Students explore interfaith ties in D.C.

Participants at the Interfaith Summit show off their school pennants. Photo by Geoffrey Melada.

Last weekend, 30 college students from across the country came to Washington to talk about what they could do to promote interfaith relations on their campuses.

“I think a lot of people our age are secular so it’s hard to even bring up or ask are you religious?” said Leila Oschtun, from the University of Los Angeles. Oschtun’s father is Muslim and her mother is Jewish, and she practices Judaism. At college, she’s made Jewish friends who she has Shabbat dinner with.

“It’s so important when you’re doing interfaith work to not dilute the religious part of it,” she said. “If you want to learn about someone’s faith, don’t get the watered down version, just go all in.”

The Interfaith Summit, held Nov. 9-11 at Hillel International, was organized by Hillel’s David Project, which aims to build student partnerships. Six faiths were represented at the summit: Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Druze, Hinduism and Baha’i.

Margo Dickstein is a board member of MuJew, a Muslim-Jewish dialogue group at the University of Michigan. She is also an intern with the David Project. Dickstein said she wished the summit
was longer.

“Honestly, it’s only a weekend and I wish we had more time…I don’t really get a lot of time to talk to Catholics or Protestants,” she said, adding, “Interfaith work doesn’t have to be typical.”

Back at Michigan, Dickstein wants to invite Arab-Israeli scholar Lian Najami to speak. Dickstein thought Najami’s views on Israel and interfaith work would be interesting for students to hear.

During the summit, there were opportunities for students to experience other religions. On Friday evening, there was a Shabbat dinner for all the participants. On Sunday morning, some participants went to mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

This was the David Project’s first interfaith gathering. It has sponsored programs to bring together Jews and African Americans, and Jews and Latinos.

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