"We've come so far, and yet there's so much still possible. It's gratifying to know that this important work will be carried on through Grand Valley and the Interfaith Institute." -Sylvia Kaufman
The Kaufman Interfaith Institute is part of a rich history of interfaith dialogue in West Michigan. In 1989, respected community leader Sylvia Kaufman initiated a Jewish-Christian dialogue as part of the centennial celebration of the Jewish community’s presence in Muskegon, Michigan. Since that time, hundreds of premier scholars, clergy, citizens, and students from the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths have come together every three years for a conference, now known as the Jewish/Christian/Muslim Triennial Interfaith Dialogue. This led eventually to the establishment of the Sylvia and Richard Kaufman Interfaith Institute at Grand Valley State University in 2007.
Sylvia Kaufman’s vision led to collaboration with other colleges and seminaries leading to their sponsorship of an annual interfaith conference. Since the establishment of the institute, the programming has been expanded to include many events throughout the year, collaboration with other organizations, small group connections, as well as active on-campus programming. International efforts have been supported by grants and include an interfaith approach to science and religion. The institute is now a part of the university’s Division of Inclusion and Equity working with other social justice units on campus. The community outreach established at the beginning continues to be the major focus for the institute.
Founders Dick and Sylvia Kaufman receive the enrichment award for their interfaith work. Click to play video.
Recently, the interfaith efforts of our area were recognized by the Aspen Institute. Their study traces the beginnings of interfaith relations and the Kaufman Institute going back to the 1980s in Muskegon and in Grand Rapids. It also documents the development of Jewish-Christian-Muslim dialogues, the Academic Consortium conferences, and the various special years beginning with the Year of Interfaith Understanding, as well as the years which focused on Service, Friendship, and Healing.
We are excited that our local and regional efforts are being recognized by this respected national organization. Our Director, Doug Kindschi, was on a panel with other interfaith leaders including Eboo Patel, president of Interfaith America.