Speech given by Jacob, a 10th grade participant in Kids4Peace Seattle, at Inspiring Hope, The Kids4Peace Seattle Annual Benefit.

CLICK HERE to read the first part of this story, as told by Jacob’s friend Risa (another Kids4Peace Seattle youth participant).

Hello, my name is Jacob, and this will be my third summer with Kids4Peace. Risa and I represent just one part of a global interfaith organization. Kids4Peace is a group of interfaith youth with chapters in Jerusalem, France, and across the US. Here in Seattle, about 25 participants regularly attend monthly meetings. Kids4Peace also hosts camps during the summer. At all of these programs we learn about social issues, leadership skills, as well as the experiences of others through dialogue, thought-provoking activities and story sharing. We also host community workshops throughout the year, reaching hundreds of youth.

Like Risa said, we’ve known each other for a while: We work as assistant teachers at our synagogue together and ride the same bus to school. About three and a half years ago she told me that Kids4Peace was having an open house, and invited me to come.

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Jacob and other K4P youth planning their activism work around the I-940 De-Escalate Campaign.

I remember being very tentative. This was a new group that I barely knew anything about. But I was also a little curious so, I decided, why not? I’m a kid. I like peace, and it’ll only be a single meeting for a few hours. Three and half years later, Kids4Peace is an integral part of my life, and my identity.

Upon arriving to my first Kids4Peace meeting, I timidly slipped into the meeting room, feeling confused about how to act because everyone seemed busy chatting with each other and preparing snacks.

Risa was the only person I knew. Immediately though, someone strode right over and welcomed me, saying hi, and involving me in a conversation they were having about their week at school. I have never more quickly felt connected with a group of people. A little bit into the meeting, I remember dividing up into partners for a group activity. I was nervous I was going to be left alone without one, because no-one knew me, but to my relief, someone walked straight up to me and invited me to join them.

Jacob

It is the kindness that my kids4peace friends showed to me at my first meeting that we are trying to spread in our community. From standing outside MAPS, a local mosque, in support when their sign was smashed by a vandal, to having tough conversations about the experiences of immigrants, we support each other in understanding and solving issues that our community faces.

Our stories are just two of many, so with the same open arms that welcomed me to Kids4Peace, we would like to welcome all of you, and invite you into our Kids4Peace community.

During the event, when Risa and Jacob told their stories, they posed these questions to the audience:

We would like to ask all of you to take some time right now to reflect on some of your personal experiences. We are going to ask you to think about three things, and we would like you to take a second just to think about each thing in your mind.

We invite you to think about…

  • …a time when you were able to use knowledge you took from your community and applied it to something you felt passionate about.
  • …a time when you didn’t feel welcomed and accepted within your community
  • …a time when you were with people that encouraged and empowered you to be your best.

We invite you to reflect on these questions in the week to come, and don’t forget to check back for more stories next week!

Speech given by Risa, a 9th grade participant in Kids4Peace Seattle, at Inspiring Hope, The Kids4Peace Seattle Annual Benefit.

Kids4Peace is a youth group where we have the opportunity to learn about other perspectives and participate in interfaith programs. One of my favorite parts of Kids4Peace is how we are able to connect our learning to make a difference in the world around us.

Specifically, one rainy Seattle evening during our monthly meeting, we had the opportunity to cook and serve food at Tent City. For those of you that don’t know, Tent City is a community of homeless women and men who live together, sleeping in tents and joining together for meals. At first, I didn’t think of it as a big deal. I mean, we were just cooking food for people, right? When we arrived at Tent City with our huge trays of chili and cornbread, I realized how much of an influence we had on people’s lives.

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Kids4Peace youth after their time at Tent City in Seattle.

 

Earlier in the day, we had learned about how a small action can make a huge impact. We didn’t just set the food up for them and leave, we stayed and ate dinner and talked to many people we probably wouldn’t have talked to in any other situation. Lots of us realized we had the same likes and dislikes, and that we weren’t all that different after all. It was then I came to the understanding of how our cooking had not only affected their lives, but ours also.

I’ve been with Kids4Peace since sixth grade, and the relationships I’ve made with people and the experiences I have been a part of have all shaped my life today. During my time in Kids4Peace, I have been asked to think about and reflect on many things. Ever since I stepped into my first meeting, Kids4Peace is a place I’ve felt accepted and empowered to be my best. The friends I have made in Kids4Peace have stayed with me throughout middle school and now into high school.

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I’ve known my friend Jacob since we were kids, and we’ve gotten even closer as we grew up. Wanting to share my Kids4Peace experience with Jacob, I invited him to a Kids4Peace community day, where friends and family could come and check out our organization…

Check back on the blog next week to hear Jacob’s part of the story!

 

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Jacob and Risa speaking together at the 2018 Inspiring Hope event in Seattle.

 

By: Jordan Goldwarg, Kids4Peace Seattle Chapter Director

Remarks from Inspiring Hope, Our Kids4Peace Seattle Annual Benefit

Last month, I had the opportunity to visit our Kids4Peace chapter in Lyon, France, and while I was there, someone asked me what it is like to be living in the United States right now, a time of so much unrest and turbulence. I thought about it for a moment, and then I replied, “It’s an awful time to be living in the United States right now. And it is also an amazing time to be living in the United States right now.”

He looked at me a little bit puzzled, and I think this was understandable. I am sure that many of you in this room tonight can understand what I meant when I said that it is an awful time. Every day brings a fresh assault on the rights, equality, and dignity of just about anyone who is considered to be different or the other. And it’s important for me to acknowledge, as a cis white man, that I have only recently begun to understand the magnitude of the awfulness that so many black, brown, trans, Native, Latino, immigrant, and disabled people, not to mention all women, have been living with for so long.

The discrimination and attacks that people experience on a daily basis is nothing new, but it has become so much more visible over the last two years to those of us born with privilege. And this is actually why it is also an amazing time to be living in the United States right now. Every single day, we wake up, and we are presented with abundant opportunities to make a positive change in our communities and in the world. Let me give three quick examples.

Do you care about racism? If so, you can get involved with the No New Youth Jail campaign here in Seattle, helping to end the school-to-prison pipeline and the disproportionate incarceration of so many kids of colour.

Do you care about Islamophobia? If so, almost every week, there are mosques and other community groups hosting open houses and potluck meals to get to know each other.

Do you care about refugees? If so, you can help sponsor a family while also lobbying our elected officials to bring more refugees into the country. This is especially urgent, since I was shocked to learn last week that so far this year, a total of 11 Syrian refugees have been resettled in the US.

Of course, as has always been the case, if we want to make the world a better place, we should follow the lead of our youth. Who can ignore the power of Emma Gonzalez, Naomi Wadler, and so many other kids who have mobilized a movement that is creating change that adults have been incapable of achieving for a generation? Who would have thought that the state of Florida, under a Republican governor and a Republican legislature, would pass gun control laws?

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Naomi Wadler (left) and Emma Gonzalez (right) speaking at the March for Our Lives in Washington D.C. on March 24th.

And in Kids4Peace, we are so proud of our youth who are part of this growing wave of young activists, helping to shape society in more peaceful, compassionate, empathetic ways. You have already heard from a number of our kids, and I’m sure you’re as impressed by them as we are, but I want to highlight just three specific ways that our youth are making an impact.

First, last fall, our 10th graders, who had recently returned from our Global Institute leadership program in Washington, DC, decided to join the I-940 De-Escalate Washington campaign. If you’re unfamiliar with this campaign, it was an initiative to the state legislature to require police in our state to receive conflict de-escalation training while also making it easier to hold police accountable when there has been excessive use of force. This initiative was designed to help keep all of our communities safer, recognizing all the while that communities of colour are disproportionately affected by police
violence.

I-940 Photo Grid

Our youth spent the fall collecting signatures for the initiative, while also helping to educate others through conversations and spreading the word through social media. Lia, one of our 10th graders who worked on the campaign, and who you will hear from later tonight, said, “As 10th graders, even though we still can’t even vote, we think it is very important for us to be aware of social justice and how police brutality and injustice in all forms is something that affects us. We in Kids4Peace feel compelled to fix things that are broken in our society.” And the work of our kids paid off: the state legislature passed I-940 during the closing days of its session last month, making it the law of the land.

My second example comes from our Jerusalem chapter. In the city of Jerusalem, despite the fact that about 1⁄3 of the population speaks Arabic as their first language, when films are shown in cinemas, they only contain Hebrew subtitles. Our high-school youth are working on a campaign with the municipality of Jerusalem and the cinemas to add Arabic subtitles to films. While this might seem like a small change, it would have a huge impact on creating more visibility for the Palestinian population, and more importantly, it would make cinemas a shared space, where Israelis and Palestinians can come together for common experiences, something that is incredibly rare in a very segregated city.

And while we love to see this kind of large-scale activism, we also value the changes that our kids make in their communities every day. At the risk of embarrassing Jacob, whom you heard from a few minutes ago, I want to say a word about his robotics team at Issaquah High. For over a year, the team had been experiencing rising tension between two groups that had different ideas about how the team should operate. Jacob, being the leader that he is, turned to skills honed in Kids4Peace to try to solve the problem. He offered to lead a dialogue session for nearly 30 team members with the goal of creating a community agreement that would help to establish norms for how team members interact with each other. The dialogue session was a success: Jacob created a safe environment in which everyone was able to express themselves and agree to a common set of values for the team, something that has really shifted the group dynamic this year. And in fact, the session was so successful that Jacob was asked to lead a similar session for other robotics teams in the region. Best of all, all of the kids in our core leadership program are trained to lead workshops like this.

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Jacob facilitating a conversation with a small group of students.

 

These three examples give you just a taste of the new emphasis in Kids4Peace on supporting our youth to take public action and stand up for the values they believe in. Kids4Peace has always been about engaging in dialogue with people who are different, and that is still a big part of what we do. But we are following the lead of our youth, who have been telling us that dialogue alone is not enough; it must also be paired with action.
And we are working to develop new ways to engage even more youth in our work. This year, thanks to a grant from the Seattle Foundation, we have launched a series of youth advocacy workshops, run in partnership with a broad range of other organizations, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, and 21 Progress. The poem you just heard by Sumeya was written at our MLK Day workshop combating Islamophobia and Antisemitism. And the final workshop, with a focus on supporting and elevating immigrant and refugee voices, is just around the corner on May 6.

We have also launched our new congregational partnership program, in which a number of local congregations are using Kids4Peace curriculum in their religious schools and are coming together for shared experiences like visits to other houses of worship and potluck dinners.

Now, it’s not quite time to take out your wallets, but I do want to say just one quick word about money before I wrap up. We have set an ambitious goal tonight to raise $50,000. That is about a 40% increase from the $35,000 that we raised at this event last year. We have set this ambitious target because, by the end of this year, we want to be able to hire a community organizer who can help us include even more communities in our work, including those communities most impacted by current government policies. And thanks to some visionary leadership from four of our loyal supporters, we have already raised $15,000 toward our goal tonight. This group really wants to see us get to $50,000, and I know that if we come together as a community, we can help each other out to get this done.

If we’re successful, it will allow us to strengthen our new initiatives, reach more communities, and ensure that even more youth can exercise the leadership skills that are innately within them. Of course, we can’t do any of this without the support of our community, which is at the heart of everything we do in Kids4Peace

To conclude, I want to ask all of you a question. Like almost all of our youth, I have become absolutely obsessed with the musical, Hamilton, over the past couple of years. One of my favourite moments in the show comes when Alexander Hamilton, after spending months as George Washington’s secretary, is finally given command of troops in the Revolutionary War. Maybe one reason this play has resonated with so many people is that, like our present moment, the Revolutionary period was both an awful time and an amazing time to be living here. The ravages of war were perhaps made just a little easier to bear by the hope and the possibility that came from creating something completely new, as imperfect as that new creation ended up being.

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When Washington gives Hamilton his command, he reminds him of the power and the responsibility of the position by saying, “History has its eyes on you.” That line always sticks with me: “History has its eyes on you.” And it sticks with me because in our present moment, when we can push back against the awfulness by seizing the amazing opportunities we have been given, I know that history has its eyes on us. And the question that our youth are asking themselves and the question they are asking you is, “What are we going to do with this moment we’ve been given?” I think we should start by following the lead of our youth.

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Left: Renee Atkinson, Operations Manager; Right: Mawish Raza, Communications Manager

As Kids4Peace is evolving and strategizing new ways to empower our youth to lead the way towards action, its family is also growing! We recently welcomed two new people to Kids4Peace International’s office in Washington D.C. and wanted to give an opportunity for you to hear and learn more about our new Communications Manager, Mawish Raza, and Operations Manager, Renee Atkinson.

Mawish Raza joins K4P as the new Communications Manager. She comes to K4P after years of working in film, communications, and education and is committed on further driving the intersection of media and action. She has directed and produced several films and has spent time teaching the power of storytelling in the classroom. During her free time, Mawish takes every opportunity to seek live music and new food.

Renee Atkinson joins K4P as the new Operations Manager.  She has an extensive background in nonprofit, volunteer and event management and is eager to apply her skills to helping K4P behind the scenes to make it so that other staff can thrive in their roles.  She has recently returned from a 3 year posting to the Philippines where her husband worked for the US State Department. She is the mom to two teenage daughters and in her spare time loves to cook and garden.

We are so excited to have Mawish and Renee joining the Kids4Peace team! They are both eager to get to know the supporters and advocates that have make it possible to empower our youth — from Seattle to Jerusalem. Feel free to reach out to them with any questions or comments at info@k4p.org!

by Jordan Goldwarg, Kids4Peace Seattle Chapter Director

Many people know that Kids4Peace operates in North America and Jerusalem, but did you know that we also have a chapter in France? Since 2014, a team of dedicated volunteers has been building a presence in Lyon, and on March 16-18, I had the privilege of joining them for a weekend of visioning, training, and planning.

As with everywhere we operate, the need for our programs is great in France. The global migration crisis has provoked an Islamophobic backlash against the many migrants and refugees who have arrived in France seeking a better life for themselves and their families. Meanwhile, there has been a significant increase in Anti-Semitism that has been frightening enough to cause many Jews to leave France. Against this backdrop of religious discrimination, France also struggles with many of the challenges that face other countries, such as racism and economic inequality.
Kids4Peace France (or Copains pour la Paix) has been working to change all of this. Through partnerships with a local synagogue (Keren Or), mosque (Mosquee Othman), and church (Paroisse de la Nativite), they have been bringing together youth every month to learn about each other’s religion, to promote understanding, and to foster dialogue.

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Members of the K4P France team at weekend retreat outside Lyon with Paroisse de la Nativite

Over the course of our weekend together, we attended worship at all three partner congregations. In between, we spent time as a team looking back at what K4P France has accomplished since its founding; created a 1- and 3-year vision for where the chapter wants to go; and also had fun through some of the games and activities that we use with our kids when we meet.
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Members of the team working on 1- and 3-year visions

Many thanks to John and Brigitte McGregor, along with the whole K4P France team, for hosting this weekend, and for their unwavering commitment to improving the lives of youth in Lyon! Below, you can find a transcription of remarks that I shared during our visits to the partner congregations.

Merci beaucoup pour accueil chaleureux ! Je m’appelle Jordan Goldwarg, et je suis le Directeur de Développement des Nouvelles Branches pour Kids4Peace International. Je travaille à Seattle, sur la côte ouest des États-Unis, et c’est vraiment un honneur d’être ici ce Week-End pour travailler avec notre équipe de Kids4Peace France, ou comme on dit des fois, les Copains pour la Paix. 

Je me considère comme éducateur, et dans le passé, je me disais souvent que mon travail a pour but de préparer les leaders de demain. Puis, un jour, une de nos jeunes qui fait partie de Kids4Peace à Seattle, m’a dit: ‘Jordan, je ne sais pas pourquoi tu dis toujours que nous sommes les leaders de demain. Nous sommes déjà des leaders aujourd’hui!’

Et, bien sûr, elle avait raison. Cette réalité a été illustré nettement aux États-Unis au course du dernier mois. Le 14 février, nous avons souffert une autre tragédie horrible quand un adolescent a tué dix-sept étudiants et professeurs dans  une école secondaire en Floride. Cet événement a été tellement affreux, effrayant et atroce, que dans les semaines depuis le massacre, ça continue d’être vraiment interessant de voir le leadership des adolescents et leur réponse à l’événement. Ils commencent à forcer un changement dans les lois et la culture des  États-Unis au sujet des fusils. La semaine passée, le congrès de l’état de Floride a passé de nouvelles lois pour réglementer les fusils, et ils ont fait ça même avec une opposition féroce de la part de groupes de pression très puissants. Ces nouvelles lois ne seraient pas possibles sans le travail et l’influence des adolescents. Je répète: ces nouvelles lois ne seraient pas possibles sans le travail et l’influence des adolescents.

À Kids4Peace, notre mission est de supporter des leaders jeunes dans leur travail de réparer les problèmes qui causent la violence et les divisions dans nos sociétés. Nous sommes une mouvement global, travaillant avec des adolescents de 12-18 ans qui sont  juifs, chrétiens et musulmans, en Amérique du Nord, a Jérusalem, et en France. Les participants se réunissent régulièrement pendant l’année scolaire, et ils participent aussi dans des programmes plus longs pendant l’été. Tous nos programmes ont comme but l’éducation interreligieuse, la formation de compétences en dialogue et leadership, et la formation de communauté, dans le but de créer un  changement social positif dans nos communautés.

A un moment où tellement de gens autour du monde utilisent la religion comme une force pour diviser les gens, nous cherchons les valeurs et mérites partagés dans la religion qui favorisent l’empathie, l’acceptation, et le respect. Quand on réunit les adolescents dans une communauté favorable avec ces valeurs partagés, et quand on soutien le développement de ces compétences de leadership, les résultats sont motivant .

Prenons l’exemple de Lia, une fille juive de 16 ans qui fait partie de Kids4Peace Seattle. Pendant une époque quand plusieurs groupes de personnes aux États-Unis, en particulier les minorités et  les immigrants, subissent la violence aux mains de la police, Lia a passé beaucoup de temps l’automne passé en s’engageant comme bénévole pour une campagne dans notre état pour essayer de changer cela . Cette campagne a pour but d’exiger que la police dans l’état de Washington prenne  des cours pour diminuer le conflit, et par ce moyen, de réduire la nécessité d’utiliser leurs pistolets contre les citoyens. Après avoir ramassé des signatures pour des pétitions, après avoir parlé avec ses amis, et après avoir amplifié son message par les médias sociaux comme Facebook et Instagram, Lia a écrit le suivant: ‘À l’âge de 16 ans, même si nous ne pouvons pas voter, nous pensons que c’est très important que nous soyons    conscients de la justice sociale. La violence de la police est injuste et ça nous concerne tous. Nous, en Kids4Peace, avons une obligation de réparer les choses qui sont déchirées dans notre société.’ Et je suis vraiment fier d’annoncer que cette campagne a été acceptée par le congrès dans notre état la semaine passée et c’est maintenant une loi.

Je peux vous donner aussi une exemple de notre branche à Jérusalem. Dans la ville de Jérusalem, malgré le fait qu’un tiers de la population parle l’Arabe comme langue maternelle, les cinémas ne montrent que des films avec sous titres en Hébreu. Nos jeunes travaillent dans une campagne avec la municipalité de Jérusalem et les cinémas pour ajouter de sous titres en Arabe pour les films. Cela peut paraître comme une changement petit, mais ça va avoir un impact énorme en augmenter la visibilité de la population Palestinienne. De plus, ça va rendre les cinémas, des espaces partagés, ou les Israéliens et le Palestiniens peuvent se rencontrer pour des expériences en commun, quelque chose qui est vraiment rare dans une ville très séparée.

Et ici à Lyon, Kids4Peace, ou Copains pour la Paix, travaille depuis plus de trois ans pour construir des liens entre communautés diverses. Dans un moment où la tension religieuse a augmenté beaucoup dans plusieurs parties d’Europe, Kids4Peace travaille sans cesse avec les jeunes à Villeurbane et dans d’autres parties de Lyon pour montrer qu’en réalité, nous sommes plus forts ensemble. Nous avons aussi créé un partenariat avec les Scouts et Guides de France, et avec plusieurs mosquées, églises, et synagogues pour faire des programmes avec davantage d’enfants.

Pendant que nous continuons de construire ce mouvement global, ici à Lyon et  ailleurs , nous vous invitons de nous rejoindre. Ensemble, nous pouvons répondre au menace de fondamentalisme de toute sorte en promouvant l’acceptation et l’empathie, et en montrant que la religion est une force positive dans la société. Racontez à vos amis ce que vous avez entendu ici aujourd’hui. Portez-vous  volontaire avec Kids4Peace. Si vous avez des enfants proches de vous, encouragez-les de se joindre à notre travail. Ensemble, nous pouvons construire une mouvement d’espoir et une mouvement pour la paix.

Plusieurs gens me demandent ce qui me donne de l’espoir pendant une époque de peur, violence, et division. Ma réponse est simple: Je prends de l’espoir en voyant des leaders jeunes qui recherchent la différence, qui promeuvent la paix, et qui ont un désir pour la compréhension mutuelle. Merci à vous tous de  nous aider à diffuser ce message d’espoir.

by Sara McArdle, Kids4Peace Seattle Chapter Board Chair

On Friday, January 26, I had the pleasure of hosting my second-ever “Dialogue Dinner” in support of Kids4Peace Seattle. As a board member, one of the things that we’re invited to do (and I happily oblige!) is host an intimate fund- and/or awareness-raising event for our communities once every couple of years.

This time, eight of us gathered around two big tables in the community room at my complex in North Seattle and shared a deep, meaningful discussion about the issues that are most important to each of us. The group consisted of Muslim, Jewish, Christian and non-religious friends of mine who care deeply about the future of our nation and our youth. Most of my guests did not know each other before getting together that night.

As a special treat, I ordered a cornucopia of delights from Gorgeous George’s Mediterranean Kitchen, owned and operated by Kids4Peace friends and Jerusalem natives, George Rashed and Rula Saleh. We feasted on mouth-watering tabouli, falafal, salad, pita, hummus, babaghanouje, dolmas, makdous, grilled vegetables, salmon and chicken.

We spent the first half an hour mingling and getting to know each other a bit. Then, we sat down to eat and pondered some big questions. We gave each person around the table the space and close attention to articulate what was on their hearts and minds, without interruption.

The gist of the questions I posed to the group were: 1) With all that’s currently going on in our country and the world, how do you choose which of the numerous, deserving causes/events/activities to give your time, energy and attention to? 2) What kinds of things do you do to take good care of yourself and make sure you’re saying “no” to the things that are lower priority for you? and 3) How do you handle conversations with loved ones who see issues differently than you do? (Or, do you even get into it?) The conversation was rich and varied, and I left with some new ideas and inspiration.

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Guests enjoying delicious food and rich conversation.

 

After we talked for about an hour and a half, I shared how these concepts relate to the work of Kids4Peace; in our community, we get together and regularly ask big questions about what we want to do to make a difference in our communities, how we can support each other and how we can care for ourselves in the process. Then, we take action.

So, I took action by inviting this little community of mine to give to Kids4Peace Seattle so that we can make a real difference in the issues that so many of my community care deeply about, like youth, equity and anti-oppression, nonviolence, living in greater harmony with each other and our planet, etc.

In addition to their financial generosity, I was delighted to see some of my guests exchanging contact information and brainstorming how they might collaborate together in the future on their overlapping projects and visions. These kinds of exchanges are exactly why dialogue dinners can be so powerful!

One meaningful piece of feedback I received was, “I am so nourished by the care and thought you put into whom to invite, what to eat and what questions to ask. I loved meeting such a mix of people, and really liked getting to respond to those questions.”

I highly recommend hosting a dialogue dinner for any cause you care about! (No need to ask for money, either, if that’s not a fit for you.) In a society that’s constantly busy, on the go and multi-tasking, it feels like a real treat to sit across the table from one another and be heard for what moves us deeply, as individuals.

 

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On January 14th, 80 youth from the greater Seattle area gathered for a workshop called “Make Your Voice Heard”.  It was the day before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, drawing inspiration from King to empower youth to speak up about issues they care about.

The first part of the event was an opportunity for participants to hear from three different speakers. Max Patashnik who is the Government Affairs and Community Relations Senior Manager at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle did a presentation on Judaism and Antisemitism. Jasmin Samy is the Civil Rights Director at CAIR-Washington State and she did a presentation on Islam and Islamophobia. Finally, Essam Muhammad who is a local Spoken Word Artist and Poet, and is active in the South Seattle community, performed a spoken word piece for all in attendance. This was a way to get the participants thinking about issues in the world and lead them into their breakout session. As participant Maryam said, “We may not realize it but discrimination and hate happens all around us”.

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In the second part of the workshop, youth had the opportunity to participate in one of four breakout sessions. The sessions were News Media, Talking About Issues You Care About, Film, and Spoken Word. Each session gave the youth a different perspective on voicing their opinions and speaking up for what they believe in. The tools that they were given could help them speak up against Antisemitism, Islamophobia, and any other issues they care about.

We heard from two participants of the Spoken Word breakout session, and they were certainly inspired. “Poetry is a way to express yourself, and it seems like something I can do after school” said Maeve. Elizabeth said “I liked the free writing, and I want to tell my friends about this”.

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Throughout the event, participants met back at their table groups to discuss what they were finding. They talked about what this experience meant to them, Nathan said “Through the learning, I feel empowered”. To him, this event was not only about speaking up, it was about learning about other people’s view of the world. Habiba said “We should all use our voice because it is a privilege, we should use it before it’s taken away. We need to use it for ourselves, and those who don’t have a voice”. Going along with speaking up for others, Mariam said “In the world we tend to only stand up for ourselves and our friends, but we should stand up for everyone”.

To finish off the workshop, we had participants further their call to action by writing down what they want to use their voice for. It was a way to remind participants that this workshop gave them tools, but they are the real voice of change in their communities.

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Click here to find lots more photos from our event in our Facebook Album!

Written by: Viktorina, Kids4Peace Seattle Communications Intern

by Lauren Fialkow, K4P Intern

The halls of the beautiful Brigham Young University campus, situated overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem, were bustling with families of local Christians, Muslims, and Jews.  The hundreds of people in attendance came together to honor the 15 years that Kids4Peace has been creating its community.  Each person present has been touched by the work of Kids4Peace, and watching these kids naturally playing together and parents casually laughing together demonstrated to me the power of the work being done by this community.

IMG_2928Despite the lively conversations, exciting capoeira performances, and tubs of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream consumed, the event did not ignore the stress and confusion that some of the community might have been feeling.  A typically joyous time of year surrounding Christmas, The Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, and Hanukkah, this year’s annual event came just a week after the President of the United States announced the US’s acknowledgement of Jerusalem and the capital of Israel.  At a time when many Palestinians and Israelis are processing the news and deciding how to react, many questioned why Kids4Peace would come together to celebrate at such a rough time.  

In the words of Meredith Rothbart, the Jerusalem Kids4Peace Co-Director who spoke that night, “Our work does not stop here. Not now. …It is not enough just to be together. We have to take action to influence the situation around us….It is not upon us to complete the task, or to solve all of the political turmoils of our leaders. But we cannot stop trying.”

IMG_3035The number of families in attendance was proof of the strength, mission, and unstoppable spirit of this community. When teens and parents got on stage to speak about what they’ve gained from Kids4Peace, the hope for a brighter tomorrow became very tangible.  

Many ask, what would peace look like, is it even possible?  The firsthand stories shared by students Hussam, Loure, and Nadav demonstrated an authentic relationship between friends where different backgrounds, perspectives, and opinions can’t break the trust and support they have for one another.  They spoke of getting into a heated argument regarding Jerusalem politics while having a picnic on the grass after visiting Congress in Washington DC.  They had expressed their beliefs strongly and never came to consensus, but afterwards they went “right back to being the friends that they are.”  Building a world where people come together to build relationships that look to understand the ‘other’ may seem like daunting task, but our 16-year-olds in Jerusalem are showingus that it IS possible, what it looks like, and how to do it.

I found the energy and friendships of these teens so inspiring, but I was equally blown away by the parents and their stories.  We heard from two fathers, a Muslim Palestinian, Maher, and an orthodox Jewish Israeli, Yisrael.  We often look to the younger generation to build peace because it’s perceived that the older generations have too many scars from past conflicts and are too set in their ways of being.  

DSC_9039Because of this, the genuine sensitivity, respect and care that these fathers had for each other was incredibly moving but also undeniable as they embraced–standing with their arms around each other–and told the story of how they met, initial expectations and what that relationship grew into.  Maher spoke of how touched he was by Yisrael’s thoughtfulness when he brought a gift on his first visit to Maher’s neighborhood.  You could see in their eyes and by their enthusiasm that they were speaking from the heart, that their perceptions were changed through experiences with Kids4Peace and that they felt gratitude for these new relationships and cultural discoveries.

Kids4Peace has a few catch-phrases and “hashtags” like “Together Peace is Possible” and #KeepHopeAlive.  When hundreds of members of a movement for peace come together to celebrate, share stories, and bridge gaps—despite the political volatility of the time—it’s clear that Kids4Peace’s work stands for itself and by just talking to some members it’s easy to see how together peace is indeed possible and how this community is absolutely keeping hope alive.

by Jordan Goldwarg, Kids4Peace Director of Chapter Development

On Saturday, October 28, a group of friends gathered in a home in Seattle for dinner. They came together for a facilitated discussion about this question: What is one thing that is frustrating you right now about our city/country/world? What in your personal experience makes you care about this thing? How are you acting on those frustrations (if at all)?

The hosts of the dinner, Emily Patton and Matt Oppenheimer, are longtime supporters of Kids4Peace. They value the work that Kids4Peace does to build a community of interfaith youth peace leaders, but they were also looking for the opportunity to have their friends experience the magic of Kids4Peace. This led them to invite people to dinner to see for themselves the power of the honest dialogue that Kids4Peace helps facilitate.

After an hour of conversation about the night’s question, the evening culminated with the creation of Team Oppily (a combination of “Oppenheimer” and Emily”), a Kids4Peace giving circle. A giving circle is a group of friends who come together to support a cause in a variety of ways. Financial support can be an important aspect of a giving circle, but Team Oppily will also be giving to Kids4Peace through things such as providing snacks for youth meetings, mentoring youth through sharing their experiences during K4P meetings, and helping to set up for larger K4P events.

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The first gathering of Team Oppily!

 

Team Oppily is also pooling financial resources to provide a matching challenge for Kids4Peace’s year-end fundraising efforts in Seattle. They will match up to $1500 in year-end gifts, essentially allowing people to double the power of their contributions.

“All of us have experienced frustrating things in our lives,” said Emily. “While some people may resort to hopelessness, I am continually inspired by the youth and adults involved in Kids4Peace. I talk about the program all the time, so I wanted to find a way to have my closest circle of people reach a more comprehensive understanding of Kids4Peace, too. It was a really meaningful evening and I’m so grateful for our friends who were able to attend the dinner and commit to giving of their time and resources.”

We thank Emily, Matt, and all of Team Oppily for their commitment to building peace in our communities! If you are interested in starting a Kids4Peace giving circle, please contact Jordan Goldwarg, Director of Chapter Development, at jordan@k4p.org.