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Abraham’s Vision – February 2009 Newsletter

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Dear Friends,

With the start of the spring semester we are looking forward to many exciting Unity Program events while Vision Program fellows prepare for their final official group gathering at their spring retreat. We are also busy preparing for our summer programs: the fourth annual Vision Program Fellowship and the first annual Beyond Bridges: Balkans Program offered through our Center for Transformative Education.
In this issue:

AV Accepting 2009-10 Vision Program Applications
2008-09 Vision Program Fellowship: Final Retreat and Community Presentations
Social Justice Workshop for AV Alumni and Current Students
• Vision Program: Presentations and Upcoming Final Retreat
• Unity Program NY/NJ
• Unity Programs Bay Area
• Recent Workshops and Presentations
• In Other News… Upcoming Presentations and Workshops
• Student’s Speak

AV Accepting 2009-10 Vision Program Applications
2008-09 Vision Program fellows outside of Sarejevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina.
2008-09 Vision Program fellows outside of Sarejevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina.

We are now accepting applications for the 2009-10 Vision Program. This ten-month fellowship, affiliated with the University of San Francisco’s Center for Global Education, begins with a month-long trip to the Balkans, meeting activists and scholars alike in Serbia, Kosovo, and Bosnia-Herzegovnia. Students study the Balkan wars of the 1990s in an effort to re-examine the seemingly intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict. During the academic year immediately following the summer students engage in two four-day conferences, aimed to empower them to engage with students on their campus, and organize campus and community presentations, helping them articulate their own activist voices.

The Vision Program’s goals are to (a) empower participants to heighten their self-awareness, paying particular attention to their political selves; (b) develop their critical thinking; and (c) examine how such thinking manifests itself in Jewish-Palestinian relations both in the US and the Middle East.

For more on the Vision Program, click here.
To apply, click here.

2008-09 Vision Program Fellowship: Final Retreat and Community Presentations
 Upcoming Vision Program presentation at Yale University.
Upcoming Vision Program presentation at Yale University.

FINAL RETREAT: At the end of March, 2008-09 Vision Program students will meet for their last official gathering. For the first time we are hosting this retreat in San Francisco, where AV is based, and, more importantly, the students are designing their own retreat! Co-chaired by three current VP fellows, the participants are creating a final retreat based on their own needs and wants.

COMMUNITY PRESENTATIONS: Since August 2008 current VP students have been giving presentations on their summer experiences in the Balkans in both on-campus and home-community settings. For example, on the campus of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, VP fellows Hala Borno, Dana Depietro, and Yasmeen Zamamiri have already led two presentations, while at Yale University Jeremy Avins is giving a presentation entitled, “Rekindling the Light: Jewish Reflections on the Jewish State.” Rutgers University student Avi Smolen gave a talk at his synagogue back in August, gave an on-campus presentation, and even published an article in a local newspaper. A full list of previous and upcoming VP fellows’ presentations will be posted on our website shortly.

Social Justice Workshop for AV Alumni and Current Particpants
AV workshop participants sharing their various understandings of the idea 'social justice'
AV workshop participants sharing their various understandings of the idea ‘social justice’.

Two weeks ago Vision and Unity Program alumni and current students gathered for a social justice activism workshop held at the University of San Francisco. Co-Executive Directors Aaron Hahn Tapper and Huda Abu Arqoub led participants in an exploration of the definitions of social justice, followed by self-reflection exercises and a discussion surrounding effective activist practices.

This was the first joint Unity-Vision program held by Abraham’s Vision, giving current Vision Program fellows the opportunity to meet alumni from each of the past three years, and current Unity Program students the chance to meet those who have participated in our Vision Program. Although all the workshop participants live in the Bay Area, most of these students were meeting each other for the first time. Current Vision Program fellows said they plan to use what they learned at the workshop during their spring retreat, which will take place at the end of March.

Unity Program – NY/NJ
Unity Program participants from the Al-Iman and Solomon Schechter schools during a recent inter-school fieldtrip, which involved a scavenger hunt.
Unity Program participants from the Al-Iman and Solomon Schechter schools during a recent inter-school fieldtrip, which involved a scavenger hunt.

February marked the end of the 2008-09 Unity Program for the Solomon Schechter students. Over the past month they focused on leadership development, exploring the many ways they can use their experiences and knowledge gained in the Unity Program to continue the process of conflict transformation, intergroup work, and learning with and from the ‘other.’ One of the students’ activities involved their applying lessons learned to a hypothetical situation involving inter-communal conflict on their future college campuses. Schechter students also completed their final projects, which included a discussion of modesty and feminism, a series of interviews with Muslims and Jews on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and a look at collaborative Jewish-Muslim theater, among others.

Al-Iman students met with guest speaker Bahir Mustafa, a member of the NYPD and an activist in the Muslim community. Mr. Mustafa spoke about the power Muslims, as a community, have for creating positive change. The students at Al-Iman continued their discussion of leadership and explored the many ways they can be effective leaders.

The inter-school component of the 2008-09 Unity Program NYC/NJ concluded with a final fieldtrip. Schechter and Al-Iman students traveled to two distinct Brooklyn neighborhoods, Bay Ridge and Borough Park, where they participated in a team video scavenger hunt, answering specific questions about the cultural, religious, social, and political aspects of these particular Muslim and Jewish communities. They also had the opportunity to interview people from different communities and take photos of various Muslim and Jewish artifacts.

Unity Programs Bay Area
Unity Program participants from ICCNC and Midrasha went on an inter-school fieldtrip to the Asian Art Museum, where they looked at an exhibition of Islamic culture and art, and the Contemporary Jewish Museum, where they saw Andy Warhol exhibit on 'famous Jews.'
Unity Program participants from ICCNC and Midrasha went on an inter-school fieldtrip to the Asian Art Museum, where they looked at an exhibition of Islamic culture and art, and the Contemporary Jewish Museum, where they saw Andy Warhol exhibit on ‘famous Jews.’

The Bay Area Unity Programs have had a spectacular month of dynamic guest speakers and an exciting field trip. In the East Bay, ICCNC students met with Rabbi Dardik of Congregation Beth Jacob (Oakland) to learn about Jewish history, denominations, and holidays. Rabbi Dardik also brought out Torah scrolls for students to see, and chanted some of the text to give the students a feeling of the ways that the Torah can be recited. In the South Peninsula, PHH students met with Bhawana Kamil, our Muslim American Society liaison. Students enjoyed her overview of Islam’s five pillars as well as her personal account of making the Hajj, the sacred pilgrimage to Mecca. Dror Post, Abraham’s Vision Co-Senior Facilitator, also spoke at both MAS (Peninsula) and Midrasha (East Bay). His talk was very moving and shared an important voice for both the Muslim and Jewish students, that of a self-defined secular Israeli..

In addition, students from Midrasha and ICCNC went on an art filled inter-school fieldtrip. The day began at the Asian Art Museum, where students visited two special exhibits, “Arts of the Islamic World from Turkey to Indonesia” and “Afghanistan: Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul.” Students also participated in a Scavenger Hunt in the gallery of Art from the Islamic World, where they looked at calligraphy, ceramic and metal ware, rugs, paintings, manuscripts, and puppets. After relaxing together at the Yerba Buena Gardens, the students then visited “Warhol’s Jews: 10 Portraits of Jews of the 20th Century” at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. The students had a chance to speak about the notable figures whose portraits they viewed, including Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, and the Marx Brothers.

Recent Workshops and Presentations
Participants listen attentively at a recent Abraham's Vision presentation sponsored by the Oshman Family JCC (Palo Alto, CA).
Participants listen attentively at a recent Abraham’s Vision presentation sponsored by the Oshman Family JCC (Palo Alto, CA).

WESTCHESTER, NY: On Feb 8th, Unity Program NY/NJ Co-Educators Marjon Kashani and Jessie Lanoil led a comparative text workshop for members of Rosh Pinah, a Jewish group in Westchester, NY. The group studied the story of Joseph/Yusuf in the Torah and the Qur’an as an entry point into understanding conflict resolution and transformation. Marjon guided participants through the meaning of particular aspects of the story as depicted in the Qur’an. Participants then jumped into a lively discussion about the resolution of the conflict between Joseph/Yusuf and his brothers, and how the lessons of these stories may be applied to the Israeli-Palestinian.

REDWOOD CITY, CA: On the same day, Co-Executive Director Aaron Hahn Tapper led participants in a discussion and textual analysis around the theme of “dialogue” at Congregation Beth Jacob in Redwood City, CA. Participants looked at texts from Martin Buber and Rav Kook to Feisal Abdul Rauf to Mohammad Jinnah, discussed key components of what it means to have intra-communal and inter-communal conversations around difficult topics such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This was a very successful first class in the four-part series.

SAN FRANCISCO: This past month, Aaron Hahn Tapper also spoke at UpStart, an organization focused on advancing early stage Jewish non-profits, and at a Jewish study group. Whereas with UpStarters Hahn Tapper shared some of his experiences working in the non-profit world, with members of the Jewish study group he spoke about the work of Abraham’s Vision.

In Other News… Upcoming Presentations and Workshops

“Voices of Vision in Violent Times”
Saturday, February 21, 10:30AM, Congregation Beth Am: Co-Executive Directors Abu Arqoub and Hahn Tapper will share their individual and collective vision of ways to end the seemingly intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict. During the morning Shabbat service participants will learn about how AV works with diverse communities to increase understanding and the capacity for peaceful coexistence. Following the service, the community will gather together for lunch and further discussion with the guest speakers.

From Isaac and Ishmael to Israel and Palestine: Biblical Roots of Conflict and Reconciliation”
Sunday, March 1, 2-4 PM, San Francisco, JCCSF: As part of the Bible by the Bay program, and in co-sponsorship with Lehrhaus Judaica, Hahn Tapper will lead participants in a text study examining passages from the Hebrew Bible that are connected to the dominant Jewish and Muslim narratives today, exploring how these interpretations play a role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Second Part of “Israel at 60: Peace in Israel and Palestine?”
Sunday, March 1, 7PM,
Congregation Beth Jacob: Hahn Tapper will continue the second class in a four-part course introducing alternative perspectives regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In this class, Hahn Tapper will lead participants in a text study addressing the greatest challenge to the Zionism dream raised by the founders of the movement itself. Looking at texts written by individuals such as David Ben Gurion, Ahad Ha’am, Theodor Herzl, and Ze’ev Jabotinsky, among others, the group will discuss  various views of the local Palestinian Arab population then living in the Holy Land and how this (un)expectedly foreshadowed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that continues to exists today. Participants who did not attend part one of the series must make advanced reservations with Eitan Trabin, eitan@abrahamsvision.org, in order to attend part two.

“Wrestling with Reconciliation – Lunch and Learn”
Saturday, March 7, 1PM,
Netivot Shalom: Co-Executive Directors Abu Arqoub and Hahn Tapper will lead a text study in which participants will analyze and discuss different components of the conflict and reconciliation processes by studying the seemingly problematic relationship between Joseph and his brothers as depicted in both the Torah and the Qur’an.

“Conversations: Difficult Dialogues”
Sunday, March 15, 9:30AM,
Grace Cathedral: Co-Executive Directors Abu Arqoub and Hahn Tapper will discuss their educational work with Abraham’s Vision followed by a Question and Answer session with participants.

Student’s Speak
In this feature, we highlight the transformations taking place
using our students’ own words. To view additional student
reflections, visit our Vision and Unity weblogs.

Unity Programs

“It seems to me that there are many more similarities between Muslims and Jews that our stereotypes suggest. Learning about the traditions of Islam and the eclectic demographic that follows said traditions makes me question what it really is that we’re after. We can’t simply ask for acceptance until we can find and deal with whatever fears we hold. We each have an image of the other that is both unfair and inaccurate. Hopefully our involvement in this program will allow us to reach out to those who cling to their prejudice”.

Aaron Breetwor (Peninsula Havurah High -SF).


“As the course is progressing the classes seems to be getting more interesting. On Tuesday February 3, 2009, we were visited by a guest speaker, Officer Mustafa. He is an officer in the Bronx. In my opinion he was by far the most interesting guest speaker. He was very blunt and to the point. I thought the class with him was very inspirational. His life accounts and activities are moral rising. The way he coops as a Muslim cop with a beard is exceptional. I really respect his courage to stand up and represent the Muslim community in the manner which all of us should be doing. I was very much delighted to see that there are still people who struggle to better the image of Muslims in America, who struggle to show the world that not all Muslims are terrorists. There are misguided people in all faiths but we can not label an entire community based on the actions of just a few misled followers…” continued.

– Aisha Ashfaq (Al-Iman School — NY/NJ)

HOW ARE WE DIFFERENT?

Abraham’s Vision is a conflict transformation organization that explores group and individual identities through experiential and political education. Examining social relations within and between the Jewish, Muslim, Israeli, and Palestinian communities, we empower participants to practice just alternatives to the status quo.

We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit conflict transformation organization, dedicated to creating a new generation of leaders empowered and committed to improving our world. Our distinct vision is based on the following principles:

  • Equal Partnerships: We are committed to equal partnerships across ethnic, religious, and gender lines. This commitment is reflected in our organizational structure as well as our long-term programs, workshops, and presentations.
  • Experiential Learning: We are committed to creative forms of education that both recognize the importance of content-based teaching and value individual and group participant experiences.
  • Encounters: We approach inter-group encounters as a reflection of the political realities in which we live, utilizing them as a central element of our educational approach.
  • Political Education: We focus on individual and collective relationships within current political realities, placing the relationship between individuals and groups at the center of the educational experience rather than analyzing political developments as something separate from students.
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