exchange.  With the start of our service projects and a deeper exploration of each other’s faith traditions, both fellows and staff have been immersed in learning from, and sharing with, the community and each other.  Read below for details!

  • October 16, 2011 – The group met in the Brown/RISD Hillel’s Sukkah to discuss/experience the seasons Jewish high holy days. A screening of select scenes from “The Shawshank Redemption” set the scene for a text study of repentance across faith lines.  Here’s a picture from the lively text study:

  • October 23, 2011 –  Guest presenter Karen Jaffries of the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless (one of our partner organizations) introduced the fellows  to a variety of volunteer opportunities available working in the homeless community. Additionally, the fellows organized themselves within religious group to begin preparing for “Religion 101 Presentations” to help the other members of the group develop a baseline understanding of each Abrahamic faith tradition.
  • October 30, 2011 – Representatives from the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless came to train the fellows in preparation for canvassing door to door – aiming to pass legislation to provide further housing/shelter for homeless individuals in Rhode Island. Additionally, Melanie Berkowitz of English for Action provided a training in the field of English as a Second Language instruction (to prepare the group of students who will be volunteering weekly with first-time English language learners at EFA).
  • November 6, 2011 – The official launch of our volunteer projects: 1/3 of our students began work tutoring with English for Action. 1/3 of our students began canvassing to pass legislation in the district of the Rhode Island Speaker of the House, Gordon Fox. 1/3 of our students prepared curriculum to be offered to homeless children at the Crossroads Family Shelter. Additionally, the Jewish students got us started with an illuminating” Introduction to Judaism” presentation. Lastly, we joined the Faizan and Mirza families to celebrate the Muslim holiday of Eid al Azha in the home of friends in the local Muslim community – a truly unforgettable experience!
  • November 13, 2011 – Continuation of the volunteer work followed by an opportunity to regroup and process/reflect on the public service experience. Students shared comical vignettes as well as learning moments and challenges they’ve encountered along the way.

December Holiday Party:

At the end of the first semester the students and their families were welcomed into the home of Nabeel and Jonah to celebrate the culmination of the semester and the impending arrival of Christmas and Channukah. The evening included speeches made by a number of students reflecting on their experiences to date and a lively gift exchange.


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