Two new spaces in Colgate University’s student residence at 110 Broad Street are helping meet the needs of students in the increasingly diverse population: a Muslim prayer room and a Kosher kitchen.
The residence, which serves as the Interfaith House, provides spaces for students living and gathering on the lower campus to practice important aspects of their religions.
Although Muslim students have had access to a room on the garden level of Memorial Chapel, its location atop the hill — and increased demand for the space — pointed to a strong need to create additional space for them to pray on campus. With two spaces, one up the hill and one down, Muslim students will be more readily be able to heed the call to prayer five times a day.
“Having a prayer room and wudu stations at 110 Broad St. for Muslim students is a beautiful example of our community supporting religious life here at Colgate,” said Corey MacPherson, university chaplain and Protestant campus minister. “Prayers can begin as early as 5:30 a.m., a time when many buildings are inaccessible.”
The project converted an existing, vacant staff apartment with a separate entrance into a space for prayer as well as wudu (ritual washing) stations.
As the interfaith liaison to the Office of the Chaplains, Yasoob Khalid ’21 has been responsible for getting the prayer room up and running. As a resident of the house, he serves as on-site manager of the space this semester.
“It is exciting to know that now there is a dedicated space,” said Khalid, who is from Lahore, Pakistan and serves as co-president of the Muslim Student Association. “As a Muslim, when I first came to Colgate, I was trying to figure out what is normal for me because I was plunged into this completely different way of living. In the sea of unfamiliarity, praying with my friends on campus gave me something familiar to grab onto.”
The prayer room, Khalid said, will help make the transition to campus smoother for Muslim students, because it will provide a welcoming space to connect with others who have come before them, to process their experiences and gain insight from them.
“This new student prayer space is fundamental to the support we provide to Muslim students at Colgate and demonstrates the University’s ongoing commitment to creating inclusive spaces that are reflective of our diverse student population,” said Vice President and Dean of the College Paul J. McLoughlin II. “I am glad we are able to support these students with an appropriate space for prayer, reflection, and community.”
To ensure purity of the space, and allow for access at all hours, students who wish to use the prayer room can contact the Office of the Chaplains (firstname.lastname@example.org) to request ’Gate Card access. Current COVID-19 restrictions cap the prayer room’s capacity at 6 people. (Congregational prayers, held at 1:00 p.m. on Fridays, which typically draw the most people, will continue to take place in Memorial Chapel.)
The opening of the Muslim prayer room is especially significant to students now because the sacred month of Ramadan, which for years occurred during the summer, now occurs during the academic year, said MacPherson. A dedication ceremony is being planned for April in conjunction with the start of Ramadan.
Another addition to Interfaith House is a dairy-only Kosher kitchen in the first-floor main dining area. Being on the lower campus provides a convenient location for students who wish to store Kosher dairy food supplies, supplementing the Kosher kitchen facilities at the Saperstein Jewish Center and the Memorial Chapel building. COVID-19 restrictions prevent students living in other residences from using the space this year, but in the future, the goal is for students living elsewhere on the lower campus to have access to this new kitchen.
Longer term, the University will seek to add additional Kosher options to its dining services program with future renovation opportunities. “In the meantime,” said Rabbi Barry Baron, associate chaplain, “this is a great first step for Colgate in expanding Kosher food availability to students.”
“In advance of the housing selection process,” said MacPherson, “we wanted Colgate’s Muslim and Jewish students to know of these new amenities in Interfaith House as they begin considering their living options for the next academic year.”