GVSU’s Muslim and Jewish students sit down together for a meal in peace
Imagine a place where the historical disputes between religions could be set aside — where people with varying opinions could sit down and talk to one another in peace. The Avi Shabbat dinner provided just this for Grand Valley State University’s Jewish and Muslim students on Friday night.
My grandmother tells this story about how a relative of hers who lived in Israel asked her, quite intensely, whether she was an American or a Jew. She didn’t know what to say; why couldn’t she be both?
Hillel at Binghamton and Muslim Student Association collaborated on the “Visit a Mosque/Visit a Temple” event on March 9, sponsored by the Avi Schaefer Fund. Twelve Hillel students and 12 students from Muslim Student Association spent the afternoon together, visiting Masjid Al-Nur in Johnson City and meeting with Imam Anas Shaikh, then visiting Beth David Synagogue in Binghamton and meeting with Rabbi Zev Silber. Two students, Munira Pulodi, of Muslim Student Association, and Andrew Davidov, of Hillel, shared their reflections on the event.
The Israeli Palestinian Conflict in Our Lives: How it Impacts our Values, Culture and Identity proved to be an important and exciting topic for our Fourth Annual Jerusalem Symposium In Memory of Avi Schaefer, held March 20th, 2014. Once again, there was standing room only with over 300 participants in attendance, mostly young college age students, to hear amazing speakers and presenters.
Despite the extensive diversity and countless opportunities to meet new students on campus, most students do not leave the safety of their community bubble. However this year, Hillel at Binghamton and the Muslim Student Association (MSA) have been working together to break down these barriers in order to open up opportunities for interfaith dialogue. On Sunday, March 9, Hillel and the MSA took a group of Jewish and Muslim students to go and visit a local mosque, Masjid Al-Nur (Islamic Organization of the Southern Tier) and Beth David Synagogue. Muslim and Jewish students were paired up with each other to create a friendly and open environment for everyone to talk and get to know one another. This trip was a follow-up event to Hillel’s Avi Schaefer Shabbat in collaboration with the MSA, where Jewish and Muslim students shared a Shabbat dinner together while discussing cultural and religious similarities and backgrounds.
So far, this year over fifty five schools are participating in Avi Shabbat, inspiring important explorations of difference and celebrations of similarity. Cultural barriers have been knocked down over memorable dinners, where students of all backgrounds investigated together the truly important things that connect us all.
An all-star panel of influential Jewish thinkers, writers, and community leaders addressed the questions of Jews and power Sunday at the Inaugural North American Symposium in Memory of Avi Schaefer at Columbia/Barnard Hillel, sponsored by The Avi Schaefer Fund and Mechon Hadar.
Thank you to the over 200 people who joined us last Sunday at the Inaugural Avi Schaefer Fund North American Symposium in partnership with Mechon Hadar. It was a powerful and beautiful day of learning, community and connection in Avi’s memory.
The Fund is dedicated to developing opportunities to foster Avi’s values of empathy, mutual respect and active listening. The Fund is also committed to empowering students (undergraduate and graduate) to see themselves as change agents on their campuses and in their communities, and instilling them with tools to engage in open and civil discourse. Therefore, we are pleased to share the launch of Avi Shabbat 2014 and our new program, ASF Innovation Grants.
Dear Friends of Avi z”l and the Avi Schaefer Fund,
The newspapers and radio waves are full of descriptions of the destruction wrought by the typhoon in the Philippines last week. As I listen to the stories and read about the losses, I find that I am missing Avi and bringing to mind his efforts in response to similar devastation in Haiti nearly four years ago.
I can still picture Avi in our living room as he talked about his plan to raise funds for relief efforts in Haiti, and I remember well the intensity of his purpose. He was meant to be relaxing on his winter break from school, but before his return to campus he had set himself the goal of not only making a difference in Haiti, but of doing so by increasing awareness of the important work of the Israeli humanitarian organization IsraAID.