KidSpirit

Building Bridges

Connection and IsolationInterfaith Connections

The Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom (SoSS) is a Muslim-Jewish interfaith organization that we, Grace and Biruni, are honored to be teen members of. The Sisterhood has helped us and many other women grasp the importance of community and connection.

Grace:

My name is Grace Doyle and I am a Jewish teen from Rhode Island. In addition to being a co-leader of my SoSS chapter, I enjoy competing for my high school track and soccer teams.

I first became involved in the SoSS in early fall of 2020. My friend was approached by our rabbi with the prospect of being a co-leader. Later, I was asked if I wanted to be involved as one of the first members of the Rhode Island SoSS chapter. At the time, there wasn’t a Rhode Island chapter. My friend told me about the opportunity, and I was immediately interested. When I came to my first meeting I was excited about how low pressure and kind the overall environment was. Afterward, I became a regular member and looked forward to interacting with the girls in my chapter.

The Sisterhood provides space for building community, fostering friendships, and a place uniquely for Muslim/Jewish teen girls — an interfaith demographic of religious minorities — which increases belonging and understanding in a space in which people are both similar to and different from you.

My religious identity is about community and culture. I feel most connected to Judaism when I am with my family and friends celebrating Jewish holidays: lighting the candles on Hanukkah, eating matzah on Passover, or preparing break-fast after a day of fasting on Yom Kippur. When I practice these traditions that have been passed down through generations upon generations, I feel extremely connected to my religion.

Through SoSS, faith has become an extremely prevalent and meaningful part of my individual identity. Because I only recently got involved in SoSS, I have only attended virtual events through Zoom. When the Zoom meeting ends, I feel uplifted and connected to each and every participant in SoSS, no matter the religion.

Faith has given me something to turn to. In times of stress or sadness I know that I can always rely on my faith to guide me. Judaism is a continuous, unwavering aspect of my life that will always be there. Having a steady spiritual component affects my daily life by making me feel grounded and steady.

Biruni:

I’m Biruni Hariadi, a Muslim teen living in Arizona.

In January 2020, my friend Drew asked me to start a chapter of SoSS with her. I responded, “Sure.”

I already knew a bit about the organization from what Drew had said in passing: it was an interfaith organization for Muslim and Jewish women, working out of many small chapters spread out across the United States. After surfing the website, I learned that each chapter had two co-leaders, one of each faith, and that there were 10 or so teen chapters already established.

I was interested and on board, but not overly enthusiastic. I had never gotten involved in interfaith initiatives before. A leadership role seemed completely out of my comfort zone. More than anything, I doubted the effectiveness of interfaith activity. Was it too idealistic? Could interfaith work truly make me a more caring, thoughtful person? Was it really anything more than a resume booster?

After over a year of building and co-leading an SoSS chapter, I am doubt free. The conversations we’ve had have taught me so much about not only Judaism, but Islam as well.

Before the Sisterhood, I saw my religious identity as an assortment of practices and ideas. Islam is the five minutes it takes to put on my hijab and the five times I pray daily. Islam is believing in one God, Allah, and his Messenger, the prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him.

This perception was good, but incomplete. The piece I was missing can be found in a term the Sisterhood uses frequently: “lived religion.” What does that actually mean?

“Lived religion” is perhaps best exemplified by an icebreaker activity Drew and I set up for our chapter, featuring clues like: “Prophet Muhammad’s cousin” (Ali) and “Ashkenazi Jewish style of folk music” (klezmer). For me and Drew, these clues were simple. Islam and Judaism 101. But they had a lot of our members stumped.

For me, having gone to Islamic school for half of my life, the name of the Prophet’s cousin was a no-brainer. But for the other Muslim girls in our chapter who hadn’t attended Islamic school, this wasn’t easily accessible knowledge.

I have always been Muslim, but my involvement in SoSS has helped me understand and appreciate what it means to be a Muslim, in all its different forms. Where someone’s parents come from, where they live, and infinitely many more factors result in a unique lived Islam. You can take different paths to reach the same place. The same goes for Judaism.

A few months ago, my mother observed that I’ve become more patient and confident, and she attributed it to my SoSS involvement. I think she’s right. With every chapter meeting, I learn even more and am more inspired to act with respect and kindness in everything I do.

Grace and Biruni:

Oftentimes, when people imagine Muslim and Jewish people coming together, they expect friction. But with SoSS, we build bridges, foster a welcoming community, and connect through interfaith relations. What immediately comes to mind upon hearing “Muslim and Jewish interfaith organization” is Israel-Palestine. Growing up Muslim or Jewish, the conflict is something you hear a lot about. It’s polarizing and important, but it does not need to be central to the conversations our chapters have. In fact, our conversations need not be centered on faith. We can just talk, heart to heart, and isn’t that what sisterhood is?

Of course, many of our conversations are faith-based; that is the nature of interfaith work. But it is the connections, the “inter” rather than the “faith,” that are the most important part, and what continues to inspire us in our work with SoSS and beyond.

The beautiful thing about SoSS is not only the connections we form, but how we utilize them. The Sisterhood stands for shared values, such as social justice and respect. We serve our communities and speak up against bigotry and hate.

Although these values are integral to SoSS and our mission, it doesn’t take membership in the Sisterhood to apply them to your own life. Together, let’s work towards a more just, understanding world where building bridges between communities is the norm and the power of connection is fully realized.

Grace Doyle is a 10th grader at Classical High School in Rhode Island. She hopes to pursue investigative journalism in the future and enjoys playing soccer and running. Biruni Hariadi is a high school student from Arizona.

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