Emory’s Inter-Religious Council (IRC) traveled to Washington D.C. over spring break for several days of multi-faith dialogue, good food, and food justice! Here are some of the highlights:
Saturday night: Emory ChaiTunes
We had the opportunity to support Emory’s own Jewish a cappella group ChaiTunes at the National Collegiate Jewish A Cappella Competition! They put on a wonderful performance and it was a great way to kick off our 2018 IRC Spring Break trip in DC! The competition was held in a local synagogue and provided the perfect opportunity to begin our inter-religious conversation which continued throughout the rest of the trip.
Inter-Faith Family Project : Sunday
The opportunity to visit with the Inter-Faith Family Project during their Sunday morning “Gathering” was an experience that sparked conversations for the rest of the trip, as well as continued inter-religious dialogue once we arrived back on Emory’s campus. The IFFP is primarily Jewish-Christian couples that meet to teach their children both traditions. The service was a combination of Christian hymns and prayers, as well as several Hebrew recitations.
We split off for classes in either the adult class in which we learned about the Jewish Afterlife from a Rabbi, or the children’s classes in which the kids learned about Passover Seder. Conversations we had throughout the day ranged from: “How do you practice from an interfaith identity? Can you fully practice a tradition when you are part of an interfaith community? We had many fruitful and reflective conversations on these topics as the trip continued, and even as it came to an end and we returned to the larger IRC community on-campus at Emory.
United Methodist Building:
Upon arriving at the United Methodist Building (the only non-political building on Capitol Hill), we met Susan Henry-Crowe who used to be Dean of Emory OSRL and also graduated from the Candler School of Theology. It was so great to meet alumni from Emory right in the heart of our nation’s capitol!
Food Justice Programming: Day 1
Two volunteers from the Coalition for Immokalee Workers presented a short documentary about farm workers in Florida who work in the tomato fields and their continuing advocacy for better conditions and workers’ rights. I was personally very impressed by one of the speakers who is currently a junior at a local university in DC – she was so engaging and well-informed on the topic for only have volunteered with the organization for a short time! It was a very inspiring presentation and great way to start off our programming, if not humbling to recognize the power of capitalist markets and their power over individuals’ basic rights and well-being.
As the day continued, we had the opportunity to listen to and engage with an inter-religious panel representing Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. We talked about how central food is to each of these religious traditions and how we can be food justice advocates in our own communities. Our thinking about Emory’s microcosm of food insecurity and justice was contrasted with a presentation from Gabriela Rosazza from the International Labor Rights Forum. We talked about human rights on the global level and the exploitation of capitalist markets, as well as the process of production of food products and that despite the many challenges of the system, “It’s not about alternatives, it’s about accountability.”
Gail Taylor is a farmer from inter-city DC and closed out our first day of programming by speaking about her experiences in urban farming and how her garden “Three Part Harmony”. As women of color are very often marginalized in our society, it was so inspiring to hear from her position as a farmer and to see how passionate about her work she is, along with the impact of her work on the greater DC community!
We wrapped up the first full day of programming and had a bit of time to adventure/explore DC, even thought many of us stayed on the Hill and didn’t stray too far before meeting for dinner. A large group of us ended up exploring Georgetown (mostly for the cupcakes!) after dinner, while others stuck closer to Capitol Hill and did their best to stay warm with the snow. The end to a great second full day in DC, and plenty of food for thought …
Food Justice Programming: Day 2
A (very very cold and windy!) field trip to an urban farm in north DC! We met with the manager of the Common Good City Farm and had the chance to tour the area and have all our compost, fruit tree, and soil questions answered. The man’s passion for his work within the community was apparent he patiently answered all of our questions, even going in-depth and sharing his thoughts about plants’ role in solving crime (sorry I’m lacking further citations on this, ha ha!). Despite the sunshine, we froze but were soon warmed up after visiting the famous Ben’s Chili Bowl – a restaurant that’s been around for 60 years!
Returning to the UMC building, we engaged with two more speakers who work as urban farmers before a reflection exercise in which everyone from our group wrote and shared their own slam poetry. It was a great way to reflect on all that we’d learned over two long days and interesting to hear how each person in our group had internalized the messages and shared them with others. This was such a fun way to wrap up, even if some of us were at first a bit less excited about having to share our work out-loud. 😉
We were invited to have dinner at the Kulp family’s house in Maryland, which was a perfect end to the trip. We had a wonderful dinner, were able to get to know David’s family better, and the night ended in a circle of chairs and couches in their living room from which we engaged in a very natural and wonderful inter-religious dialogue. A female rabbi from the local Orthodox community joined us and we discussed various inter-religious topics from the variety of our religious traditions. Not only was the conversation inter-religious, but it was also inter-generational as David’s grandparents were there. It was a late night, but a wonderful end to a busy (and very cold/windy!) trip.
After several days in D.C. with Emory Inter-religious Council, I can say that five days straight of inter-religious dialogue was pretty tiring! Even then, our programming focus on food justice has inspired me to be more engaged in my community back in Atlanta, as well as carrying the ideas and information that I gained from Capitol Hill with me wherever I may be. 🙂 Those who went on the Spring Break IRC are an incredible group of individuals who I am very thankful to have gotten the chance to engage with on a deeper level, as well as the opportunity to explore D.C. together and form friendships. A big thank you to Lisa, Haley, Jake, Isam, and Kevin for being our wonderful “adults” throughout the trip as well!
IRC Spring Break in D.C.: Round 2 in 2019? 😉
Sidenote: There was an event on Emory’s campus related to Food Justice put together by Campus Kitchens, Slow Food Emory, and Volunteer Emory. It was a great panel of Emory professors and experts on the issue from the greater Atlanta area. What a great way to get involved on the local level, and micro-level (Emory), of food justice issues that impact every individual in a variety of ways.
Gabrielle Rudolph C’18
Inter Religious Council