Beyond One Faith – Ari Kirsch

The other day, I was FaceTiming a couple of my best friends who work at the overnight Jewish summer camp I grew up at and still work at today. We were talking about how excited we are to go back to camp this summer, but also how scared we are that the current global climate might hinder our ability to return. Obviously, this conversation stressed me out. However, before I let myself get carried away by my worries, I thought about some lessons I’ve learned from this interfaith fellowship.

First, a lesson that Hinduism has taught me: while it’s important to live life with good values, there is no one right way to practice these values. Therefore, in times of hardship such as now, while there are so many things I cannot control, I still can control the way I live my life by my core values. I can still connect with my loved ones even if it’s not in the ways I usually do, and I can still do my best to be a caring and supportive presence in my communities.

Secondly, I thought of a message from Islam. My dear Muslim friends and fellows have taught me to be diligent in how I practice my beliefs. Currently, all I can do is be diligent in how I respond to the situation at hand; while I may be uncertain about how the next few months will play out, I still have agency over my ability to continue to do my job and stay involved in the camp community that I love so dearly.

Lastly, I thought of how the fellowship has helped me grow in my own faith. Through this fellowship, Judaism has presented itself to me in so many forms through so many incredible people and experiences. When I think of how wonderfully I have grown as a Jew through my weekly meetings (even our current online ones) with the interfaith cohort, I am reminded that even if I’m not in a certain place or with certain people, I can still learn and grow through community and friendship. Even though I only see most of the fellows once a week, I still learn so much from them. Even though I am not currently at camp and am uncertain about what my summer will bring, I will continue to stay in touch with my beloved camp friends and thrive as a member of my camp community.

If there is a single message to take away from this blog post, it is to get involved in interfaith work in every way that you can. Throughout my time as a fellow for the UW Center for Religion and Global Citizenry, I have gained so much. I will leave this fellowship with a much deeper and richer understanding of different religions, cultures, and walks of life. I cannot describe how truly grateful I am for my experiences through this fellowship, not only because of my newfound knowledge about the interfaith community, but also because of the people I have met along the way. This fellowship has provided me with some of the most wonderful friendships, and I am proud to know each and every student I’ve lived and learned alongside in the Curti Lounge for the past year. While I already miss our fun, friendly, and wholesome group, I look forward to our bright futures and what they will bring to the interfaith communities of Madison and beyond that have given us so much.