Jewish and Turkish-Muslim teenagers come together to share experiences through the Peace Builders program. (Source: youngpeacebuilders.org)

In New York, people of all races, religions and opinions are crammed together in a vibrant democracy that has forged a unique situation never seen before in world history. Still, even in a place as diverse as New York, we can still find ourselves divided by color, ethnicity or religious beliefs, a painful reinforcement of centuries old barriers of intolerance. That’s what makes the Young Peace Builders (YPB) of Southern Brooklyn so special. The Young Peace Builders is an organization that consists of teenage Muslims and Jews working together to improve their community.

The Young Peace Builders program was launched three years ago as a cooperative effort by the Kings Bay Y (3495 Nostrand Avenue), a Jewish Community Center, and the Amity School (3867 Shore Parkway), a K-12 school that predominantly serves a Turkish-Muslim student body. The program, recently covered by the Jewish Week, so far for girls only, primarily serves as a symbol for an increased linking between Muslim and Jewish groups in the area as well as a training ground for future leaders in the area of interfaith cooperation.

“This can serve as a template for Jewish-Muslim relationships,” said Leonard Petlakh, executive director of the Kings Bay Y. Rabbi Robert Kaplan, who coordinates the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York City’s outreach to various religious and ethnic groups, calls the Y and Amity School “mainstream organizations … within their [respective] communities,” with the ability to influence their own communities. “There is no reason there should not be more and more” Jewish-Muslim programs like those in southern Brooklyn.

The Jewish Week also described how a large amount of credit for the group’s existence belongs to Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz:

The two religious groups, who were neighbors but virtual strangers to each other, were brought together by State Assembly member Steven Cymbrowitz, whose district includes Sheepshead Bay, Manhattan Beach and part of Brighton Beach; his constituents are Jews and Turkish Muslims. After participating in a legislators’ mission to Turkey a few years ago, he brought leaders of his neighborhood’s Jewish and Turkish communities together.

“It’s through education that we can get to understand each other,” Cymbrowitz told The Jewish Week.

Through the YPB, Jewish and Muslim teens have gone on trips to Israel, Turkey, Boston and Washington DC. On these trips, the teenagers have shared hotel rooms, prepared each other’s meals and celebrated religious holidays together. Teenager Hayrunnisa Kalac expressed the hope that the founders of the program hoped to instill in all its participants.

“We’re planting the seeds of something that can be very big” — an example of tolerance, Kalac told the Jewish Week.

Inspiring stuff and a great read. Check out the full article by clicking here and read more about the Young Peace Builders and their mission by clicking here.

Correction (1:47 p.m.): The original version of this article erroneously referred to the name of the organization as Young Peace Keepers instead of their actual name, Young Peace Builders. We regret the mistake, and any confusion it may have caused.

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  • Muzaffer

    This is

  • Muzaffer

    This is awesome. Very happy to be a pioneer of this program!

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  • Anonymous

    So the program is sexist – for girls only, and you chimps are celebrating? Two groups of idiots hate each other over some bullshit, and when you can get their little hellspawn in a room together without tearing at each others throats, that’s something to celebrate?

    • levp

      You are poised to win the Classiest Comment of the Week award (the prize is our collective groan).
      On the substance: do you prefer that they keep at tearing each other’s throats?

      • Anonymous

        What’s there to celebrate? “Young interfaith relations”? As if it’s some big fucking accomplishment to get some brainwashed kids in a room?

        I’d much prefer to stop brainwashing kids with this religious garbage. (Judaism is a religion, not a race).

        • levp

          I’d much prefer to stop brainwashing kids with this religious garbage.

          I agree. However, the focus of this program is not to advance either of their religious agendas, but rather to find ways to peacefully co-exist. So, considering the alternatives, its a good first step. “Lets not make perfect be the enemy of good”.

          I’ll ask again: do you prefer that they keep at tearing each other’s throats?

          • Anonymous

            was “No” not implied the first time?

            There’s nothing to celebrate if you manage to get a bunch of kids together. It heavily implies that “Look how we can get these violent muslim and jewish beasts to sit in a room without killing each other”.
            As if they’re so filled with hatred that having them in the same room is some kind of accomplishment.

          • levp

            It shouldn’t be an accomplishment, but it is. So I choose to celebrate. It doesn’t mean that we should’n work toward secularizing our society (and the world).
            It is more like when your child makes a first step. You don’t go like “What kind of human is this? Can’t even walk properly!” (Or do you?)

          • Anonymous

            Here’s an analogy:

            Let’s pretend your parents are racist bigots. We put you in a room with a black man, and then throw a party for you for not bashing his skull in. Good job racist, for not acting on your basic bestial instincts!

            Same here except swap racism for jew/muslim hatred.

          • levp

            Right, but you have to start somewhere.
            Say your car breaks down and its 25 miles to the nearest gas station (no cell service). You can sit there and complain about cheaply made cars, or you can start walking…

          • Anonymous

            So you’d be fine with a local news article about you saying how you’re not part of the KKK because you sat next to a black man on the train.

          • levp

            60 years ago – yes, I would.

            Today – muslims:

            Sources told FOX 25 there was an American Airlines flight that was headed to Chicago. There were two men on that plane – not sitting next to each other – and speaking Arabic.
            There were some concerned marathoners on the flight so the plane was brought back to the gate and the two men were escorted off the plane.
            No other details were immediately available.

            http://www.myfoxboston.com/story/21988916/2013/04/16/plane-brought-back-to-gate-at-logan-airport#ixzz2QdbUfrar

  • EndofDaze

    While this is admirable, the uniting of Jewish and Turkish Muslim teenagers is really not necessary. First off, historically, the Turks have never been anti Semites, plus Israel and Turkey, except for a few bumps, have always had cordial relations, and again exist today on the ambassadorial level. Secondly, many Jews escaping Spain during the Spanish Inquisition, were warmly welcomed, and settled in Turkey, though most of them went to Morocco, and many went to England and Holland. Third, the Turks are not Arab Muslims. I’m sure one of the reasons this was done, is that it would be easy to accomplish, and a no brainer. Now, bring some Jewish and Palestinian or Saudi Muslim kids together for some positive dialogue and interaction! That would be an accomplishment!!!

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