For the past 10 years, students from the Perelman Jewish Day School have collaborated on service projects with students from the Al-Aqsa Islamic Academy as a part of the Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service.
Perelman's Rabbi Shawn SimonHazani said that the two groups' coming together celebrates the message of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
"We use the day of service to work together for the better of others," he said. "This, in turn, leads us into a dialogue that allows us to focus on the things we have in common rather than focusing on our differences, as Dr. King encouraged us to do."
Last January, more than 70,000 volunteers participated in 1,100 service projects throughout the tristate area. Organizers expect an even larger turnout for this year's event, on Jan. 17, the 25th anniversary of the federal holiday.
"In 16 years, we've gone from a small Philadelphia-based project to a nationwide movement," said Todd Bernstein, president and founder of the Greater Philadelphia King Day of Service.
"It's fair to say this is the most diverse initiative that I know of, and it really speaks to the living legacy of Dr. King, who brought diverse groups together to turn concerns into action."
Several projects next month will focus on bridging the digital divide and the use of social media to connect diverse communities. Projects will include the refurbishing and distribution of computers to low-income families.
In addition, the service-day events will be documented using smartphones and Skype to record and publish video footage, and uploading photos of the service projects to Flickr, Twitter and Facebook.
Volunteers interested in participating in a King Day of Service project can register online at mlkdayofservice.org or by calling 215-665-2475. Information about many service-day events can be found at facebook.com/phillykingday and twitter.com/mlkdayofservice.