Bridges connects interfaith students

Muhlenberg has a club for everyone, including Bridges, a club with goals of connecting students of different beliefs.

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Bridges is a new interfaith club at Muhlenberg that was created to help engage the campus community in the learning and celebration of each other’s beliefs. Run by Or-El Ankori ‘25, Joseph Wolf ‘25 and club advisors Reverend Janelle Neubauer of the Chapel and Hillel Springboard Fellow Olivia Rosenblum, the club aims to “bridge” people of all different religious and spiritual backgrounds in dynamic conversation about their similarities and differences. 

Bridges started in the fall of 2022 after Ankori, president of Bridges, and two other students of other religious backgrounds, Aidan White ‘25 and Nour Yousry ‘23, had the opportunity to accompany Chaplain Janelle Neubauer to the Interfaith America Conference hosted in Chicago during August 2022. As representatives of various religious organizations on campus, they were invited to partake in a weekend that emphasized collaboration. During the conference, they were introduced to the potluck metaphor: America is a potluck rather than a melting pot, and every guest brings the best “dish” from their culture or background. The dishes are each special on their own, but also work together to create a spectacular meal (community in this metaphor). This metaphor has stayed with them and has shaped the way that Bridges approaches interfaith on campus. 

Wolf, the treasurer of Bridges, explains that he came together with both students and faculty to create this club, as he feels that people can be brought together through it. He expresses that “Despite the fact that people may have different faiths, everyone believes in something and when you get off campus, you see how politicized the world is. The way to prevent this is to gain multiple perspectives, express our own opinions and beliefs and have an appreciation for other peoples’ feelings even though we may not agree with them. The core [goal] of Bridges is to be a place where we can have [a variety of] viewpoints.” 

“The core of Bridges is to be a place where we can have these multi-viewpoints.”

Joseph Wolf ’25

If you are interested in discussing and learning about different religions, perspectives and cultures Bridges may be the group for you. As the club enters its first full year on campus, they are looking to offer a wide range of activities, including discussions, text studies, walks, stargazing and even some craft activities. Bridges is dedicated to providing students with a safe space in which they can share their experiences and learn from others about the various faiths celebrated by the student body.

Ankori emphasizes that “The Interfaith America Conference made a point to use extremely inclusive language when it comes to personal belief. While many religions on campus have their own space, we also recognize that people can be of different backgrounds, faiths and worldviews, and can range from religious to spiritual or from both to neither. We hope to bond over shared values and the experience of religion and faith. In the past, we have done value-based discussions, interfaith text studies and have partnered with Hillel to bring interfaith comedy group ‘Comedy for Peace’ to campus. We hope to do a lot more with other religious organizations and visit their spaces to learn more about their beliefs and customs.”

“While many religions on campus have their own space, we also recognize that people can be of different backgrounds, faiths, and worldviews, and can range from religious to spiritual or from both to neither. We hope to bond over shared values and the experience of religion and faith.”

Or-El Ankori ’25

Rosenblum says that “Bridges is open to everyone. When we enter spaces that engage with religion and spirituality, there are a lot of feelings that can arise as there is so much packed into these topics. However, it is so important to engage and learn from one another and Bridges encourages curiosity and vulnerability. Additionally, no one is expected to know everything about all religious groups and identities, all you need to know and all you represent is yourself and your journey. This is a low stakes experience and you might end up meeting your new best friend here. Since Bridges is still so new, by joining you can help shape what the experience looks like for future members.”

While there is no interest meeting for students to attend at this juncture, those on campus should check out Bridges at Hillel’s Yom Kippur Across ‘Berg event on Sunday, Sept. 24. For all students who are interested in learning more information about Bridges or joining the club, follow @bridgesatberg on Instagram.

1 COMMENT

  1. Years ago, Haagan Staack our Dept of Religion chair had a profound effect on multiple students. His religion course was more than just facts/ It was a course in cultural competency. As a physician, what he taught had a profound effect on how interacted not only patients, but other providers, families and even corporate America. I have continued to attend several courses though out my career. I even lectured at event such as NAMA.

    While serving on the AOA Board of Trustees I was assigned to LECOM Bradenton as their Board Rep. The student body was diverse. Lecturing there I note unfortunately when given the chance to sit where they wanted, the classroom was segregated, not only by race but by ethnicity and culture. I saw a need to educate.

    I convinced the administration to allow me to form a cultural competency organization. (note I had high aspirations, so I did not use the term club). i was also looking for community involvement and a tool to educate physician during CME. I succeeded and during my tenure there were meeting for several years.

    After I departed from that position, the organization became a club with its functions on ethnic diet and foods. I do not know what is currently left.

    I share this story in hopes that Bridges expands their goals to include cultural, racial, and ethnicity as part of mission and expand into the community and other campuses.

    Thank you for what you are doing and let me know how I can help.

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