Culture of Religions – a project for understanding

By Andrea Setzer-Blonski, April 2023

“No child is born racist”. In the village of Neve Shalom (Arabic: Wahat al-Salam) in Israel, where Jews, Muslims and Christians try to live and work together in peace and harmony, the author read this sentence on a poster. In the following article, she describes the Culture of Religions project she set up.

How is Waldorf education lived and taught today? Is consideration being given to an increasingly diverse society? How do we encounter people from different countries, cultures and religions? 

We are increasingly experiencing a hateful propensity to violence fuelled by religious fanaticism on the one hand and fear-filled ignorance on the other. The large migration of refugee in 2015/16 and growing anti-Semitism have exacerbated this tendency; this has increased the need for understanding for people with different cultural backgrounds enormously. The role of religions is ambivalent: they can provide support and cultural identity, but they can also lead to exclusion and conflicts if they are not lived tolerantly due to ignorance of the other, and people are discriminated against because of their religion or culture. This is where the Culture of Religions project comes in.

Experiencing and understanding other cultures builds trust, helps to reduce prejudices and promotes peaceful coexistence without giving up one’s own identity. The Culture of Religions project aims to let children, young people and adults experience the beauty of Jewish, Christian and Muslim culture. It is explicitly not confessional. Everyone learns together about their respective cultures by celebrating festivals together. The focus is on the perception and strengthening of one’s own identity together with the appreciation of the respective other culture. To this end I give workshops in schools from year three to year thirteen, in training centres and in teacher training colleges. I want to reach all children, young people and adults, not just those who would have gone to an intercultural event of their own accord.

A brief explanation in this regard. I was on the founding faculty of the Free Intercultural Waldorf School in Mannheim in 2003 and taught music there for 15 years. From year three, I celebrated Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, in the last music lesson before Christmas. The pupils looked forward to it every year. Once, in year six, a new pupil came into the music room and when he saw the beautifully laid table with the white tablecloth, the eight-branched candlestick, the Jewish Dreidl spinning top and peanuts, his face darkened. “What’s that? What are you doing?” he exclaimed. And in response to my reply he said: “I’m not a Jew, I definitely don’t want to take part in this!” Finally he sat down with his arms folded and his face closed, after his classmates had assured him that it was lovely to celebrate Hanukkah. He probably wasn’t really listening to the story and the songs. When everyone got up to dance to the song “Oh Hanukkah”, he refused: he was not a girl and would not dance under any circumstances. But a boy next to him nudged him and said, “Come on, you’ll see, this is really fun!” Reluctantly, he stood up. We practised the steps for him slowly at first, then we went faster and faster and sang along. Gradually his face brightened and his smile widened. Afterwards, he sat upright in his chair, listened attentively to the Dreidl legend and played the Dreidl game with the others with great joy.

I experience such a development again and again in my workshops. Young people and adults who are initially sceptical and withdrawn begin to open up, ask questions and talk about themselves. Such experiences have led me to expand my Culture of Religions project and take it to the public. My motivation in doing so is to counter the growing racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, as well as to promote understanding for each other and a harmonious coexistence of people from different cultures and religions.

I do not lecture on racism or a culture of remembrance and of never again, but try to let the students experience the beauty and richness of Jewish culture through positive narratives. I usually start with a short note about my Christian-Jewish family biography and then make a connection to people today with a migration or refugee background. Afterwards, I discuss and celebrate one of the Jewish festivals – depending on the desired topic or season. Based on methods of experiential education, as many senses as possible are addressed: we look at typical objects, taste characteristic food, use the sense of smell, sing and dance, do handicrafts and paint. In an interactive dialogue, the workshop participants talk about their own culture and let themselves be inspired by my narratives and those of their colleagues.

Andrea Setzer-Blonski, born 1966 in São Paulo, Brazil. Her maternal grandparents fled Nazi Germany to Brazil. On the ship, her grandfather became acquainted with Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophy. He became co-founder and teacher at the first Waldorf school in Brazil. Setzer-Blonski’s parents found their way from Judaism to Christianity through anthroposophy. She is currently a music teacher at the Free College for Social Education in Mannheim and a speaker about Jewish culture at schools, colleges of education and other institutions.

More information about Andrea Setzer-Blonski’s workshops:

Contact: setzer-blonski(at)