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Education with a twist

Local nonprofit addresses issues with interactive programs

MooreUnity will host a program known as The Human Library on Sunday, April 21, at 1:30 p.m., an opportunity for understanding people who are different than ourselves.

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“We all get taught, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover,’ and this is putting that into actual practice by having human beings serve as what’s called a human book,” said Karen Reiner, president of the organization. “They are people who have experienced either some kind of stereotyping or stigma or prejudice or discrimination, and you as a reader come to the human library and you check that human book out …

“You have a conversation for 20 to 30 minutes with a person who maybe you don’t understand, or you would like to know more about …” she added. “You would like to learn to unjudge somebody who’s experienced life differently than you.”

According to the organization’s website, The Human Library is a global innovative and hands-on learning platform. It’s embedded in high school to higher learning, medical training to civic engagement, to better our understanding of diversity and help create more inclusive and cohesive communities across cultural, religious, social and ethnic differences.

The program will be held at the township library, where attendees will find guidance from librarians on the “books” they can check out. Once they choose one – their human subject – they would like to talk to, guests will sit and have an open conversation where all questions on that “book” are welcome.

“Some examples of the types of people who serve as human books could be people that have lived with some sort of a physical disability, people who have overcome addiction …” Reiner explained. “Maybe a person who was on unemployment for a long time, or someone who needed the little step up of low-income housing, affordable housing, somebody who’s experienced discrimination as a member of a minority class based upon race or religion or ethnicity.

“ … The idea is, you can come to this Human Library Project and you can check out one of these books and talk to this person and you can ask any question you want to ask …” Reiner added. “It gives you a chance to maybe take away some stereotypes that you hold, or just to get a richer understanding of someone else’s experiences.”

MooreUnity – in partnership with the Moorestown Jewish Association and the Perkins Center for the Arts – is also expected to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Purim with a celebration at 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 24, at Perkins Center for the Arts. There will also be a Purim play, a costume contest with prizes, games, crafts and Hamantaschen (traditional Jewish pastries).

‘It’s been a lot of fun the past couple of years that we did this,” Reiner noted. “Little children in particular love it because they get to dress up in their Halloween costumes once again. But the parents are always really happy and social, and the young adults organize games … It’s a lot of fun.”

MooreUnity also held an Upstander Workshop earlier this month at St. Matthew Lutheran Church, where participants practiced, through role play, how to respond when they witness inappropriate comments; slurs; or actions that are racist, sexist, Islamophobic or antisemitic – and other isms.

“The idea is to help people practice through role play and through mock-situational awareness how to not just be a bystander, but to be an upstander,” Reiner said of the program, “so if you overhear somebody making an inappropriate joke or using a racial slur or saying something that’s discriminatory, or even marginalizing or a microaggression, how to have the courage to stand up and let that person know this isn’t acceptable.”

MooreUnity’s core values are to engage with citizens and groups and organize events and actions that promote acceptance and support efforts of allied organizations. For more information on its programs, visit www.mooreunity.com.


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