Jewish and Muslim Student Beit Midrash – Beit Midrash Daroma
Beit Midrash Daroma, a pluralistic "Study Hall" of traditional and current Jewish texts, is a Program we implement for university students on the campus of Ben-Gurion University. The Beit Midrash is open to Jewish students from all backgrounds and provides a space to learn texts as well as how to respect the "other".
Beit Midrash Daroma was established because there was a need for students to have the opportunity to clarify her or his own identity through a personal journey accompanied by study that is respectful and open to a wide variety of approaches.
Other organizations on campus that teach Judaism often do it as a persuasion activity of "kiruv". Those organizations "sell Judaism" on the idea that "the truth is what we believe". At Beit Midrash Daroma we do not require a specific commitment to a lifestyle or social affiliation.
Within this supportive and welcoming atmosphere we developed a project of encounters between Jewish and Muslim students where they meet one another through learning together and discussing texts from both religions. In addition to encountering the texts the students meet religious and spiritual leaders of both religions and are developing a new way of discourse between Jews and Muslims.
What is the mission and purpose of this program?
The purpose of the Beit Midrash is to:
1)Create a space where Jewish and Muslim students will meet and learn about each other's religion
2)Learn together religious and historic sources
3)Meet with Muslim and Jewish religious leaders from the area who work together
We believe this will lead to greater respect and understanding among the students involved in the Beit Midrash and hopefully have a ripple effect that will positively affect the relationship between Jewish and Muslim students in general.
In this pilot year we had:
- Three encounters
- Each encounter lasted two hours and included a lecture or general learning, study in small groups, and a summary
- The students studied sources of honoring others and human dignity in Islam and Judaism, relations between Islam and Judaism, and the role of prayer in each religion.
The group was made up of 16 students, 8 Muslim and 8 Jewish. They were divided into four sub-groups of 4 (2 Muslim and 2 Jewish students per group) for the small group learning.
With your help we expand the program by offering more sessions, offer more hours, and reach more students.
Many students want to be connected both to the academic world and to their religious beliefs and build from them their cultural and spiritual world. The years of university study constitute for many also a time for the exploration and clarification of identity.
In addition, we know that the Middle East is stormy. Acts of hatred and racism are occurring everywhere. Many blame radical Islam and fundamentalist Judaism for the extremism on both sides. We believe that religion does not need to be the threat, and it could even become the solution
In this pilot year the program was able to bring together a group of students who learned Islam and Jewish texts together. Through the joint learning the students showed more empathy, became more respectful towards, and tolerant of the "other". This greater religious tolerance highlights the perspective that religion can be a unifying factor among people.
How do you measure the success of your program?
The students showed interest in continuing the encounters which is an impetus for us to grow the program.
Similar to other programs our measurement of success, through oral and written feedback, is:
85% of the participants report that they learned new information
70% report an attitudinal change
We reached these targets during the pilot year.