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Muslim and Hindu Exchange Students, Jewish Teens Learn about Religions

December 9, 2011

By Tara Bahrampour From Washington Post On a balmy November night, a busload of eighth-graders spilled out onto Massachusetts Avenue NW, the girls tentatively pulling on head scarves they had been instructed to bring. “Does mine look normal?” one asked, cinching it tightly under her chin. “Mine looks really ugly, doesn’t it?” said another, tugging at a billowy confection of material. Suitably attired, more or less, they trooped into the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C. Many of the students, who belong to an after-school Hebrew program at Congregation Beth El in Bethesda, had passed by the large mosque with the columns and minaret, but they had never gone inside, until now. The youths are part of a cultural exchange between Beth El and AFS Intercultural Programs (formerly the American Field Service), which brings teenagers from all over the world to live with host families in the United States and sends American teens abroad. For the program, in its fourth year, eight foreign students being hosted in the Washington area were teaching the Beth El students about Islam, the religion of four of the exchange students; Hinduism, the faith of two of the students, was added this year. The students — from Indonesia, Lebanon, Yemen, Egypt, Armenia, India and Germany — are here on State Department scholarships and had visited Beth El last monthto give a classroom presentation. Later in the month, the Beth El students joined them on field trips to a mosque and a Hindu temple. Inside the mosque, the girls and boys removed their shoes and were separated in different rooms. Cucut Syati, 16, a student from Indonesia wearing a purple satin tunic, showed the girls the elaborate pre-prayer washing ritual — hands, mouth, nose, face, arm, head, ears and feet. Click here to read the full article