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Heschel Students Attend Scholas Interfaith Conference

On Wednesday, Mar. 12, through Friday, Mar. 15, six Heschel students attended the Scholas: Communities in Motion conference. Pope Francis created the conference, along with the rest of Scholas’ wide array of programs, to encourage discourse and collaboration between teenagers from a wide variety of religions and backgrounds through educational projects. 

The program began in Argentina in 2013, but offshoots have spread around the world. In 2023, the first Scholas: Communities in Motion conference was held in New York, but it was limited to Christian and secular institutions. 2024 marked the first year that Jewish and Muslim schools were invited to participate. Heschel’s delegation, captained by Rabbi Anne Ebersman, joined over 200 teenagers from over 30 different schools to build new connections and explore diverse perspectives. 

 Each day began with an hour-long period of re-creo, during which students participated in bonding activities and shared their unique talents, including singing, dancing, and even stand-up comedy. Although the program lasted only three days, the re-creo sessions left participants feeling like they had known one another for years. 

Reflecting on his experience, junior Eli Goldman said, “It was great interacting with people from other faiths and being able to do that for them, as Jews. It was really nice to see that even though we might have had different backgrounds, we were all able to get along really well.”

On the first day, students broke into groups to discuss different issues facing the larger New York City community and other personal communities. Later, they reconvened to vote on which issues they wished to focus on for the remainder of the conference. The students settled on the educational system and mental health struggles.

 On the second day, students discussed possible causes and solutions to the issues previously determined. Some groups did research and created presentations, while others made short films to demonstrate how the selected issues impacted teenagers.

On the final day, each group presented their findings to an Argentinian Rabbi and Imam, as well as one of Manhattan’s Bishops. 

Rabbi Anne reflected positively on the experience, noting that although the presentations were effective displays of teamwork, the real strength of the program lay in its ability to build community. She also mentioned the potential of collaboration between Heschel and Scholas in the future.

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