This blog is from Amanda, our Manager of Curriculum and Teacher Programs.
Last April, in a bowling alley in Queens, two 5th graders exchanged email addresses written on napkins. It doesn’t sound like an extraordinary event. Many kids across the country stay in touch with their friends via email. But a seemingly ordinary event like this one became less so: one of these students was Muslim, and one was Jewish. They go to religious schools in different neighborhoods. It is very likely the two might not have ever met, but both were participants in our Interfaith Living Museum program.
The Interfaith Living Museum program brings together 80 fifth graders from four schools, two Jewish (Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan and Kinneret Day School) and two Muslim (Al-Ihsan Academy and Islamic Leadership School). Over the course of a semester, the students work together to learn about how artifacts can teach us about heritage and bring in artifacts from their own homes to teach each other. They visit the Museum of Jewish Heritage, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a mosque, a synagogue, and each other’s schools. To help students get to know each other better, we also have a Social Day, in which the students get the opportunity to bowl, eat pizza, and get to know each other in a less formal environment. The program culminates in an exhibition of their artifacts, arranged thematically (“How We Pray,” “Food and Faith,” etc.). We hope that they learn more about their own backgrounds, as well as learn more about each other and find that despite differences, there are many similarities.
And we also hope that, as a result of the time spent together, friendships like these form. More rewarding than seeing students articulate lessons learned about their heritage are the lessons learned about each other, most importantly that it is possible, despite the differences they perceive, to form friendships and find common ground. Without the Interfaith Living Museum, these students would not have had the opportunity to meet and form these friendships.
There is no cost to the schools to participate in this important program. In order to continue providing funding, the Museum is asking for donations to help keep the program free for participants. We hope that you will join us in supporting the Interfaith Living Museum on December 2, Giving Tuesday. For more information, please visit www.mjhnyc.org/givingtuesday.
Photo by Melanie Einzig