Peacemaker Profile: Gilana Levavi of New Jersey | Hartford Seminary

Peacemaker Profile: Gilana Levavi of New Jersey

The six remarkable students in our 2019-20 class of International Peacemaking Program fellows will spend a year at Hartford Seminary studying mediation, interfaith dialogue and public speaking while earning a Graduate Certificate. They come from different religions, backgrounds, and parts of the world, but they are all interested in fostering peace.

Q. If you had to choose one word to describe yourself, what would it be? And how will you use this trait in the IPP at Hartford Seminary?

A. From the Hebrew root lamed, mem, daled stem words for both learning and teaching. This grammatical fact underscores the strong connection between learning and teaching that I see as integral to pluralistic community building. In such communities, individuals are simultaneously learners and teachers. In IPP and Hartford Seminary community, my primary role is that of a student. I learn from my professors and teachers, fellow students, the written and other resources available to me. I am continually humbled by the vast amount of knowledge that I have yet to learn, and I greatly value my identity as a student. In this program, I also share and teach about my own traditions. I learn from the experiences of teaching, and I learn from the process of preparing to share and teach. I also plan to share what I learn in IPP with other communities that I am part of and which I will become part of after IPP.

Q. Why did you choose to apply for Hartford Seminary’s IPP?

A. I am passionate about pluralism. I love developing and being part of communities in which diverse individuals continually seek to learn from and engage with one another’s unique perspectives, beliefs, practices and experiences. I was and continue to be excited by the opportunity to be part of an international pluralistic community, to study religion in an intellectually rigorous environment, and to learn practical skills for positive social change toward peace.

Q. Who inspires you the most? And how will you reflect this person during your time in the IPP?

A. I am often inspired by people who find meaning and construct positive change for themselves and others from personal experiences, including experiences of difficulty or challenge. One person who inspires me is my grandfather, Arthur Purdy. I strive to emulate my grandfather’s optimism, love for life, and ability to connect authentically and meaningfully with diverse individuals. In his own words: “Suddenly, [World War II] was done, at least outside of me, and I was alive … I pledged to know thereafter, every day, that I am alive” (back cover of Difficult Delights: Poems by Arthur Purdy). During my time in the IPP, I will strive to be grateful for life, and to live in such a way that reflects gratitude and optimism as I form meaningful relationships with others.

Q. Where are you from and where did you go to school before Hartford Seminary? Is there an important memory/event in your childhood that led to your interest in peacemaking?

A. I am from New Jersey. I graduated from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, in May 2019, with a BA in religion and philosophy and a minor in psychology. My interest in peacemaking developed from my interests in religion and interfaith dialogue. Growing up in a particular religious tradition (Judaism) has made me curious and driven to learn more about Judaism and other religions. Participating in an experiential world religions course at the Genesis at Brandeis program further developed my interests in studying religion and engaging in interfaith work, both of which I was able to do at Rutgers.

Q. When you have free time, how do you spend it?

A. I often spend free time riding my bicycle, swimming, talking with friends and family, and reading.

Q. Where do you see yourself going after your year at Hartford Seminary?

A. I see myself pursuing additional opportunities that will allow me to continue exploring and developing my interests in interfaith work, social work, psychology, education, and non-profits. 

 

 

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