What is Garden State MOSAIC?
Garden State MOSAIC is a multi-faith educational program for middle and high school youth which is centered in the Monmouth County area of New Jersey. The program is cosponsored by the Monmouth Center for World Religions and Ethical Thought (MCWRET) and the Monmouth County Human Relations Commission (MCHRC).
MOSAIC is a unique program that empowers its young participants:
- to work collaboratively in small group settings for invaluable interfaith education,
- to practice leadership and communication skills, and
- to learn positive and constructive ways of addressing the difference in values and norms among the many different faith traditions that are part of our ever-changing society.
MOSAIC enables students to learn about each other’s belief systems and practices through a series of sessions hosted by various faith groups at their places of congregation. The program also helps students develop leadership and dialog skills that are critical to becoming change agents in their own communities. During the program, students plan and conduct a community service project to allow them to practice some of the values that are common between all belief systems.
The program began in 2013 and since then more than 75 teens from throughout Monmouth County – representing a variety of faiths – have come together to learn, share, and serve. The youth that were engaged in this program not only learned about other religions and faiths, but they also became more interested and knowledgeable about their own belief systems. This unintended result has been observed in other interfaith programs and is elaborated upon in Eboo Patel’s book Acts of Faith. Patel’s book has also been a great source of inspiration for the creation of Garden State MOSAIC.
Here is a video about the Youth Service Projects
Why do we need programs like Garden State MOSAIC?
The United States has been rapidly becoming more religiously diverse, and Americans are struggling to come to terms with this new reality. A series of tragic events that have taken place recently highlight the need to build a better appreciation for people from diverse faiths and belief systems whom we encounter on a daily basis. Our society must take proactive steps to eradicate the fear and hatred that often stems from a lack of knowledge, and replace it with an appreciation of the richness inherent in a diversity of faiths and belief systems. We need to convey a celebratory attitude towards the multiplicity of religions and cultures amidst us instead of a fearful one that comes from viewing our differences as a threat. To paraphrase Eboo Patel, whose voices do we want our kids to be influenced by – the religious totalitarians or those who believe in pluralism and interfaith dialog?
How is Garden State MOSAIC structured?
Garden State MOSAIC is a free program offered to students in grades 7 to 12 throughout Monmouth County. Spaces are limited. An application form must be submitted by prospective students, and a selection process is used to assure adequate diversity and balance. Most program sessions are held in the Middletown and Freehold sections of Monmouth County. Each session is conducted on a Sunday afternoon, roughly every other week (adjusting as needed for holidays), and includes a presentation of each faith group by the participating teens, tours of the houses of worship, a cultural meal, and a leadership activity. Throughout the year, the teens develop and implement a joint service project. The year’s program is concluded with an award ceremony to which all parents and youth directors are invited.
About MCWRET and MCHRC
Monmouth Center for World Religions and Ethical Thought: The principle purpose (mission) of the Monmouth Center for World Religions and Ethical Thought (MCWRET) is to enhance the acceptance of religious and cultural diversity and the practice of understanding toward those different from ourselves.
Monmouth County Human Relations Commission: Formed by resolution of the Monmouth County Broad of Chosen Freeholders in 1990 after substantial input from community leaders from all walks of life, the MCHRC combats the causes of bias and discrimination that result in acts of violence, vandalism and violations of civil rights. http://monmouthcountyhrc.org
Garden State MOSAIC Steering Committee
Kristine Binaco, Elizabeth Congdon, Joe Donahue, Patricia Dursan, Fatima Jaffari, Sarbmeet Kanwal, Tricia Krietzberg, Stevi Lischin, Esmat Mahmoud, Rabbi Melinda, Panken, Joe Ritacco, Salman Sheikh, Uma Swaminathan, Linda Zucaro.
For additional information: