• Rachel Dzik

Light, Love, and Acceptance

Updated: Jul 30, 2020

As a Jewish girl growing up in a small Christian community, I did not have much access to other worldviews. I always felt so isolated within my traditions, and I was yearning to learn more. This internship has allowed me to explore other cultures besides my own, and one that I am so grateful to have learned about is Hinduism. Alongside my peer Liz Crouse, I had the opportunity to plan the festival of Diwali this year. Diwali is the festival of lights in the Hindu culture where they welcome the joy of being alive by illuminating their houses with lights.

Liz Crouse, Multifaith Intern and Diwali Co-chair

I was really nervous when I was signing up to co-chair Diwali because I had absolutely no clue as to what I was doing. Going in unprepared was not how I wanted to approach the situation, so I took every possible opportunity to reach out to students and faculty who were knowledgeable on Hindu traditions. Along this journey I have met some wonderful people who helped me to understand Hinduism and its unique culture. Brian Pennington, a professor in the religious studies department, walked me through many aspects of Hinduism that I never even imagined I would know in my lifetime. He was able to help me see that Hinduism wasn’t as intimidating as I had initially thought it would be, rather it was actually quite comforting. Hinduism had initially intimidated me because I had a preconceived notion that this worldview was nowhere close to Judaism because it is not an Abrahamic faith. After talking to Brian, I realized that just because the two faiths did not originate from the same traditions does not mean they cannot share the same values. I was able to find an overlap between Judaism and Hinduism that turned my worries into pure calmness. I found that Hinduism and Judaism both value the light in this world and that it is the basis for celebration. Light is something that connected the two worldviews in my head, which is a quality that has always held me close to my Judaism. In turn, I felt extremely close to those who held Hinduism as their worldview. As I dove into planning Diwali, it became easier the more I acknowledged the knowledge I had learned and some that I already knew but didn’t know was already there.

The night of the event was invigorating to me. My heart was beating a thousand times a minute, but I knew that it wasn’t because I was nervous, it was because I was excited. I loved looking around the room and seeing people with smiles on their faces. There was music blasting through the speakers and people all around the room laughing and engaging, I felt so at peace.There were students who shared a part of their Hindu tradition with a cultural dance that brought so much excitement to those in the room. In that moment, I felt more connected to Hinduism than I ever had been in the entire process of planning the event. I felt that from pushing myself to go outside my box, I ended up building a bond with a religion that I initially thought was so different from my own.

Shreeja and Aishwarya, Student Performers

This experience has ultimately made me realize that what is tearing people apart should really be bringing us together. In other words, we should be looking for the similarities in worldviews while also learning to respect and accept the differences we have. I am so glad that I have discovered a connection that I never knew existed because it has made me become more aware of other worldviews.

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