• Melissa A. Rendsburg

During the summer of 2018, I stood on the subterranean steps of the 12th century Jewish ritual bath (mikveh) in the town of Speyer, Germany – the oldest and best preserved ritual bath north of the Alps. I could not help but think of the passing of nearly 1,000 years and of all the Jewish men and women of the city for whom the synagogue and its mikveh were built.

I have had an insatiable curiosity to understand humanity, the human condition, and the meaning of life. To that end, my travels this summer took me on a self-study tour of historical, cultural, and religious sites of importance: from Catholic cathedrals and abbeys in the Rhineland, from medieval synagogues in Germany to a newly-built mosque in England, to Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim sacred manuscripts housed at the British Library (London) and at the Bodleian Library (Oxford). My self-study led me to look through the myriad of lenses of religious and spiritual beliefs, and to ponder the history of ideas, politics, philosophy, and psychology, to find threads and answers.

Through the Rutgers UNMA Program, I am focusing my research on how we as humans are to curb barbarianism and conflict in order to find peaceful, non-violent resolutions to the problems that plague the world these days. By understanding how religious commonalities and differences around the world came into existence, I aim to discover smarter solutions to pressing public policy issues. By piecing together and examining how moral, ethical, and spiritual beliefs and practices affect all aspects of a group of people through their social, cultural, and political contexts, my intent is to show that even though we may have different religious principles and political ideologies, we still share a common destiny.