Don’t be afraid to ask questions about other faiths

By Brooke Giacin | Contributor

People ask me, “You’re Jewish and go to Baylor? How does that work?”

When I was in grade school, I was the only Jewish student in my entire Catholic school. I grew accustomed to it. While everyone would walk up to receive communion, I would be the only one sitting.

Attending Catholic school was more than just learning the Beatitudes, preparing for Confirmation or memorizing the Ten Commandments. My Catholic high school made an effort to teach students Global Studies. In this class, we would learn about the customs and practices of other religions such as, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism. One of our projects was to attend a religious sanctuary of your assigned religion and interview the rabbi, priest or imam. This project taught us to not be afraid to ask questions and to learn about a faith different from your own.

Sometimes I feel like the odd man out at Baylor University. But I have to admit, I like teaching my friends about Judaism and how our faiths differ. I love introducing them to matzo ball soup, Hebrew prayers, Shabbat dinners, playing dreidel and challah bread.

My best friend at Baylor is from Iowa and practices Catholicism. When I told her I was Jewish, she immediately told me I was the first Jewish person she had ever met. Being from culturally diverse South Florida, it was at this moment that I realized some people don’t even know about Judaism.

Freshman year, my English professor had my class write a paper and make a presentation based on religion. My paper discussed how technology has impacted religions. The summer before coming to Baylor, I traveled to Israel for my cousin’s Bat Mitzvah, and I used this experience in my presentation. I explained to my classmates how Shabbat is a day of rest. People spend the day disconnected from technology. For example, I explained that on Shabbat, Israel’s buildings have special elevators that stop at every floor so people do not have to press a button. Along with Shabbat, I explained the Jewish customs and traditions.

Everyone in my class was fully engaged. Some asked questions and had not heard of such a thing. I have never had a problem with anyone from Baylor judging me on my religion. I have only had other students seek interest, some still invite me to Bible study.

Some students who are not Christian complain about taking Christian Scriptures and Chapel. I think a faith-based university creates a healthy environment. It teaches tolerance and understanding outside people’s comfort zones. College is a place to learn to speak up and to be your own person while meeting new people.

Beyond the classroom, I have prepared Shabbat dinners for my friends and even cooked matzo ball soup. I think sharing the Jewish culture and faith is important, and I love teaching my friends about it. In addition, I enjoy listening and learning about their family’s faith, traditions and holidays.

I think more Baylor students who are not Baptist should not be afraid to share their beliefs — whether you have them or not — with those who are different from them. Regardless of attending a Baptist university, it is important to be inclusive to everyone and to ask questions.

With Passover and Easter having just passed, now is a great time to learn about each religion’s holiest time of year. I am not saying to learn solely about Judaism and compare it to Christianity. I am saying to go out of your comfort zone, and learn about a polytheistic faith or a faith you may not know much about.

Our goal should be to become more accepting of each other’s faith and grow less intolerant of those different from us. I am grateful to go to a faith-based university, especially one that is accepting of my religious beliefs.

Brooke is a sophomore finance and journalism major from Fort Lauderdale, Fla.