Sharing Similarities/Celebrating Differences: An Interfaith Dialogue

Apr 25, 2018 | Have Fun, Middle School News, Share the Well

It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences. ~Audre Lorde
Through a longstanding relationship with The Alfred & Adele Davis Academy — an accredited Reform Jewish Day School — Mount Vernon has established strong connections to friends of a different faith.
Spearheaded by Rabbi Micah Lapidus at Davis and Grades 5 and 6 Head of Students Laura Fillyaw at Mount Vernon, the partnership was initiated to explore other communities to find commonalities while celebrating differences.
This year, MV fifth graders joined their peers at Davis Academy to build community and create connections between their faith traditions.
All fifth graders were welcomed by Rabbi Micah in the Kaufman Chapel for interfaith fellowship. He emphasized how the first step in respecting other religions is to understand they exist.
Each group participated in a series of activities:

  • Breakout EDU style technology challenge
  • A “project adventure” style series of physical activities
  • Presenting a jointly authored an “ABC” book about their respective faith traditions.

Together, students made an “ABC” book about their respective faith traditions. Davis and MV students focused on alternate letters of the alphabet to teach a single aspect of their religious heritage according to a letter of the alphabet to which they were assigned. They discovered their similarities while learning about their faith differences.
During their Breakout EDU activity, students worked in small teams to solve a challenge — to figure out how to gain access to a synagogue and a church without the keys. To regain entry into the buildings, students had to utilize their knowledge of their religion to answer a series of questions to gain clues that would eventually lead them to find the “key” to the imaginary prayer chapels. Questions included: “What were the three gifts that the wise men offered at the birth of Christ?” and “In the story of Jonah and the Whale, where did God tell Jonah to go?”
For the project adventure exercise, students participated in interactive physical challenges requiring a high level of communication, strategy, and cooperation. The activities included finding creative ways to spell out words such as “honor”, “peace” and “coexist” with their bodies. Additionally, students played a team-oriented game of “crossing the river.” For this game, the four teams were allotted two gymnastics mats or “rafts,” which they were challenged to position in a way to enable their team to hop between their rafts as they moved across the “river”, all while staying afloat on the raft as a team.
When the students first gathered in The Davis Academy’s Chapel, they initially sat only with their peers from their respective schools. At the conclusion of the program, students from both schools were sitting intermixed with one another. It was clear, even from the change in seating, that the overarching goal of breaking down barriers and promoting understanding had been achieved.
Rabbi Micah closed out the day by challenging the students to have open minds and respect for the different types of people and religions in the world. He left them with a message about the Mitzvah, or good deeds done without being asked. Deeds could be , or following the commandments. Regardless, the best Mitzvah is the “next one. What act will we do next to serve someone else or answer some else in a positive and helpful way.
When asked about the outcome of the interfaith program, Rabbi Micah Lapidus said, “I am so happy to see that these students understand the importance of interfaith dialogue, partnership, and understanding. Because of days like today, they have a head start on figuring out how they will help shape a more tolerant and peaceful society for all of us.”