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The Scarlet & Black

College Rabbi establishes God Café

Gabriela Roznawska

Rabbi Sarah Brammer-Shlay launched the Center for Religion, Spirituality, and Social Justice’s (CRSSJ) new program, God Café, to provide a communal space for students, faculty and staff to explore their own relationship with God and spirituality.   

“I think sometimes we talk about God in a, ‘Do you believe in God? Yes or no?’ And I don’t actually think that that’s a very accessible, or maybe even interesting way to have the conversation,” Brammer-Shlay said. With this new program –– which started on Nov. 7 –– she said she wants to steer the conversation away from binary belief to an individualized approach, letting each participant think about their own personal relationship with God. 

Brammer-Shlay, who joined the College in August 2022, said that she hopes the communal space can serve as a form of education. “I feel like while you’re doing so much rich learning in the classroom, I think it’s also important to have the opportunity to do some reflection in a communal setting as well,” Brammer-Shlay said. 

I think sometimes we talk about God in a, ‘Do you believe in God? Yes or no?’ And I don’t actually think that that’s a very accessible, or maybe even interesting way to have the conversation.

— Sarah Brammer-Shlay

While the project is new to the College, it is very well-known to Brammer-Shlay. She originally came up with the idea in 2018 and first used it with different faith groups, as well as at a senior center where she used to work. 

Brammer-Shlay said that the opportunity for students, faculty and staff to discuss their own faith in a group setting is highly productive. ​​ “I think sometimes in our minds, we might have a big question mark. But we don’t even know what the question is. And I think when we process things, as a group, people bring in different ideas,” Brammer-Shlay said. She added that the fluidity of one’s own relationship with God makes having a communal space to freely discuss God important.

Brammer-Shlay described the Café as a source of curiosity that can enable attendees to explore their own faith and relationship with God. “My goal is for people to leave with more questions than they even came with,” she said.“And for people to feel more comfortable with fluidity in their experience as well.

In addition to the God Café, Brammer-Shlay is involved with faith-centered events on campus. Recently, Brammer-Shlay led the Vigil for Lives Lost in Israel and Gaza. She emphasized the need for open discussions about faith in tense situations involving religion and beliefs. “I think when we process things communally, we give ourselves a chance to be listened to, but also to listen. And I think we are forever changed when we go through that process,” Brammer-Shlay said. 

The God Café will meet from noon to 1 p.m. on Tuesdays for the next three weeks. Brammer-Shlay encouraged everyone interested to show up, regardless of faith. “My hope is that people can see that when I say ‘God,’ I actually mean it in a really expansive way,” Brammer-Shlay said.

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About the Contributors
Henry Horn, Staff Writer
Henry Horn is a second-year probable history major from Pasadena, California. He likes riding his bike, listening to music that he's never heard before, and watching soccer. He can easily be bribed with Hot Tamales or a bloody mary sandwich with no tomato but with jalapeños from Jay's Deli.
Gabriela Roznawska, Graphic Designer
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