Interfaith. One word that seems to strike fear into the hearts of many. It seems like such a simple and pleasant idea at the onset, "Let's bring people from all different cultures and religious groups together in order to build understanding and respect." Sounds pretty quaint right? Being brought up Jewish in Omaha, Nebraska, made the idea of interfaith relations a daily reality. I can't even recall how many times a person has said to me that I am the first Jewish person that they've ever met. On the other side of the coin, every time I meed a Jew from the east coast or another heavily populated Jewish area, I receive the same reaction. "Jews???? In Omaha, Nebraska?" Sometimes it seems that I'm too Jewish for Omaha and not Jewish enough for the rest of the world. My upbringing puts me squarely at the fray of the predominately Christian/Catholic Omaha community, and simultaneously, on the edge of the world Jewish community. This unique position has allowed for connection with many other groups that don't fall into the majority religious sector of our country. Before I was even born, the idea of religious diversity had been brought to my home, in the form of Thong. Thong is a Laotian refugee who came to live with my parents for two weeks and ended up staying for seven years. Thong is my sister in every form of the word except she is not of blood relation. Two years ago, my brother, my blood related sister, and I traveled to Thailand and Laos and stayed with Thong's family for several days. We giggled about all of the characteristics that they had in common with Thong, and happily wove through an extreme language barrier. This is just one of the many experiences that have opened my eyes to the unique impact of engaging with people that come from completely different backgrounds. Without really ever thinking about it too much, my life has been built around interfaith ideals to a certain extent. I love to travel, I gravitate toward people who were raised differently from myself, and I will try any food, from any country, at least once! I have almost hit a quarter of a century of living so far, and I can honestly say that my desire to pursue unique and diverse experiences has provided some of the most interesting and enlightening times of my life. My parents instilled these ideas within me at a very early age, yet I strongly believe that ANYONE at ANY age can pursue similar growing experiences.
Emily Muskin is the Development and Communications Intern for the fall. She graduated from the University of Kansas in 2008 with a degree in Latin American Studies. In May 2010, she concluded her year of service with Americorps Vista Program and Goodwill Industries in Kansas City. This was where her interest in the non-profit world began. As an intern for Project Interfaith, she hopes to gain more experience in grant writing and fund development. In her free time, Emily enjoys cooking, reading, traveling to foreign lands, and watching cheesy reality cooking show.