On June 14th, NewGround change-maker Jason Velazquez, a gay Muslim man from Florida, shared his reflections on the tragedy in Orlando and a moment of silence with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti at the beautiful interfaith iftar hosted by the City of Los Angeles Human Relations Commission.
NewGround fellows design projects to connect with and improve their communities.
Our recently graduated professional fellows have developed some amazing projects over the past 8 months. Take a look:
Interfaith Shabbat Dinner in Support for Refugees: Muslims and Jews gathered together to share an evening of prayer, food, and thought provoking discussion. Fellows bridged communities and began a thought-provoking and inspiring discussion about one of the many crises facing our world and learned to act as protectors for one another in times of need.
Interfaith Podcast: Fellows record and produce an interfaith podcast that showcases conversations about common lifestyle struggles that exist in both the Muslim and Jewish communities. Emotional barriers are broken down as they share their stories.
Meet Pray Love: Fellows created opportunities for people of different faiths to experience one another’s traditions and prayer spaces through the simple act of visiting during a regularly scheduled service. Inspired by their own transformative experience of coming together as Muslims and Jews, the fellows foster familiarity and friendship, the seeds of which are already present but too often lack the conditions to nurture their growth.
MiND_Kit: This initiative provides necessary and innovative skills and resources to middle school children in South Central LA. Through community collaborations, computer hardware and programming tools are introduced to young children in hopes to empower the community. Fellows will develop a workshop curriculum at local universities and colleges to serve as an incentive for youth to attend the resource hubs as an alternative to potentially engaging in criminal activity.
Muslim and Jewish Kids for Change: The Silverlake Independent Jewish Community Center (SIJCC) and Islamic Center of Southern California (ICSC) bring their Sunday Schools together to learn about each other while giving back to the community. For their first meeting, the groups met at the Islamic Center for an interfaith exchange. The kids connected with one another as they learned about the many similarities between their religions and assembled hygiene kits and bagged lunches for the homeless. Get a beautiful and inspiring sense of the day here.
On June 8th, 350 Muslims and Jews came together at the historic Wilshire Boulevard Temple to connect and build relationships across faith traditions, and to honor this year’s graduates of the Professional Fellowship program. NewGround’s community iftar and fellowship celebration is the single largest gathering of Muslims and Jews held during Ramadan in Los Angeles. Many thanks to our sponsors, donors, guests, event co-chairs, board, interns and volunteers who helped make the evening memorable for all!
NewGround Change-makers at Wrestling Jerusalem: NewGround Facilitator, Ramin Nematollahi, Speaks on a Panel at the Pico Union Project:
Wrestling Jerusalem is a dynamic one-man play tackling the very complex discussion on the Israeli and Palestinian conflict through the eyes of numerous characters created by Aaron Davidman. The play exemplified the power and sanctity of listening. Listening to different ideas, different views, and different people, all seemingly looking for a solution, perhaps being the solution.
I had the honor and privilege of serving on a discussion panel to reflect on the play. I spoke about the correlation between NewGround’smission of transforming communities by bringing together Jewish and Muslim change makers and engaging in intentional and active listening in an effort to support a process of collaboration.
I also spoke about the overall complexity of the issue and the challenging but necessary task to steer away from polarizing detractors so that the gates to communication do not collapse
Do you have a Change-maker story you would like to share with us?