The Values We Share — Ari Kirsch

I currently live in an apartment complex that used to be and still looks like a church from the outside, and is owned by the church next door. Every day at 8 am, I am woken up by church bells, and when I come home I am greeted by a picture of the Pope smiling at me from the stairwell by the lobby. When I first signed the lease for this apartment, I was a little nervous about how I would fit into the apartment’s narrative, because I am Jewish. However, I have now come to appreciate and feel incredibly grateful for the benefits of living in my interfaith apartment community.

Earlier this semester, during one of our weekly meetings, the other interfaith fellows and I had a thought-provoking conversation about the values that we feel represent our religions and beliefs. Throughout this hour-long conversation, the general conclusion was that, while many of us practice different customs and believe different things, we all share similar values, and this set of values seems to span across nearly all religious and nonreligious beliefs. This conversation enlightened me about how lucky I am to be living in an interfaith community because it helped me realize how extraordinarily grateful I am for opportunities to connect with people of all religious backgrounds and find common ground in shared values.

The other interfaith fellows and I talked about the importance in any culture of having a community. This value of community shines through in my apartment complex all the time. With the change of each season, residents in the building help each other take down previous decorations and redecorate the lobby. Just a couple of weeks ago, a couple of my roommates and I, one of whom is also Jewish, helped put up Christmas decorations in the apartment lobby with some other residents (while eating pizza and snacks that the apartment provided for us!). This positive experience solidified my sense of belonging in this close-knit interfaith community.

Other values that the fellows and I discussed and related on included family, respect, love, and honesty. This semester has taught me that there is a great connection between interfaith work and everyday living alongside others. Living in an interfaith community and getting to know so many wonderful people through this fellowship have broadened my understanding of the great values that so many people have, regardless of religious or nonreligious beliefs. I am very grateful to have met the people I’ve met through the fellowship and my apartment complex, and I look forward to decorating the lobby with my other community-driven neighbors again in the spring.

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