Religious organizations on campus are looking to work together under the umbrella of the Interfaith Council, established last semester.
The Interfaith Council is made up of various faith-based student groups, including Hillel, Muslim Student Association, the Campus Bible Fellowship, Newman House and Binghamton Orthodox Christian Fellowship, and aims to hold events in social, service and educational settings designed to facilitate interaction and discussion between students of different religions.
In addition to efforts by the council, which operates under the direction of the Multicultural Resource Center, many of the groups involved already organize their own collaborations. Hillel, a Jewish organization for students, aims to engage its members in volunteer work and religious and educational programming.
According to Ilana Forchheimer, the student president of Hillel and a senior majoring in human development, Hillel participates in multiple interfaith events every year, including BUnity Shabbat, when various groups across campus are invited to Shabbat dinner, and a trip in which students from Hillel and the MSA travel together to a synagogue and a mosque. This year’s synagogue-mosque trip will be held in April, and the two groups plan on visiting the Islamic Organization of the Southern Tier in Johnson City, a synagogue and possibly a church.
The MSA, which provides a cultural and religious outlet for Muslim students, welcomes people of all beliefs. Hira Qayyum, the president of the MSA and a senior double-majoring in economics and Arabic studies, wrote in an email that the club is committed to outreach and uses its meetings to address common misconceptions people have about Islam, such as stereotypes about the role of women in the religion.
“The purpose of the club is to defend the religion of Islam from misinterpretation,” Qayyum wrote. “It’s to spread the true values of the religion by promoting peace and unity, especially in today’s world where we see misrepresentation in the media and politics. We feel, as students, it’s our job to spread the actual truth.”
Like Hillel, the Newman House, a Catholic church adjacent to BU’s campus, holds volunteer events at soup kitchens, thrift stores, food pantries and nursing homes. Sister Rose Casaleno, the director of campus ministry, said the Newman House uses these events to help increase the bonds between members and strives to create a stronger community.
“[We are] offering a variety of events from prayer experiences to movies to be a welcoming presence and supportive to each other during their time away from home,” Casaleno said.
Chabad, another campus-based Jewish organization, also welcomes students outside Judaism, although it is not currently involved with the interfaith council. According to Rabbi Levi Slonim, Chabad’s director of programming and development, the organization primarily acts as a resource for Jewish students, but members will often bring non-Jewish friends to Shabbat dinners at the house.
According to Yitzhak Maurer, executive vice president of Hillel and a junior majoring in classical and Near Eastern studies, the council will only enhance these existing connections and demonstrate a bond among students of varying faiths at the University.
“In a time where people are more aware of what divides us rather than what unifies, the Interfaith Council is an incredible opportunity for Binghamton University to show that we are a strong campus, and only stronger when we learn about and experience with each other,” Maurer said.