Reflections from the Interfaith Shabbat
Written by Student Leader, Olivia Olson
A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend an interfaith service and dinner with the Jewish student group on campus called MN Hillel. This is an annual event hosted by Hillel in which they invite students from Christian groups across campus to come learn about them and their practices, and share a meal and service together to build inter-campus community among faith groups who may not normally interact.
I attended this event last year as well, and both times were really neat experiences. Everyone in Hillel was very friendly and welcoming, and they took the time to walk through the meanings and importance of the prayers we sang together so we could understand what was going on. Their songs and prayers were all in Hebrew, which was awesome to hear, but not so easy for me to speak (thankfully my poor pronunciation wasn’t an issue).
One extra special element of this year’s Interfaith gathering was the re-rolling of the Torah, which is the Jewish holy text in the form of a scroll. It just so happened that the day of the dinner was the one day of the year when Jews around the world would re-roll their Torah scrolls, since they had just reached the end of it and would start to read it again from the beginning. Everyone in attendance put on latex gloves and stood in a large circle as the scroll was unrolled, with each person holding a part of the old scroll as it passed us. It was incredible to be a part of that tradition and hold part of this old, sacred text. The Hebrew writing on it was tiny and looked so perfect – I was very impressed to learn that someone spent an entire year making this Torah for this community, and that all the words were written by hand! Moments like these don’t happen often, with a large group of people of differing faiths gathered together to learn about a group that has been so often persecuted. There were many smiles, lots of laughter, and abundant, delicious food that night, building more understanding and comradery within a huge, frequently divided campus.
My hope going forward is that we all continue to keep an open mind and heart, and welcome others from all walks of life into our traditions and lives to extend that same curiosity and joy.