interfaith survival guide

Updated September 14, 2022

  1. History of IJC
    1. How to contact us
  2. Where to Worship
  3. How to approach your professors for religious observances
    1. Email Template
  4. Dealing with microaggressions
    1. Examples of microaggressions
    2. What to do
  5. Supporting other IJC members
    1. Speaking up for each other
    2. Forming study groups during religious observances
    3. One-on-ones
  6. Being an ally to IJC
    1. Solidarity
    2. In- and Outside of the Classroom
  7. Upcoming events

History of IJC

In the fall of 2021, the first day of class – the first in-person class after a year and a half of virtual classes, was scheduled in Rosh Hashanah, one of the most sacred days in the Jewish calendar. The Interfaith Justice Caucus called on the student body to show solidarity in three ways: 1) skip class, 2) wear red while attending class, 3) announce the hypocrisy of scheduling the first day on a sacred holiday.

Since then, IJC has adopted advocacy measures to push the administration to live up to the “interfaith” values they espouse in the public. Throughout the academic year of 2021-2022, caucus leaders attempted to schedule a meeting with the administration. These meetings were repeatedly canceled and rescheduled; ultimately, our group never voiced their concerns and grievances.

In this upcoming year, IJC leaders intend to push advocacy measures while building community through private and public programming. We work to ensure that there is space to celebrate your identity comfortably and without compromise.

How to contact us

Raquel Belkin: rb3531@utsnyc.edu
Shanaz Deen: sd3543@utsnyc.edu

Where to Worship

James Chapel is available to any student outside of any organized events (e.g., daily Chapel services). Feel free to create your sacred space by bringing any objects (e.g., candles, prayer mats).

* There is a large Cross in James Chapel that may make non-Christian students uncomfortable. The IJC is actively working to create spaces without (permanent) Christian iconography.

The Small Chapel in the pit is a space that is open to all students. As with James Chapel, feel free to make the space your own. There is also Christian iconography present; this is another item on IJC’s advocacy agenda.

The 6th Floor Prayer Room in James Tower is another space where you may observe your traditions. There are many things that can be approved with this space; IJC hopes to collaborate with the Chapel team to implement these changes.

A lot of students will create private religious spaces (alters) in their on-campus housing. Incense and candles are allowed to be lit in Hastings and Mcgiffert. If you are looking for suggestions on what these spaces could look like ask your friends and IJC comrades.

How to approach your professors for religious observances

Email Template


I am very much looking forward to joining your course this fall. 

I wanted to reach out early to give us time to plan around some scheduling conflicts in this fall semester’s scheduling.

I am [YOUR TRADITION], and observe the major holidays. As such, I will not be in attendance on the following dates:


How would you recommend I make up for these absences?


  • An automatic 48-hour extension for any assignments due on the holiday
  • Recording the class (video and audio; you can request audio recorders from Dean Asgaralli)
    • This option may require release forms to be sent to all students in the class
  • Rescheduling the class for a different date and time
    • We recognize this is a formidable task; however, for small classes, this option can very well be organized.
  • Tutorials with the professor after the holiday to review class material
    • This option can be especially helpful after a series of holidays and missed classes (e.g., Jewish High Holidays)

Thank you for your time and consideration,


Dealing with microaggressions

Examples of microaggressions

“Do you believe in God?”
Often this question is understood as “Do you believe in MY God?” Christianity underscores nearly all conversations; it is not okay to allow this assumption to continue unchecked.

(following a discussion around a different tradition) “…but in Christianity…”
The few interfaith conversations are quickly turned back to a Christian perspective. Don’t be afraid to claim space and time for your tradition.

“In Islam/Judaism/etc.…” (class turns to Muslim/Jewish/etc. student(s))
Though you should always trust students to speak for their own traditions, they should not be tokenized or representative of an entire community.

“In the Old Testament…”
Stating “Old Testament” is supersessionist. The Tanakh is the sacred scripture of Judaism and deserves to be called Tanakh or Hebrew Bible in academic settings.

“(insert the tetragram)”
The tetragram/Y— is not a flippant term that should be used in academic settings. For Jews, the four Hebrew letters are sacred and should not be said aloud. In fact, any piece of writing with the name in Hebrew should be buried.

Constant mentions of Islam and terrorism together.
Every religion has extremist branches and Islam is not an exceptional case.

What to do

  • Write down what happened as soon as you have the capacity to do so and ask other classmates to as well
  • Talk to the professor if you feel able, and bring in a friend/member of IJC or Dean Abby as YOU need
    • Check-in with yourself and evaluate what your capacity is 
  • Vent to the IJC community do not keep it all inside
    • We can support you in thinking and implementing the next steps
  • Remember this process is about what you need to feel supported at Union, you are not at fault or being overly sensitive
  • For future measures, report the incident to Dean Abby (aasgaralli@uts.columbia.edu)

Supporting other IJC members

Speaking up for each other

If you witness a microaggression in the classroom or around campus, speaking up is an incredible way to show solidarity. Oftentimes the person or community affected by the microaggression is responsible for defending themselves and educating others. This can be emotionally and psychologically taxing. Help your friends by splitting the labor.

Forming study groups during religious observances

While students are excused for religious observances, they lose the communal aspect of their education. As they make up work and assignments, it is helpful to keep them company and answer questions as they arise.


If you have the capacity, offer to grab a coffee with a member who may be going through a difficult time. Invite them to share their experiences and concerns, or simply be in their company as they process.

Being an ally to IJC


  • Support interfaith students if they speak up about micro or macroaggressions
  • Be open to learning if an interfaith student informs you that something you have said is offensive or harmful
  • Keep in mind that rituals and practices are not always open or available to those outside the tradition. Please seek the advice of a leader of the tradition and/or conduct substantial research, especially when planning public interfaith events.

In- and Outside of the Classroom

  • Offer to share notes and review class content with students who missed class because of a religious observance
  • Write to your professors as non-Christian holidays approach (template below)


I am very much looking forward to joining your COURSE NAME this fall.

I wanted to reach out early to bring some schedule conflicts with this course to your attention, if you weren’t already aware.

As you know, Union’s academic calendar and policies do not account for students who have non-Christian holiday observance throughout the semester. For example, in just a few weeks, many of my Jewish classmates will need to make difficult decisions about missing classes in order to observe Rosh Hashanah. 

I respectfully urge you to take steps to care for non-Christian students in this class. Here are some ideas about what you can do:

  • Offer an automatic 48-hour extension for any assignments due on holidays
  • Record the class (audio and video — you may request audio recorders from Dean Asgaralli) with consent of students
  • Reschedule the class for a different date and time
  • Offer tutorials after the holiday to review class material

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Upcoming events

  • Rosh Hashanah Potluck (Open to IJC members and partners only)
  • Samhain dinner and ancestor remembrance (open to the UTS community)
  • Interfaith study break (open to IJC members only)
  • Chanukah pub (open to the UTS community)
  • …any of your ideas!

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