This is about Jewish and Muslim
children finding each other in February, 2002.
Sue Schwartzman (SSchwrtzmn@aol.com) is a 7th grade Humanities teacher at Mid-Peninsula Jewish Community Day School
(http://www.mpjcds.org/) in Palo Alto, Calif.
Sue responded to help from Iftehkar Hai (firstname.lastname@example.org) of United Muslims of American Interfaith Alliance.
Then, girls, boys, and faculty from the Granada Islamic School, Santa Clara, Calif. (www.granadaschool.org/) opened their doors and hearts.
Here is Sue Schwartzman's narrative of what happened.
Sue says: "One student came up to me at the end of the field trip and said, 'You know, I used to see Muslims on the bus or on the basketball court and they were always off by themselves, seeming so strange and different. After today, I learned they are just like me.'"
This initiative is exemplary -- a "how-to" of how you can do this wherever you live.
We had an amazing field trip last week to the Muslim school. The day was one for building connections, insight and an understanding for one of the world's most practiced religions. Following a welcome by students from Granada school and an address by our own Hila David and Rachel Steinberg on the significance of the Muslim-Jewish student dialogue, we played an icebreaker that got students talking.
For the next part of the program, students were seated in concentric circles with Granada on the inside and MPJCDS on the outside, facing each other. Students from both schools had prepared a list of questions. Our students were curious about views on arranged marriages, the difficulties faced by wearing head coverings, praying five times a day, and the difficulties of fasting during Ramadan. Our students were asked questions regarding holidays, kashrut, family restrictions and the celebration of Shabbat. Students spent a few moments sharing answers to these questions before the inner circle rotated, providing a new discussion partner.
Following a spirited rendition of the motzi, we ate lunch in small, single sex groups and then had a short time to play basketball and soccer with Granada students before they had to perform "Wadu," the washing ritual before entering the mosque. Our students observed in amazement the thorough cleansing that took place in specially made wash rooms.
We then took off our shoes and entered the mosque. We watched the Granada students line up on carpeted lines, silently, ready to recite the prayer service. We watched the unified choreography of their prayer that was performed in complete unity. Muslim students recited the prayers from memorization.
The last hour of our meeting included small circles of students sharing personal stories around religion. Students spent time in prior classes writing on the topic and were now lending insight into personal religious practice by sharing these stories.
We had Melanie Berman, the head of Judaic Studies at MPJCDS, accompany us on the trip. During this small group time, Melanie and the head of Granada's religious studies department went around giving the groups a chance to "ask the experts" any questions relating to religion.
By this time, students were begging for more free time together, so the last fifteen minutes students resumed basketball and soccer games and some even exchanged email addresses.
One student came up to me at the end of the field trip and said, "You know, I used to see Muslims on the bus or on the basketball court and they were always off by themselves, seeming so strange and different. After today, I learned they are just like me."
Our students gained something invaluable last Tuesday: they put a human face and voice to the word Muslim. Never again will Muslims be "the other," "the weird," "the outsiders." Now they are "just like us."