Life of the Spirit

Sarah Dufficy '14 gathers with members of the Pacific Christian Fellowship.

At Pacific University, students are looking for — or finding — ways to bring their spiritual practices to life on campus.

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“That atmosphere of family is one thing I’ve enjoyed the last couple years … even though we’re not blood family, we can still have those relationships, that support of people … people who continue helping me learn and challenge myself.”

That’s the kind of community Madeline Lapping ’15 would like to create for herself and her fellow Jewish students at Pacific.

Lapping attended Jewish private school her whole life, speaks fluent Hebrew and has made two trips to Israel.

But when she came to Pacific, that part of her life slipped to the background. In her freshman year, she said, she didn’t talk much about her faith. She went to class, joined the Alpha Kappa Delta sorority and got involved with her hall council.

She prayed quietly, admired her brother and friends who managed to eat a kosher diet at college (“I won’t eat pork, but I do love my shrimp,” she confessed) and cooked traditional foods at home, to the joy of her roommates.

“I would say, ‘Yeah, I’m Jewish,’ but I wouldn’t talk about it,” she said.

More and more, though, she started to feel disconnected from a critical part of her identity.

“I felt for other students who were Jewish like me, we needed family,” she said.

She recently formed a new student group, Hillel, which is connected to a nationwide network of Jewish campus clubs.

She hopes to offer community events to help more people have a better understanding of Judaism — “I was asked many times if I celebrate Thanksgiving,” she said. “I am American.” — and she wants to offer monthly Shabbats, which are end-of-week dinners on Friday nights, involving a ritual lighting of candles, prayer and sharing of a meal.

Right now, though, that’s been a challenge, as she would need access to a kosher kitchen, as well as space where a dozen people could share a meal.

“I can’t fit 10 to 11 people at my kitchen table,” she said. “And it’s illegal to light candles in my apartment.”

Ahmed Alnasir, too, sees a certain lack of spiritual space on campus. He grew up in Saudi Arabia and moved to Texas with his sister. He chose to pursue his computer science degree at Pacific in part because there isn’t a large Arab community here.

“I was looking to know more Americans, learn from them, not just the schools,” he said.

He’s appreciated the exposure to the English language and American lifestyle, and he said most people are very open to his Islamic faith. But, he said, he’s had to adjust, because he can’t complete the prescribed five daily prayer times on campus.

“There is no place for prayer on campus, so I wait until I come home,” where he may complete two or three of the sessions at once in a tiny apartment.

“It was a thing at the beginning, but I had to adjust myself,” he said. “I had no other choice.”

Alnasir takes the adjustment in stride. After all, he said, “(At home), we have Shias and Sunnis who will not hang out with each other.