We had the chance to sit down with Stuart Kensinger, Founding Director and Treasurer for Jerusalem Peacebuilders (JPB), and talk with him about what this organization is and what they are doing here in the Piney woods!
JPB is an interfaith non-profit organization that began in 2011 in Brattleboro, Vermont. Their mission is to:
“Create a better future for humanity across religions, cultures, and nationalities. Our programs focus on uniting Palestinian, Israeli, and American youth and provide them with the opportunities and skills they will need to become future leaders for peace in their global communities.
Our organization supports an integrated curriculum aimed at creating a new generation of leaders. Peace is possible in Jerusalem, but peace is for the strong. It requires patience and determination, and we hope that you will choose to remain part of this important and pioneering work.”
JPB wants to empower Jewish, Muslim and Christian kids to be agents of change in their community. They learn different forms of leadership as well as different forms of conflict resolution. These kids have so many things that divide them, whether that be politically, socially, economically, etc., and despite that JPB is trying to bring them together. Utilizing different curriculums and programs supports these kids in figuring out how they can be an actor in their community by focusing on:
· How to love one another
· How to care for the planet
Stuart pointed out that JPB loves being in partnership with Camp Allen because programmatically, it’s a wonderful place to answer the questions of how to care for the planet. Everything that the kids have done here has given them a real sense of accomplishment. They are able to lean into their fears and overcome them. Some of the kids had never ridden a horse before or attempted a high ropes challenge course. Seeing the looks of excitement on their faces as they entered the conference center lobby was so moving to watch. They just radiated joy from all the fun they were having!
One activity in particular that we were able to sit in on was during the making of Challah bread. What is Challah? It is a special bread in Jewish cuisine that is usually braided and typically eaten on ceremonial occasions such as major Jewish Holidays and Sabbath.
One of the JPB staff, Sarah, was so happy to share an old recipe that her great grandmother used to make. Her name was Djoar, she was born and raised in Oran, Algeria and she would have been so happy and excited about Jewish, Muslim, and Christian kids making her Challah. Sarah said she feels like she is able to honor her great grandmother’s memory by making challah bread and making it with others. Djoar was a family woman, a matriarch, and she was always at the head of the table. She was generous, welcoming, brave and LOVED making food for people. Some of the ingredients for Challah bread are flour, eggs, salt, sugar, sesame seeds, oil, and yeast. Want the recipe? That’s where things get tricky. This recipe is over 100 years old so there isn’t exactly a hard copy. Of course if you would have asked her how much flour to add though, she probably would have said something like “add as much as it needs,” or something along the lines of that. She would have said this is the type of food recipe you feel, you don’t measure.
Sarah with her Great Grandmother, Djoar
The Jerusalem Peacebuilders will be continuing on to different parts of Texas before they journey back home. They will also be engaging in service projects through Christ Church Cathedral in Houston to change people’s perspectives and share the mission of JPB. If you would like to learn more you can stay connected through there Facebook page @JerusalemPeacebuilders or you can visit their website https://www.jerusalempeacebuilders.org/