Student internship focused on interfaith dialogue honors Harold Kasimow

Professor Harold Kasimow
    Harold Kasimow

November 17, 2022 — Nearly every semester as a student at Grinnell College, Alumni Council president Robert Gehorsam ’76 took at least one course with Professor Harold Kasimow. Two decades later, Trustee Jeetander Dulani ’98 also took course after course with Kasimow, who arrived at the College in 1972 to the newly establish Religious Studies Department and retired in 2008 to professor emeritus status.

Over the course of the decades since their respective graduations, both Gehorsam and Dulani have kept in regular contact with Kasimow, whose scholarship focuses on interfaith dialogue and interreligious action. Gehorsam and Dulani discovered their mutual connection to Kasimow while serving on Alumni Council a few years ago.

“One of the most interesting things about Harold was how much space he left for silence in class,” Gehorsam says. “It could be uncomfortable at times, but it also forced us to really reflect on our thoughts rather than just speak to be heard.”  

Robert Gehorsam
    Robert Gehorsam ’76

Gehorsam and Dulani decided to honor their former professor by establishing the Harold Kasimow Internship for Interfaith Dialogue Endowed Fund. It will support students who want to learn and work with organizations and groups using interfaith dialogue to pursue social reconciliation and healing.

“I feel humbled and honored, and deeply grateful, that this internship in interreligious studies is being created in my name,” said Kasimow, who learned only recently about the efforts to establish the internship. “Throughout my adult life, I have devoted myself to interreligious dialogue because I know from experience that such dialogue is spiritually enriching for those who engage in it.”

Dulani got the ball rolling when he posted their intentions on social media.

“Harold Kasimow was one of my greatest teachers and a wonderful mentor. And today I am grateful for his friendship and the enduring kindness and love that he shares with everyone he encounters,” Dulani wrote. “Since 1972, Harold has taught, influenced, and guided generations of Grinnellians. And along the way he dedicated his life to interfaith dialogue – building bridges and understanding across traditions and communities.”

Jeetander Dulani '98
    Jeetander Dulani ’98

Dulani and Gehorsam invited anyone who was interested to join the effort to recognize Kasimow and help future students. They heard back from several dozen Grinnellians with their own stories about Kasimow.

“We realized he had made such a difference not just in our lives but in so many others, and his view of interreligious dialogue, pluralism, and engagement is a really powerful one,” says Dulani, who along with Gehorsam made an initial donation to establish the fund.

Henry W. Morisada Rietz ’89, chair of the Religious Studies Department, calls the internship an exciting opportunity for students. “In our department, we actively talk about how the study of a variety of religious traditions may be used outside of the classroom,” says Rietz, who had Kasimow as his adviser when Rietz was a Grinnell student. Rietz is now the George Drake Professor of Religious Studies; Kasimow was the inaugural recipient of the same named professorship, which was established by Grinnell College Board of Trustees as an honor to Drake when his time as College president ended in 1991.

Henry Morisada Rietz ’89
    Henry W. Morisada Rietz ’89

“This internship gives students an opportunity to see how their studies apply in the real world,” Rietz adds. “Professor Kasimow has dedicated his life to interreligious dialogue, and he is still publishing books, writing op-eds, and active in making the world a better place.”

The internship will be open to all majors. It will be awarded to students who will be working with groups seeking to further interfaith dialogue and/or service among diverse faith-related communities and organizations. Recipients of the internship fund will be selected through the College’s Center for Careers, Life, and Service.

In October 2021, Kasimow’s latest book, Love or Perish: A Holocaust Survivor’s Vision for Interfaith Peace was published. And in April 2022, Kasimow shared his story as a child Holocaust survivor in a public talk, which he delivered on the Grinnell campus.

“Looking back, I believe that my experience as a Holocaust survivor has influenced me profoundly, compelling me to become committed to interreligious dialogue,” Kasimow says. “I am convinced that dialogue helps to overcome indifference and even prejudice toward other people and that it enhances human dignity and mutual understanding while furthering the cause of peace.”

— by Anne Stein ’84

For your information:

Interested in supporting the Harold Kasimow Internship for Interfaith Dialogue Endowed Fund? You can make a gift online by choosing “Other” and typing in “Kasimow Fund” or contact Mae Parker, director of annual giving, at or 641-249-1846 to learn more.

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