Chaplains and Religious Life


Learn more about the current groups, programs and projects affiliated with the Office of the Chaplains and Religious Life (OCRL).

Bereavement Group

Bereavement Group meets Mondays at 7:00 p.m.* in Room 411 of Page-Robinson.

Brown's Bereavement Group is an informal gathering that welcomes students from all programs who are seeking support to shoulder grief and loss. Neither clinical nor religious, this is a conversation-based gathering over tea and sweets for those with common experience. The group has met for more than 3 decades and is co-led by the Chaplain of the University Reverend Janet M. Cooper Nelson and Dr. Mika MacInnis, ‘02, PhD ‘07. Participants come regularly or occasionally and may join at any point in the term. There is no RSVP or paperwork required.

See Today@Brown for updates. Email for questions or details.

*Please note: this is a NEW meeting time for Fall 2023 semester. 

Gratitude Group

Gratitude Group meets on Wednesdays at 6:00 pm* in Page-Robinson Hall Room 411.

Come express your gratitude! Gratitude Group is a non-religious gathering that welcomes all students to explore the positive things in life, and share them. We hope to see you there! Facilitated by Associate Chaplain of the University for the Protestant Community Rev. Del Demosthenes.

*Please note: this is a NEW meeting time for Fall 2023 semester. 

Thursday Night Interfaith Suppers

Celebrating 50 Years of Interfaith Dialogue in the Brown Community

For more than 50 years, the Thursday Night Interfaith Supper program (TNS) has been one of the key interfaith initiatives of the Office of the Chaplains and Religious Life—TNS has been a place for delicious food, inspiring speakers, respectful community, and invigorating conversation on matters of interfaith dialogue and spirituality. Open to students of all programs, those who attend represent the full breadth of the Brown community as well as a wide range of religious, faith, spiritual, and ethical perspectives.

Gathering on the Third Thursday Night of each month, the evening comprises dinner and conversation with invited speakers who discuss how the life of the spirit guides their professional and personal lives.

Suppers begin at 5:30 p.m. and end by 7:00 p.m, held in the home of the Chaplain of the University. If you have dietary restrictions, please be sure to use the monthly sign-up form in advance of the dinner.

Sign-up for our e-list to receive monthly reminders & more information about TNS.


The home of the Chaplain of the University, the Reverend Janet M. Cooper Nelson, 58 Keene Street, Providence.


  1. Walk through the Faunce Arch on Waterman Street (walking north).
  2. Go straight for 8 blocks.
  3. Turn right.
  4. The house is on the left.

Religious Literacy Project

Do you get nervous talking about religion? Feel frustrated with religious intolerance, but don’t know much about religious traditions outside of your own experience (or lack thereof)? Looking to learn more about religious traditions, but not sure where to begin?

Here's where the Brown Religious Literacy Project comes in! We are a non-credit course (without homework!) that meets weekly during the Spring Semester to engage with scholars and practitioners from the Providence community to explore five major religious traditions.

Discussion often centers on philosophical foundations, values and identity formation, and internal diversity in these traditions. Our hope is to clarify common misconceptions, affirm the importance of religious literacy at Brown and in the world, and illuminate the ways in which religion is embedded in our society. Moreover, we strive to be a welcoming space for healthy interfaith dialogue, community-building, and understanding of diverse beliefs, practices, and identities.

Student led and run. Sponsored by the Office of the Chaplains and Religious Life.

How to Apply

Students, staff and faculty of all faith backgrounds (including none!) and all religious experiences (personal and/or academic) are encouraged to apply.

RLP applications are submitted online via a Google Form and are solicited in January for enrollment in the Spring. 

Example Course Schedule (Spring '22)

  • Week 1: Introduction, Welcome from Rev. Janet Cooper Nelson
  • Week 2: Hinduism: Academic Presentation by Prof. David Buchta
  • Week 3: Hinduism: Practitioner presentation by Swami Yogatmananda of the Vedanta Society of Providence
  • Week 4: Islam: Academic presentation by Aseel Azab, graduate student in Islam, Society and Culture.
  • Week 5: Islam: Practitioner conversation with Imam Amir Toft, Associate Chaplain of the University for the Muslim Community.
  • Week 6: Judaism: Academic presentation with Professor Paul Nahme, Dorot Assistant Professor of Judaic Studies, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies.
  • Week 7: Buddhism: Practitioner presentation, Gen Tsoglam from the Atisha Kadampa Buddhist Center, Providence RI
  • Week 8: Judaism: Practitioner conversation with Rabbi Josh Bolton, Executive Director of Brown-RiSD Hillel
  • Week 9: Christianity: Academic presenter, Professor Jae Han, Director of Graduate Admissions, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies
  • Week 10: Christianity: Practitioner conversation with Rev. Delphain DemosthenesAssociate Chaplain of the University for the Protestant Community

Previous OCRL Programs

FIVA logoThe Faith in the Vaccine Ambassadors Program (FIVA) was a project founded by the Interfaith Youth Core, a national nonprofit organization based in Chicago that seeks to make interfaith cooperation a vital part of the college experience. This project focused on recruiting student leaders from numerous colleges and universities around the country who are interested in using interfaith cooperation skills to strengthen the vaccination effort and save lives.

Our Brown cohort consisted of 20 students (18 undergraduates, and 2 medical students). The undergraduates had a wide range of academic interests and majors, as well as diverse religious and non-religious backgrounds and affiliations. The students were led and supervised by University staff (2 advisors), working primarily in pairs and other subgroups to develop their own plans to address vaccine hesitancy or access to vaccines. This project ran from June 2021 through December 2021, with an expected weekly commitment of about 4-6 hours. The students received a stipend of $1500 for their work.

The students created and participated in various types of projects to combat vaccine hesitancy in certain sectors of Rhode Island. Our students:

  • Conducted public surveys to ascertain people’s views on the Covid-19 vaccines.
  • Wrote age an appropriate curriculum for middle schoolers and gave public presentations to them and their families at local public libraries.
  • Engaged in community canvassing campaigns where they address the specific questions and issues that people had about the Covid-19 vaccines.
  • Spent time assisting various local organizations with their vaccination clinics throughout the states.

We worked with organizations such Rhode Island Responds, WTL Health Clinic, other local religious and civic institutions, and the Pawtucket Public Health and Equity vaccination programs.

“The Faith In The Vaccine program was by far one of the best ways I was able to be involved in the Providence community. Not only did I do research to combat vaccine hesitancy, but I also had the ability to go to multiple vaccination sites and help get shots in people’s arms. I met incredible people who do these clinics nearly every week, all to help keep our community safe. As a brother of Beta Omega Chi, I have been committed to assisting Providence through acts of brotherly kindness and charity. This program was a great way to accomplish that goal." - Jared J., Brown University FIVA 2021

"My experience as a Faith in the Vaccine Ambassador has taught me the importance of supporting organizations that have strong existing relationships with the community.  While the Brown IFYC group planned to set up our own vaccination programs early on, we realized that we lacked strong relationships with underserved communities in Rhode Island, and decided to partner with organizations that had a basis in the communities they were serving.  We partnered with Rhode Island Responds and the Pawtucket Public Health and Equity leadership to assist with patient registration, screening, and administrative tasks to support vaccinators.  I am grateful for this opportunity to get off campus, apply what I've learned in class about vaccine access and hesitancy, and learn how to respond to vaccine hesitancy with respect for people's beliefs." - Diane S., Brown FIVA 2021

Jews Reaching Across Divides on Israel, Activism and Antisemitism

Illustration of a bridge made up of Hebrew wordsRebbe Nahman famously said: "The whole entire world is a very narrow bridge, but the most important thing is not to be afraid."

At a time of significant fear for Jews and so many others in our country, Narrow Bridge Project (NBP) is about reaching out across divides, in spite of - and because of - our fears.

NBP is an application-based student cohort experience, which meets to discuss the past, present and future of Jewish peoplehood, Zionism and antisemitism, our differing definitions of each of these, and how these differing understandings impact our Judaism, activism and life experiences as Jews today. NBP is a radical strategy for addressing a diminishing sense of Jewish peoplehood, rising bilateral antisemitism and the flammable subject of Israel/Palestine on campus. It is rooted in a belief that positive developments in any of these realms require Jews to discuss the interconnectedness of all three subjects, together, across divides.

NBP is an initiative devoted to impacting how students think, talk and behave with regard to the Jewish past, present and future, not shaping what students think, say or do. It is designed not to shift the type of activism in which students engage, but how they engage in that activism, and with fellow Jewish students who are active in apparently opposing ways. The learning draws from Shalom Hartman Institute curricula, current events and students' lived experiences as Jews on College Hill in dramatic times.

Rabbi Michelle Dardashti launched the Narrow Bridge Project in the Spring Semester of 2018; it is jointly supported by the OCRL and Brown RISD Hillel and was funded first by the Avi Schaefer Fund and more recently by the Dorot Foundation. It has come to include a Winter Break Seminar at the Hartman Institute in Jerusalem and also an advanced program, Narrow Bridge Fellows (NBF). In all, more than 80 unique students have participated in Narrow Bridge to date.

A diverse cohort of 2020-21 Narrow Bridge Fellows (NBF) worked together to produce "Confronting Our Blindspots on Antisemitism: A Presentation By Jewish Students at Brown University," which was presented in April 2021. The fellows spent Summer and Fall 2021 adapting that presentation into a 130-page guidebook. The launch party for Love Thy Neighbor: A Guidebook for Tackling Antisemitism While Committing to Justice for All was covered by the BDH.

If you are interested in learning more about any of this, please email Rabbi Dardashti or

2019-20 Academic Year Cohorts, At A Glance:

Cohorts are by application only and participants are selected with an eye toward achieving as much political/ideological Jewish diversity as possible. Weekly homework includes assigned readings and frequently response papers; cohort participants additionally commit to having weekly 1:1s with one another, outside group time, to deepen their relationships and understandings of one another's stories, particularly around Judaism and Israel.

  • NBP Fall 2019 Cohort: 20 students meet weekly to explore and discuss the past, present and future of Jewish peoplehood, Zionism and antisemitism, their differing understandings of each of these, and how these differences impact their Judaism, activism and life experiences as Jews today.
  • NBF Fall 2019 Cohort: 6 students — all former NBP participants — meet bi-weekly to produce “Antisemitism: Contested Narratives,” a sourcebook of differing definitions of antisemitism, which serves as a launch-pad for the work of NBF Spring 2020.
  • NBF Spring 2020 Cohort: 12 students meet weekly throughout the semester to examine and debate contemporary examples of anti-Zionism in efforts to come to consensus on where anti-Zionism crosses into antisemitism. As a diverse group of Zionist and anti/non- Zionist Jewish students, the cohort endeavors to develop collective definitions of antisemitism, anti-Zionism and, eventually, a more universally accepted module for identifying antisemitic anti-Zionism.

In Their Words: Testimony From Fall 2019 Cohort Participants:

  • “I definitely learned a lot — not just factual information or historical events, but how others contextualize and synthesize their opinions. I felt that NBP helped me to better understand how different perspectives (especially those dissimilar to mine) are shaped.”
  • “The 1-on-1's I had with cohort members were amazing. They were perhaps the most influential aspect in opening my mind up. Coming into the NBP space knowing other cohort members as complex people rather than unknown entities made it so much easier to take on different perspectives. The last 2 sessions in particular, those hour long periods where we broke into our "micro-cohorts" allowed me to hear the voices of more students than when we were together as a large group. Between the 1-on-1's and the free-form discussions in hevruta and these groups, I got to hear many voices which I wouldn't have heard otherwise. This is what helped me unlock the door to new potential thoughts, feelings, and ideas.”
  • “I came to NBP with little to no knowledge of Judaism/Zionism/Israel-Palestine and I am leaving the cohort with a preparedness to discuss topics more intellectually based on facts rather than opinion alone. Particularly when it pertains to Zionism, I am much more knowledgeable of it as a concept and its relation to Judaism and Jewish people-hood.”
  • “The environment created by the organizers and the students is one that relies both on critical discussion and education. Often when discussing Israel-Palestine, one of these two aspects is missing; however, taking both into consideration has been a key part of the group. The willingness of everyone to share their entire opinion, knowing that others will disagree with it, is an amazing dynamic that I haven't experienced in other places, but the fact that everyone is down to argue ideas and ideology is amazing.
  • “Before this program, I never had the opportunity to study Judaism in an academic context. But over the course of a few weeks, I was exposed to the diversity and strength of the Jewish experience. In my local community, Jewishness is relatively homogeneous - everyone goes to the same synagogue and thinks about Israel in similar ways. NBP helped expand my horizons and form solidarity with the Jews on Brown's campus. I now feel better equipped to articulate my own relationship with Judaism, as well as understand other's.”
  • “I appreciated having a space to explore questions about Israel in a deep way where I knew it was okay for my answer to be "I don't know." Rabbi Dardashti encouraged us to ask "real questions," or questions that didn't just prove we were smart or knowledgeable, but rather that actually made ourselves vulnerable because we were genuinely trying to figure out the answers. I also really enjoyed the 1:1s. It was fun to get to know Jews with different political views who I would not have otherwise crossed paths with. It brought together a group who had a range of ways of engaging with their Jewish identities.”

Testimony from Spring 2020 NBF Participants:

  • “I love Israel, I took a gap year in Israel and spent it with Israelis who are all serving in the IDF now. I feel that NBF has served as a sort of ground zero for mixing the Jewish community in the spirit of IDF units being a melting pot for Israeli Jews that my friends describe. … I felt heard in NBF, and I was able to really listen.”
  • “From the first meeting to the last, I felt much more articulate in my views. I learned to speak my mind, respectfully listen, challenge others, and be challenged. Each meeting was a little bit different, but I always felt mentally exhausted when it was over. This was perhaps the only constant to the experience. You never got the benefit of maintaining prior beliefs without someone asking you why. This was the room of 'why.' The experience was one that inspired learning, purely for the sake of learning. Even though we're at college, this can be very difficult to achieve and is something that students normally do not find in the classroom.”
  • “Often I feel boxed in to my position in these discussions, or I feel that finding nuance is somehow compromising my beliefs. This space was different - this in and of itself was huge for me. The space really encouraged meaningful conversations and has given me the tools to have more of them.”
  • “NBF helped me to grow both in my Jewish identity and my understanding of Israel/Palestine. While the main focus of the program was on the intersection of Antisemitism and Zionism, the conversations about Jewish identity and internalized antisemitism were also incredibly rewarding, and made me interrogate my Jewish identity in a way I had not before. As I’m sure was intended, these conversations about Jewish identity and values also helped me to contextualize my personal relationship to Israel, allowing me to better understand my own assumptions and investment in the state, land, and people.”
  • "I really value the relationships I built in NBF and the people I got to know who I never would have known otherwise. ... I also feel like all of the bad-faith conversations I was seeing about antisemitism over the last year were leading me to approach any discussion of antisemitism with cynicism/suspicion, and engaging with other Jews who wanted to hash these issues out in a good-faith setting helped me shed some of that cynicism and re-invest in fighting antisemitism when I see it."