Last week, IMAN hosted a student group from the University of Michigan for a week-long Alternative Spring Break (ASB) trip to Chicago. The group, called MuJew, is a student-led organization of Muslim and Jewish students who are committed to building meaningful relationships between the two communities on the Ann Arbor campus. Preparations for the ASB trip with IMAN began last winter and several months later, a robust and diverse agenda was laid out for the group’s week in Chicago.
At the heart of the trip was the direct service project the group did with IMAN’s newest Green ReEntry home. The group worked closely with the Green ReEntry crew to learn the skills necessary to add finishing touches to the home and to build a shed in the backyard that will serve as a storage place for the various tools and supplies necessary to keep the home “green” in the coming years. In addition to the service, the group had the opportunity to meet with a number of community partners and to participate in discussions and workshops at institutions across Chicago’s South Side, focusing on practical interfaith engagement, personal and social identity, community organizing, and faith-driven approaches to social justice work.
One of the pillars of IMAN’s work over the last 15 years has been to connect disconnected communities–to give members of different communities the opportunity to learn from and grow with one another. According to each and every MuJew participant, the experience that was most valuable to them this week was the opportunity to work with and learn directly from the brothers of IMAN’s Green ReEntry program. Said one MuJew participant, “I am forever in the debt of the [Green ReEntry] brothers. They not only have taught me so much, but allowed me to believe in myself”. Another stated that, “Getting to know the brothers exceeded all my expectations. They are some of the smartest people I’ve met and [they] continuously shattered preconceived notions I had in my head.” Some of the informal discussion topics the group engaged in revolved around the broken criminal justice and education systems that lead to astronomical incarceration rates for African American and Latino men.
This is the first time IMAN has hosted a week-long service trip, and staff, participants and leaders were very pleased with the outcome. IMAN hopes that these types of exchanges lead to a deeper understanding of the type of change IMAN aspires to create in the inner-city, and serve as a model for how other faith communities can organize, build alliances based on mutual trust and shared values, and work together to restore dignity and strength to their neighborhoods and institutions. Throughout the course of the year, IMAN aims to continue developing meaningful ways to engage volunteers and supporters in its work in more substantive and sustainable ways.
IMAN wishes to thank the following individuals and institutions for their generous and much appreciated participation in this week’s ASB trip: Rabbi Ariana Silverma; Ms. Hind Makki; Chicago Theological Seminary; Jewish Council on Urban Affairs; University of Chicago’s Spiritual Life Office, Hillel Center, and Muslim Students Association; KAM Isaiah Israel Congregation; Mosque Maryam; Muhammad University of Islam; and Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation.