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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Religious groups close cultural gap

by Erin Fitzgerald

Accepting differences and celebrating diversity is the idea behind a joint program by Syracuse University's Hillel and Muslim Student Association starting next week.
The program, "Search for Understanding," will include events ranging from discussions to concerts starting next week and will last through the remainder of the spring semester.
University Union president and Hillel member Dennis Jacobs said he believes deeply in this collaboration.
"I think it is fantastic to have Hillel and MSA join together to put on such events," Jacobs said. "There is such a stigma right now, not only here, but nationally, about these certain groups not working together."
Jacob Perlin, a freshman majoring in television, radio and film, has helped greatly with this program as the cultural vice president in Hillel.
"I think this collaboration is great," Perlin said. "It sends a message to the Syracuse community about working together to achieve understanding and create future learning opportunities."
Both groups hope that by putting on this program, other unlikely collaborations will take place on campus. Tamanna Mansury, a freshman member of MSA majoring in biology, believes a program such as this one will "ignite others to do the same."
"I really think that one of the many problems is getting two groups to mingle." Mansury said. "This idea and this program is really a step above."
The idea for such a program came after Chancellor Nancy Cantor challenged the Syracuse campus and community to celebrate diversity, Perlin said.
"'Search for Understanding' came from an effort to form a connection between our two organizations so we can learn from each other," Perlin said.
The program begins Monday, March 7 at 6 p.m. with the discussion, "Judaism and Islam 101," held at the Winnick Hillel Center.
The program continues with a performance by comedians Rabbi Bob Alper and Ahmed Ahmed. The Jewish-Muslim duo will help to bridge the gap between the two religions here on campus. Jacobs, Perlin and Mansury all said this is the event they are looking most forward to.
Hillel and MSA will also present a reggae concert, interfaith dinner, lecture and Middle East forum at the Syracuse Film Festival before the end of the Spring semester.
"The purpose of the program is to create one event that can and will benefit so many people," Jacobs said.
Students and community members are encouraged to attend the events in hopes they will learn more about the two religions and what they can do together, Jacobs said.

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