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Connecting Students With Different Religions

Tzofiya Lesack

Staff Writer

Earlier this month, students in ninth and tenth grade had the opportunity to volunteer to participate in a special program organized by the Interfaith Center of Philadelphia. This organization worked with Barrack to plan a meaningful program to connect students from the Al-Aqsa Islamic Academy with students from Jack M Barrack Hebrew Academy.

Students from the Al-Aqsa Islamic Academy arrived at around 8:45 where Barrack students greeted them and handed out name tags. All students were then directed to the Beit Midrash where Rabbi Lev, Ms. Trajtenberg, and Rabbi Lesack introduced the program. After this quick introduction, Barrack students took groups of students from Al-Aqsa to different AM options such as Mechitza Minyan, Egalitarian Minyan, and Progressive Minyan and explained to them the ideas of each prayer group and ideals of prayer in general in Judaism. This gave students the opportunity to see what prayer at Barrack is like compared to their own school.

Upon returning to the Beit Midrash, a representative from the Interfaith Center of Philadelphia led a program to help connect students. Each student from Barrack was put into a pair with one or two students from Al-Aqsa. Students had the opportunity to talk to one another and connect through an activity. Students made collages using magazines and incorporated images that described one another into their collages. This allowed for all students to connect on commonalities and learn new things about one another as well as their school and religion. Zoe Cohen, a tenth grade student at Barrack reflected upon the program and said, “It was truly insightful to find so many similarities between us and students from Al-Aqsa after suspecting that there were only differences. I was able to learn how each of the religions we follow share some common beliefs.”

In the upcoming months, Barrack students will visit the Al-Aqsa Islamic Academy as well as the Episcopal Academy. Rabbi Lev, a coordinator for this program, stated how “This is a great way to meet students from other faith-based schools and to share experiences together of what it means to be Jewish, Christian, or Muslim in today's world in a judgment-free, politics-free setting with [teachers] and other trained adults.” Barrack continues to work with the Interfaith Center of Philadelphia to coordinate the Friends and Faith Program with Pope John Paul II High School for juniors and seniors and now students from ninth and tenth grade can have the opportunity to take part in this amazing program.


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