Northfield, Minn.––Edward Falk, a Carleton College senior history major from St. Louis, has been awarded a prestigious Watson Fellowship.
Falk is one of only 40 nation-wide winners of the $25,000 award. The mission of the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program is to offer college graduates of unusual promise a year of independent, purposeful exploration and travel outside of the United States in order to enhance their capacity for resourcefulness, imagination, openness, and leadership and to foster their humane and effective participation in the world community, according to the Watson Foundation.
Falk’s winning proposal is entitled “Keeping the Faith: Endangered Religious Communities in the Arab World.” The proposal takes him to the countries of Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco.
“I will live, work, study, and pray in minority religious communities in Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocoo, working with social justice and education organizations, studying in the traditional religious schools alongside the young faithful, and participating in religious services and devotional activity in order to experience how both old and young keep the faith in imperfect homes,” Falk said. “I will use my faith and personal stake in religious identity to connect to and learn from Jews in Tunisia, Coptic Christians in Egypt, Iraqi Chaldeans in Jordan. To understand my own religious identity and heritage, I'm going to immerse myself in the rituals and daily lives of minorities in the Arab World.”
Falk plans to volunteer with the Chaldean patriarch, Fr. Raymond Mousalli, who runs an aid organization for Iraqi refugees. In Egypt, he will be visiting monasteries in the desert, living as a monk for days or weeks at a time, before returning to Cairo to explore the Coptic community. In Tunisia, he will be attending the El Hara Yeshiva on the island of Djerba. The Yeshiva and synagogue are what remain of a once thriving Jewish community in Tunisia, where only 2,000 of 100,000 remain. Lastly, in Morocco he'll be in the Atlas mountains, learning Berber music.
Falk was one of only two Minnesota college or university students to earn a Watson Fellowship this year. Falk is Carleton’s 13th Watson Fellowship award winner in the last 11 years.