By Rabbi Erin Boxt / firstname.lastname@example.org Rabbi Erin Boxt
On Sunday, Feb. 14, more than 100 Jewish teens representing different regions of the North American Federation of Temple Youth were invited to the 14th Street Mosque — Al-Farooq Mosque — to learn about Islam and Kids4Peace. For the majority of these teens, who were in town for the NFTY Convention, it was their first visit to a mosque.
One of the highlights of the NFTY Convention was an opportunity to go out into the Atlanta community and learn about social justice programs that are taking place in our beloved city.
Kids4Peace is an organization that brings together Jews, Christians and Muslims from Israel and Palestine with Muslims, Christians and Jews from North America to learn, discuss and better understand one another.
Much to the surprise of many of the participants, they learn that they have more in common than they believe. However, by expressing differences in a safe place, these students are able to learn, understand and achieve what we all want: shalom, salaam, peace.
Kids4Peace teaches that acknowledging our differences is OK and even enriches our lives as long as we are able to understand and learn from one another. So when Kids4Peace Atlanta accepted the offer to host 100-plus Jewish teens in a mosque to learn about Islam, we were thrilled! This would be a great opportunity for Jewish teens to meet with Muslim teens in a safe environment.
As part of the experience, the teens were invited into the sanctuary and taught about the mosque and some of the foundational beliefs of Islam. It was an eye-opening experience and one that these teens will never forget.
For example, despite what many have been led to believe in the news, one misconception among some of the teens was the relationship between the different faiths. The teens were taught that Islam, as it is understood in North America and many other places in the world, explicitly condemns killing others. While there may be other readings in the holy Quran that invite some kind of violence (as is true in the Jewish and Christian Bibles), it is important to focus on the voices that teach understanding and love rather than violence and hate.
In the holy Quran, Muslims are taught, “Verily, those who have attained to faith [in this divine writ], as well as those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Christians, and the Sabians — all who believe in God and the Last Day and do righteous deeds — shall have their reward with their Sustainer; and no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve.” (Surah 2, Ayah 62)
Another verse from the holy Quran — “if anyone slays a human being — unless it be [in punishment] for murder or for spreading corruption on earth — it shall be as though he had slain all mankind; whereas, if anyone saves a life, it shall be as though he had saved the lives of all mankind” (Surah 5, Ayah 32) — should be recognized by Jews as one of the most important teachings of Judaism (Mishna Sanhedrin, Chapter 4:5).
How amazing it was when the teens (Jews, Christians and Muslims) broke into smaller groups and had the opportunity to ask questions and get to know one another. It was especially heartwarming to see that in just a few hours these teens were able to make relationships that will last well beyond their first meeting.
Please go to our website to learn more about our programs and for ways in which you can get involved.
Rabbi Erin Boxt serves Temple Kol Emeth in East Cobb and is a member of the Atlanta board of Kids4Peace.