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Ninth grade hears from religion panel during unit on religion, culture

Ruby+Williams+%2722+takes+notes+on+the+religious+panel+for+her+9th+grade+history+course%3A+Understanding+the+Contemporary+World.+Their+current+unit+is+focused+on+learning+about+new+religions+and+cultures.+
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Ninth grade hears from religion panel during unit on religion, culture

Ruby Williams '22 takes notes on the religious panel for her 9th grade history course: Understanding the Contemporary World. Their current unit is focused on learning about new religions and cultures.

Ruby Williams '22 takes notes on the religious panel for her 9th grade history course: Understanding the Contemporary World. Their current unit is focused on learning about new religions and cultures.

Photo credit: Ella Frey

Ruby Williams '22 takes notes on the religious panel for her 9th grade history course: Understanding the Contemporary World. Their current unit is focused on learning about new religions and cultures.

Photo credit: Ella Frey

Photo credit: Ella Frey

Ruby Williams '22 takes notes on the religious panel for her 9th grade history course: Understanding the Contemporary World. Their current unit is focused on learning about new religions and cultures.

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On Jan. 15, the entire ninth grade class attended a religious panel hosted by the history department. The panel featured four women from the Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Christian faiths.

According to ninth grade student Thea Leimone, the panel comes after an almost three-week unit in which students learned about different religions and their cultures.

“How do we make meaning of this life?” Rabbi Amy Bernstein asked. “I believe all religious traditions are really just trying to point us [to]: How do I make my life consciously one of meaning? And [religion] gives us practices and tasks and teachings and community.”

According to the Pew Research Center, the number of countries where religious groups were harassed by governments or social groups increased in 2016. Tasneem Noor, who practices Islam, described the two types of Islamophobia she has seen based on ‘ignorance’ or being rooted in ‘hatred’ or ‘bigotry.’

“It is happening all over the world, including the United States, including California,” Noor said. “We are having some really difficult conversations within the Muslim community on how to deal with it.”

Photo credit: Ella Frey
The ninth graders had an hour-long presentation from Tasneem Noor, Erica Freedman, Amy Bernstein and Terri McCaskill. Each speaker shared their individual experiences with their religion and common stereotypes they confront.

Similar to Noor, Terri McCaskill discussed stereotypes she faces in the Christian faith that praying to God will fix everything.

“I like to say that everything that you pray for or that you hope or that you want doesn’t always just come true because you pray,” McCaskill said. “I believe sometimes we are put through tests, we are put through situations that allow us to grow. We have to develop our faith and we have to trust and we have to believe.”

Alongside the other women, Erica Freedman discovered the ‘different’ ideas that people have about Buddhism, like meditation.

“I chant in the morning and evening and I can for a lot of things, but they are only going to happen if I take action,” Freedman about steps she takes to practice Buddhism. “Through chanting, I get the wisdom to take the action to transform my life and then help other people transform their lives.”

The ninth-grade class will wrap up their unit in a group project where students will research a specific religion and compile the information they find in a newsletter. Freshman Ava Rothenberg said that the panel helped her visualize what she had learned in class.

“A lot of times, religions are portrayed in their most extreme forms in the media, and by seeing a panel of women who were different and diverse and had these different religions and different fundamentals but were still talking with each other and agreeing with each other — it felt like there was no hate or contempt between all four — just felt really special,” Rothenberg said. “It humanized what we were learning about in our textbook.”

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