Coexistence in the form of a study group

Skye McEowen

Religion, a significant cornerstone of human culture, is often portrayed today with some sort of conflict. Some people can’t seem to look past the difference in fundamental beliefs, and instead, use it as a wedge to further isolate themselves from anyone different.

Dispute isn’t the only option concerning a difference in religious beliefs, however, as shown through Kent State students Murom Jaber, Jessica Mulvany and Elijah Balogh. They are Muslim, Christian and Jewish respectively.

“I think it’s cool that Hebrew can bring people of different faiths together,” said Balogh, a junior psychology major.

A phrase that is a common greeting in all three religions:

“Peace be upon you”

Islam: ‘As-salamu alaykum’ or ‘salaam alaikum’, translates to ‘peace be upon you’, it is often used as a greeting among the Muslim community

Judaism: ‘Shalom aleikhem’ is Hebrew for ‘peace be upon you’

Christianity: ‘Peace be with you” is often used during mass in Catholicism or the Lutheran Divine Service, and is popular in the Christian religion. The Latin translation is ‘pax vobiscum’

Along with Jaber, a freshman biology pre-medicine major, and Mulvany, a senior biology and psychology major, the three students met in their Elementary Hebrew I class last semester. They decided to join up and begin studying together. They all picked up the language for different reasons.

“I go overseas a lot,” Jaber said. “Arabic is my first language, so I thought it would help a lot going throughout the country.”

While living in Israel, mostly from fifth to seventh grade, she was encouraged to be exposed to the culture and saw positive interaction between those who are Jewish and Muslim. Studying the language helps tie her experiences overseas to her life on campus, Jaber said.

The other students had different reasons for wanting to learn.

“I studied Hebrew because the Old Testament was originally written in that language,” Mulvany said. “So my goal originally was to be able to read the original text.”

Balogh said the relevamce of Hebrew to his religion and Jewish culture inspired him to learn.

Through different reasons, the three are in the same Elementary Hebrew II class this semester, which consists of five students total. 

There was never an atmosphere of negativity toward other religions, Jaber said. Studying together added to the perspectives the students already had of other faiths.

“I’ve always had a perspective of peace and acceptance, but (the group) definitely affirmed it for me,” Balogh said. “I just think it’s really cool that Hebrew can bring people from different faiths together.”

Taking a class in Hebrew also strengthened the group’s understanding of faith, whether it was their own or others.

“I think in terms of how (Hebrew) affected me in terms of my faith, I would say it definitely strengthened my faith,” Mulvany said. “I can share what I believe with people I know as my friends because they are my friends.”

“(Hebrew) rekindled my faith in Judaism. Because after your Bar Mitzvah, you have an opportunity to continue with your studies or not, and I didn’t,” Balogh said. “So this is the rekindling of my interest.”

The group credited their studies and connections through the course’s professor, Chaya Kessler. Kessler is the director of a lecturer the deparment of the Jewish Studies Program.

“She’s an amazing role model,” Jaber said, who is also meeting up with Kessler in Israel over the summer.

Overall, the students found that the study of Hebrew, or study in general, can connect people and open their minds.

“I think a lot of learning in college takes place outside of the classroom. A big component of the experience of higher education is about opening you mind to ideas that aren’t your own and broadening the horizons of your worldview,” Balogh said. He said Hebrew is a good way to do that.

“It puts you right next to people you may not be near in another point in time,” Mulvany said. Other example included talking to another Muslim girl about faith in a colloquium class, Mulvany said.

Jaber said they bond over the fascination of everything. “The class brought people that are very misinterpreted on TV and news channels and gives them the opportunity to see who these people are in general and not have the negative outlook that everyone has stereotypes,” Jaber said.

Mulvaney said they are able to discuss God and religion. “It doesn’t have to be this big crazy thing that people can make it. We can be open and not have the same view.”

Contact Skye McEowen at [email protected].