Late Sunday afternoon, students from the upcoming interfaith spring break trip to Turkey gathered in the chapel basement for a Turkish cooking class. Ayten Ay, the wife of Professor Ahmet Ay, led the class. She is Turkish and brought three recipes to teach the group: sekerpare, a dessert dumpling in a syrup; kisir, a Turkish tabouleh; and spinach pie, similar to spanakopita.
The students; Rabbi Dena Bodian, the leader of the trip; and Ayten spent the afternoon baking, getting to know each other better, and learning a few Turkish words. While showing the group how to roll the dough for the sekerpare, Ayten sang a popular Turkish song about donkeys and taught the group how to haggle at the markets: “Always ask for half price, always,” she advised.
The group is a cross-section of the student body, representing each class year as well as a range of faiths, on-campus involvements, and past traveling experience. Kenzie Hume ’15 became interested in joining an interfaith group after reading Acts of Faith, the first-year summer reading assignment. As the president of the Colgate Newman Community, Chris Donnelly ’15 is already involved in interfaith discussions, and believes that working with people who have different opinions makes him “come away the better for it.”
Turkey’s richness in religious diversity makes it a perfect choice for the interfaith trip. For example, the Hagia Sophia, one of Turkey’s most famous sites, is a great example of the type of religious mixture throughout the country. It was first built as a cathedral and later served as a mosque. The country is predominantly Muslim, but it has Arabian Christian, Jewish, and East Asian religious influences.
The group of students is, as Nile Williams ’13 puts it, “a group of open-minded people willing to engage, who are interested in religious history and culture.”
By the end of the cooking class, the chapel basement smelled of Turkish spices. The students were laughing as they got to know each other and practiced “Arkadaşım Eşşek,” the song Ayten had taught them.