Despite Barrack being a Jewish school, we make many efforts to encourage interfaith dialogue and expand students' perspectives on religion. This has taken place through various speakers, as well as the Friends in Faith program with Pope John Paul II High School.
The 12th grade recently had the opportunity to hear from guest speaker Aziz Nathoo on October 30, an imam (Muslim religious leader) and campus chaplain at Chestnut Hill College and Ursinus College. It was clear that he was very knowledgeable about Judaism and had experience with interfaith dialogue, and this allowed him to offer a more in-depth contrast of the two religions during his presentation. He spoke about the relationship between the two religions and how despite them being different faiths, they are more alike than some believe and are actually siblings. One similarity he touched on was the value of Amana in Islam and how it relates to Tikun Olam in Judaism. However, while he did compare with Judaism, he also focused on teaching the basic morals of Islam to try to give us a better understanding. He discussed the Shia-Sunni difference, as well as the diversity in race among Muslims. Beyond religious beliefs, the speaker discussed his experience as a minority at college, an experience many of these seniors will relate to next year.
The next interfaith programming was the meeting of the Friends in Faith program on November 13, supported by the American Jewish Committee and St. Joseph’s University, with students and faculty from Pope John Paul II High School visiting Barrack. The program began with a presentation from Professors Philip Cunningham and Adam Gregerman who discussed past relations between the two religions. There was a prayer for peace read by both a Pope John Paul II student and a Barrack student, in English and Hebrew, respectively. After the presentation, we were divided into small groups to discuss our religious differences and our relative experiences. In these discussions, we not only focused on our religious experiences but also read texts from the two religions in order to apply our beliefs to the topic of immigration. We then enjoyed lunch together, with water ice and donut holes, and it was particularly enjoyable to socialize with the Pope John Paul II students teen to teen.
Most recently, on November 15, we heard from Rev. Myungjung Lee who serves as a minister the Won Buddhist Temple in Glenside. First, she led us in a group meditation, leading us through the steps, and ringing the bell to give an authentic experience. That went into her explaining more about Won Buddhism, as many of us had never heard of it before. She explained that it was created when the founder, Venerable Sotaesan, experienced an Enlightenment. Then, she discussed the day-to-day life of a Won Buddhist, which includes many times throughout the day for rest, prayer, reflection, meditation, and study.
All of these visitors have been extremely impactful and helpful in broadening our understanding of religion and learning about different cultures, and hopefully, there will be similar visitors in Barrack’s future!