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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.

Start of Program

With 2 months  in the books, Interfaith Exchange is starting to roll. Below is an update of some of what our participants engaged in during the first few meetings:

    • September 11, 2011 – We kicked off our year of interfaith learning by reflecting on the 10-year anniversary of 9/11. It was inspiring to hear from Muslim, Christian, and Jewish high school students how their understanding of 9/11 has changed over the past decade, and what impact it has had on their lives and personal relationships.
    • September 18, 2011 – During a retreat to Exeter, RI, the fellows engaged in a number of team-building activities to get to know one another. We concluded the day by investigating Muslim, Christian, and Jewish texts discussing nature, many of which commonly touched on man’s responsibility to care for God’s creation. Below is a beautiful picture from the retreat:
    • September 25, 2011 – As shared service is something that can enhance interfaith collaboration (and vice versa), we took the fellows on a walking tour of Providence, led by Brown Senior Beth Caldwell. Beth highlighted the city’s homelessness problems in hopes of inspiring the fellows to start to contemplate some ways in which they will serve their communities over the course of the year. We concluded the day with breakout sessions to discuss how we currently engage in service and in what ways we should look to improve these engagements.
    • October 2, 2011 – Guest presenter Jesse McGleughlin, Sophomore at Brown, engaged the fellows on a series of activities that highlighted youth empowerment and the opportunity students of all ages have to make positive changes.

We have a number of videos, guest speakers, text studies, and volunteering sessions in store for the rest of the year to help the fellows learn from one another and work together to make the Providence community a better place for all. Check back in for updates soon!