Maybe we can all get along (at least in S.F.)


From the J. (the Bay Area’s Jewish newspaper):

Imagine: Jewish and Muslim teenagers laughing together, walking arm in arm, making plans to hang out in the summer.

They seem like unlikely scenarios — but thanks to the Unity Program, a project of the S.F.-based nonprofit Abraham’s Vision, they’re a reality. The program graduated its first class of Bay Area students May 31.

“I felt an invisible wall between me and the Jewish community, and now I feel this wall has been completely demolished,” said Shakeera Shoukat, 17, during the graduation ceremony.

Twenty-nine Jewish and Muslim students graduated from the program this year. Students at Berkeley Midrasha worked with students from the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California in Oakland, and students from Peninsula Havurah High in Los Altos Hills worked with the Muslim American Society in Santa Clara. About 100 parents and friends attended the commencement ceremony….

Throughout the school year, Unity Program participants met weekly, in separate Jewish and Muslim groups, for classes that were co-taught by a Jewish and a Muslim educator — Samantha Witman and Yasmeen Peer. The teachers also led monthly discussions and field trips that brought together the Jewish and Muslim students. …

In their classes, students learned about each other’s religious traditions, the history of the Middle East and the current challenges facing Israel and the Palestinian territories.

They visited places representing both of their faith and cultural traditions — a synagogue and a mosque, the Contemp-orary Jewish Museum and the Asian Art Museum. …

Aaron Hahn Tapper, a professor of Jewish studies at the University of San Francisco, created the program when he lived in New York. He expanded the program upon moving to the Bay Area in 2007. To date, 134 students have graduated from the Unity Program.

His organization reflects the unity he aims to inspire in American teen-agers. His co-director is a Palestinian woman, Huda Abu Arquob. They both spoke at the graduation ceremony before the teens addressed the audience.

“We refuse to believe future generations will not live in a world that is better than this one,” Hahn Tapper said.

Read the full article.

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