We are writing in response to the Sept. 8 front-page story “Students Explore Worship Possibilities on Campus.”
As the co-presidents of the Jewish Student Association (JSA), we felt that many issues needed to be addressed since we were mentioned in the article, along with other organizations, numerous times.
The focus of the article is on the creation of an on-campus chapel and the reactions of students and faculty to the idea of this chapel. We were surprised to find that a chapel was being discussed since Mary Washington has moved forward with a different idea.
The James Farmer Multicultural Center, with the help of numerous students and organizations, just opened a Meditation Space on the second floor of Hamlet House (one of two white houses behind Westmoreland Residence Hall) on Oct. 15. This room is designed to be a space for individual prayer and meditation for any person of any faith. This has been carefully thought out and many students are excited to have a quiet space to meditate or pray on campus.
The Meditation Space will not function as a chapel because it exists only for silent individual prayer rather than group prayer. It will also not be called a chapel. The word chapel connotes a Christian place of prayer and therefore would not sound as welcoming as a meditation space. This word would not be appropriate for the multitude of people who are not Christian that plan to pray in an egalitarian spiritual setting.
Another issue that we would like to clarify is the one about the allocation of $4,000 to religious organizations. The article went on to say that the Jewish Student Association received half of the funding from the Office of Student Activities (OSACS) for last year’s Passover Seder, thus taking money away from other religious organizations, which makes a case for a chapel that could “level the playing field.”
The Office of Student Activities (OSACS) is not in charge of club finances. The Finance Committee distributes money to campus organizations and it cannot legally fund religious organizations. Therefore, it does not have a budget of any amount to give money to religious clubs or events. The JSA did receive $2,000 last year for the Passover Seder, but this is because we, like the Islamic Student Association, are a cultural club. The Passover Seder was a cultural event that was open to the whole campus community with many non-Jews in attendance.
The statement that an “on-campus chapel could level the playing field on issues of funding and scheduling conflicts” in relation to JSA using money for a cultural event seemed to be a bit off-color and unrelated to the main issue at hand. We hope that the Bullet will be more careful with their information and the way that they present it in the future.
Co-presidents of the Jewish Student Association Thalia Halpert Rodis, Senior, and Mandi Solomon, junior.