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Students learn about Jewish prayer, history

Carolyn Garcia | Monday, February 13, 2012


Each day, masses take place in chapels all over campus, but in the Hammes Student Lounge Monday night students gathered to learn about Jewish prayer and history. 

On Monday night, Campus Ministry’s Prayer Around the World series hosted a rabbi from a South Bend temple to help students connect aspects of Jewish prayer to their own spiritual lives.

Rabbi Eric J. Siroka of South Bend’s Temple Beth-El spoke about the role of the media in historical and contemporary Jewish prayer. 

“I wanted to look at the concept of media, which is anything having to do with communication,” Siroka said. “How do we go from an oral tradition to a written tradition to a printed tradition to a digital communication tradition and yet weave through the sacredness of a given religious tradition?”

A frequent guest-lecturer at Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s in the political science and theology departments, he has participated in the Prayer from Around the World series for six years. 

Coordinated through Campus Ministry, Prayer from Around the World provides a forum for members of the Notre Dame community to learn about and take part in different religious traditions. 

Siroka said that the Jewish tradition has always faced the challenge of how to incorporate new media in appropriate ways, and technology is just another point on the continuum. 

“No matter how we look at media, the communal worship experience is all about relationships,” he said. “It’s not about the material we use, it’s how we use it that becomes important.”

Saint Mary’s College freshmen Hillary Burton and Lorena Mirmontes said they attended the talk as part of their Introduction to Religious Studies course, but were also personally intrigued by the opportunity to learn more about Judaism.

Before taking the course, Burton said, she had never studied other religions besides her own, and feels that doing so helps to broaden her perspective.

“It’s good to get an understanding of where other people are coming from in their faith,” Burton said.

Mirmontes said she was eager to learn more about the faith of her Jewish friends and to gain deeper knowledge of other religions. 

“We’ve had so much exposure to our own faith,” Mirmontes said. “I think college is a good time to explore other beliefs and see how they are different and how they are similar to our own.” 

Priscilla Wong, associate director for Campus Ministry’s Cross-Cultural Ministry, organized the Prayer Around the World series. 

She said a graduate student first came to her with the idea for the series eight years ago. The student wanted a series of faith-related talks for the graduate student population, which contains a range of faith backgrounds, Wong said. 

Wong said Campus Ministry decided to focus the series on prayers from different religious traditions, making it more accessible to people of different faiths. 

“We thought it would be good to help people actually get a feel for what other people do in their faith, and the common thing that we share is prayer,” she said.

She said another goal for the series is to help those who attend to develop spiritually within their own respective religions.

“”I think that as we are exposed to something different, it helps us to appreciate what we do in our own tradition,” Wong said. “It’s up to each individual to grow from that experience.”