Earlier this month, 7th graders from Peninsula Temple Beth El, a Reform Jewish congregation in San Francisco, came together to learn about PeacePlayers International as part of their B’nai Mitzvah Education. B’nai Mitzvah refers to a time when a boy or girl comes of age and is recognized by the Jewish community as being morally responsible for his or her actions. Today, B’nai Mitzvah is often a time when youth are encouraged to build their own community and do some hands on work with charities that serves several, diverse communities.
The 7th graders had the opportunity to learn about PeacePlayers from former Program Director, Brian Sigafoos. A graduate of Harvard University, Brian served PPI in Israel and the West Bank from 2006 to 2008. After PPI, Brian traveled to Dubai to help grow Duplays, one of the largest adult sport & social clubs in the world, and recently moved to San Francisco to start Playpass Sports, a mobile app for rec sports activities, leagues and tournaments.
Brian led the children through several basketball drills that focus on communication and teamwork, the same drills PPI runs in all of it’s sites around the world. After the drills, they discussed the values that came across in the drills, and learned more about how PPI is able to bring groups like Jews and Arabs in the Middle East, together through something as simple as basketball.
“PeacePlayers shows respect to all human life by bringing people together for their similarities and not differences. I learned that it is tough to cooperate with someone who you only have heard bad things about. I would feel extremely scared in a situation like that. I also learned that it is a lot easier to get along with people if you look at them for their personalities and not overall groups. Keep up the good work!” – Josh Moussa, 7th Grader
The next week, Peninsula Temple Beth El Youth Director, Meg Batavia, led the children in a reflection session, and had the children write special letters to PPI’s International Fellows in Northern Ireland, South Africa, Cyprus and the Middle East. Typically post-collegiate athletes, International Fellows serve as two-year volunteers who support local staff and coaches and act as neutral facilitators in the field. Each letter was written to a specific Fellow, and the children offered words of encouragement and gratitude.
We hope that as these kids continue to grow, they will remember the lessons learned from their two weeks with PeacePlayers and continue to see all people as people. A special thanks to Brian, Meg, and all the kids at Peninsula Temple Beth El for participating in this meaningful and fun project.