For those looking for religious guidance, several clubs, including Uprising Club and Haverim Club, offer students the opportunity to learn about different religions in our community. By teaching about different cultures, these clubs foster tolerance and diversity by being open to everyone, including those who practice different religions.
“Religion is one way to help us make sense of the world; it helps us learn important moral values. It’s important to be surrounded by others similar to ourselves to aid us in feeling part of a community, some group or some cause bigger than we are,” Associate Professor of Philosophy at San Diego State University Steve Barbone said. “We need to believe that we are not alone in our search for meaning and our efforts to do good.”
International Baccalaureate environmental systems and societies, Biology accelerated teacher and Haverim advisor Jennifer Ekstein created the club 18 years ago so that students could gather to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. Since then, students have gone to lunch meetings in room 402 to discuss Jewish religion and culture.
“[The meetings] don’t always have to be about the religion, it can be about the culture as well. It builds an extended Jewish family and supports each other because we are only .01 percent of the world population. I know it sounds kind of corny, but it’s really nice to be around people who understand your culture. There is this pride about being Jewish and when you’re around Jewish people you feel a sense of, ‘I’m with my people,”’ Ekstein said.
The current officers of Haverim organize lectures from Rabbi Daniel Srugo to discuss Jewish tradition. Presidents of past years focused on topics including the politics of Israel and community service.
“Rabbi Daniel Srugo comes in and talks to us about Jewish culture [and] Jewish laws. It’s important because he has a very Orthodox and traditional perspective. Sometimes as Jews and in [other] religions we modify the religion to fit our own lifestyle, but he’s able to give us the traditional way to do it, the way it is in the Torah,” junior co-vice president of Haverim Mijal Buchsbaum said.
Likewise, Uprising Club creates a safe space for people interested in Christianity. According to junior President Rebecka Ibarra, even those wanting to question the religion are welcomed, as they help them learn more about their religion.
“The point of clubs is to highlight the diversity of all the students. Even if they’re not religious, they can be there and know that they’re accepted no matter what. It’s about tackling the things you have questions and problems about, not just letting them wonder, ‘What if this is not right?’ and ‘What if this is actually not true?’,” Ibarra said.
Uprising Club uses a system where they have a central theme for each month, the most recent one being about not judging others. Each week at lunch meetings, a different officer speaks about the subject based on their own experiences.
“We all have different perspectives.When we’re reading the Bible in this case, I could be going through a really hard time with my family and I’ll read the verse with my classmates and they’re going through a different phase in their life and they interpret it differently. Members can think, ‘Hey, I’m going through the same thing. That’s how [an officer] dealt with it, I should do the same,’” senior Uprising secretary Karla Lagarda said.
According to Lagarda, students have been receptive to the style in which the officers run the club. Lagarda states that as a mentor, she helps to strengthen their faith through class discussions with focuses on Biblical texts.
“Just last year, this senior was going through a really tough time. Her mom had cancer. All she had was her mom, she didn’t have a dad. She came to me for advice and for help,” Lagarda said. “[Afterwards,] she told me that what I would tell her and all the verses that God had given me to tell her were really helpful and gave her the strength to keep on going.”
By creating a safe environment, Haverim and Uprising club hope to create communities of a common culture. Through these efforts, leaders of both clubs hope to create awareness and guidance, regardless of one’s religion.
“Diversity is the spice of life. We never exclude anyone. I don’t say Jewish people only, I say Haverim members, because Haverim members can be Catholic, they can be Christian, they can be Buddhist. A lot of members just want to know what it means to be Jewish,” Ekstein said.