ABOUT 150 Muslim, Armenian, Greek Orthodox, Christian and Jewish students from eight high schools came together to participate in the “Respect, Understanding and Acceptance” schools harmony program.
Devised and run by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, the program annually brings together about 1000 students from over 35 schools across Sydney and caters to students in Years 9, 10 and 11.
The latest iteration of the program attracted Year 9 participants from Masada College (Jewish), Galstaun College (Armenian), Amity College (Muslim), St Paul’s Catholic College, Auburn Girls High School (government), St Spyridon College (Greek Orthodox), Marist College Eastwood (Catholic) and Brigidine College (Catholic).
Convened in the Sydney Jewish Museum’s Education Centre, the students met for a day of discussion, interaction and learning about each others’ cultures and traditions, followed by a focus on racism and the need to counter it. Each school delivered a presentation on its predominant culture and the students broke into groups to explore the impact that racism has had on their lives.
Delivering a closing address on leadership and racism, Board of Deputies CEO Vic Alhadeff said the program encourages students “to respect difference and to have the guts to speak out when they see someone being marginalised or discriminated against”.
“It’s about recognising the humanity in others, particularly if we come from different backgrounds,” he said. “It’s about demonstrating leadership when we are challenged and not looking the other way.”
St Pauls Catholic College teacher Joanne Kalayzich said: “I haven’t been to the program for a few years, and this was the best one yet”, while Masada teacher Alex Symonds said “our students were changed by the experience and will be more aware of how they speak about other people”.