by Natalie Zamansky
Playdates are not easy to squeeze into our busy schedule and they're even harder to prioritize when I don't know the child’s parents. But, for the past several weeks, our daughter, Mia (age 6), has been asking for a playdate with her friend Nahla from school. I don't know Nahla well, and I don’t know her mother at all, which has been part of the barrier for making plans.
When I heard about the Love Your Neighbor event at the Northwest Islamic Community Center (NWICC) in partnership with Adath, I went out on a limb (nervously) ... and sent this email to Nahla's mom:
Subject: Sunday Event - Love Your Neighbor
Hi Barlin, I hope you're having a great week!
I was talking with Mia after school today and she mentioned wanting to get together with Nahla. Then, it occurred to me that you might be interested in attending an event with us on Sunday afternoon at the NorthWest Islamic Community Center from 2-5pm. It's an event put on by our synagogue to help build bridges in our local Jewish and Muslim communities. It would be wonderful if your family wanted to join ours for this low key afternoon of sharing. Let me know what you think!
Obviously, no pressure too, if not we can find another time for the girls to get together outside of school.
I waited anxiously for the response and prayed that Mia wouldn't be disappointed should Nahla's mom decline the invitation. But, to my absolutely delight, I received the following reply:
We attend that mosque on Sunday mornings for their Sunday school. I would love to get to together there. It would be a fun day!
Thank You, Barlin!
Mia was overwhelmed with excitement for our weekend plan and felt proud that I had finally "done something" to help make a difference by committing to this experience with them. Making this gesture feel that much more meaningful, I later earned from Mia that Nahla's family is from Somalia; her father is still there for several years at least and her mother has very few friends outside of their family/community.
But, what was really unexpected and meaningful happened at the event. When we entered the social hall at NWICC, it was nearly impossible for me to differentiate anyone in the sea of Muslim women and men. However, in less than 1 minute, Mia, my Jewish child, was running full speed ahead toward her friend, a little Muslim girl wearing hijab, meeting at the center of the room in full embrace (with dancing hugs), an innocent expression of friendship that in this setting symbolized so much more...
Nahla and her family (in addition to all of the unbelievably hospitable, kind and generous community members at NWICC) proceeded to welcome others of our Jewish friends at the event in conversation, show us all around the facility and teach us much about their tradition. We even participated in the afternoon prayers where Nahla helped me wrap by head and cued me on when to kneel and stand.
Other than knowing that Nahla is Muslim and we are Jewish, never once did Mia think twice about being different from her friend. For the entire afternoon, Mia and Nahla unknowingly set a wonderful example for our communities through their pure, honest friendship without any judgment. They give me so much hope for the future.
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