By Federico Burlon
Since its inception last semester, the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life has worked to promote understanding of different religions, cultural experiences, as well as to encourage interfaith dialogue. Now, with the recent addition of both a new Protestant and Jewish Chaplain, the CRSL will have the opportunity to further its community involvement and implement its goals. Rabbi Barry Cytron is the new Jewish Chaplain and assistant director for the CRSL. Cytron is also a religious studies professor at Macalester.Rev. Koo Pyo Hong, better known a KP Hong, is the new Protestant chaplain and assistant director for the CRSL. He is taking the vacancy left by Norma Rae Hunt, who was the Protestant Chaplain at Macalester last year. Rev. Lucy Forster-Smith, associate dean for religious and spiritual life, helped facilitate the national search to fill both positions within the CRSL. In the quest for a new Protestant Chaplain she appointed a 10-member search committee, mostly composed of Macalester students and faculty, which made recommendations for new staff members throughout the spring 2007 semester. Cytron, on the other hand, had already been indirectly involved with Macalester for several years before he became aware of a position opening. According to Rev. Forster-Smith, she received a call from Cytron to discuss his future as a Macalester professor and she pointed out that the CRSL was looking for a Jewish Chaplain. Cytron followed Forster-Smith’s suggestion and applied over the summer. Now at Macalester, Cytron’s duties are varied. One main component of his position will include collaboration with the Macalester Jewish Organization. “My responsibilities include being involved with staff regarding large spiritual issues on campus and specifically being involved with the Jewish students by supporting their work in terms of Open Shabbat or Interfaith Torah Study and meeting with them once a week,” he said. Accordingly, Hong will work with the Mac Protestant organization. He also wants to help students explore Buddhism.”I offer meditation alongside dharma practice, which is the study of Buddhist beliefs and tenants, and makes meditation a truly Buddhist practice,” he explained. Both Hong and Cytron come from layered, varied backgrounds that should lend well to their facilitation of religious discussion and understanding.Hong was born in Taejon, South Korea. His father moved to Israel after the Korean War and eventually moved on to Colorado. Hong later earned his degree at Williams College, where he studied Philosophy and Philosophy of Religion. He then enrolled at Princeton’s Theological Seminary. “I was interested in Asian-American theology; in how we engage first with different cultures and then with different religions,” he said.Hong eventually found his way to Wooster College, in Ohio, where he worked as a campus minister through a Lily Project grant. His association with the grant led him to learn of Macalester. Cytron, on the other hand, is no stranger to Macalester. He has been teaching here since 1989, and also saw his own daughter through the school. She graduated in 1999. Since 1996 Rabbi Cytron has been the chair of the Jay Phillips Center for Jewish-Christian Learning, a combined program between the University of St. Thomas and the University of St. Johns that focuses on Jewish-Christian understanding. In addition to offering classes on Jewish-Christian relations at both campuses, the program brings scholars to the Twin City are and promotes the study of issues such as the Holocaust. Cytron will leave the program in 2008.