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The Dartmouth
April 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

At Tuesday panel, students discuss faith

Five students discussed their experiences with faith on Tuesday night.
Five students discussed their experiences with faith on Tuesday night.

Graduating from a private Jewish high school, Elana Folbe ’15 found that practicing her religion was easier before she came to Dartmouth. During her freshman year, Folbe realized that she would have to make a stronger effort to find a Jewish community on campus.

Though she has found community on other places on campus, like her sorority, Folbe emphasized the importance of the campus Jewish community in her life. She is now the leader of Dartmouth’s Hillel.

“[Hillel] is a place where I connect with Judaism religiously, spiritually and intellectually,” she said. “It’s a place where I can escape from and reflect upon the daily chaos of our lives at Dartmouth.”

Folbe was one of five panelists who spoke about experiences with faith at Dartmouth at the Tucker Foundation’s annual “Voices of Faith” dinner Tuesday night. The event’s theme was “finding community and meaning in the desert of chaos,” organizer Andrew Nalani ’16 said.

​Aditya Shah ’15, who describes himself as a devout Hindu and is involved with the Hindu student group, Shanti, shared how religion helped him push through hard times both in India and in the U.S.

During his childhood in India, a childhood friend’s death left him doubting his self-confidence, Shah said. When he moved to the U.S., he began to feel more confident thanks to his faith and supportive teachers.

Still, Shah said, he struggled with his beliefs at Dartmouth.

“My inner despair had won too many battles,” he said. “Even though I was proud of my heritage, that unique edge, I felt like I was losing it due to losing my inner confidence.”

Over time, Shah said he found that faith was a constant in his life.

Iman Hammad ’17, a practicing Muslim, talked about her efforts to educate students about her religion.

She recounted an experience in high school in which her classmate gave a biased presentation on the Arab Spring.

She then changed her own project topic to reply to her classmate’s point of view and used the experience to educate her classmates. When she described the problem of judging an entire group based on a small portion of it, the other student changed his attitude.

At Dartmouth, Hammad said, her religion grew from being an exclusively familial experience to a communal one.

“I realized I need to find my own community at Dartmouth,” she said, adding that she participates in the Muslim student association, Al-Nur, joining in Friday prayers, potlucks and other social activities.

Elena Karis ’15, a self-identified agnostic who majors in religion, described her experiences with Tucker’s interfaith community, which brings together students of different religious backgrounds for discussion.

As an agnostic, Karis emphasized that she does “not believe in coincidence.” Being a part of the religious community even though she does not ascribe to a particular belief system guided her through depression during her sophomore year, she said.

During her sophomore summer, Karis served as an intern at the office of religious and spiritual life and as the house manager for Hillel.

“I never thought religion and spirituality would become, as they have, the most influential components of my Dartmouth experience,” Karis said. “To be in community with other people is a beautiful thing but cannot fully be appreciated until you are in community with yourself.”

Victor Crentsil ’16, a non-denominational Christian involved with Agape, a Christian student organization, said that although he grew up in a religious home, he did not experience religion to the fullest extent until he arrived here.

Crentsil explained that by working with various groups as an undergraduate, he has “put his faith into practice, instead of just letting it all be talk.”

“I realized what my calling is, and that God helped me through my struggles, whether they be academic or problems with my relationships,” he said.