Submitted by Gail Morrison-Hall
The 2009 Or Hadash Dickstein Scholar in Residence Shabbat was held on Friday February 20 and Saturday February 21. The congregation was pleased to welcome Dr. Rumee Ahmed and Dr. Ayesha Chaudhry, Assistant Professors of Religion and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at Colgate University. Drs. Ahmed and Chaudrhy participated in three lively, engaging and enlightening sessions.
The first session on Friday evening focused on modern Muslim conceptions of Islam and its place in the world in the context of the last 3oo years. Saturday morning’s expanded Torah study focused on the week’s Torah portion and analogous passages from the Qur'an, asking how we might make spiritual meaning of difficult sacred texts. Saturday evening’s session titled, Intimate Conversations: An Insider’s View of Living as a Muslim in 21st Century America, was a thoughtful frank discussion led by Rabbi Joshua Waxman on topics of contemporary concern.
The forthright, open and honest interchange during the entire weekend made for an extraordinary event. The congregation’s response to the weekend was overwhelmingly enthusiastic. The tone for these well attended sessions was set on Friday evening when the couple, who are married, mentioned their delight in being back at a Reconstructionist congregation. They related that while undergraduates at Brown University they often joined with a Reconstructionist Havurah for Friday evening services (led by R. Serena Eisenberg, RRC.’02), as a means of extending their own spiritual activities. (Friday is a special day of prayer for Muslims). Or Hadashers are hoping the scholars will pay a return visit to the synagogue to continue the dialogue begun during this year’s Scholar’s Shabbat.
Ayesha S. Chaudrhy is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Middle Eastern And Islamic Studies at New York University. She is also a Doctoral Fellow in the Religion Department at Colgate University. Dr. Chaudhry is from Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Dr. Rumee Ahmed is an Assistant Professor of Religion and Middle Eastern and Islamic Civilizations at Colgate University. He received his doctorate from the University of Virginia in Religious Studies, having written his dissertation on the construction of Islamic legal narratives. Dr. Ahmed is from the suburban Washington, D.C. area.