Temple Israel Waxman Youth House students did their part recently to plant seeds of peace with fellow teens from the Islamic Center of Long Island. In a way that many adults cannot, the teens found common interests and spoke honestly of their feelings.
The meeting featured Temple Israel director of the Waxman Hebrew High School and Youth Engagement Danny Mishkin, speaking to the interfaith group about how “planting a seed is the first step towards bearing a beautiful fruit, even a fruit we might not see in this generation. Sometimes just breaking down an invisible wall for one evening is an important step to building a meaningful relationship.”
Youth House members broke into small groups with their Islamic Center counterparts. The teens were asked to talk until they found a common interest. In a short time, they were talking about basketball, history, tennis and their religion. Each group was asked to think of a question they would like the imam from the Islamic Center and Mishkin to answer.
The two religious leaders spoke about sports, human rights, speaking out against violence and hope.
Youth House teacher Orrin Krublit put together texts from both faiths that the religious leaders mentioned in response. Quoting the Quran (5:32) they said: “We decreed for the Children of Israel that whosoever kills a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and who so saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind.”
From Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:9, they read: “It was for this reason that man was first created as one person (viz. Adam), to teach you that anyone who destroys a life is considered by Scripture to have destroyed an entire world; anyone who saves a life is as if he saved an entire world.”
The teens wrote joint letters of solidarity and hope to be sent to the mayor of Paris.
“If [this] were to be the only joint program for the two youth programs it would be a great step towards breaking stereotypes, but the overwhelming sentiment in the room was that this event should be the first of several meetings,” Mishkin said. “In other words, we hope that this program is a seed that grows into a fruitful dialogue among our youth.”