Fair   N/AF  |  Forecast »

Destination: Understanding


Touch it. Experience it. Own it.

To enjoy the complete magazine experience click here to become a subscriber and have metroMAGAZINE mailed to your home every month for only $10 a year! (Use the PROMO CODE MMSUB_SPEC)

To enjoy the Digital Edition click here!


The area surrounding omaha may appear to be a uniform, unvarying landscape, but the religious, spiritual and cultural topography of the region is anything but homogenous.

Now the dramatically diverse depth and breadth of beliefs and faiths practiced by our neighbors is about to be showcased in RAVELUNRAVEL, a community project conceived by PROJECT INTERFAITH, the non-profit that aims to inform, connect and engage people of all faiths… or none at all.

“RavelUnravel borrows the theme of a tapestry in representing the fabric of a community,” said BETH KATZ, PROJECT INTERFAITH’S FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, “but it also speaks to a process of deconstruction where people unravel and demystify perceptions and assumptions about faith and belief systems.”

A small army of volunteers spent seven months in late 2010 and early 2011 visiting 47 sites to film a video library that now houses 720 interviews representing the voices of over 40 religious and spiritual identities.

starting conversations

The online initiative officially launches May 17th, but a promotional trailer is already live at ravelunravel.com. The public will soon be invited to upload their own videos to the site that will also feature discussion guides, online forums and links to credible resources on religious and cultural diversity.

Starting conversations on almost any other subject is generally devoid of too many of those weighty, “don’t go there” landmines, said the woman who has taken the Project Interfaith message to a conference at the White House and gatherings across America, Europe and, most recently, a United Nations symposium in Morocco.

religion has for too long been considered a taboo topic… these are exactly the kinds of conversations we should be having...


“Religion has for too long been considered a taboo topic,” she said. “These are exactly the kinds of conversations we should be having. It is incredibly enriching and empowering to hear someone share how they experience the world.”

The RavelUnravel rollout will continue in June with a month-long interactive installation where select interviews will be screened on towering sheets of fabric. Juxtaposed against the interviews will be projections of text, the real-time public conversations keyed in by viewers at social media stations scattered throughout the space.

Interview topics include how one selfidentifies spiritually and the “why” behind it, discomforting and sometimes ugly stereotypes encountered, and the varied manifestations of expression in Omaha’s wide spectrum of beliefs. Responses vary from bring-out-the-handkerchief brevity to the wittily humorous to what might be more anticipated or expected, but the everexpanding diversity of our community is the common thread that ties together stories that are often transcendent – in both a figurative and literal sense.

hitting the streets

Project Interfaith also plans to take the conversation on the road with the introduction of the RavelUnravel Bus so that places of worship, neighborhood and civic groups, schools, community events and non-profits may become better engaged. The mission of the bus program will be to collect additional interviews from throughout the city in exploring life’s biggest questions with the goal of growing the archive to 1,000 videos by summer’s end. In the process, they’ll be educating and energizing the community in discussion on the forces that shape the very essence of who we are and how we interact in weaving the social and spiritual fabric of Omaha.

One of the tour stops will be a July appearance at TRUGS: ACTIVATING STREETS, the summer-long EMERGING TERRAIN streetscape experience that will transform an otherwise gritty stretch of Leavenworth Street between 24th Street and Interstate 480.

A national campaign supported by a fleet of buses is the group’s longer-range goal. “We’re hoping through this tour will become a catalyst for a national conversation about religious and spiritual identity and diversity,” Katz said.

“Every one of us has worn some type of label, often an unwelcome or misunderstood one, and RavelUnravel explores a parallel idea,” Katz emphasizes. “It’s an examination of what unites us in being human. It’s about what is to be found in the great diversity within each and every belief. No group is monolithic. There is depth, complexity and great diversity not just between different religions, but also within each religion. There is not one face, one label that you can attach to a perception of any given culture, religion or identity.”

getting noticed

Even before the premiere of RavelUnravel interviews and before the first mile can be logged on the RavelUnravel Bus Tour, Project Interfaith continues to gain national and international attention.

THE PLURALISM PROJECT AT HARVARD UNIVERSITY selected the program as one of only 33 to be included in its innovative AMERICA’S INTERFAITH INFRASTRUCTURE pilot study of model efforts that have the power to change how we think about… how we think.

Project Interfaith also recently announced a fall conference on the subject of women’s leadership in different religious traditions and 2013 will bring the staging of their first theatrical work, a presentation of “The Domestic Crusaders,” a provocative play by Wajahat Ali that chronicles a single day in the lives of a Muslim Pakistani- American family in the aftermath of 9/11.

Katz’s biggest surprise in weaving the RavelUnravel tapestry?

“We really didn’t know if anyone – and I mean anyone, one single person – would be willing to talk to us,” Katz said with a chuckle. “Instead we found that people really want to connect in this way. They want to share who they are in real, meaningful and authentic ways, but they don’t always know how. There is something about us as a people, as Omahans, as Midwesterners, with that proverbial politeness that gives a lot of power to that idea that there are some questions that you simply don’t dare ask. Issues of religion, belief and culture can be counted on to top that list. We’re trying to help people do that and, better yet, feel comfortable with it, whether it’s at a health club, in a cafeteria or in a book club.”

Conversations almost always begin with a question, usually a simple one.

“We don’t claim to have all the answers or even any answers,” Katz said, “but we like to think we ask some really compelling questions.”

Learn more at ravelunravel.com.


Add your comment: