A handful of people
in Michigan are causing Muslims, Jews, and Christians to open their hearts
"Semites Unite!" invented Laurie White of Zaitouna, the sustained Arab-Jewish women's dialogue in Ann Arbor, Michigan, featured in the front-page story of the July, 2003 Detroit Jewish News.
"Refusing to be enemies," the cover shouted, in advance of the story: Personal connections promote understanding and support across the Arab-Israeli divide. You can read it again, at:
Yesterday, Friday, March 26, 2004 the same journal's cover again hollered out to the huge Detroit community of Jews, Palestinians, and others connected to the Middle East:
Children of Abraham:
Teen drama presents a common basis for living in peace
Premiering tonight, Saturday, in
Detroit, the 45-minute play by Muslim, Jewish, and Christian youth -- rich and
poor -- is the vision of just two inspired people -- the producer, peace
"activist Brenda Rosenberg ( firstname.lastname@example.org ), and Imam
Abdullah El-Amin, executive director of the Council of Islamic Organizations of
Their hopeful creativity comes not from "resistance," but from "responsiveness" and the huge capacity of human imagination about the future.
It started more than a year ago. Rosenberg asked Imam El-Amim, "What do you think would really lead to peace between our communities? He said: If our communities knew they had the same father, Abraham, and knew the two sons buried their father together, that would be a start.
Part of the project is a workbook that will allow communities and schools to duplicate the process of recruiting, writing and training Christian, Muslim and Jewish teens to present both the play and post-production discussions.
The week's cover is at http://detroitjewishnews.com , and you can read the story at:
The same day, yesterday, the Detroit Free Press published:
the first line: "Sometimes tiny sparks trigger bombs; sometimes they
What would it mean to light a candle where you live -- move from resistance and preoccupation with enemies, to releasing unprecedented creativity and responsiveness?
Instead of trying to kill the dinosaur, what if we use our juices and energies to invent the gazelle?
Published in the Detroit Free Press -- Friday, March 26,
and online at http://www.freep.com/news/religion/crumm26_20040326.htm
BY DAVID CRUMM
FREE PRESS COLUMNIST
Sometimes tiny sparks trigger bombs; sometimes they light candles.
As stories about conflict and terrorism explode on the front page each week, consider for a moment a different kind of news story. It's about a local Muslim cleric who shared the spark of an idea with a Jewish friend over lunch last year. In turn, the friend used that spark to kindle creative energy in dozens of teenagers, religious leaders, theater professionals and university scholars.
At 8 p.m. Saturday, "The Children of Abraham Project" will debut with a diverse troupe of young performers at the Jewish Ensemble Theatre at Maple and Drake roads in West Bloomfield. This drama, written partly by Muslim, Jewish and Christian kids, is expected to spark fresh dialogue across old barriers. From the premiere, the project will expand into a series of performances across Michigan, and perhaps across the United States, aided by the University of Michigan's Arts of Citizenship program in Ann Arbor.
"This started with an idea I shared over lunch with my friend Brenda Rosenberg," Imam Abdullah El Amin, head of the Muslim Center in Detroit, said this week. "We were talking about all the problems in the world that involve Muslims and Jews and Christians. And I said, 'If we would only remember that we all share the same father, Abraham, we might find ways to bring our family back together again.' "
El Amin pointed to a passage in the Bible in which Abraham's long-separated sons, Ishmael and Isaac, come together at Abraham's death to bury their father. El Amin said to his friend, "We're tearing our world apart today. Why can't we do what Ishmael and Isaac did and come back together as a family?"
That set Rosenberg's mind churning over ways to help Abraham's descendants reunite. A longtime peace activist, she even dreamed about the fresh idea that night. "And in my dream, I saw Isaac and Ishmael on a stage. I saw the idea for a children of Abraham project."
The project's core concept was to bring together teenagers from all three faiths, ask them to share their life stories, weave those stories into a play, then plan a short workshop to be held after the play to give audiences a chance to join in the discussion that the kids start onstage.
Rick Sperling, head of the Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit, joined the project as soon as Rosenberg described it to him.
"The play's subtitle says a lot: 'Muslim, Jewish and Christian Teenagers Uniting for Peace in the Shadow of 9/11 and the Middle East Conflict.' This project really is a trampoline to launch discussion in a new way with people sitting in the theater," Sperling said. So, as dozens of teenagers were recruited to work on the project, Sperling's theater hosted their meetings and rehearsals.
The kids were excited, said Ariella Lis, a Jewish teenager from Farmington Hills. "We were just thirsting each week to learn all these new things from other kids in the group," she said.
Ann Arbor-based playwright Rachel Urist agreed to spend several months weaving the kids' ideas into a script. She said, "What's going on in the world can seem so hopeless that it was thrilling to be able to contribute to peace in such a concrete way."
Detroit-based blues-and-folk musician Josh White Jr. also joined the project and will help to lead the post-play discussion Saturday. Volunteering his time was an easy choice, he said. "Anything that helps us realize we're one people, one planet -- that's what I'm about," he said.
Soon, a host of community groups and the U-M program were cosponsors, agreeing to help send the project into schools, theaters and houses of worship over the next two years.
This week, El Amin chuckled as we talked about the explosion of optimism that came from his tiny spark. "It just shows what can happen if we sit down together and look for ideas on the positive side of life -- and latch onto what we find there with a real passion," he said.
Seats are available for the Saturday show, but tickets must be purchased by 3 p.m. today by calling 248-788-2900. Admission is $20.
Producer Brenda Rosenberg can be reached at
248-594-1545 or email@example.com .
Rick Sperling gets e-mail at Rick@mosaicdetroit.org . He is Founder and Executive Producer of Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit, at http://www.mosaicdetroit.org/ .