Students building bridges

Rabbi Zalman Kastel explains Chanukah to a group of students as teachers Grace Smith, Zohra Aly and Jaxon Jennings look on. Photo: Noel Kessel

STUDENTS from Bass High School in western Sydney visited Masada College recently as part of Together for Humanity’s inter-school ­program.

The program encourages students of different backgrounds to embrace diversity by challenging them to work together during an in-depth day of role-play exercises, problem solving and other activities.

The Bass High School students who participated came from a range of backgrounds, with many being of the Muslim faith.

“This is part of a longer ongoing program,” Together for Humanity CEO Rabbi Zalman Kastel, who facilitated the day, told The AJN.

“The first time, the kids from Masada went to Bass High and had quite an experience there.”

Rabbi Kastel said students participated in a number of different activities throughout the day.

“We looked at different cultural objects that are significant to the different cultures,” he said.

“We had a Muslim presenter who had a Koran from her grandmother, [while] I showed them a megillah, which tells the story of someone who thought they would try and destroy a people just because they were different.”

Another activity saw the students – split into groups – prioritise what causes were important to them.

“Each group came up with ideas and then they voted,” Rabbi Kastel said.

“One of the ideas that the students from both schools were strongly supportive of is integrating young people from refugee backgrounds into the community.”

A different exercise involved the groups pretending they were stranded on a crocodile-infested island with three different “tribes”, the goal being to get “your people” to safety.

“Then they had to reflect on their response to that; a lot of them saw it as a race where it was about saving their tribe rather than their neighbours,” Rabbi Kastel said.

“What we wanted the students to reflect on is the importance of a community of location … you are one people by virtue of the fact that you’re neighbours.”

Student feedback from the day was overwhelmingly positive.

One student said, “I will look at people in a friendly way and not judge them,” while another said, “I learned that people from different cultures and religions can have many similarities with me.”

Rabbi Kastel said more sessions are being planned.

“We’re looking at next year, putting things together and talking to various schools in all different sectors,” he said.

GARETH NARUNSKY