Wednesday, September 21, 2005

JAM & All

Last night was a board meeting for JAM & All, an interfaith organization I've been working with for a few years. JAM stands for Jews and Muslims. It's a post-9/11 group, started by an American Jew who was born in Israel (David Kamrat) and a Muslim leader (Maulana Shafayat Mohamed). Our plans for the coming year include various service projects, concentrating on individual impact rather than wide-spread publicity or big events.

After September 11, 2001, my husband and I, along with millions of other Americans, obviously, felt the need to "do something," and this interfaith dialog seemed like a natural direction for us. We started by going to visit the Islamic Center that is located a few blocks from our church. We went to prayers there several times and became acquainted with some people. Then we attended services at Temple Shalom, which is a few blocks in the other direction. We found out, for example, that the rabbi at Temple Shalom has a daughter in Israel and the imam at the Islamic Center has family in Jenin. The conflict in the Middle East is closer to my neighborhood than I had previously realized.

We arranged an interfaith gathering at our church which included two rabbis, two imams and two ministers, with a mixed attendance of about ninety people. That gathering was amazing, educational and uplifting. Everyone who attended was enthusiastic. The only negative feedback we got was from one person who thought it should have gone longer. But afterwards, we found that there was quite a bit of institutional resistance to any kind of continuing program. That is understandable because all these institutions run on volunteer energy and they are always strained to accomplish their own agendas, serve their own congregations, without having outside programs added in. So I joined JAM and All, which is not affiliated with any religious institutions. It's an independent non-profit and I have made more friends there. In the end, the main result of our efforts is that we have made friends with people from different cultures, different religions and nationalities.

"...you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good." Genesis 50:20

4 comments:

Sara said...

About the only kind of religious community you will find here are the Lutheran Teas. Mostly born again Christians that migrated toward the Lutheran faith and drink tea together.

Not that many real service groups around here. I belong to Habitat for Humanity, but we only build about one house every five years. I basically just collect aluminum cans by the truckload and get $5 back to put toward the next house.

I set up a big recycling thing for our local 4th of July celebration (it's huge, people from all over the state come to it). Filled up my truck two times with cans from the park and got $7.68. It was only about $42.00 short of my hopes.

Read/Think/Live said...

Sara--

I've been meaning to ask you more about your art studies and mention that my daughter ("Artist Alice"--not her actual name) is just starting her post-secondary education at a small southern art college. She's 18, looking at a career in visual arts, she's interested in fashion design, costumes, graphic design, illustration, anime, graphic novels, children's books and so on. What is your curriculum like? What's the social atmosphere like where you go to school? If you want you could answer on your blog--I'll check in there a little later. I'm headed home now and won't be on the net for a while.

Sara said...

I'll answer here, seeing as I never write in my blog. I should. I will. I'm going to make it a goal.

I do dabble in art (mostly drawing, painting and photography), but I'm studying art history. So my curriculum focuses on the art, how it was produced, why it was produced, the culture it was produced in, it's impact on later art, etc . . . My emphasis is ancient art (specifically Greek, Etruscan and Roman), so many of my classes deal with the history, politics, literature and art of those time periods. I also take studio art classes so that I am able to use any artistic techniques I might need if I end up going into art restoration. In those classes I learn everything from collage to sculpture to lithograph. As part of my major I have to take 4 semesters of either Italian, French or German, so I'm taking Italian. There are a lot of research papers to write for an art history/curatorial studies major. That's a major difference between the art history and art departments. The art majors have very little writing to do, though they do have to learn technical writing for artists. I haven't taken that class yet, but it looks to be interesting.

The social atmosphere at my school is a lot like most schools, minus the drugs and alcohol. I go to BYU (LDS/Mormon owned) so we have to sign a paper before we're allowed to attend the university that says we won't drink, do drugs, dress like a skank on campus, etc . . . (the majority of us don't do that in the first place, so signing the paper isn't something that phases us.)

But socially, it is really fun. I've done everything from driving up into the mountains and watching drive-in style movies on couches in the back of a truck to going country dancing. The city is geared toward college students so there are miles of apartment complexes and houses in close proximity that are designated for students. There are a lot of concerts for students to participate in (I like to play in the Acoustic Explosion show), there's a foreign movie theater, there's a soap box in the middle of the campus square, and there are free bbq's and breakfasts all the time.

If she's going to a small college, chances are her experience will be more focused than mine. There are something like 35,000 students at my college. I've had classes with 3,000 students before. You can sometimes feel a bit lost in a crowd that size. I love BYU though, even if it is big. When I lived on campus for freshman year I hated it because I felt very surrounded, but once I got off campus and moved into apartments it was less stifling and I've had an amazing time.

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