Drew University Students Visit Washington D.C. Museums, Explore Cultural Competencies

A reflection from Master of Divinity student Henry Anyomi T’25

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Photo credit: Fundi Ngcongwane C'27

March 2024 – Drew University’s Center on Religion, Culture, and Conflict (CRCC), supported by Student Engagement and the Center for Civic Engagement, organized its second annual group trip to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) and the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington D.C. The team was comprised of over 30 students from Drew’s College of Liberal Arts and Drew Theological School. The trip was led by Jonathan Golden, CRCC director and associate teaching professor in religious studies. 

The trip was held as part of Professor Golden’s Black-Jewish Relations in America class and was funded through a generous grant from the Russell-Berrie Foundation. The group not only visited the two important museums, but also engaged in planned group conversations to brainstorm on the experience and share knowledge. Students said they found the discussions deeply enlightening and useful in helping them process the historical information gleaned from the museums’ exhibits about the Black and Jewish peoples. 

The majority of participating students from the Theological School agreed that the museums’ themes of injustice, racial superiority, and subjugation resonated with the state of affairs among sections of the populace in their countries of origin. Participants generally returned from the trip mulling over the question, “what am I going to do in light of modern-day injustices?” Among other things, students felt motivated to speak out against injustice, support the creation of diverse, equitable, and inclusive communities, and stand up for the freedom of all persons. 

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Photo credit: Fundi Ngcongwane C'27

Mecca Madyun, faculty director of the Center for Civic Engagement and assistant professor of civic engagement, shared that “the museums have a wealth and breadth of information, and it was powerful that students got the beautiful opportunity to dig a little deeper [into it].”

“The depth that you can dig into the history of a thing, the better you understand the culture itself,” said Madyun. “Exposing students to the histories of the Black and Jewish peoples built upon their cultural competency.”

Monica Madera, coordinator of diversity & inclusion programming, noted that the diversity among the students (from so many different parts of the country and the globe) and their various takeaways changed her perspective. In a debrief session, she explained that she learned that in students’ past history classes, “some did learn about the Holocaust and some did learn about enslaved people in their state, but others didn’t. It was interesting to see those different backgrounds and how they all came together.”  

The CRCC hopes that the positive experiences from the trip will stick with both students and staff and deepen their intercultural/religious understanding and peacebuilding skills for many years to come. The CRCC is grateful to the Russell-Berrie Foundation for its support.

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