An interfaith event shows we are stronger together, even in times of conflict.
On October 12, 2023, the Hindu Student Association (HSA), Jewish Student Association (JSA), and Muslim Student Association (MSA) jointly hosted an interfaith community service event at the Leavey Center to make and donate sandwiches and snacks to Martha’s Table, a local community-led non-profit that helps provide healthy food options to the Washington D.C. area. In the midst of planning, conflict broke out in Israel and Palestine and there was some trepidation about continuing with the event. However, the organizers decided to move forward with planning because, according to them, “world events did not affect our friendships as people and [we share] our joint commitment to helping others through our faiths’ collective tenets of service and compassion for all.” If anything, it felt more important than ever.
Below, the student organizers from HSA, JSA, and MSA share their reflections and thoughts about the event and what it means in today’s uncertain landscape.
Uma Savla, (Interfaith Chair, HSA): “As the event began, we were pleasantly surprised by the amount of people who showed up — the waves of people arriving were almost overwhelming. It is always difficult at interfaith events to get people to break out of their groups, but people from different traditions were talking to each other and eating dinner together. We were blown away that so many people came and genuinely bought into the interfaith goal of the event. We are thankful to be surrounded by relationships that transcend religion, politics, and current affairs.
As the event progressed, we started making sandwiches, and people coordinated to make a sandwich assembly line. We had only a vague plan for how it was going to happen, but everyone just worked together and figured it out. It is a testament to the idea that we have friendships and common goals that were not affected by the terrible recent news.
Personally, I was more hopeful after the event. The turnout despite (or perhaps because of) current events reminds me that even though politics, religion, and ideology continually pull people apart, we retain the capacity to work together. Imam Hendi always says that religion should be part of the solution, not the problem. This event was a start at understanding what [that] means.”
Ria Maheshwari (Community Service Chair, HSA): “I was expecting just a small handful of volunteers, primarily from HSA, to attend the event; and thus my expectation for the number of donations was low. Yet when tens of students came through the door to the Leavey Program Room, I was pleasantly surprised because I knew that we would exceed our goal — in the most fulfilling way, our initial estimates were not in accordance with our actual turnout.
With our volunteers diligently working as if in a factory assembly line, I ran into Vital Vittles for more sandwich supplies numerous times throughout the event. As our mountain of loaves of bread began to dwindle and the number of completed sandwiches increased, I began to count our donations, and continued counting for much longer than I had anticipated. As a collective, our volunteers made over 150 sandwiches and 40 trail mix pouches. These numbers were shocking for us considering the initial pushback we received on the event taking place.”
Daniel Greilsheimer (Interfaith Chair, JSA): “I was thrilled to co-host this event with my friends in MSA and HSA. Despite the news coming out of the Middle East, there was never a doubt in my mind that the event would not continue as planned. In fact, in such a time of division, I felt it was more important than ever to gather together in a friendly, light-hearted, charitable capacity. It was amazing to see our communities — which hold so much in common as minority religious groups on campus — come together for such a positive act.
My role in the operation was delivering the sandwiches and snacks. As I arrived at the drop-off location, it became clear how important Martha’s Table, which is devoted to bringing about a more equitable D.C., is to the neighborhood. It was wonderful to see our hard work in the Leavey Center come to fruition in such an enjoyable fashion. I look forward to co-hosting many more interfaith events in the future, from game nights to basketball tournaments.”
Saara Bidiwala (Interfaith Chair, MSA): “I invite anyone hesitant to participate in any of these events to come. Amongst the three of us who are interfaith chairs, we’ve attended each other’s religious services. I will never forget how multiple times I’ve walked out after a sermon given at mass or a puja offered for Navratri and came back to the masjid and heard the Imam talk about the same core tenets. Attending each of these events is such a valuable part of my experience at Georgetown because we are lucky to have so many cultures, faith traditions and perspectives right in our backyard.”
Uma Savla (C’25) is a student in the College of Arts and Sciences, studying French.
Ria Maheshwari (C’26) is a student in the College of Arts and Sciences, studying Political Economy and Mathematics.
Daniel Greilsheimer (SFS’26) is a student at the Walsh School of Foreign Service, studying Regional and Comparative Studies.
Saara Bidiwala (C’26) is a student in the College of Arts and Sciences, studying Computer Science.