Profiles and reflections from Harran interns, associates, and friends. (Harran Leadership and Board biographies can be found in the “About” tab).Intern Profiles and Reflections
Nusra Ismail is a 2011 Jeff Metcalf Fellow at the Harran Productions Foundation. She will be a 3rd-year undergraduate student at the University of Chicago, studying Political Science and Human Rights. Her passion for using music as an avenue for cultural exploration and bridge-building can be seen through her work with the South Asian Student Association (SASA) and UChicago for Pakistan at Chicago. While helping put on the biggest cultural show on campus, she values the education the audience receives through the entertainment provided at the annual SASA Spring show. She also assisted in organizing a talent show in collaboration with several student organizations in order to raise funds for victims of the 2010 Pakistan floods and the 2011 Japan earthquake. She is very pleased and honored to be a part of the inter-faith initiatives promoted by the Harran Productions Foundation.
Yael Vidan is a Jeff Metcalf Fellow at the Harran Productions Foundation, 2010-2011, and 4th-year undergraduate student at the University of Chicago, concentrating in International Studies and Cinema and Media Studies. At Chicago, she founded Yalla (Israeli-Palestinian dialogue), and has served on the International House Council. While working at the Diderot, Sorbonne, and La Cinematheque de la Danse in Paris, she became increasingly interested in documentary filmmaking as a medium for social inquiry and storytelling. As a dancer and choreographer, she is similarly committed to using movement and music for social good, witnessed in her work with 100 Projects for Peace, organizing musical workshops for Bedouin children in the Negev.
Farah Dosani is a multimedia journalist with National Public Radio-affiliate WGCU and HealthyState.org Local Journalism Center. She graduated from the University of Miami in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Religious Studies. There, she co-founded Jews and Muslims (JAM), the first religious co-existence group on campus. It organized Sounds of Faith – University of Miami in April of 2010. In 2009, she lived abroad for a semester in the Galilee region of Israel to study archaeology and religion.
- Experience with Harran and Sounds of Faith Reflections:
- Working with Shakeela Hassan and Harran has been both fulfilling and inspiring. I first contacted Harran Productions in the summer of 2009. I had come across a preview of the Sounds of Faith documentary online and was moved by what I saw and heard. Images of worshipers and sacred sounds of the Abrahamic faiths transitioned across the screen. They blended seamlessly and had profound implications.
- Inspired by this and Sounds of Faith - Chicago, Jews and Muslims (JAM) decided to create a concert of its own in Miami. We contacted Shakeela soon after and shared our plans with her and Harran Productions. Using Sounds of Faith – Chicago as our guide, we produced our own concert at University of Miami with students performing and reciting various songs, scriptures, and sounds of their respective traditions. Shakeela was there to help us along the whole way. We were ecstatic when we learned that she was able to attend and give the opening words at the event.
- Inside the Episcopalian Church on campus, people from all different backgrounds in the greater Miami community gathered together in appreciation of sacred sounds. We witnessed the power of sound – its ability to move one’s soul, build bridges, and resonate compassion in the minds of all who listened. Working with Shakeela and Harran inspired us to take our effort of promoting co-existence and understanding to another level. Sounds of Faith was a reminder that different people are really not so different. Sacred sounds are profound, beautiful, and always leave an impression – no matter your background. Co-existence comes through appreciation and respect. Harran Productions demonstrated another way of achieving this reality.
Romana Manzoor graduated from Salve Regina University in May 2007 with degrees in Socio-cultural Anthropology, Modern European History, and a concentration in Cultural & Historic Preservation. She recently graduated from the Catholic Theological Union in May 2010, achieving a Masters of Theology with a concentration in Inter-religious Dialogue. Presently, she works at the American Islamic College in Chicago as the school's Interfaith Relations Coordinator. In February 2011, Romana organized the fourth Sounds of Faith concert, and the first to be hosted at a Muslim institution.
Experience with Harran and Sounds of Faith Reflections:
My first experience of Sounds of Faith was in 2009 at the beautiful Rockefeller Memorial Chapel in Chicago. On the refreshingly crisp November evening, over 1,000 people of diverse faith traditions, cultural backgrounds, ages, families, friends, neighbors, students, and professionals, filled every space next to one another in this non-denominational Christian prayer space. I was filled with something more powerful at that moment. It was a sense of unity, which brought a sensational feeling of hope and love. It was a glimpse of peace and what it means to be “One Under God.” This gathering was for God. The Sounds of Faith project transcends the mind’s working of interfaith and peace work and melts out of the heart a love that has no religion, ethnicity, race, class, or age—a love that washes over everyone present in the presence of God: For to love the Creator is to love Her Creation.
Then there was a sense of awe that ALL of these prayers, from our respective faith traditions, the diversity in the ways we worshipped, all have a similar aim, which is to give thanks and praise to God. The faces of those who offered their prayers in front of the gathering that night revealed such an expression—as they closed their eyes in moments of worship and their words of praise they sung, chanted, or recited resonated in their hearts, those observing closed their eyes in unison as the sound and rhythm broke through barriers and penetrated the hearts of all listening—for this was prayer. The sound of the words alone, though not always in English, traveled beyond trying to understand and instead created a presence of meditation in melody. Breathing was deepened. Bodies swayed at times in contemplation and at other times they danced in rhythm as the sounds heard from the Jewish cantors, Muslim reciters, and Christian choirs created movement in prayer.
It is for these reasons that I was inspired to have a version of the Sounds of Faith at the American Islamic College. Folks who had heard of the Sounds of Faith-Chicago were happy to receive another opportunity to witness this beautiful project and experience the sound paradigm. With Dr. Hassan’s timeless guidance and the help of the dedicated Harran team, we were able to provide the Chicago community once again, the Sounds of Faith. It was incredibly lovely to see the Bosnian Muslim moms clap, sway, and cheer on in praise to the St. Ailbe’s Kid’s Gospel Choir. A member of the audience reported having been in tears to see diverse traditions participate on stage together for it was a witness and testament of God’s Greatness. It’s comments like these that reveal the true importance of the Sounds of Faith for peacemaking, compassion, and healing as Dr. Hassan has envisioned. These sacred sounds build bridges of understanding. What a wonderful way to celebrate diversity and share the commonalities in unity! Thank you Dr. Hassan and the Harran Productions Foundation for providing a beautiful paradigm for human cooperation, understanding, and healing.
Shoshana Gottesman is a violist and a graduate of the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music with minors in International Studies and Public Relations. Shoshana studied with Pamela McConnell and Glenn Basham, both of the Bergonzi String Quartet, and members of the Houston Symphony, Qi-Ming and Sophia Silivos. Shoshana has participated in numerous festivals, including Eastern Music Festival, Texas Music Festival, the New York University Intensive Chamber Music Festival, Jerusalem Academy of Music’s Summer Festival for Strings, and American Festival for the Arts. She has also performed throughout the United States, as well as Israel and France.
The study and performance of chamber music has been a constant force in her life. In 2006, Shoshana’s string quartet won first place at the Houston Music Heals Competition. Shoshana has worked behind the scenes as a public relations intern for The Houston Symphony, The Jerusalem Music Center, and The Opus 118 Harlem School of Music. Her article was accepted and published by the daily Israeli newspaper, Ha’aretz, and she also was a ghostwriter for the Hand in Hand Israeli-Israeli/Arab Schools. During her internship with Jerusalem Music Center, she coordinated events for the Young Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra Summer Series, and served as a chamber music coach. As an intern at the Opus 118 Harlem School of Music, she initiated the creation of a music library for their students. Within Shoshana’s time as an undergraduate student, one of her most substantial focuses has been fostering Jewish-Muslim and interfaith relations at her university. Shoshana is one of the founders and past co-chairs for the University of Miami student group, Jews and Muslims (JAM), which “bridges the divide” between Jews and Muslims on campus and within the Miami community. Most recently, she organized Sounds of Faith- University of Miami, a Chicago-based movement celebrating the sounds of faith within the three Abrahamic faiths. She also organized Hand in Hand (Yad bYed), a national conference for student peace activists with a focus on the Middle East in October 2010. Currently she is interning for Heartbeat Jerusalem, an international community of musicians, teachers, and students that are transforming conflict and creating mutual understanding through the power of music. In other words, Heartbeat brings together Israeli and Palestinian-Israeli youth to make music together and engage in peacemaking activities. She plans on giving a recital at the end of the program on the viola.
Elana Rosen-Brown is a rabbinical and cantorial student at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion where she is a Tisch/School of Sacred Music Fellow. Elana’s passion for interfaith and intercultural work stems from extensive international travel during which she has been warmly welcomed into the sacred spaces and worship experiences of other faith communities. A summa cum laude graduate of Middlebury College with a degree in History and Secondary Education, Elana has worked as a high school history teacher in Vermont as well as an English teacher in Seoul, Korea. After living for two years in Israel, Elana worked as a tour educator for NFTY in Israel summer programs where she led Reform teens to the Czech Republic, Poland, and Israel. In addition, Elana has served as a student cantor for Temple Beth David in Cheshire, CT, Jewish Center of Northwest Jersey, and Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles. She is currently working on her cantorial masters thesis—an exploration of the role music can play in bridge-building and interfaith dialogue.
Nurah W. Amat’ullah
NURAH W. AMAT’ULLAH, Founder and Executive Director of The Muslim Women’s Institute for Research and Development, is a program developer who focuses on faith-based community development initiatives. A graduate of the Doctor of Ministry-Multi-faith degree program at New York Theological Seminary (class of 2010) and a graduate of the Islamic Chaplaincy Program (2003) at Hartford Seminary, Ms. Amat’ullah ministers to pastoral care needs in the urban community. Over the years her programs have been aimed at building capacity among poor and immigrant communities in the Bronx. Clients served by the programs are predominantly new immigrants with transitional needs that are culturally specific and working poor families. Ms. Amat’ullah currently serves as an Archivist at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and was recently appointed to the New York City HIV/AIDS Planning and Prevention Group. She is actively involved in a number of inter-faith and NGO organizations, including Intersections International, Inc., The Interfaith Center of New York, Disaster Chaplaincy Services, The Parliament of World Religions, Religions for Peace and Auburn Theological Seminary Women’s Multi-faith Committee.
Dr. Nurah W. Amat’ullah (Rosalie P. Jeter) in the last 10 years has dedicated much of her time to the area of ecclesiastic work/pastoral care. Working primarily in the Southwest Bronx, she has developed and directed social services projects aimed at easing the human suffering of a large new immigrant population. This work is done by assisting those served to meet their basic needs. As the founder and executive director of the Muslim Women’s Institute for Research and Development (MWIRD), Nurah has created a number of faith-based community development initiatives and participated in numerous multi-faith and religious NGO efforts. MWIRD is a faith-based, community service organization that provides hunger relief, health education, and services for the transitional needs.
Experience with Harran and Sounds of Faith Reflections:
On Sunday March 13, 2011, I attended the Sounds of Faith-NY event at the Riverside Church. It was a transformative experience. As someone working in the very vibrant inter-faith arena of the New York metropolitan area, the event captured with clarity so much that we struggle to articulate in our work. The challenging work for peaceful co-existence among the faithful who share this earth was given a glimpse of the possible in the celebration of the sounds of the faith traditions we lived. I think all who do inter-faith work should experience Sounds of Faith.