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LOS ANGELES : Student Workshop Fosters Cultural Appreciation

June 01, 1995|CAROL CHASTANG

Meeting a group of fifth-graders from South-Central Los Angeles, thought 10-year-old Leah Metz from Beverly Hills, "would probably be weird at first."

But her assumptions were bashed, said the fifth-grader from Temple Emanuel Day School, once she exchanged ideas with some of the students from 75th Street School. Meeting people from different backgrounds was a new experience for both the upper-middle-class Jewish students from private school and the Latino and African American students from public school.

"It's interesting to see how similar we are," Metz said. "Even though we're from different cultures, we like the same music, the same things."

Metz and about 60 other students took part in a workshop Monday at the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles designed to help develop appreciation for other cultures. The workshop was sponsored by the Jewish Federation and the W.I.S.H. (A World in Search of Harmony) Project.

Mickey Weiss, a former Jewish Federation board member and retired produce wholesaler, developed the idea for the workshop. He also donated 200 loaves of bread, which the students later used to make 1,000 peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches for the homeless.

Students were paired in groups, where they interviewed each other about their interests and family backgrounds. Marty Nislick, the workshop moderator, then led a discussion about prejudice.

Sometimes prejudice breeds in sheltered environments, like private schools, said one student. Another said unfounded rumors often foster bias.

Challenging mistaken assumptions about different cultures should take place at school, the students agreed. "And maybe when we hear our parents saying something bad about another group, we should point it out to them, " Nislick suggested.

By the end of the three-hour workshop it appeared that some students had learned important lessons.

"For some reason, I always thought that Jewish people were mean," said Marlon Barnett of 75th Street School. "But I found out that they're nice."

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