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‘See all the connections’: Jewish and Islamic schools in museum exchange

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The exchange program steers clear of politics and the poisoned relations between the Arab and Israeli nations.

“It’s an opportunity for us to, from a Muslim perspective, emphasise the importance of getting to know other faiths and respect other faiths,” Ms Hassan says.

Not that students don’t bowl up some curly questions of their own.

Alice Freeman, the education and programs officer at the Jewish Museum, recalls a student from a Jewish school asking Islamic students about anti-Semitism, and whether Islamic people experience similar persecution.

The question was, in its way, an attempt to draw a connection between the two faiths, something students who participate in the program are often eager to do, Ms Freeman says.

“For the most part, it’s, ‘how do you celebrate your faith?’, ‘how does prayer work?; and they love stories about festivals and so on.”

Students from East Preston Islamic College are shown a replica of the Torah inside the Jewish Museum of Australia.

Students from East Preston Islamic College are shown a replica of the Torah inside the Jewish Museum of Australia.Credit:Scott McNaughton

In posing questions about faith to children from another religion, students also learn more about their own culture and how their own religious observances often differ from their classmates’, she says.

Wednesday’s museum visit was the first time students at East Preston Islamic College participated in the program. The school’s head of primary, Coryn Bretag, said most of her students’ understanding of Jewish people was limited to glimpses of the news and word from within their community about Israel and Palestine.

“Our children are very much in a Muslim bubble, so they don’t know a lot about other faiths,” Ms Bretag said.

“They’ve been astounded at how much is so similar, from the shape of the synagogue to the shape of the mosque with its domes, the fact they are segregated, that they don’t eat pork … so they can see all the connections and it’s been eye-opening to them.”

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