Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

The Ties That Bind

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

The Ties That Bind

Article excerpt

Rabbi Rachel Gartner, director of Jewish chaplaincy at Georgetown University, took a winding path to becoming a spiritual leader at an institution of higher education. From struggling to reconcile her feminist ideals with her cherished Jewish traditions as a young woman to transitioning from pulpit work to academia, Gartner has traveled a different road than most rabbis. Here, the Huffington Post blogger and co-author of the sourcebook Rosh Hodesh: Its a Girl ThingtdXks of her journey and serving at a Jesuit institution.

Diverse: Do you find that it is harder to work with younger people in terms of making faith relevant in their lives?

Rachel Gartner: What I think is important to do for them and with them is [taking] our tradition and [putting] it in direct conversation with the issues that are most relevant to them - that can be sexual ethics; that can be business ethics; that can be the role of religion and politics; that can be integrity in the face of whatever. I think its a little bit more of a vigorous process.

DI: What are your thoughts on Jewish culture at a traditionally Jesuit institution like Georgetown?

RG: One of the things that I think Jewish communities do really well when they are traditional and rigorous is they create very intentional communities. Georgetown, out from the beginning, to me, [seemed] like an intentional community. I said, "Oh, wow. This is an academic institution that has a vision and a mission that goes beyond academics and includes the personal, the spiritual, the social." I served in a Quaker school, and then Miami University and from where I sit the tone set by the university in each of those cases has really affected my ability to engage the faculty and move through the university with more or less influence.

For example, at Georgetown, you know, they have this 450-year-old educational tradition that was inspired by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, who started the Jesuits, which does a few things: It has a very intentionally spiritual focus, a holistic approach with the students and its at once very particular in its outlook but it has a sort of radically pluralist view of how to approach religion. …

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