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Leena's Story

Participant, Walking the Walk Youth Initiative

2014-15 Walking the Walk Distinguished Alumni Awardee


"Standing Up for Everyone"


“One day at school, I was walking through the cafeteria with my friend Emily. She spotted a penny and picked it up - it was ‘heads’ up. “Jew!” a voice called out accusingly. My smile faded. I flashed back to the Walking the Walk meeting a weekend before. I remembered my Jewish friend from Main Line Reform Temple explaining how much it hurt her when her school went through an anti-Semitic stage and so many jokes about Jews were going around.  Then, I also thought back to when Reverend Nicole, our Group Leader, read excerpts from Eboo Patel’s book on pluralism.


“Eboo Patel, the founder of the interfaith youth movement, had a similar experience when he was in high school. Eboo’s words of regret for not ‘speaking up’ flooded me like a wave, and I felt obliged to not let the occasion pass without a response. The last thing my new friends needed was for people like me to ignore these anti-Semitic remarks.


“I approached the boy’s table. He looked surprised as he realized I was serious. As I looked him in the eyes, my only response was, ‘Not funny.’ He cringed as with guilt and remorse. At least I felt glad that he was forced to rethink his actions.  Since that day, I feel that it is a matter of honor to defend myself and my friends’ religious identity.  For now and in the future, I will never be daunted by such situations; in fact, I look at them as potential opportunities to continue the dialogue.”

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