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Urtexts: Brandeis’ new interreligious journal

Published: February 1, 2008
Section: Features

Talk about using your major to take action. Binny Kagedan, ’08, a NEJS major, has always been “very focused on religious studies” and is now using his passion to start a new interreligious journal at Brandeis. Kagedan has always appreciated the department’s encompassing of the three faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and decided to translate this practice onto paper-literally.

Kagedan, the original founder of this journal titled Urtexts, explained that it will tentatively be released in May of this semester. Kagedan started advertising his idea at the beginning of this semester, and looked for staff, including people who can take over for him next year as he is graduating this spring.

Kagedan described Urtexts as a “mostly student initiated and student led effort.” The process is currently underway to search for a faculty advisor. There have been emails circulating and two open meetings have been hosted so far to publicize Urtexts.

As of now, Urtexts still has positions available for a Public Relations Coordinator, Secretary, five general editors, and two layout editors. Kagedan encourages anyone interested in writing or in any of these positions to contact him at

Urtexts claims its name from the word relating to the study of music. Kagedan described the word’s meaning as “an attempt to recreate something to its most original form.” In relation to the journal, the word has special meaning;as the three religions it will encompass are called the three Abrahamic religions, since they all trace back to Abraham, who came from the city of Ur.

Kagedan said that Urtexts will “look and feel like any other academic journal,” containing “well-researched and well thought out articles by Brandeis undergrads that fall under the category of Jewish studies, Christian studies, or Islamic studies.” The articles will deal specifically with topics relating to the study of and history of religion, religious phenomena, and the development of religion.

Because of the complex nature of the journal’s content, it will only be released once a semester-for now. As Kagedan explained, “the articles we’re looking for are the kinds of things that aren’t written overnight.” Kagedan explained how he’s talked to several potential writers who are working on theses, projects which are typically “longer,” “more serious,” and more “original” than some other work students usually do in class. The very nature of these in-depth projects will fit some of the characteristics Urtexts will seek in its articles.

One challenge Kagedan foresaw for the project is finding an “equal ratio of papers in each of the three religions” purely because of the large Jewish population at Brandeis. However, he said Urtexts will “search far and wide and make a point of finding articles about the other two [religions of Christianity and Islam] as well.”

Kagedan said, “I think having this journal will sort of engender interest and appreciation in religious studies, especially Jewish, Christian, and Islamic studies, and will allow serious students of these religions to get their work out and get the feeling of being published.” Furthermore, Kagedan hopes that the journal will “set a template for interfaith cooperation” and will lead to “further development in the relationship between these three religions.” He explained how Urtexts is looking for writers from all corners of the Brandeis faith community.

Avi Bieler, ‘09, Kagedan’s assistant editor in chief, loved the idea when Kagedan pitched it to him. “Religion has always been something that’s fascinated me,” Bieler explained, so he “immediately jumped on board.”

Bieler explained the importance of the journal to the knowledge of general members of the Brandeis community, but most specifically IGS and Politics majors, as they are aiming for jobs which will allow them to affect public policy. He said that both the journal and its content are important “whether you’re a religious person or not,” and believes it is “necessary” for people in these subject areas “to have at least a basic understanding of religion.” He cited recent political situations which he believed could have been less serious had there been a better understanding of religious differences such as that between Sunnis and Shiites.

Bieler stressed, “the more we know about other people’s beliefs and ideas, the more it’ll foster a tolerant environment.”