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As I fly out from Istanbul, I cannot overstate the benefits the Ottoman Cultures institute run by Primary Source will have on my teaching. The lectures on Ottoman history combined with the visits to the actual sites brought home the realities of the empire far more than either alone. Our visits to Safranbolu and Edirne especially, as well as the major mosque complexes of the capital, helped me understand the mechanisms of religion in the Empire.

In my teaching of History of the Middle East, and I have always struggled to get the right “debatable question” for the Ottoman Empire. “Why it declined” always seemed too formulaic. Now my new approach will be centered around pluralism, nationalism and multi-culturalism. I have many specific readings I will use. I also am working with Professor Sajdi to visit my school and speak about these questions. In my Introduction to Abrahamic Religious Traditions class I will include my new understandings of Sufism, saints, and the use of tombs in Islam. I can ask many new effective questions about comparing Judaism, Christianity and Islam in terms of use of mysticism.

We were divided into study groups by theme (religion, military, gender, etc.) and I learned a great amount from the presentations of the other groups. Many of the best presentations focused on bridging from what we were learning to how we can apply them to our curricula.

I perhaps learned the most from several sites we visited: Yoruk Koyu, a small village outside of Safranbolu, a waqf complex outside of Edirne, the Ulu Camii (the oldest mosque in Bursa), and living in and among the grand mosques in Istanbul during Ramazan. The most helpful lectures were with our own teachers, especially Barbara Petzen and Dana Sajdi. Also, I learned an immense amount from casual conversations with Prof. Sajdi.

I learned a tremendous amount from my colleagues on this trip. Everyone was willing to mix and match and have conversations about curriculum, our travels, school politics, and more. Teachers came from all over the country, were of different ages, experiences, and disciplines, and shared those differences in a professional and friendly way. The opportunities and encouragement for such interactions were many.

I am deeply grateful to Deborah Cunningham and Susan Zeiger for the immense amount of time they put in, over years in fact, organizing this summer institute. They should feel enormously proud of the outcome of these efforts. Their efforts have greatly enriched my teaching, and I am confident this enrichment is multiplied by all 34 participants.