Holocaust trip gives new view on varying faiths

Steven Harbaugh

Freshman international relations major Ryan Webster stands in the hall of photos at the Holocaust museum. The hall is over two stories tall and contains photographs of people from only one village in Germany.

Credit: Steven Harbaugh

WASHINGTON — Some students didn’t sing traditional Hebrew songs during the Jewish Shabbat. Others didn’t take communion during Catholic mass. Some sat during the entire Lutheran service.

But the three services, a part of Hillel’s Holocaust Memorial Trip, opened the eyes of the Kent State students from varying religions who participated in the mandatory activities. Some took the trip as a one-credit-hour course with a 12-page paper assignment on the topic of interfaith relations. Others were members of the affiliated religious groups: Kent State Hillel, Trinity Lutheran Ministries, United Campus Ministries and the Newman Center. Others were just exploring their own religions and learning about others.

New faith exploration

Sharing experiences of her Buddhist upbringing probably wasn’t something Jaclynn Saboda, freshman art education major who is originally from Maui, thought she’d be discussing on a trip devoted to the Holocaust experience. But a group of inquisitive members of United Christian Ministries posed questions about her faith.

“It’s about having happiness within yourself and not about being self-righteous,” she said.

“Are most people Buddhist in Hawaii?” asked Allison Courtney, junior English major and a practicing Christian.

“No,” Saboda said, noting that most are Christian.

The trip, as well as attending a religiously diverse campus like Kent State, has been an eye-opening experience, Courtney said. She chose to attend the reformed service during Friday’s Jewish Shabbat; although, there were also services for those in the orthodox and conservative sects of Judaism. She said she was surprised that the service was led by two young college-age men, and all the Hebrew songs had a contemporary tune.

Others that attended the conservative service asked questions to Michelle Friedman, Jewish Student Life coordinator at Kent State Hillel, about why men and women were separated and “why some people mumbled between prayers.” The answers: Conservative services want the focus to be worshipping God, not the opposite sex. The “mumbling” is actually the individual praying a more personal prayer.

Understanding differences

Prior to Saturday evening’s Catholic mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on the campus of Catholic University, Nick Hosmer, campus minister for the Newman Center clarified a very important Catholic tradition — communion.

Church law does not allow those outside ordained Catholicism to partake in the ceremony — something that Hosmer said can be disconcerting to some, but it is important to understand why.

“From the outside, it might seem very exclusionary, but it’s our way of having community,” he said, adding that it serves as a reality of the oneness of those devoting their lives to worship in the Catholic church.

Ryan Webster, freshman international relations major and a member of Trinity Lutheran Ministries, said he had been to a Catholic service and had visited the Vatican.

The Jewish service was the most interesting aspect of the trip, he said, and he better understood a religion that used to be a mystery to him.

Contact religion and culture reporter Steven Harbaugh at [email protected].