By Julia Ramsey || Contributing Writer
This semester, Interfaith Student Council is focusing on a different religion each week, with the goal of increasing religious literacy and highlighting the role faith plays in students’ lives. Through this project, the ISC hopes to expand students’ understanding of the religious diversity at Franklin & Marshall and provide an opportunity for students to learn about the backgrounds and practices of their fellow peers.
This week, we are focusing on Judaism. Look for flyers around campus with interesting facts about the religion! My student profile is Yoni Weiss, the Hillel representative on Interfaith Student Council, who is Jewish.
JR: How would you describe Judaism to someone who’s never heard it before?
YW: Judaism is like many other religions: a faith based on prayer, self-evaluation, and doing good in the world. But something prevalent in Judaism is the aspect of community. Many holidays and gatherings revolve around bringing people together. A sense of togetherness allows for a strong connection between the community that has been brought together. Judaism really emphasizes a sense of belonging, not just for Jews but for all people and for all religions.
JR: How does your religion or spirituality affect your interactions with other people?
YW: Judaism has shaped part of who I am and some of my beliefs are very reflective of that. As a result, when communicating with many people, my views often align with certain Jewish beliefs. However, I try my best to separate my “religious side” from my everyday conversation with people because I believe that my religion is only a part of who I am. In casual conversation, I like to talk about events and ideas without looking to religion for answers. I am very comfortable with how my religion has shaped who I am but I also like to engage people with the mindset that religion does not need to determine the validity or enjoyableness of a conversation. Religion certainly has its time and place in my life but I strive to keep my religious beliefs to times where they are appropriate.
JR: What do you think is commonly misunderstood about your religion?
YW: Sometimes I hear people misunderstand the meaning of the Jews as “The Chosen People”. The Jews being selected as “The Chosen People” does mean that they are special and different from all other people and religions. But there are conflicting opinions as to what the word “special” means. A common belief is that the Jews were selected to be better and regarded as superior to other religions. This in fact is not the case. The phrase “The Chosen People” reflects how in Jewish belief, the Jewish people were selected to follow the laws of God. These laws take the form of the Torah (the 5 books of Moses), 613 commandments, and other sacred documents thought to be written by God and given to Moses at Mount Sinai. The name can be misleading, but it is important to understand the meaning behind “The Chosen People”.
JR: What does being Jewish mean to you?
YW: To me, being Jewish means having a big responsibility to make the world a better place. That sounds very broad, but in Judaism there are concepts of Tzedakah (charity) and Tikun Olam (repairing the world). These two ways of life speak to me and tell me that I need to use my knowledge gained through my experiences to do my part and look out for people who need help. More than anything, I hope that I will be able to leave the world knowing that I made a difference in someone’s life.
Interfaith Student Council meets on Thursdays at 5pm in the multifaith room (basement of the college center). Email ISC @fandm.edu for more information!
Junior Julia Ramsey is a contributing writer. Her email is email@example.com.