The Thin Line Between Culture and Religion

The lines between culture and religion are often blurred as the two become synonymous with one another. Through the yearly holidays and daily practices, religion becomes an integral part of many NYU students’ upbringings. A number of students feel close cultural ties to their religion, citing religious centers at NYU such as the Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life, the Catholic Center and the Islamic Center at NYU.

Even after studying abroad in London her first year, GLS sophomore Andie Kanaras still managed to find her way into NYU student groups centered around the Greek Orthodox religion, a denomination of Catholicism.

“Being Greek is basically synonymous with being Orthodox, so many traditions intertwine with religion — specifically Easter,” Kanaras said. “I was abroad my first year so I haven’t been that exposed to Orthodox life, but the Greek club is pretty big. They do a lot of fun events.”

Although many students choose to immerse themselves in NYU’s religious student centers and clubs, others keep close cultural ties with their religion outside of student groups.

When CAS sophomore Abhishek Patel lived in India, which has six different philosophies of Hinduism, he lived in Ahmedabad, a city dominated by a sect of Hinduism called Swaminarayan. The city prides itself on conservative values, which influences Patel to this day.

“[In Ahmedabad], they basically regard lord Swaminarayan, who lived around 1800 and was the super swami,” Patel said. “I was raised in a rather conservative culture that stresses Ahimsa and nonviolence. I learned to respect animals, which is why I don’t eat meat.”

Some students remember the strong cultural ties from childhood and continue to celebrate aspects of their respective religions although they are no longer religious.

“Nowadays, I identify as agnostic, but I was raised Hindu and still continue to celebrate religious holidays with my family,” CAS junior Vidhi Chadha said. “As a kid, my daily routine was prayer after showering and attending temple. We kept a small shrine in our house that faces [the direction] where the sun rises, which is where your god would face.”

Upon coming to NYU, CAS sophomore, Vice President of Kehillah — the conservative Judaism student group — and third-generation Jewish-American Arin Edelstein found community at the Bronfman Center after leaving her Jewish-centric home in Philadelphia.

“Through the Bronfman Center, I have a whole community of other Jewish students,” Edelstein said. “We’re going to take a trip to the Jewish Museum in a couple weeks as a hangout. Beyond that, [Judaism] is a cultural background that constantly informs how I conduct myself in the world.”

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Oct. 23 print edition. Email Pamela Jew at [email protected]

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