In August of 2020, Interfaith Philadelphia’s Mosaic program ran online for the first time, as part of adaptations made for the COVID-19 pandemic. Read on for reflections from staff and facilitators about the program, including some highlights and favorite memories.
This was our third year offering Mosaic to middle school-aged youth in Philadelphia, and just like most things in 2020, this year felt different. Although our strongest connection to our students in the program this year was through a chat box and screen, Interfaith Philadelphia staff could sense a real hunger for activities and engagement with fellow peers. Our discussion around intersectional identities and religious diversity felt more important than ever, and art served as a way to process these emotions and reflections. I so deeply appreciated the close to 40 students who braved logging into Zoom with a bunch of fellow youth they didn’t know, and shared a bit about who they were with this small new community.
Mosaic in the midst of Covid19 and the uprisings presented us with new challenges and new joys. I was amazed to see the sense of justice these young people already had established, and their desire to further Dare to Understand one another through discussion and the arts. Daily stretches and meditation seemed to provide a much needed sense of comfort for these youth, and I am so grateful to have been a part of this unconventional summer camp.
Each day of Mosaic, Philadelphia-based religious leaders joined us to share meaningful objects and respond to curious questions offered by students. Our first visitor, Rabbanit Dasi Fruchter, invited curious questions and even “clumsy curious questions.” I appreciated the vulnerability, sensitivity, and of course, curiosity, that students demonstrated in offering questions. Our brief workshop on curious versus judgmental questions seemed to prompt mature and careful thought around how to craft questions. Students sometimes ran questions by staff members before offering them to the guest religious leaders, and they inquired about a number of topics, including the meaning of a guest’s name, religiously significant foods, and advice they might have for young people. Thank you, Mosaic students, for your respectful and enthusiastic engagement with our guest religious leaders!
I’m so grateful to our awesome students for diving into this program, in the middle of a challenging and disorienting year. We had rich discussions about justice and allyship, made art together, and learned more about the city around us through virtual visits from local faith leaders and Philadelphia trivia. In addition to what our other staff have said, I loved opening our surprise snack each day and learning about everyone’s traditions around holidays and food while we ate together on Zoom. Thanks so much to our campers, guest speakers, and everyone who helped make this camp possible.