Programs for Students in Local Schools

Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid and Father Steven Pavignano address a student during an Interfaith dialouge t Seton Hall Prep School.
Right: Reverend Ming Yee addresses students from Explorations Academy during a visit to the China Buddhist Association in Flushing, Queens

America’s K-12 schools can play a vital role in fostering interfaith understanding.  But unfortunately, most of our students learn little more than the basic facts, dates, and doctrines of major religious traditions — a superficial form of “religious literacy” that does not prepare young Americans to participate in the civic life their multicultural democracy.  Our programs for students in public, private, and faith-based schools help them learn about religious diversity through conversations with their diverse neighbors.

We work with teachers throughout the New York area to develop programs for students built around panel discussions with local religious leaders and fieldtrips to local houses of worship.  Panel discussions can be structured in a number of ways, including interfaith dialogue on a range of issues, or discussions of the diversity within specific faith traditions.  Fieldtrips can include attendance at worship services, walking tours, and/or presentations by community leaders.  We can help teachers facilitate dialogue between religious leaders and students, prepare students to visit another community’s sacred space, and lead classroom discussions of their experiences afterwards.

For more information about our programs for students, or to develop a program for your own school community, contact Dr. Henry Goldschmidt, ICNY’s Director of Programs, at 212-870-3514 or  And for information about our professional development program for teachers, see the website of the Religious Worlds of New York summer institute for teachers.

Selected Recent Programs for Students Include:

“Exploring the Diversity of New York’s Muslim Communities.”  A day-long retreat for over 50 11th graders from the School of the Holy Child, a Roman Catholic high school for girls in Rye, NY.  January 21, 2016.  Featuring site visits to the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood and the Islamic Cultural Center of New York, as well as conversations with clergy and community leaders.

“World Religions in the Neighborhood.”  A pair of interfaith panel discussions with over 100 students at HERO High, a charter school in the South Bronx.  October 9 and 16, 2015.  Panelists:

  • Reverend Dr. Esther Henry, South Bronx Christian community leader and faith-based social activist

  • Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky, spiritual leader of Congregation Ansche Chesed, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side

  • Mohan Ramaswamy, Trustee of The Hindu Temple Society of North America, in Flushing, Queens

“Free Speech and Hate Speech: Muslim and Jewish Perspectives on Liberty and Responsibility.”  In conversation with over 200 students at the Grace Church School, two faith-based activists explored the limits, if any, of free speech in a religiously diverse society.  April 1, 2015.  Panelists:

  • Hesham El-Meligy, interfaith and Muslim community leader, working with the Building Bridges Coalition of Staten Island, Muslims for Liberty, and other organizations

  • Marisa Elana James, Senior Organizer for T’ruah, The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, and a rabbinical student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

“Religious Pluralism and Interfaith Understanding.”  In a program for 400 students at Regis High School, two leading faith-based social activists and educators discussed their efforts to build understanding, and foster collaboration, across religious lines.  May 16th, 2014.  Panelists:

  • Dr. Mehnaz Afridi, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Interfaith Education Center at Manhattan College

  • Tom Dobbins, Jr., the Justice and Peace Coordinator in the Department of Social and Community Development of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York

“Muslim Community Life and Islamic Social Ethics.”  A conversation between ICNY’s own Dr. Sarah Sayeed and over 50 students at Dominican Academy.  February 11, 2014.

“Muslim Holidays and the New York Public Schools.”  A conversation with students at DeWitt Clinton High School, exploring the ongoing debate over Muslim holiday school closings in New York public schools.  January 15, 2014.  Panelists:

  • Faiza Ali, Advocacy and Civic Engagement Coordinator at the Arab American Association of New York, and a member of the steering committee of the Coalition for Muslim School Holidays

  • Dr. Hussein Rashid, faculty member in Religious Studies at Hofstra University, and Associate Editor of Religion Dispatches

“Encountering Hinduism and Islam in New York.”  Site visits to the Hindu Temple Society of North America and to the Islamic Center at New York University, for students at the Grace Church School.  November 20, 2013 and May 7, 2014.  Sixty 9th graders spoke with ICNY Director of Education Programs, Dr. Henry Goldschmidt, as well as Ram Mohan at the Hindu Temple and Imam Khalid Latif at the Islamic Center.

“Jewish and Muslim Perspectives on Hunger and Food Security.”  A conversation between faith-based social service providers and 17 students in a senior seminar on “Comparative Religious Ethics” at Regis High School.  November 4, 2013.  Panelists:

  • Rebecca Glass, Kosher Food Program Manager for City Harvest

  • Sultana Ocasio, Executive Director of the Muslim Women’s Institute for Research and Development

“Beyond ‘An Eye for An Eye’: An Interfaith Dialogue on Justice and Reconciliation.”  A conversation with high school students training to serve on the Harlem Youth Court.  August 15, 2013.  Panelists:

  • Imam Umar Abdul-Jalilthe spiritual leader of Masjidus Sabur in East Harlem and former Assistant Commissioner of Ministerial and Volunteer Services for the New York City Department of Correction

  • Aminta Kilawanan attorney, Guyanese-American Hindu community activist, and co-founder of Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus.

  • Iyalorisha Oseye Mchawia Yoruba priestess, long-time community activist in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and Project Coordinator for the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College.

  • Rev. Kenneth RadcliffeDeacon at the Resurrection Chapel of St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Harlem and former Administrative Chaplain for the New York City Department of Correction.

“Muslim Community Life and Islamic Social Ethics.”  A conversation between ICNY’s own Dr. Sarah Sayeed and over 50 students at Dominican Academy.  February 5, 2013.

“Religious Diversity, Social Justice, and Service.”  In partnership with the Pace Center for Civic Engagement and the Office of Religious Life at Princeton University, we supported the development of a week-long experiential education and service learning trip for college students to explore the religious diversity of New York City, from October 27 to November 3, 2012.

“Encountering Islam and Judaism in New York.”  Site visit to the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood and Congregation Ramath Orah, with students from the Hudson High School of Learning Technologies.  January 31, 2012.  Over one hundred ninth grade Global History students visited a predominantly African-American Sunni mosque and a modern Orthodox synagogue, and spoke with Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid and Rabbi Moshe Grussgott.

“Encountering Chinese Buddhism in New York.” Site visit to Grace Gratitude Buddhist Temple, in Manhattan’s Chinatown, with students from the Hudson High School of Learning Technologies.  November 28, 2011.  Fifty ninth grade Global History students visited one of the oldest Buddhist temples in New York, and spoke with the Venerable Chuan Jue Shi, a Buddhist nun and MSW student.

“Interfaith Coalitions for Social Justice around the 10th Anniversary of 9/11.” A conversation with students at the Facing History School, New York, NY.  October 6th, 2011.  Panelists:

  • Hesham El-Meligy, founding member of the Building Bridges Coalition, the New York Neighbors for American Values Coalition, and the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms

  • Annie Rawlings, Director of Education for the Prepare New York interfaith coalition

“Religions of the City.” In partnership with Union Theological Seminary, ICNY led a series of site visits to local religious communities for students in Professor Paul Knitter’s fall 2011 course, “Religions of the City.”  Approximately 60 seminary students visited the Chogyesa Zen Temple of New York, the Bhakti Center, Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, and the Islamic Cultural Center of New York, to speak with community leaders and in some cases participate in worship or meditation.

“Everyday Muslim Life in New York.” A panel discussion at The Bank Street School for Children, New York, NY.  May 19th, 2011.  Panelists:

  • Sheikh Moussa Drammeh, co-founder of the Islamic Leadership School in the Parkchester section of the Bronx

  • Sayyeda Mirza-Jafri, grant-maker and program manager for a wide range of non-profit and non-governmental organizations

  • Hoda Zawam, a sophomore at City College, majoring in Biochemistry, and former oral historian for the book This is Where I Need to Be: Oral Histories of Muslim Youth in NYC

“Interfaith Perspectives on Social Justice.” A panel discussion in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, at the Hackley School, Tarrytown, NY.  January 24th, 2011.   Panelists:

  • Nurah Amatullah, Executive Director of the Muslim Women’s Institute for Research and Development

  • Rev. Anita Burson, pastor of Elpida Community Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York

  • Ari Hart, co-founder of Uri L’Tzedek (Awaken to Justice), an Orthodox social justice organization

  • Sister Mary Nerney, a sister in the Congrégation de Notre-Dame, and founding director of STEPS to End Family Violence

“Muslim and Catholic Perspectives on Social Justice.” A dialogue in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, at Seton Hall Preparatory School, West Orange, NJ.  January 19th, 2011.  Speakers:

  • Father Steven Pavignano, the pastor of All Saints Church, on East 129th Street in Harlem

  • Imam Al-Hajj Talib ‘Abdur-Rashid, the spiritual leader of the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood, on West 113th Street in Harlem.

“Exploring the Religious Diversity of Flushing, Queens.” A fieldtrip for students from Explorations Academy, a public high school in the South Bronx.  October 20, 2010.  Students visited three houses of worship in one of New York’s most diverse neighborhoods: the Hindu Temple Society of  North America, the Muslim Center of New York, and the China Buddhist Association.

Click here to watch a video about the trip created by Josh Adland, the teacher we worked with at Explorations Academy.