A.D Bruce Religion Center serves students’ spiritual needs
Rabbi Kenny Weiss is a UH faculty member and the executive director of Houston Hillel, a Jewish-based campus organization established in 1947. For the fall semester, Houston Hillel will have weekly Tuesday lunch at the center, office hours for students and will host celebrations for the Jewish High Holidays.
Weiss said the ministries that contributed money to the building during construction maintain a permanent office there. Spaces are also available for student organizations upon request and approval. However, they are currently occupied.
“There are a couple of spaces that are available on a rotating basis,” explains Weiss. “The Muslim Student Association has one of those spaces.”
The Muslim Student Association was established in 1964 to cater to Muslim students on campus. The group hosts weekly events, including a weekly Friday prayer hosted at the Religion Center.
Belal Salama is the president of the MSA and a senior chemical engineering student at UH. He explained that the MSA is a community where people come together from different backgrounds, cultures and levels of faith.
“The Institutional Review Board recently shared a document with us, and they were estimating that the Muslim population on campus is about 10% (of the total student body),” Salama said. “And I personally think that’s a lowball.”
The Reformed University Fellowship is a Christian student organization at the A.D. Bruce Religion Center. Kimmy Mota is a UH alumna and campus staff member for RUF Houston. She said that for the fall, the RUF-UH will have a meeting every Wednesday and weekly bible studies.
“This semester (on Wednesdays), we’re doing a sermon series on the interactions of Jesus with different people in the New Testament,” Mota said. “And we’re also doing small groups that are going through First Peter.”
Being a religious organization, the A.D. Bruce Religion Center must contend with unique financial restrictions. The center’s budget of around $220,000 remained unchanged in the new fiscal year starting September 2022.
André Adams is the director of the A.D. Bruce Religion Center. He explained in an email that most of the funding supports day-to-day operations and maintenance project expenses.
“The budget is limited, and we need to be very thoughtful and intentional about costs,” Adams said. “As an auxiliary building, it is important that we are generating revenue (via reservations and services) to offset our building expenses.”
Adams also confirmed that none of the faith-based organizations are funded by UH. Instead, they have to raise their funds through donations or their parent organizations.
Finally, all three groups interviewed shared the challenge of finding and keeping students. The MSA, in particular, as the organization has struggled with the logistics of finding suitable prayer spaces to accommodate their religious needs.
“Whenever it’s time to pray and go down there (library basement), it’s almost becoming a safety issue,” Salama said. “Between 1:30-2:30 p.m., you would see maybe 200-250 people coming in and out trying to pray, and the space is not welcoming enough.”