Power of faith, tradition, and religion

Julia Robbins, Staff Writer

Ben Hu (12), a Buddhist, has taken away from religion what he thinks most people have, regardless of their faith: be there for others, try to do the right thing, and emphasize the importance of family, he said.

Similarly to Hu, Nyle Hutchinson (12) believes that religion has taught him the significance of doing the right thing, he said. “The most important thing in Christianity isn’t what the bigots make it seem like in the media, it’s more so just love,” he said.

Another practicing Christian, Karen Jang (12), was raised like Hutchinson to understand the religious importance of love, she said. She admires people who adhere to the biblical Golden Rule: treat your neighbor as you’d like to be treated.

“Being part of a faith tradition means that you are connected to people who you don’t necessarily know face-to-face,” history teacher Elisa Milkes, who practices Judaism, said. “It gives you a sense of continuity from one generation to the next,” she said.

Abigail Goldberg-Zelizer’s (12) Jewish identity has been formed through both a study of the religion’s past and its ideology. When thinking about if something is right or wrong, Goldberg-Zelizer  knows she can turn to the Torah, her Rabbi, or her inner-spirituality to find answers to her questions, she said.

Connecting with the spiritual side of Islam has encouraged Meryeme Elalouani (11), a practicing Muslim, to be more introspective and act in the best interest of those around her, she said.

Elalouani spent years attending Arabic school, where she learned both Arabic and about the religion of Islam. Last year, she completed her school service learning requirement by teaching younger kids Arabic at her mosque, she said.

Hutchinson, similarly to Elalouani, has given back to his community by participating in service at his house of worship. Once every few Saturdays, he joins his congregation in serving lunch to the hungry.

Apart from the solely internal aspects of religion and spirituality, people’s religious identity can sometimes become visually apparent to other people.

“I’m a visible Muslim, very much so, because when I wear a hijab or a turban, I am very much expressing my faith in front of everyone,” Elalouani said.

As a new student to the school in ninth grade, Elalouani found it awkward to be one of the only members of the community wearing a hijab, she said. “I think it was the anxiety of starting a new school and all that comes with it, mixed with my fear that I wouldn’t be accepted that left me sort of paranoid,” she said.

But after settling in to life at the school, Elaloani normally feels comfortable wearing a Hijab.

“However, being one of the only people who does wear it places a sort of role on me,” she said. “It’s almost like I’m representing all hijabis and it’s weird to have to continue saying ‘personally’ in front of every sentence so people don’t mistake the things that I do and my actions as part of the general Muslim community as a whole,” she said.

There are certain places where Elaloani takes off her hijab because she doesn’t want to attract unwanted attention, primarily at airport security where Transportation Security Administration (TSA) might treat her differently if they know she is Muslim, she said.

Colombia, where Spanish teacher Pilar Valencia grew up, is one of these countries. “I was raised in a completely Catholic environment,” Valencia said. ”To the extent that we don’t realize what part of our culture comes from religion.”

Valencia always appreciated the good food and cultural events that being Catholic exposed her to and recognized how religion served as a glue for her community, she said.

Although many religions teach broad ideas like compassion and community, students of different religious denominations practice many different traditions or rituals.

Many of Ashna Jain’s (12) fundamental beliefs stem from Jainism, such as non-violence, being open-minded to a multiplicity of viewpoints, and respecting all different kinds of people, she said.

“[Jainism] is based off non-violence, so I was born vegetarian and I’ve been vegetarian my whole life,” Diya Mookim (11) said. Non-violence, or Ahimsā, is one of the Five Vows of Jainism, and dictates that humans should not cause harm to other living beings.

Another one of the Five Vows that Mookim follows is called Satya, which requires Jain people to always speak the truth and live honestly.

Reina McNutt (11), a Jewish student, also abides by certain religious norms. For instance, she will never get a tattoo because the Torah dictates that people should not make gashes in their flesh (Leviticus 19:28).

Similarly, Goldberg-Zelizer keeps Kosher because she wants to distinguish herself as a Jew in the eyes of God, she said.

Janvi Kukreja (12), who is Hindu, tries to pray every morning before school and stays vegetarian on Mondays, a Hindu custom, she said.

“It sounds silly, but being able to resist the temptation of fried chicken Mondays every single Monday has taught me so much and has truly been able to teach me about mind over matter, willpower, and staying true to my beliefs,” Kukreja said.

In accordance with a prominent Islamic custom, Elalouani frequently attends services during the month-long holiday of Ramadan. Through attending these services, along with other ones throughout the year, Elalouani has made close friends through her Mosque, she said.

The experience of finding community through one’s house of worship applies to any given religion or faith. “There is something in the way [temples] are built that is peaceful, that is beautiful; it takes you to a reflective moment,” Valencia said. “I find it very humanizing.”

Goldberg-Zelizer attends Synagogue services every Saturday morning with her family and one of her best friends is her Rabbi’s daughter. Through both services and extensive study of Jewish theology and history outside of temple, Goldberg-Zelizer has learned the Jewish tradition of challenging the Torah, she said.

Milkes has been able to use religious texts to connect with people. “There’s a sense of groundedness and rootedness that I think is really helpful there, and I think that a lot of wisdom comes through the engagement with those texts,” she said.

Overall, religion for Goldberg-Zelizer has taught her how to be virtuous and that her actions matter, she said.