New ‘Building Religious Tolerance’ Course to be Offered This Spring

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Gateway Community College’s Humanities Department will be offering a new pilot course in the spring semester that starts later this month called “Building Religious Tolerance in Our Community.”

The course, ENG 298, will be taught by three instructors: Rabbi Benjamin Scolnic of Temple Beth Sholom in Hamden, John A. Wilkinson of the Saint Thomas More Center at Yale, and Yale Muslim Chaplain Omer Bajwa.

It will include a comprehensive exploration of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Students will learn about the history of each faith, its scriptures and its rituals and how each faith intersects with other faiths. The course will also aim to use education as the means of allowing students to build respect for, and understanding of, other faiths in hopes of leading to enhanced levels of religious tolerance in our community. It will meet on Tuesdays from 3:45 p.m. to 6:35 p.m.

Two of the course’s three instructors — Scolnic and Bajwa — participated in an interfaith panel discussion at GCC on Nov. 3. The free event, which was open to the public and organized by faculty member Susan Chenard, explored how to build religious tolerance and included discussions about what provisions exist in different faiths to allow followers to tolerate people of other faiths. The panel also included Rev. John Scott III from the Dixwell Avenue Congregationalist Church.


GCC offers more than 85 associate degree and certificate programs and serves more than 11,000 credit and non-credit students each year. GCC is currently located on two campuses — at 60 Sargent Drive on Long Wharf in New Haven and at 88 Bassett Road in North Haven. Work began in the fall of 2009 on a new state-of-the art campus in downtown New Haven, which is slated to open in 2012 and will be the state’s first public building gold-certified in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

GCC serves students in 24 towns and cities in the greater New Haven area, including: Ansonia, Bethany, Branford, Bridgeport, Cheshire, Clinton, Derby, East Haven, Guilford, Hamden, Madison, Meriden, Middletown, Milford, New Haven, North Branford, North Haven, Orange, Seymour, Shelton, Stratford, Wallingford, West Haven and Woodbridge. For more information, visit