Hearing Others With an Open Heart


Holly Brod Farber with family members and youth leaders at last year’s Interfaith Youth Day of Service.
(left to right) back row: Stephanie Levine, Sheila Harrow Brod, Holly Brod Farber, Fardosa Hassan, front row: Maya Levine, Rachel Brod Farber

By Holly Brod Farber, Interfaith Youth Connection Parent

Saint Paul is known as a great place to raise a family. And many families have lived here for generations. The Brod Farber family is one of them. Holly and Jon raised their three children, Noah and Sam (21) and Rachel (18) amongst grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. The family is very rooted in their Jewish faith. They contribute to the community in many ways by volunteering at their school, and supporting their Synagogue, Beth Jacob Congregation in Mendota Heights.

It was this involvement in the community that led them to join, and eventually become leaders in, Interfaith Youth Connection (IYC). “Our kids are exposed to peers of all different faiths—but truthfully, they didn’t talk much about faith or tradition. We were looking for a place where they could learn from and teach their peers. We found that in the Interfaith Youth Connection,” said Holly Brod Farber.

Members of Interfaith Youth Connection, (left to right) back row: Sam Farber, Noah Farber, Alex Hymanson, front row: Amal Muse, Rachel Farber, Lujain Al-Khawi

Members of Interfaith Youth Connection, (left to right) back row: Sam Farber, Noah Farber, Alex Hymanson, front row: Amal Muse, Rachel Farber, Lujain Al-Khawi

Twins Noah and Sam started getting involved in 9th grade. They attended regular IYC leadership meetings and a retreat at Bay Lake Camp. There they met staff who invited them to apply to work at Bay Lake, which is a Christian camp. They were the first Jewish staff to work at the camp. “We had only ever been to Jewish camp” said Sam, “so honestly we were nervous at first, but we grew to love Bay Lake. The people were amazing; we did important work; and had great conversations!”

Part of IYC consists of planning and running the annual Interfaith Youth Day of Service, a highlight of the year. The planning process gives each youth leader an opportunity to contribute. Most of the youth leaders offer to lead a workshop about their faith, give a personal reflection or prayer, lead a group to a service site, or act as an emcee. Gathering with nearly 200 peers to learn and serve the community, be inspired by speakers, and lead part of the program, deepens their commitment to the mission and helps them understand their own ability to make a difference.

Experiencing IYC enabled Noah and Sam to enter the next phase of their lives comfortable with their own faith, and knowledgeable and curious about the faiths of others. Sam added, “getting involved with Interfaith Youth Connection taught me the importance of learning from a diverse group of people and appreciating our differences, while cultivating friendships.” When Noah began his freshman year at the University of Minnesota he and his Muslim roommate told the rest of the people on their floor that they were cousins—when people questioned that, they laughed and told them to look it up in scripture!

As soon as she was old enough, their sister Rachel joined IYC, bringing along her friends. “I wanted to be a leader who had real impact, I wanted to be able to turn ideas into reality, and maybe make a few mistakes along the way,” said Rachel. High school is a time to explore the world, to begin the process of becoming oneself and getting to know others in a deep and meaningful way. It is a time to find one’s voice and place in our big world.

“When I met Fardosa Hassan, I knew she was just the leader to help me find my voice” said Rachel. “Fardosa always has a smile, a belief that we can do it, and a great talent for asking the right questions. She gives us the space to lead, helps when we need it, and facilitates our connection which each other. I’m not sure how to describe it, but Interfaith Youth Connection has helped me find my voice as a Jew, and helped me hear others with an open heart.”

To learn more about Interfaith Youth Connection, please contact:

Fardosa Hassan
Program Coordinator