November 6, 2002

Muslim, Jewish Students Create Art

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Members of Cornell’s Muslim and Jewish communities engaged in a creative program to foster friendly interaction between the two cultures Sunday.

Roughly 75 students, faculty members, religious leaders and children of the two religious communities converged at Anabel Taylor Hall to create a large, colorful mosaic.

The project, organized by Hillel, the campus organization for Jewish students and the Muslim Educational and Cultural Association (MECA) is the second Jewish-Muslim interactive event at Cornell jointly planned by these two campus organizations. The first event, which took place last year, involved a joint-effort community service project.

“[This is] very much a project about interfaith communication, especially between Muslims and Jews who are typically considered to be very different from one another. Through art, this project hopes to alleviate these differences and bring people together on a personal level,” said Julia Stone ’03.

Yesterday’s program began with a brunch during which participants were encouraged to mingle with members of the opposite community.

Following the brunch, Sven Warner ’70, a local artist and facilitator of this specific project, explained the mosaic-construction process. Warner designed the mosaic, incorporating significant symbols and colors of both the Islamic and Jewish faiths in its layout.

When Warner had finished his introduction of the project, participants finally began creating their specific pieces of the mosaic.

Throughout the event, participants were encouraged to engage in intellectual discussions with each other but were not permitted to address political controversy. They were urged to disregard group stereotypes and political conflict and, instead, forge benevolent relationships with participants of the opposite faith.

“It’s always nice to get to know people as people and not as just a group out there,” said Amy Goodman ’03, vice president of the Jewish Student Union of Hillel. “It’ll be really nice to have this [mosaic] as a symbol of the intercultural dialogue.”

In addition to fostering an atmosphere in which participants worked together, planners of the event thought it appropriate to create a mosaic because of its cultural significance in both religions.

“Historically, mosaics have a cultural value for both religions. In this mosaic, we have included components from both religions,” said Afsha Abid ’04, a member of MECA’s executive board. “When students look at this [hopefully] they will think, ‘if these Cornell students can work together, why can’t we?'”

Organizers of the event were pleased with its purpose, its attendance and the encouragement they received during its planning.

“This is a wonderful turn out,” said Stone. “We’ve had so much support from every aspect of this project.”

Abid agreed. “In past years there have been rough ties [between the two communities] on campus. If we can get the two groups and put them in the same room with everything that is going on in the Middle East, then that automatically is a success.”

The mosaic will temporarily be displayed in the Johnson Arts Museum and then will be moved to a wall in Anabel Taylor Hall, where it will permanently reside.

Archived article by Ellen Miller