Muslim, Jewish and Christian prayer spaces rededication Monday

Father Walter Cuenin

It took about a year and about a half-million dollars, but the refurbishment of the Brandeis Chapels and the Muslim Prayer Center is officially complete, and the Brandeis community is invited to take part in a rededication ceremony. On Monday, Sept. 13, at 5 p.m., the community will gather at the Muslim Prayer Center on the lower level of Usdan for the beginning of the event.

It will then move on to the Protestant, Catholic and Jewish chapels. At each stop, campus chaplains from each faith will explain traditions unique to each faith.

Starting at the Muslim center is by design, says Father Walter Cuenin, coordinator of the Interfaith Chaplaincy at Brandeis. “I think it takes on a special significance because of all of the issues going on in our country today with New York" — a reference the proposed Muslim Community Center in lower Manhattan and "with the potential burning of the Qur’an” by the minister of a Florida church, Cuenin said.

The Interfaith Chaplaincy consists of Cuenin, Rabbi Else Winick, Imam Talal Eid and Protestant Chaplain Alex Kern. Cuenin, Eid and Kern were among 1,300 people who attended a State House rally recently “to end the current wave of fear and bigotry against Islam.”

“We didn’t plan the dedication of the chapels" around the Muslim prayer area, Cuenin said, “but since this is what’s happening, I think beginning the ceremony in the Muslim prayer space takes on a particular character of affirmation of the value of Islam, even though there are many in the country who are nervous.”

Cuenin recalled that the campus was shaken last spring when the Muslim prayer space was invaded and damaged. A Muslim student went to the prayer space and found that “the lamps had been turned upside down. There was evidence of people being in there, and the Qur’an of the Imam was taken,” and never recovered, Cuenin said.

He remembers what happened next. “A whole group of people met. We had a gathering of solidarity with the Muslim students, and President Reinharz had the Imam come to his office and gave him a copy of the Qur’an, personally to him. He didn’t do it with any big fanfare, but it was very touching to the Imam,” Cuenin recalled.

“This is an important thing for the university, to begin this whole rededication in that spot,” says Cuenin. “So, in light of that and of the work that’s been done in the chapels over the summer, this ceremony has particular significance both for Brandeis and also what’s happening in the world in general.”

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