Students from Sinai Akiba Academy, a Jewish day school, and New Horizon School, a Muslim day school share their experiences of participating in an exchange between the two schools, both located in Los Angeles. In accordance with school privacy policies, students are identified only by initials.
My expectations for the exchange were very low. I was very unsure about meeting the students at New Horizon, thinking that my buddy and I wouldn’t have much in common.I doubted that we would connect on any level, because of our different religious beliefs.I didn’t expect to learn much about Islam, or see any thread between Islam and Judaism, however, I was very wrong. I got to learn an abundance of things about my buddy, Jad, and was so surprised that we actually bonded over the same things.
I stepped into the school and he immediately showed me the soccer field. I soon discovered that we both love sports, and we even started a whole game with everybody. Then, learning in the classrooms about justice and being an upstander, we got to uncover new ideas. We did activities, comparing excerpts from the Torah and the Qur’an, and I realized that both of our holy books have a lot in common.
Another astonishing thing that I was able to witness was their prayer service. I was shocked at how focused and composed each individual person was, considering how our prayer services are much more casual. No one was talking during the service when they weren't supposed to, and it was very well organized.
Overall, the exchange changed my whole perception of Islam. I now understand that they are not so different from us after all and that they are just normal teenagers. Beginning the exchange, it was something I had to do. Now, it is something I would want to do over and over again.
- RS, Sinai Akiba Academy
I spent two days learning and having fun with students of similar age but of a different faith. I learned that Muslims and Jews have so much in common. After all Christians and Jews are people of our book (Qu’ran). I got to know my buddies really well. We are practically best friends now! I learned all about friendship, community, and respect.Friendship comes in many ways. You can be different from your friends. It doesn’t matter what religion, culture, or ethnicity they are from. We all are part of one big community.
I found a sense of community when we were all together for the exchange days. Community doesn’t have to be built up on one specific religion or ethnicity. It should be filled with different ethnic backgrounds and different people because we learn from people who are different from us. That’s when you gain more!
The last thing that I have learned during these visits would be that respect should always be around you and within you. During these visits, I have seen the respect that each student and friend had within them and around them. There was no bullying or teasing or discrimination towards anyone. Community and friends should show respect to one another because we are all different in so many ways, but we all learn from another.
In conclusion, I have found my community. The experience that I encountered with Sinai Akiba students is amazing. I hope to learn from my experience and find solutions to the challenges and hardships that we all face together. I already feel one step closer to my goal. I have found my solution, my community - I don’t ever want to let it go!
- AB, New Horizon School
Read all of the posts in this series here.
One resource from Facing History and Ourselves which can help students wanting to go deeper with religious texts is Sacred Texts, Modern Questions.