A Platonic Love Letter to Interfaith
Since the pandemic started, all I talk about is the stupid weather. “I heard the sun is supposed to come out later today”, or a Midwest favorite, “this weather really wouldn’t be so bad without the wind”. I found myself longing for the religious conversations I used to have. Not only did I miss my Jewish community at school, but I actually missed having to explain to people what being Jewish means to me and my annual “why I won’t be in class on the first day of Passover” shpeel. When it comes down to it though, what I was actually missing was some sort of community. So in May, a few friends and I started Interfaith Online—a weekly virtual discussion group for college and graduate students of any or no faith from across the nation to talk about different topics and their relationship with faith.
Judaism has provided community for me throughout my entire life but, to be honest, the online community thing just wasn’t doing it for me. Transitioning an in-person community into an online community just seemed so much harder for me than joining a community that is completely virtual to begin with. Then, we created Interfaith Online. Little did I know, Interfaith Online is what has helped me survive this pandemic. Our weekly conversations have sparked my real-life conversations and help me live my life with more purpose. Don’t get me wrong, I still talk about the weather…just not as much.
After two weeks of planning, our first session was finally here. I logged on with the rest of the Interfaith Online team, just the three of us, and we anxiously awaited. We had absolutely no idea who would come or what our numbers would look like. At exactly 7:30 pm, we let 24 people in. And I think it’s pretty safe to say, we knew 23/24 of them. At exactly 8:30 pm, 24 people logged off. And then, it was just the three of us again.
Eight months later, for our 31st meeting, I logged on with the rest of the Interfaith Online team. Now there are four of us. We didn’t have to anxiously await— we have our Interfaith regulars. We can count on Jessica and Roxanna to come. We know Mason will welcome anyone new in the chat and that Renata will run home from her evening class just so she can join the conversation. At exactly 7:30 pm, we let 24 people in. And I think it’s pretty safe to say, we didn’t know 23/24 of them before we started this thing last May. At exactly 8:34 pm (because people were so into the conversation, we ran over time), 18 people logged off. And then, there were six of us. Two of our members had so much more to say about the topic, they wanted to stay and talk about it. They do this every week.
A few nights ago, I was talking to my parents on FaceTime. I was complaining about school, my long to-do list, and how I feel like this pandemic has stripped my purpose from me. You know, just the usual stuff. But when we started talking about my plans for Tuesday, my entire face lit up. Tuesday is what I like to call Interfaith day. It’s the day I get to log onto Zoom and meet with my online community.
I love preparing for our Tuesday conversations. Not only is it prime homework procrastination, but it gives me purpose and drive. Even while writing this very sentence, I got distracted by logging into our email system to see how many people have opened today’s email. In case you were wondering, it was 37.
In all seriousness, as one of our members would say, this is my platonic love letter to you, Interfaith Online.
But this is also a love letter to communities across the country who look like ours— communities who have helped people survive this pandemic. To communities that include people from different backgrounds and faith traditions and work to build bridges, thank you.
As a good friend of mine always says, find your people and win. Thank you Interfaith Online, and so many other communities, for helping me find my people and win. Go find your people and win.
Hannah Silver is a current third-year student at the University of Wisconsin- Madison. Originally from Chicago, IL, she is studying Human Development and Family Studies with minors in Jewish Studies and Education and Educational Services in hopes of someday becoming a Jewish educator. This summer, she co-founded Interfaith Online— a weekly virtual discussion group for college and graduate students of any or no faith from across the nation to talk about different topics and their relationship to faith. If you would like to learn more about Interfaith Online or join the conversation, you can find more information here: https://linktr.ee/interfaithonline
If you are looking for a way to become an interfaith leader, work for racial equity and build bridges, please check out our free curriculum "We Are Each Other's" and start your interfaith leadership today.
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The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.