Recently established, the Institute for Religious and Cultural Understanding emerged from the recognized need to cultivate awareness of many religious traditions and cultural diversity within our communities.
It is an evolution of the Institute for Jewish-Christian Understanding that began as a partnership with leaders from local Jewish and Christian congregations, with the mission of increasing understanding between Jews and Christians through intellectual and interpersonal education. In work spanning three decades from its inception in 1989, the Institute for Jewish-Christian Understanding distinguished itself as a resource to the Lehigh Valley and the wider Christian and Jewish communities in education, conflict resolution, interfaith encounter, and Christian theology of the Jewish‐Christian relationship. It was recognized repeatedly by the State Senate of Pennsylvania and the U.S. House of Representatives for its contribution to the well‐being of the Lehigh Valley and wider society. These accolades included the 2001 Racial Justice Award of the YWCA of Bethlehem and the 2012 Human Relations Award of the City of Allentown.
The Institute for Jewish-Christian Understanding spoke to the priorities that were of pressing concern at the time of its founding. Though those needs are still present, the work of the Institute for Religious and Cultural Understanding is a shift from interfaith to religious literacy and the reasoned analysis of religion and culture in public discourse.
The Institute for Religious and Cultural Understanding is in close alignment with the academic program of the Department of Religion Studies and the collective values of the College, the foundation of which is understanding that religious and cultural diversity is a key component to contemporary engaged citizenship.