Kaufman Interfaith Leadership Scholars: Community Projects
Parliament of the World's Religions Presentation - click to play video
The Scholars wanted to address polarization that created exclusionary school environments. They conducted an “Embodied Dialogue Activity” at area schools where students physically stood on lines from strongly agree to strongly disagree when statements about religious inclusion were read. Once standing on their line of choice, they engaged in dialogue about why they chose their answer. After hearing responses students could change lines if they learned or felt something different after hearing other’s experiences. The Scholars also presented this project along with other learnings from the program at the Parliament of the World’s Religions (Chicago, 2023). The title of their presentation was “Dispelling the Taboo of Interfaith Conversations: Youth Interfaith Leaders Share Their Learning.”
The Scholars wanted to address the environment and better understand why people of various worldview traditions felt compelled to care for the earth. After learning about a local park, home to important native species, that was threatened by the invasive Garlic Mustard plant. The Scholars decided to partner with the Friends of Grand Rapids Parks to address this issue. They recruited other student volunteers to help with the clean-up, educated them on invasive species and even built boot cleaning stations to be placed at multiple Grand Rapids parks to prevent the spread of invasive species. They won an award from The Friends of Grand Rapids Parks for having the highest attended and most impactful clean-up event of the year.
Youth Reflections on Hinduism - click to play video
“Interfaith 101 Presentation for Educators” addressed the Eurocentric approach to curriculum in which any religion other than Christianity centered the atrocities faced by those groups rather than a celebration of their accomplishments. The hope of this presentation was to reframe educator’s mindset when approaching history to be more balanced in highlighting and honoring the people that were being “studied.” Additionally, in the vein of humanizing the worldviews studied in high school curriculum, the Scholars also recorded “Youth Reflections on Hinduism and Judaism.” These panel interviews of students who were Hindu or Jewish, along with faith leaders of that tradition provided narratives of their lived experience as a student in our community who practice that tradition.
Youth Reflections on Judaism - click to play video
“Rectifying False Narratives” focused on addressing the vitriol directed towards the Asian American community as the COVID-19 pandemic ramped up using social media platforms. Simultaneously, the Scholars engaged in a “Technology and Basic Needs Drive” to support students who did not have the resources to continue their education on-line. This idea grew out of conversations with our community partners who shared their communities’ struggles to access technology, hygiene products and food in under-resourced areas of our city. These partner’s sites served as drop off locations for donations.