A day of local Muslim and Jewish girls volunteering together became a time of sharing and getting to know one another.
Four teens from the Hijabiz Girls Youth Program and two teens from BBYO-Wisconsin Region surprised patients at West Allis Memorial Hospital with poinsettias on Christmas day of 2018.
“It was fun giving them flowers,” said 15-year-old Ahado Ahmed of the Hijabiz program. “Not everyone is going through what they are going through,” she said about the patients.
The patients may not be able to be with their families on Christmas day and delivering flowers to them was “very touching,” said Sophie Packman, 16, of BBYO.
This was the first time the two groups had met. “We were all passing out flowers and hanging out and it was really natural for us to do that,” Packman said.
Difference in religion was not a barrier to common ground. The first meeting “wasn’t any more awkward than teens meeting for the first time,” said Andrea Bernstein, the coordinator of Hours Against Hate of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation. Bernstein attended the event alongside Hijabiz Youth Coordinator Aminat Bakare.
After the flower delivery, the girls went to the cafeteria and had hot chocolate and snacks. “It was really nice, very natural … really easy to connect. We were all so open,” Packman said.
“We talked about school, what part of the world we are from, just trying to get to know each other,” Ahmed said. Ahmed is from Kenya and moved to Milwaukee at age 2. Between the two religions, Islam and Judaism, “we talked about how our religion can connect in some way,” she said.
They also talked about the meaning behind Hebrew names and different ethnic foods, Bakare said.
“The girls hit it off right away — being teenagers,” Bakare said.
The two girls’ groups are considering more ways to volunteer together.
The Hijabiz program does community service, outreach and aims to “build a sisterhood among young girls,” she said.
Ahmed has been in the program for two years. “You have someone by your side when you need them, which is really helpful,” she said.
“Before, I was quiet and to myself,” said Ruqayyah Domineck, 15. “Since I started in this group, I opened up more, being around people more.”