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Day 3

After two awesome days at The Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati and Adath Israel Congregation we concluded our interfaith curriculum at St.Barnabas Episcopal Church. Our Kids4Peace camp group continues to impress as both campers and staff remain interested and engaged in learning about one another’s cultures. Today’s theme was “community” and it has been amazing to see our own Kids4Peace community grow together.

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Rev. Nancy showing us around the Church

Our day began as one of our staff members led us in a fun activity, playfully called the “Toilet Paper Game”. This icebreaker allowed us to get to know each other a little bit better and got us all loosened up for the day. This morning’s religious education session was lead by Rev. Dr. Nancy Turner Jones. Reverend Nancy took us on a tour of the church, and went to great lengths to create a safe space that encouraged asking questions. We learned a lot about Christianity and were able to delve deeper into the culture and tradition of the Episcopalian denomination. Each of us learned about the importance of mosaics in our faith traditions, and we were able to carry on that tradition by creating our own small mosaic.

The afternoon was filled with camp games and dialogue. We worked off of our theme of community as we played team builders such as the human knot and a team tower building activity. Additionally we engaged in a fruitful conversation finding similarities within the three Abrahamic faith traditions. We learned about the importance of working together and we discussed what it means to give back to our own communities.

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As we approached the end of the day some members of the Kids4Peace Cincinnati leadership team visited our camp. Some of our campers were given the opportunity to explain some of the activities we had done throughout the week, and a few leaders shared how important they felt our day camp is to the Cincinnati interfaith community.

We had a great day learning some new facts about Christianity while we engaged with activities focused on the importance of community. Our leadership modeled how much a supportive and motivated community can do when they put their minds to it. Moreover, our campers continue to amaze with their willingness to participate in deep and insightful conversation. Tomorrow we head to Barbash Vital Support Center in Clifton to work in their food pantry. After 3 days learning about the importance of listening, trust, and community I feel as though we are truly ready to serve the Cincinnati community with positivity and intention.

Day 4

Day 4 was absolutely amazing and truly demonstrated how a group of kids can come together to make a difference. Our theme today was service and while we were dropped off at the Mayerson JCC, we spent the majority of the day working on at the Barbash Family Vital Support Center’s food pantry in Clifton. The Barbash staff taught us about the communities that the food pantry serves, and the campers and staff learned about the services that food pantries and soup kitchens provide. Today we were helping the food pantry re-stock their shelves. Our Kids4Peace community spent the week collecting canned foods and non-perishable food items to donate, and after our donation was added to the pantry’s weekly food collection we got right to work!

Campers and staff organized food and spent the morning arranging the products on to the shelves of the pantry. Sandee, the food pantry’s volunteer coordinator, later lead us in a thought provoking activity where our campers were given the opportunity to role play a week as a family who shops at the pantry. We learned to value what food we do have, and we were able to see how important it is to give to those who currently face hunger within our own community.

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The afternoon was jam packed with fun camp games including a fun improv game where we told some stories one sentence at a time. Back at the JCC we engaged in a powerful conversation about the dangers of stereotypes and then began our closing thoughts. We spent time sharing affirmations and gratitude, and we shared openly about what we respected about our fellow campers and staff. We each created bracelets decorated with beads that each represented some important moments during camp, and we each signed our Kids4Peace banner signifying a pledge to continue to work towards peace in the future.

Whether it be at the Church, Synagogue, Mosque, or on our day of service our Kids4Peace camp was able to work together to build bridges across different cultures, religions, and communities. We learned an incredible amount in just a few short days and we formed friendships that will surely last beyond the confines of camp. We listened to each other’s stories, we trusted that our group would support one another, we came together as a community of peace, and we worked to understand the importance of service. It was an incredible journey and I am so lucky to have gotten to know a wonderful group of campers and staff.

This is only the beginning. As we plan reunions and other yearly programs we will continue to work towards our dream of peace. This camp was the first of many steps that this community will take in order to make the Cincinnati interfaith community a model for the rest of the nation.

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If you missed the recap of day 1, click here!  and follow us on Facebook for even more photos and updates.

By Rob Gleisser, K4P Cincinnati Day Camp Director

On a foggy Tuesday morning our Kids4Peace campers and staff gathered at Adath Israel Congregation for an amazing day of learning and growth. Where day one was filled with opportunities to get to know one another, on day two, our Kids4Peace community began to truly forge the bonds of lasting friendship. Working off our day’s theme of Trust, our staff and campers jumped in to the activities with an inspiring confidence, and thirst for knowledge.

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The day began with excitement as a channel 5 WLWT news team visited our camp! Members of the Cincinnati community have embraced our mission of peace and understanding. It was a pleasure to be featured by our local news and it is nice to know that other people in our community support our message.  A local correspondent interviewed two of our campers and the videographer got some great shots of us doing a fun icebreaker called “talent search”. During  “talent search” each camper described a talent or interest of theirs, and the other members of their small group created a fun nickname. It was great hearing our camper’s special talents, and to get to know each other a little better!

After a quick review of our discussion guidelines we transitioned into our morning session at the synagogue where we learned about Judaism. Rabbis Karen Kriger Bogard and Daniel Bogard worked together to lead an incredible lesson on the ins and outs of Judaism. We took a tour of the synagogue, learned about some important Jewish practices, and were taught some awesome Jewish songs! Additionally, each camper made a small tzedakah box. Our group learned that Tzedakah, the Hebrew word for charity, is a main tenant of each of the Abrahamic religions. Our campers were encouraged to put a small amount of money aside, as they are able, and put it in their own tzedakah box to be donated to a charity.

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Our afternoon was filled with awesome camp games and powerful dialogue. We laughed together as we played a few rounds of classic camp games like “bippity boppity boo” and “the meatball game”, and we raced to the finish during a kids4peace relay race. Our community’s ability to learn freely and safely about each other’s religions was on full display, as we held an impromptu conversation on daily prayer after some our Muslim participants stepped out to pray the mid-day prayer of Zuhr.  Our dialogue session was filled with activities that surrounded the theme of trust, helping us to discuss risk taking and how we build trust with others. We were able to have wonderful conversations after activities like the “trust fall” and the “risk poem”. Hearing our campers describe how they want to be a part of trusting and supportive interfaith communities was a special moment for all of us.

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Day two was fantastic. We learned about Judaism, were featured on the news, played a ton of games, and had some amazing conversations about trust and support. As we move to our last house of worship tomorrow I look forward to deepening our understanding of each other’s faith traditions and continuing the journey toward a strong and collaborative interfaith community in Cincinnati!

Check out the Channel 5 news interview here!

Kids4Peace is so excited that our newest chapter has launched its very first youth program.  Rising 6th and 7th graders, Muslim, Jewish, and Christian, came together today for an interfaith day camp.  The whole K4P family sends lots of love to this newest chapter, and we can’t wait to see what these newest peace makers accomplish!  Stay tuned to hear more about their week, and check out more photos and updates on Facebook.

By Rob Gleisser, K4P Cincinnati Day Camp Director

Wow, What an amazing day!  Coming to camp this morning I did not know what to expect. I can honestly say that the kids and our wonderful staff blew me away.  The enthusiasm in the room was apparent from the very beginning, and our camper’s willingness to participate established a camp community in which we were all able to succeed.

Our day began by getting to know one another. We played a variety of “get to know you” icebreakers that allowed us to loosen up a little bit as we prepared for  our day of learning and dialogue. The theme for Day 1 was listening and we worked hard Monday morning figuring out how to become a more active and effective listener. We created a community contract, where we envisioned how we wanted to act within our Kids4Peace community, and how we wanted our Kids4Peace conversations to sound and feel.

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After formulating some discussion guidelines and framing the day surrounding our theme of listening we spent some time with members of the amazing educational staff from the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati. Our teachers, Nina and Fatimah, led us in an interactive program about Islam, where we went on a tour of the prayer space, learned some Arabic words, and created a painting using Arabic script. Our final products each read “alhamdulillah” meaning “Praise to God,” a phrase that is consistently represented throughout each of the Abrahamic religions. We were treated to a lovely meal of schwarma, pita, and hummus, and we spent some time during lunch talking about how each of our faith traditions approaches prayer before and after a meal.

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Following lunch we played a few rounds of what was surely a favorite camp game called Mafia. It was great to see the campers working and playing together, and it was clear that the work we had done on community building in the morning allowed our campers to interact with each other comfortably.  After our game we jumped into a truly remarkable dialogue session.  We learned about the importance of effective vocabulary. The Kids4Peace counselors and staff led activities, discussing how harmful stereotypes can be, and they were given an opportunity to discuss how they interact with stereotypes throughout their everyday life. As our campers began to open up about the challenges that they each face as members of different identity groups, it was easy to sense that we were building a group dynamic that promotes openness, understanding, and support.

We finished the day by learning some camp songs and the Kids4Peace cheer. It was an incredible day where we created the foundation on which we will build our camp. We established some safe space guidelines, we learned a ton, we had a lot of fun, and we began to truly get to know one another. I can’t wait for tomorrow, and I look forward to seeing what the rest of this week will bring!

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By Adam Gillman, K4P Seattle Jewish Educator

Members of the Kids4Peace Seattle Board and Program Team gathered last week to continue learning about Islam.  Adam Gillman, a Jewish Educator and member of our Program Team, reflects on his experience.

The opportunity to learn about the work of Islamic Network Group (ING) led by local activist and community educator Fouzi Husaini was a welcomed opportunity to engage, and continue fostering a budding relationship between the Kids4Peace Seattle community and local Muslim organizations. This was another occasion to learn about the basic tenets of Islam, and I once again found myself awestruck at the deep beauty of Islam and similarities shared among our faith traditions. However, despite our ancient roots, we find ourselves at a time when Islamophobia is plaguing our communities and world.

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This year our theme in Kids4Peace Seattle has been solidarity, which pushes us to stand with others when they face discrimination, mistreatment and bigotry and to speak for those that are unable to stand up for themselves. It also asks us to create space and ample opportunities for those who face judgement to speak for themselves. I walked away from our meeting filled with anticipation for our upcoming program with MAPS (Muslim Association of Puget Sound), so we can continue our work of building a community of understanding, advocacy, and action in bringing us together in the uphill hike towards brotherhood/sisterhood, compassion, and peace.  

by Hannah Hochkeppel, K4P Seattle Program Director

This past weekend, Kids4Peace Seattle had the opportunity to visit the touring Anne Frank Exhibit, housed at the Holocaust Center for Humanity in Seattle.  As we toured the exhibit with some of our youth participants, parents, and volunteers, I was struck by the way our youth were answering the questions posed to them by the museum docents, and by the questions they were asking.

One of the pictures in the exhibit was of a Jewish man having his beard cut by a Nazi soldier.  The docent leading the group asked, “What do you think that man was feeling?”  Our youth reflected that he was probably angry and frightened.  Others shared that the Nazi soldier seemed like he was enjoying publicly shaming and taking away the Jewish man’s dignity.  

Nazi Soldier Trimming Beard

After another moment of thoughtful reflection, one of our youth pointed to the background of the picture.  She asked, “What is that man doing?”  After staring for a few minutes as a group, we determined that it looked like the man was another soldier, but his facial expression was very different from the others in the picture.  He was not doing anything to stop what was going on, but he also seemed distressed by his fellow soldier’s actions.

Our youth continued to reflect on this picture as we moved through the exhibit.  They wondered aloud about why you would stand by and let something bad happen, but also admitted that it is difficult to be the person in the minority, the person who has to voice opposition.  This is especially difficult in situations where you could be endangering yourself in the process.

As we closed our day at the exhibit we had a few minutes to chat as a whole group.  Adam, one of our program team members, posed this question to the group: “What connection do you see between things that happened during the Holocaust and things that are happening in the world today?”  After a few moments of quiet, Aviva raised her hand.  She quietly said that really history  just happens over and over again, one group loudly voicing opposition and hatred to another.  Today we see this in the treatment of Muslims in our own country and the treatment of refugees around the world.

We did not come to any conclusions as a group, we just shared feelings and asked more questions.  We did not offer solutions, or name any course of action.  Instead we did so much more.  We noticed the people in the background, we noticed the repeating of history, we put a name and a voice to things that we are against.  As a group, we willingly put voice to the opposition of violence and hatred.  As the group left we were invited to place a post-it note on the wall of the museum, answering the question we will leave you with today: How does change begin with me?

Teachingis thegreatest actof optimism.