Interfaith bowling
Muslim and Jewish
engineers take to the lanes

Brian Merlos
Illustrations by John Oquist

In an age of ever-mounting interfaith tension, progress is being made on some unlikely fronts.
Last week, on a wintry Saturday night, members of the Jewish Engineering Association and the Muslim Engineering Student Association traded their calculus and mechanical engineering homework for bowling balls and bad music at Colonial Lanes in Ann Arbor.
After lacing up their neon green and orange bowling shoes, members from both groups took to the lanes. As the competition heated up, frame by frame, members cheered loudly for teammates with each pin knocked over, enough to draw the attention of the serious, glove-wearing bowlers several lanes over.
One woman in particular, sporting a shirt that read “A balanced diet means eating chocolate with both hands,” looked on, evidently perplexed by some of the bowlers.
While waiting between turns, the engineers took the opportunity to talk about classes and Middle East politics.
“The great thing about bowling,” said Jewish Engineering Association member Aaron Potek, a College of Engineering senior, “is that there’s time to talk between frames, which gave us a chance to really get to know each other without it feeling forced or awkward.”
Some of the engineers discussed their job prospects after college. A few lamented about having to organize one’s life around the North Campus bus schedule. In between successive strikes, Engineering sophomore Josh Weinstein nonchalantly discussed life as an aerospace engineering major.
“It’s only rocket science,” he said. “How hard can it be?”
At one point, a couple members from both associations decided to boost their chances of winning by bowling in the same lane at the same time. They knocked down a strike on their first try.
But as Potek dashed to the side of the lane and steadied his camera for what he called a “working together” moment, all the bowlers could muster were two gutter balls.
After the last pin fell in the final frame, members of both groups exchanged e-mail addresses and thanked each other before heading out into the freshly powdered night. There was no shortage of smiles and jokes to go around.
Engineering senior Uzair Ali, a Muslim Engineering Student Association member, said he thought events like these were a positive step forward for Jewish and Muslim students.
The idea is a particularly resonant one, especially given that Israeli and Palestinian leaders met last week in Anapolis, Md. to try to hammer out a peace that has been eluding the two countries for decades.
There’s a possibility that the talks, presided over by a president grasping for a legacy, could solve the problem. On the other hand, there’s room for improvement with Bush’s foreign policy record. Too bad not all problems can be solved over bowling.

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