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At the end of each institute, our summer scholars submit anonymous program evaluations to the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Here’s what they’ve had to say about the “tremendous experience” of the Religious Worlds institute, along with photos of our summer scholars at work.


In the classroom with Charles Haynes

“A tremendous three weeks — my best professional development experience ever. . . . This is a seminar that is going to change teachers’ and students’ lives. No one could leave this three week, intensive immersion in the study of lived religion and not go back to teaching refreshed and invigorated.”

“This seminar was amazing!!! As a new and upcoming World Religions teacher, I have no doubt that these three weeks will greatly enhance my teaching and scholarship.”

“A tremendous experience that will enrich the teaching that takes place in classrooms across the country for decades to come.”

“The best professional development I’ve ever had, and one of the best learning experiences of my life. The Institute dramatically changed my understanding of religious studies, particularly in understanding the teaching of doctrine vs. lived religion. It opened my eyes up to not only content but about how to teach (and how not to teach) religion as part of my curriculum.”

“[The institute] went above and beyond my ideas of quality professional development, and I consider it one of the highlights of my teaching career. The discussions, experiences and insights afforded through the program are some of the most important of my 14 years in education.”

“My overall experience was greatly positive. It was intense and busy, and perhaps a bit too much, but also incredibly rich with information. Henry Goldschmidt and the Interfaith Center are doing the kind of work that changes the world. Though some of [Henry’s] ideas may be a little pie-in-the-sky, they’re also exactly why many of us got into teaching — to fight ignorance through authentic learning and understanding.”

“This was an amazing experience. As a middle school social studies teacher, I cannot think of a more valuable way of approaching such an important topic as religious diversity than the course Henry put together for this institute. . . . As a result of what I have learned, I now feel equipped to teach about relig­ion in a way that avoids the dehumanizing broad brush strokes of the traditional comparative re­ligions model.”

Site Visit to the Chogyesa Zen Temple of New York

“An excellent and demanding seminar that challenged me to think in new ways about how and what I teach.”

“I have been to many professional development programs over the past 40 years, and this program was of the very highest quality in every aspect. . . . There is nothing about it that was not excellent. I have never before rated a program as highly as I am rating this one.”

“Please, PLEASE offer this program again next year. It is crucial to increasing religious pluralism, tol­erance, and respect — and teachers MUST learn how to teach religion better.”

“This program gave me new insights into the meaning people invest into their religious practices. Even if religion is something I can’t personally ‘get behind,’ I saw something in our discussions . . . that felt authentic, lived, and soulful. My teaching will forever, I suspect, be impacted by this realization and I hope to bring a certain humanity to how I instruct about these topics.”

“I feel like what I have learned will affect my teaching for the rest of my career, and will affect how I interact with the world for the rest of my life. It has made me more open to new experiences and new ways of thinking.”

“The program director deserves the highest praise and accolades for his excellent planning of the program curriculum. His care in constructing a coherent program with a serious academic focus that was deeply relevant to secondary school teachers was evident throughout.”

“Dr Henry Goldschmidt is a gem!  Not only is Henry beyond intelligent about the various religions, he also has the ability to relate these materials and concepts to a teacher’s way of thinking.  He is a teacher’s teacher. He listens and understands the teacher’s way of life in the classroom.”

“Henry is a powerhouse academic, a model educator, and a delightful human being — he is such an essential part of this program, and I could not imagine having it any other way.  He’s a super hero.”

Houngan Gran Bwa Draws a Veve for Erzulie

“I was deeply impressed with the attendees at this institute, and I am proud to be counted among them. It has been delightful to speak with such talented educators from all over the country and to share our stories, ideas and passion.”

“The real strength of the program was found in [my fellow summer scholars]. Everyone was so open, honest, and ready to learn — something often difficult to find in PD groups of teachers. Being with these people for three weeks has refreshed my love of learning and my love of teaching.”

“The institute director, [was] amazing in sharing his own scholarship and his ability to create an atmosphere of academic sharing among participants. The quality of the visiting faculty and the scholarship presented has been second to none in teacher development programs in my teaching career.”

“Henry is great. His enthusiasm every day was infectious. He was an extremely know­ledgeable leader and absolutely pushed us to be pre­cise in our terms and assumptions about the religious groups we met. He is a model for how to conduct panels, site visits, and ethno­graphic research. He is generous and kind and motivating. I loved that he incorporated top academics who all treated us as equals.”

“UNBELIEVABLY FANTASTIC!! The sites we visited and the experts that Henry brought to us were beyond amazing. We experienced what most people spend semesters trying to do. The use of Google Drive and the wiki site was cutting edge and a great skill for teachers and our students.”

“The institute was amazing and truly life changing.  The experience has fundamentally altered the way I will structure my future classes and lessons.  Not only did it provide me with significant insight into religious diversity, it also served as fuel and inspiration for my willingness to remain in education. I cannot stress enough how much this changed my personal life, and more importantly my life as a teacher.  I am confident that bringing religion into the classroom in a manner that is legal and respectful is going to be life altering for my students.”

“The curriculum development project was very practical, and will give my Islam class a shot in the arm. Big thumbs up.”

“The seminar offered a peda­gogically useful balance between thematic content and hands-on, qualitative research experiences that I hope to replicate in my classroom. It was a wonderful example of ways in which we can stretch our definitions of education and traditional learning experiences into opportunities that can be more personally fulfilling for students and, therefore, more engaging and successful.”

In the classroom with Robert Orsi

“Union Theological Seminary was a great place to host this seminar. The residential life assistant . . . did a great job helping us out whenever we needed it. The grounds are beauti­ful. The room was spacious and useful.”

“Overall, the institute was fabulous. I will bring back to my students more knowledge of religious traditions, methods for teaching about religion, and exciting ways for them to discover religious life in their own area, which I believe will help break down those barr­iers among different religious people.”

“My experience in this institute was overwhelmingly positive. It will greatly enrich the depth, scope, and nuanced understanding present in my teaching and subsequent scholar­ship. Further, it will aid me in revising and creating new curricular documents for my district and state standards. My students will benefit for years to come from my experien­ces at this institute.”

“This experience was unique in its combination of academic instruction, pedagogic ex­ploration, and opportunity to interact with a variety of religious people. This combination will help bring new life to my teaching of religion.”

“I had a wonderful experience with this Institute. It managed to perfectly straddle that balance of academic versus practical that I really look for in professional development. I felt intellectually stimulated and challenged the entire time yet I also walked away with real ideas and actionables for my classroom. . . . These three weeks have really deconstructed the traditional approach to teaching and conceptualizing religion — I think that will likely permeate through even the way I talk about religion in my own life.”

“The lectures, the panels, the site visits and the discussions were specific, directed, and above all, directed at how we might teach our students. It’s impossible to express how much I admire Henry’s work with us. He was consistently warm, professional, challenging and so engaged in what the scholars were thinking about. I’ve seen syllabi from other NEH seminars and they just didn’t look like the one Henry designed. The program was phenomenal.”

Brooklyn Rabbis Avi Lesches and Heidi Hoover

“This seminar was simply put: amazing! The level of scholarship provided a philosophical foundation for the experiences we had. The diversity of the United States was well represented by the religious leaders that visited us and the places of worship we visited. Representing such diversity in the classroom can be difficult during the school year, and yet with the professional experience of this seminar I am ten times more prepared to speak about the pluralistic nature of our nation.”

“I came away with at least 3 core concepts that will drive my course on World Religions. I also gained content knowledge, contacts, and great ideas for lessons and projects.”

“This experience was exceptional in terms of the impact it will have on my future teaching. The wealth of sources and contacts is enormous.  [The institute] did an excellent job of selecting a diverse group of participants, and my learning came as much from their shared experiences as from the lectures and speakers. . . . I now have a solid framework for developing a curriculum that will honor the many traditions and practices throughout [my school] community.”

“Going forward I anticipate that the Religious Worlds of New York summer institute will shape the way I approach my course curriculum as well as redirect my pedagogy towards the lived aspects of religion. I return to my classroom next year with a strengthened confidence to speak about how various people within different traditions live out their lives in accordance with what they hold to be of sacred value. . . . The experience will definitely feed my energies and inspiration to teach long after I have departed from New York.”

“Simply put, I give the program a 101 out of a 100.  It really was that good, and I sincerely hope more teachers will be able to experience it.”

2022 Summer Scholars and Staff at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine

2019 Summer Scholars and Staff at the Chogyesa Zen Temple of New York

2017 Summer Scholars and Staff at Convent Avenue Baptist Church

2016 Summer Scholars and Staff at the Chogyesa Zen Temple of New York

2014 Summer Scholars and Staff at the Hindu Temple Society of North America


2012 Summer Scholars and Staff at Union Theological Seminary
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