Communities in Harmony

March 28, 2014 by J-Wire Staff
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With race hate legislation being wound back in Canberra last week, 120 students from a range of cultural backgrounds – including Muslim, Greek, Jewish, Catholic, Anglican and Islander – met for a harmony program named ‘Respect, Understanding, Acceptance’ under the auspices of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies.

Emanuel's Yarden Erez-Rein, Dana Rutner and Ruby Goldman Al Faisel's Amaani Siddeek and  Nour Dehen

Emanuel’s Yarden Erez-Rein, Dana Rutner and Ruby Goldman
Al Faisel’s Amaani Siddeek and Nour Dehen

It was part of a bridge building program which brings together over 1000 students a year, delivering a strong anti racism message. Minister for Communities and Citizenship Victor Dominello gave an inspiring keynote address.
The 10th anniversary of the program – which now includes Indigenous students for the first time – attracted seven schools. Dominello urged  the students to take on leadership roles  to help to build a better society. It is important for them to start now and in their communities, with their friends and families, so that as young people they can make a difference and build a better Australia which can then serve as a model for other countries to emulate, he said.
He concluded with a quote from Albert Einstein; “Try not to become a man of success, but rather man of value”.
His message was an inspiring start to a day of meaningful discussions between the students, cultural presentations from each of the schools,  as well as an activity where the students identified strategies that they could adopt to counter racism. The program concluded with an anti-racism message from Board CEO Vic Alhadeff, followed by cultural dances and songs from the students – including Islander dances, Greek Orthodox dances, Israeli dancing and a poem for peace.
The program has been “a phenomenal success since its inception”, Dominello said. “I congratulate the Board of Deputies for its stewardship of the program. This initiative serves to educate students  about the impact of racism and enables invaluable connections to be made between students of different faith groups. discussing with them ways to foster tolerance and understanding within our unique multicultural society. The message is simple: through learning, friendship and advocacy, together we can build a more tolerant society.”
The following schools participated: Kambala, All Saints Greek Orthodox, Granville Boys High, Mater Maria Catholic College, Emanuel School,  St Vincents’ College Potts Point, Al Faisal College, Sydney Secondary College Leichhardt Campus.
“The program started 10 years ago with 20 Catholic, 20 Jewish and 20 Muslim students and has grown exponentially,” said Alhadeff. “Clearly, some racism comes from the home, and that is where the real challenge is,” Alhadeff added. “We aim to counter the negative messages, the bigoted messages, coming from the home. And we make the point that there is no such thing as a bystander. If you’re a bystander, you’re part of the problem.”

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