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Café Mixes Food with Diversity

By Nenad Tadic Posted: 12/06/2010
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Common Grounds Coffee House, a café located inside Cannon Chapel, opened this year, with the goal of fostering positive relationships among diverse groups of people through food.

“We find that sharing of food is a powerful way to bring people together and foster a community, and having food that appeals to multiple groups of student encourages that growth,” College junior and student assistant Ariel Wolpe said.

The café meets dietary restrictions of various religions and offers halal items and sushi, among other options.

Café Coordinator Saul Burleson and College senior and Inter-Religious Council member Noor Najafi helped launch the café despite initial challenges at the beginning, according to Burleson.

“Consulting with the leaders of various faith traditions and learning about all the different religious dietary observances was an exciting and lengthy endeavor,” he said. “Other than that, matters around construction, permits and the like are always an issue with getting these ventures off the ground.”

Burleson commended Sodexo — Emory’s food vendor —, Emory Dining and other food sources for their helpful support.

Najafi helped implement Café Unity, an event that Wolpe describes as “Common Ground’s proudest event.” Café Unity is an open mic event that welcomes a wide variety of talent and expression, which Wolpe characterized as “beautiful, musical and delicious experience.” 

Wolpe, who helps coordinate and schedule Common Grounds’ events, cited performances in the area by groups such as the Sacred Artistry organization. She also helped to implement events promoting spiritual self-expression, such as the upcoming Composers in Concert event on Feb. 17. Additionally, the Inter-Religious Council, comprised of more than 30 groups, plans numerous activities at Common Grounds. Some of their events include poetry readings, comedy skits and music entertainment with the goal of fostering self-expression.

Wolpe said she hopes Common Grounds will be seen as a coffee house that warmly welcomes students, staff and faculty of all denominations and backgrounds.

“Our vision was to make Cannon Chapel a place where people of various faith traditions could come and worship in their own way and maintain their distinctiveness, while fostering interactions with people of other faiths,” Burleson said.

For Cannon Chapel to truly be an inter-religious space, he said, they needed to provide a hospitable place to come together where each person’s convictions are able to be lived out.

“What better way to create and nurture this place of inter-religious engagement than around food?” Burleso added.

— Contact Nenad Tadic

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