Interfaith Coffee House Showcases Art within Religion

By Andrew Mannion, Staff Writer and Carlos Santana, Contributor

This past Wednesday, Campus Ministry and Social Action (CMSA) hosted their Interfaith Coffee House event at Café 1853.  The event was an open mic where students could showcase their musical talents and tell stories about how religion impacted their lives.

CMSA is a department under student life that hosts events such as LOVE retreats and mass services. Like many events hosted by the CMSA, Interfaith Coffee House started as an idea brought up by a student. Campus Minister Conor Reidy helps students make these ideas a reality. Reidy described CMSA as a place where people can share different ideas and cultures while building a community within it. 

“I hope… we’re building back a sense of peace on campus, after all this time within a pandemic,” Reidy said. “I am really excited to see CMSA engaging in what I call student life building projects where we just create spaces where students can come together, meet one another, have conversations in person, make new friends. [The coffee house] was an area where people were coming in, sharing food and music from their faith traditions, and getting to know one another on a deeper level.”

The idea for the event was introduced by senior Sarah Rosen, inspired by a similar event.

“I went to a coffee house event in October sometime,” Rosen said. “I was trying to think of events to do for [CMSA], and I was like, ‘Well, what if we mix these two ideas together?’ Then I reached out to CMSA to kind of just hang out together. We were looking to find some type of interfaith event that combines food and music. With this platform, I just felt there’s a really great opportunity.”

Food played a big part in the event. Participants were welcome to bring food that was meaningful within their culture. One food that was on the table was jelly rings. Besides being a delicious snack, it represented something with deeper meaning within Jewish culture. Laura Litvak, a senior who attended the event, explained the rich history behind the jelly rings.

“During Hanukkah, you are supposed to eat fried things because the [use of cooking] oil symbolizes the oil in the menorah,” Litvak said.  “A lot of people eat jelly donuts during Hanukkah for that. So the jelly rings on the table are just the candy version of that.”

The other significant aspect of the event was, of course, the entertainment. The night began with Rosen playing a flute solo called “Hava Nagila.” Rosen explained where she had heard the song throughout her life and the meaning it has to her and in Jewish culture.

“The last time I played [Hava Nagila] was a while ago. I was looking for traditionally Jewish songs. This one just was the simplest but sounded the nicest,” Rosen said. “So it’s pretty easy for me to perform. And at the same time, a lot of people know it, and I recognize its importance. During Jewish weddings or celebrations, there are some good circles we form, it’s what we do.”

Another act was a powerful story from Sabrina Beharry. She told the tale of her grandparents’ love story and the sacrifices they made. She explained that the story was initially written for a class, and not made for the event, but she decided to share it at the coffee house.

“I wrote it for my creative nonfiction writing class with Dr. Wrozynski,” Beharry said. “It was a profile piece about my grandfather. And I was debating about sharing it with everybody, but then I decided to.”

Beharry continued by discussing her own personal history and the significance of her family. Beharry’s piece was about how her grandparents’ differences in religions caused problems with their families. She shared her thoughts about it and how the story inspired her. 

My grandpa is Hindu, and my grandma is Catholic. My grandfather’s family didn’t cut him off [entirely], but he was [viewed as] a little bit strange. You’re not supposed to date outside of your religion. But I guess I thought it was cool that their love overcame that. So I decided to share that story,” Beharry said.