At the end of the Poetry Pals program, we host an Interfaith Community Evening to give the students a chance to share their work and facilitate dialogue among parents and other adults from different faith communities. We invite students, teachers, and members of the community into one location to celebrate the Poetry Pals mission, which is to build bridges and relationships among young people and their communities to foster understanding, cooperation and peace in a multicultural and multi-faith society.
2015 Interfaith Community Evening
On March 11th, 2015, more than 150 people came together for Poetry Pals’ Interfaith Community Evening, featuring poetry and performances by Muslim, Jewish and Catholic 4th grade students and an interfaith community dialogue. Attendess included staff, parents and students from three participating schools MCC Academy, our host in Skokie, Sacred Heart Catholic School and Chicago Jewish Day School, as well as dozens of other community members interested in sharing and celebrating religious diversity.
Leaders from each school expressed the importance of children’s interfaith experiences and thanked Poetry Pals for the opportunity to learn from each other, and the crowd got a chance to experience some Poetry Pals activities and watch a video of the year’s highlights.
While the students left the gym to rehearse their end-of-the-evening performances, parents, families and community members got a chance to share more about traditions and practices most meaningful to Muslims, Jews, Catholics and others. They formed small groups to share more about holidays and interfaith issues in their community.
“This was a great way to conclude our year’s program, throughout which students got a chance to host, visit, write poetry with, and learn from others from different religious backgrounds,” said Poetry Pals Director Adam Shames. “Tonight was a wonderful opportunity for parents and community members to not only see the kids perform poems they wrote together, but to talk with others of different faiths who have more in common than they may have realized.”
Here is a sample poem from the evening, written by students:
At the Holy Place
At the mosque, I see the Imam reciting the prayer
And the women are wearing hijabs to cover their hair
At the synagogue I hear the cantor reading from the Torah
At the wedding, we dance the hora
I smell the candles burning in the chapel
While learning about Jesus preaching to his disciples
This is what happens at the holy place!
2014 Interfaith Community Evening
On March 12th, 2014, more than 200 people came together for our special Interfaith Community Evening, featuring poetry and performances by Muslim, Jewish and Catholic 4th grade students and an interfaith community dialogue. Participating Schools included: Sacred Heart Catholic School (host), Solomon Schechter Jewish Day School, MCC Full Time Muslim School, and Chicago Jewish Day School. “It was a wonderful opportunity for community members, parents and friends to not only see the kids perform poems they wrote together, but to talk with others of different faiths who have more in common than they may have realized,” said Poetry Pals Director Adam Shames. The event combined two different programs–the Chicago Hub and the Northern Suburbs Hub–to celebrate the collaboration among 250 students from four schools throughout the school year.
Holidays Connect us in Joy
On Eid al-Fitr, we smell sweet cherry blossom perfume.
We see beautiful colors that make us flutter.
We hear an early call to prayer and after
we go to the beautiful mosque to pray,
we have a big feast in a restaurant out east.
On Hanukah, we see the dancing lights and the tall candles.
We smell frying delicious golden latkes on the sizzling stove,
and taste the chocolatey gelt and gooey jelly doughnuts.
On Christmas, I hear the fat jiggly belly of santa
plop in my warm fireplace. My best friend giggles,
happily and loudly. I can see the glowing lights on the
bright green tree with heavy presents underneath.
Our holidays connect us in joy, our senses alive,
our differences aside, we are one family. (PP13-14)
Snapshots from the Holy Place
In the church the rainbow-colored stained glass windows glow
behind the maple brown tabernacle.
There are flickering yellow flames of snow-white candles.
In the mosque the ceilings are high
and the soft fluffy carpet is clean.
In the synagogue I feel the bright sun’s warmth
on my siddur’s buttons
and when it is dark I see a spark of light. (PP 13-14)
2013 Interfaith Community Evening
This year, we held two community evenings to celebrate completion of Poetry Pals programs in three hubs that included six Chicago-area schools.
Chicago and Northern Suburbs Hub
The first of our 2013 Community Evenings, hosted by MCC on March 10, 2013, featured a large crowd of families and community members who enjoyed poetry and performances by Muslim, Jewish and Catholic 4th/5th grade students from four schools. We also held an interfaith community dialogue among adults and families in attendance.
Here is one of several poems written and performed by a tri-faith group of students:
We are mint green, seafoam green,
glow-in-the-dark green and lime green
We are enchanted castles, Marco Island beaches,
my secret hideout, and in the pool
We are guinea pigs, golden retrievers, bottlenose dolphins,
and tiny furry baby monkeys
We are corndogs, BBQ shrimp in Alfredo sauce,
spicy biryani and mashed potatoes
We are wavy rivers, flowering pink cherry trees, the cool breeze of a fall day, and sleeping on crunchy leaves
We are Italy, Morocco, Poland and India
We are Catholic and Muslim, Islam and Christian
We are friends!
Western Suburbs/Lombard Hub
And on April 10th, our Western Suburbs hub celebrated their program completion with their own second Interfaith Community Evening, bringing together family and friends from St. Pius X Catholic School and Islamic Foundation School (IFS) from the Lombard area. The evening featured dialogue, discussion and poetry and performances from 4th and 5th graders from both schools–as well as a special visit to the mosque for evening prayer.
Spinter is the time of year when winter is combined with spring
When suddenly the white snow disappears
and the birds start chirping
Winter is ending, spring begins
The pink sweet smelling flowers are blossoming
The frozen water flows and rainbows appear in the sky
Longer days and shorter nights
Let’s have fun and play in the sun’s bright light
Suddenly it’s warm with a rainstorm
There are many flowers with color powers
2012 Interfaith Community Evening
On Tuesday, February 21, 2012, Poetry Pals hosted our City/Northern Hub Interfaith Community Evening, featuring dialogue among adults and poetry and performances by Muslim, Jewish and Catholic 4th grade students.
It was Chicago neighbors coming together for an interfaith evening celebrating our cultures … with approximately 200 family and community members in attendance! Article and more pictures here.
2011 Interfaith Community Evening
At the conclusion of their Poetry Pals program, 4th and 5th grade students from St. Pius X and Islamic Foundation School met for an interfaith community celebration. Students presented their poetry while families and friends gathered to listen, socialize, and have a community dialogue with people of other faiths. Below are some pictures from the event, as well as a few poetry samples.
“Recipe for Friendship”
Take 2 people
Put in 4 tablespoons of laughter and lots of fun
Add 2 ounces of trust and honesty
Mix in no more than a pinch of anger and jealousy
And modesty with acceptance
Along with 2 cups of not-annoying
Then stir lightly and add loving conversation, lots of kindness
And 3 cups of awesome energy and positive attitude
Let sit overnight
Put in the oven
Remove when it is different, but the same
Out comes 8 gallons of fun
And you have a new friend!
“Friends are Always There for You”
Friends are always there for you
That will make you want more than two.
Your friends will always put a smile on your face
even if you lose the race.
If you are ever stuck in a quarry
they will tell you a funny story.
Friends will make you laugh
as you share snacks.
They will have your back when a bully attacks
And when you have a bad day
they will put it in a good way.
When you tell a friend a secret
they will always keep it
There is no such thing as too many friends.
And a friend is a friend to the very end!