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Dumbach Scholars Explore Sacred Spaces

Throughout the second quarter, Dumbach Scholars and AP Art History students visited three religious places of worship as part of their ongoing investigation into sacred spaces. "This was the second year of this initiative, and we are proud of the partnerships we have formed with other faith communities in the area," says Director of the Dumbach Scholars Honors Program Mrs. Lesley Shifrin. "Visiting sacred spaces and meeting leaders of other faiths helps bring to life our studies in the classroom. It also helps see similarities between faith traditions and allows for greater understanding."
On Saturday, October 21, Dumbach Scholars visited the Muslim Education Center and Mosque in Morton Grove. Dr. Sabeel Ahmed, executive director of the GainPeace Project, talked to the students about Islam, answered questions, and offered a tour of the space. The visit ended with an observation of the daily prayer.

On Sunday, October 29, the scholars visited the Chicago Zen Center in Evanston to learn more about Zen Buddhism. Sensei and Abbot Shodin Geiman took the group on a tour of the center and discussed the practice.

On Thursday, November 16, students visited Congregation Sukkot Shalom in Wilmette. The visit was led by Missy Bell, director of education, and Rabbi Brian Immerman, senior rabbi. During their visit, Dumbach Scholars toured the space, viewed the Torah, and participated in a Q&A session. Afterward, students had the opportunity to observe and take part in a service for the children attending Hebrew School. The group enjoyed listening to the music and prayers, as well as helpful explanations for each prayer.

By gaining an understanding of different faith traditions, students were better able to contextualize the design and decoration of these sacred spaces, taking their appreciation of the space from "this is how it looks" to "this is why it looks that way."

"I found our visits to these sacred spaces to be really helpful to both my knowledge of art history and my understanding of the real-world dynamic between world religions," reflects Ben Olsen '26. "I realized that while each religion is unique, there are some substantial similarities that seem to be overlooked by most people. Furthermore, the architecture tied into what we learned in class and definitely helped to give each space a one-of-a-kind experience.”  

"Especially in the conflicting circumstances of our world today, I think it's important that everyone is able to share similar educational experiences to promote peace and unity," adds Mary McQuillen '26.

The Dumbach Scholars Honors Program is an enrichment program designed to enhance the curriculum of Loyola's most gifted and motivated students. The program is grounded in small group Socratic discussions of humanities and arts topics. Interested in becoming a Dumbach Scholar? Applications are being accepted now through December 4. Contact Mrs. Lesley Shifrin at for more information.

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