The Society for Love & Justice is the actualization of all that I have learned and consequently been inspired to do. It is where abstract convictions meet concrete developments. It is where idealism meets action. It is where I can make a meaningful difference in others, reflect my personal growth on my environment, and feel accomplished having come full circle, from inner development to outer development.
In our first project we collected and sent school supplies to rebuild the educational system in Iraq via Operation Iraqi Children. Not content with what my school could offer, I traveled across South Florida to meet the principals of two schools and spread the mission of Operation Iraqi Children. In our next project we sent student-written letters to American soldiers in Iraq for Christmas. I remember my time with Corporal Gamble and other soldiers in Iraq like it was yesterday. And I know how delighted they would be to receive letters from American school children, showing them that people back home still deeply appreciate their sacrifices.
A second part of the Society for Love & Justice is the Interfaith Outreach Group. Like the seeds of most of my undertakings, the idea struck me like a lightning bolt while I was sitting in my armchair reflecting on my social science research. Some of it may sound far-fetched, but that's usually the way my ideas appear. I'm a dreamer, but I always do my absolute best to actualize those dreams (and occasionally come quite close).
Imagine this. It's the end of Ramadan. Before being dismissed to celebrate the festival of Eid, Muslim children at a local Islamic School receive a sack full of cards. They open them up and discover curious messages – greetings from Jewish and Christian children inscribed with hearts, Stars of David, crosses, crescent moons, and peace signs. "Happy Ramadan! We wish you all the best!" one says. "Peace be with you" says another. The Muslim children squint their eyes and wonder, "Could this nice message really be from a Jew? or a Christian? or a Hindu?" You can almost see the windows of their minds opening to the idea that maybe these people aren't so bad after all. Conjectures generate, "They seem like nice people. Good people. People like us." The children bring the gifts home, and their parents scan them over incredulously. "Hm. That's a pleasant gesture."
A couple months later come Christmas and Chanukah, and this community of Muslim children respond to the previous gesture by sending cards wishing the Christian and Jewish children a happy Christmas and Chanukah. And so the tradition begins: on each major holiday, children of different faiths exchange cards of peace and love with eachother, producing unity, good will, and greater tolerance between Christians, Jews, and Muslims.
There was problem with all this: the idea struck me just ten days before Ramadan. In that short period of time, I had to convince skeptical Jewish, Christian, and Muslim institutions to embrace an interfaith outreach initiative. Then on top of that I had to find teachers who were willing to set aside class time so their students could produce the cards. The task was daunting, but I loved my dream too much not to give it my all.
The next ten days were among the most stressful in my entire life. I spent hours on the telephone trying to accommodate Rabbis on one side and Muslim clerics on the other, receiving many rejections along the way. I met with the principal of a Pakistani madrassa who, needless to say, wasn’t too enthusiastic about wishing Jews a Happy Hanukah. Wary of controversies that might arise, even my school administration was hesitant to offer support. Finally, with four days left before the end of Ramadan and after endless roadblocks had nearly broken me, a synagogue, my school’s chaplain, and an Islamic school jumped on board, and everything came together. The Jewish and Christian children sent cards brimming with peace signs, crescent moons, and hearts to the children at the Islamic school, laying the foundation for the Muslim community to respond. Which they did, more so than I had expected, sending thank you letters and wonderfully decorated cards back for Hanukah and Christmas. Indeed, from dream to reality is always a struggle – but always, always worth it.