Unlike most middle-class 16-year-olds, Annie Rose London of Hoboken, N.J., feels comfortable in homeless shelters. She has volunteered at several, and at soup kitchens in the New York area, for a few years.
And unlike most American Jewish teens, London, an active member of the Habonim Dror Zionist organization, feels comfortable with Muslims. She has many Muslim friends at High-Tech High School in North Bergen, where she is a junior.
Now, London has added a new experience. She is a member of Project Provide a Home, a newly founded organization that has brought together 20 teen-age girls (10 Jews and 10 Muslims) to coordinate an interfaith fundraising dinner for the PERC (Palisades Emergency Residence Corporation) Family Shelter, a facility being constructed in Union City.
The event will take place Sunday, Dec. 18 in the Fair Lawn Athletic Club.
The teens have met every other week at the extant shelter sponsored by PERC to plan the kosher, vegetarian dinner. They talk about logistics and "regular things" like music and schoolwork, London says. "We’re not allowed to talk about politics at all," she says. They also avoid discussing religion.
For most of the project’s participants, who attend day schools of their religious faiths, this is their first extended exposure to each other’s culture. "You see how much the two faiths have in common," London says. PERC executive director Matt Kamin, and Amal Abdallah, a shelter volunteer and Muslim activist, designed the project to promote support for the family shelter among residents of Union City, which includes large Jewish and Muslim communities, London says.
"The project gives the teenagers the chance to prove that Jews and Muslims can get along peacefully, create strong bonds with each other, and become close friends," according to a statement released by PERC.
The dinner will feature speeches by a rabbi and imam, and will include Jewish and Muslim entertainment. The teens, who enjoy working on the ad hoc interfaith group, hope it will continue after Sunday’s dinner, London says. "We want to make it a permanent group. I hope it doesn’t end."
For information about the dinner, call (201) 348-8150.