On Monday March 7, we will be suspending regular classes in the morning to participate in what I hope is the first of an irregular series of symposia on particular topics of interest and/or relevance in the world today. Our first symposium will be on religion. Our focus will be on why religion is so difficult to talk about and how we might start to ease that awkwardness here in school. Students and faculty on this campus have thriving parts of their lives that revolve around religion and we do not often enough recognize or attempt to explore that aspect our lives. This happens for good reason, and we want to both expose and explore that reason. We also want to raise awareness about the importance and influence of religion in the lives of individuals, families and larger societies around the world.
Please know that it is not our intent to enter into a discussion about the merits or values of one religion as opposed to another, or the value of religion at all. Much like we have spoken in school about race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, we aim only to begin to discuss these issues of emotional importance in ways that are appropriately respectful and empathetic.
We have invited the head of religious studies at NYU as our keynote speaker. Dr. Zvi Ben-Dor Benite is a professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic studies and he will contextualize religion in a way that we hope will help lower the barriers to conversation. Other guests include Rabbi Yehuda Sarna and Imam Khalid Letief, both chaplains at NYU (Jewish and Muslim respectively) who teach together and form the leadership team of the Of Many Institute, a multifaith organization whose purpose is to cultivate cross-cultural leadership experiences, with a focus on students who seek to develop a multifaith space that ensures harmonious relationships on campus. Our ultimate cultural goal for Dwight-Englewood is very much the same as the Of Many Institute, albeit the high school version, and we are very pleased and honored to be working with them on this program.
We realize that this is an ambitious goal, but it is important for our community and so we will make a start with this event. Future subjects for us to study might include climate change and sustainability, and perhaps the Middle East. Please be sure to ask your child about this program.