They came, Jewish and Muslim teens from English and French backgrounds, to meet and discover for themselves what keeps them apart. Many of them live in the same community, but never meet or mingle with the other group. Each group has been somewhat fearful of the other. To hear them tell it, what's been keeping them apart is hearsay, misconceptions and stereotypes.
So now, in the fourth month of the Living Together project going on weekly in St. Laurent, these students, eight Jewish and eight Muslim, focus on what they have in common. And there is a lot. Facebook, cellphones, TV shows, movies, music and yes, even chips. They are teenagers, after all, and they are just as likely to be concerned with acne as Middle East affairs.
The students, in Grades 10 and 11, are mainly from schools in St. Laurent: Herzliah, Ecole Jeunes Musulmans Canadiens, LaurenHill Academy, Ecole secondaire St. Laurent and Bialik High School in Côte St. Luc. They meet every Tuesday after school at the St. Laurent recreation centre.
"This was a way to bring the communities together in a positive way and to find commonality," said Amanda Tetrault, co-ordinator of the Living Together project, a collaboration between McGill University's Montreal Consortium for Human Rights Advocacy and Training, the St. Laurent borough and the YMCA St. Laurent.
“It gives them the opportunity to deconstruct stereotypes,” Tetrault said. The project is guided by an advisory board of leaders from both the Jewish and Arab communities and will continue until May.