Jewish Museum education programs officer Alice Freeman with students from East Preston Islamic College.(Scott McNaughton)

‘See all the connections’: Jewish and Islamic schools in museum exchange

“Do you have to be born Jewish, or can you be converted?”

A class of year 6 students from East Preston Islamic College are sitting cross-legged on the carpet of a room inside the Jewish Museum of Australia, getting a hands-on introduction to many of the key artefacts of the Jewish faith.

No, you don’t have to be born Jewish to practice Judaism, a museum guide explains in answer to the young boy’s question. She is not Jewish, she adds, but her husband is, and their daughters immersed themselves in a bath called a mikveh when they converted to Judaism.

Another guide compares the Jewish bathing ritual to ghusl, an Islamic conversion practice involving purification in water.

Upstairs, a separate group of girls and boys are checking out the permanent exhibition and learning about Jewish customs concerning prayer, food and holidays.

The East Preston students are visiting the Jewish Museum as part of a school exchange program. Students from Bialik College in Hawthorn and Sholem Aleichem School in Elsternwick had their turn on Monday, when they toured the Islamic Museum of Australia in Thornbury.

The exchange program will conclude when students at all three schools meet for a workshop at the State Library later this month.

Read the article by Adam Carey in The Age.