Growing up in Princeton as an American Muslim, Amani Noor Ahmed noticed a certain level of tension among different ethnic and religious groups. The 16-year-old sophomore at Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart was especially aware of difficulties that existed between Muslims and Jews.
It got her thinking. “I was raised in an environment where community service is so important, especially at Stuart,” she said last week. “My aunt was involved in an interfaith group for Muslim and Jewish women. I knew there were organizations like that out there, but there wasn’t that much for youth.”
Rallying two of her Muslim friends — Dean Alamieh, a sophomore at Robbinsville High School, and Zain Bhayat, a freshman at South Brunswick High School — Amani founded Eleven Points, which has brought together Muslim and Jewish youth for projects that benefit local charities. For their efforts, the three teenagers will be honored on Saturday with the New Jersey State Governor’s Jefferson Youth Community Service Award, in a ceremony at Burlington Community College in Mount Laurel.
As happy as she is with the recognition, Amani seems most pleased about the success of the group’s efforts and their plans for future community service projects. Since its inception, Eleven Points, which is named for the six points of the Star of David and the five points often found on stars in Islamic calligraphy, has done work to benefit the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen. Eleven Points has also helped Homefront, which alleviates homelessness and helps families in crisis. They are talking with Homefront about doing more. “We’re really hoping this gets us more participation and more involvement so we can make a bigger difference,” Amani said. “It’s very exciting.”
Amani and her two colleagues got Eleven Points started by contacting Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple, the synagogue her aunt had worked with in New Brunswick. Their idea was enthusiastically received. Last fall, some 30 to 40 Jewish and Muslim teens joined forces at the temple to put together hygiene bags for the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen. “We asked for donations, and we got everything we needed, which was incredible,” Amani enthuses. “We made 500 bags.”
Recently, the group gathered to make 300 lunch bags and 200 hygiene kits for Homefront. With contributions from both the Jewish and Muslim communities, they were again able to collect all of the items they needed. Help came from the Princeton University Office of Muslim Life as well as the Anshe Emeth Temple.
With a common goal, the group bonded from the start. They played games to break what little “ice” was there. “Everyone knew what they were getting into. It wasn’t a shock to anyone,” said Amani. “Everyone was very friendly and welcoming. Maybe there was a little bit of awkwardness in the beginning, but through the games, talking, and doing the projects, you really get to know each other. It’s comfortable now.”
Next on the Eleven Points agenda is an effort to expand. “We want to contact other temples and Muslim youth groups,” Amani said. “There is so much we want to do.”