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Explore the Religious Worlds of New York, and the Religious Lives of Your Diverse Neighbors




The religious landscape of the United States has shifted dramatically in recent years, with the arrival of new Americans from every corner of the globe and every faith tradition.  If America's K-12 students are to become truly educated, engaged citizens of their multicultural democracy, they need to understand its vibrant religious diversity.  The Religious Worlds of New York summer institute contributes to such understanding by helping public, private, and parochial school teachers teach more effectively about the everyday lives of American religious communities.

The Religious Worlds institute is a project of the Interfaith Center of New York and Union Theological Seminary, with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.  In July of 2012 and 2014, the institute brought teachers from throughout the United States to New York City, where they worked with leading scholars of religion, met with diverse religious leaders, visited local houses of worship, conducted field research in a religiously diverse neighborhood, and developed their own religious diversity curriculum projects.  This combination of classroom and community-based education introduced teachers to American religious diversity, helped them distinguish between academic and devotional approaches to the study of religion, and gave them the pedagogic tools they need to teach about contemporary lived religion.

This website will tell you all about the summer institute, including a selection from the overwhelmingly positive participant evaluations of past institutes.  Unfortunately, the institute will not be meeting in the summer of 2015, but we remain committed to our work with America's teachers, and expect to offer the Religious Worlds institute in 2016 and beyond.  In the meantime, this website also offers a wide range of resources for classroom teaching on American religious diversity.  And the institute director, Dr. Henry Goldschmidt, is always glad to hear from teachers and support their work on religious diversity -- click here for Henry's contact information.

Beyond our work with individual teachers, the Religious Worlds institute is committed to building a more inclusive society for all Americans.  America's K-12 schools can play a vital role in fostering interfaith understanding, but unfortunately too many teachers are unprepared to teach effectively, appropriately, and constitutionally about contemporary religious diversity.  As a result, too many students learn little more than the basic facts, dates, and doctrines of major religious traditions. This superficial form of religious literacy does not prepare our students to participate in the civic life of a pluralistic society.  Our students need to learn the doctrines of major world religions, but much more than that they need to learn about the religious lives of their diverse neighbors.  They need an academically grounded engagement with the social realities of contemporary religious communities.  They need to know how their experiences of American society may be radically different -- and not so different at all -- from the experiences of their peers living in different religious worlds.

The Religious Worlds of New York summer institute helps teachers introduce their students to the everyday life of American religious diversity.  Classroom by classroom, the teachers we work with are transforming the study of religion in American schools and empowering a new generation of Americans to bridge the divides between their religious worlds.


Photo credits:  Manhattan skyline by Francisco Diez, Creative Commons.  New York religious life scenes, top to bottom, by: skalis, Creative Commons;  jnap, Creative Commons; Mat McDermott, Creative Commons; and used by permission of Jenny Jozwiak, Diversity of Devotion.