Kids4Peace Seattle Helps Show Religion As A Force For Good

22 February 2018, 8:41 AM

URI North America is thrilled to welcome one of our newest Cooperation Circles. We know that we are stronger together!

Kids sit in a circle in the shape of a heart

KIDS4PEACE, Seattle, WA

  • Contact Person: Jordan Goldwarg, Northwest Regional Director, info@k4p.org
  • Mission Statement: Transforming Divided Societies into Communities of Lasting Peace. Kids4Peace is a grassroots interfaith youth movement dedicated to ending conflict and inspiring hopein Jerusalem and other divided societies around the world. To achieve this mission, our programs build interfaith communities that embody a culture of peace and empower a movement for change. [For complete Mission Statement visit "Mission" ]
  • Website: www.k4p.org/chapters/seattle/
  • Areas of Focus: Youth, youth leadership development, youth diversity education
  • Program Areas: K4P Seattle runs three programs that focus on four key areas: 1) Interfaith education 2) Dialogue & Leadership skills 3) Social change 4) Community building.
  1. A year-round program for middle-school and high-school youth. The program meets monthly throughout the school year and also has more intensive summer experiences.
  2. A congregational partnership program, in which local religious congregations teach Kids4Peace curriculum in their religious schools.
  3.  Outreach programming, which includes public workshops and specialized workshops for schools, congregations, and community groups.

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Kids4Peace Seattle decided to become a United Religions Initiative Cooperation Circle for two compelling reasons -- to share with and learn from others. Although Kids4Peace is a successful and productive organization, they know they can’t do it all.

“We are far too small of an organization to do everything on our own,” said Jordan Goldwarg, Kids4Peace Northwest Regional Director during the group’s Appreciative Interview to become a Cooperation Circle. “Partnerships and collaboration are key to us being able to scale up our work and to us being able to support other organizations. More and more, we are figuring out what good partnerships look like and how we can amplify each other’s work... We have found partnerships most valuable when we are either providing expertise or capacity or, our partner is providing expertise or capacity that the other one can not,” Goldwarg shared. “I would hope that URI could help facilitate us meeting these other groups.”

In a desire to share with other URI Cooperation Circles and Affiliates, Goldwarg added, “We are in the early stages of starting to formalize pieces of our curriculum that had previously only been in people’s heads. I would hope that we would be able to provide good resources [for others].” The group is already actively sharing this curriculum with local houses of worship who are using the materials in their religious education classes.

Goldwarg was impressed by URI’s Preamble, Purpose and Principles (PPPs), which is a statement of shared values that all URI members agree to.“It’s remarkably similar to our Mission Statement. [Middle and high school] kids who go through any K4P program develop this intense deep respect for other religions and cultures and traditions and beliefs so there is a strong desire on their part to not just passively tolerate people of other backgrounds but to actively support those people and look for opportunities when there is discrimination to speak out against it. Our youth are deeply driven, in ways both small and large, to create cultures of peace -- whether it’s in your high school robotics team or in Israel-Palestine.”

Kids4Peace Seattle participants observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Kids4Peace Seattle participants observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Seattle is a progressive city and there are many programs for young people to get involved with social justice issues. In this crowded landscape, Kids4Peace Seattle Program Director Hannah Hochkeppel is passionate about what makes Kids4Peace unique: it shows that faith is a unifying tool.

“We see the values and morals from within a faith as something that is a tool for common ground,” she said.

”Seattle is a really interesting place when it comes to religion and the relationship people have with religion. There is a wide range of ways people identify or strongly do not identify as religious,” Hochkeppel said. “[We want] to help youth be comfortable talking about religion, something they might not otherwise have that opportunity to do elsewhere.”

Hochkeppel said she has seen the work of K4P Seattle become more and more relevant in recent years.

“We have seen the interfaith landscape change drastically in Seattle in the last few years, especially in light of the media highlighting religious discrimination and hate crimes ... We are trying to reclaim religion as a source for good in the community, to help people see it as something that can be productive and beneficial,” Hochkeppel added.

Goldwarg agreed. “On a practical level, we recognize that the youth interfaith landscape in the US is not very well developed. This varies a lot regionally. For example, in Seattle we are the only youth interfaith organization in the city....Seattle has the lowest rate of religiously affiliated people in the US. A lot of kids are hostile to religion in general because they see it as something that leads to systemic oppression and division. We want to show that religion can be a ‘force for good’. As very public discrimination against Jewish, Muslim, Sikhs -- and anyone who is mistaken for being Muslim -- rises, we also want to support communities that are vulnerable and make sure they have strong youth allies.”

Hochkeppel said the most rewarding part of being so connected and involved with the youth is seeing their youth in action, doing everything from getting involved in social justice issues on an “adult level,” to giving workshops to other youths on peaceful communication and bridge building.

“It’s been really cool to have been part of that -- to see our youth grow into people who are comfortable speaking about social justice in what are, often, primarily adult spaces,” Hochkeppel said with pride. “I love watching them own their voice and get really excited to take action in their own community."

K4P Seattle’s vision is for this program to create a community of youth who are passionate about using the values from their religions to make positive social change.

Mission accomplished!

More information about Kids4Peace Seattle (from their website):

Kids4Peace Seattle is an interfaith youth movement dedicated to turning divided societies into communities of lasting peace. We bring together Muslim, Jewish, Christian, and other youth from across the greater Seattle area to learn about — and take action to improve — issues such as religious intolerance, racism, and homelessness & poverty.

Kids4Peace Seattle is part of Kids4Peace International, an organization with chapters across the United States and in Jerusalem. Some of our programs are run jointly with other chapters, affording Seattle youth the opportunity to interact with peers from around the world, gaining both a local and global perspective on social change.

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If you would like to know more about Kids4Peace Seattle's programs, processes, how you can get involved or how you can start a similar program in your community, contact Jordan Goldwarg, Northwest Regional Director, info@k4p.org

This piece was written by URI North America Storytelling Intern Robyn Lebron. You can read more of her work here.

Cooperation Circles Involved