“Come sit down Naomi.” I motioned to the empty chair at the table. “We have a new student.”
Safia was sitting at the table with me when Naomi walked into the room. Naomi looked around a minute as though she might have walked into the wrong room then slowly walked to the table and sat down.
“Naomi, this is Safia. She’s new to our school this year and she’s going to be in Study Skills with you.” I motioned to Naomi, “Safia, this is Naomi.”
Safia was tall, slender, and had luxurious black wavy hair. She was beautiful. She was also very scared and very shy. She looked at Naomi and smiled sweetly. Naomi stared at Safia and said nothing.
“Naomi, can you say hello to Safia?”
“Where did you move here from?” Naomi demanded.
Safia’s eyes darted to me. She wasn’t quite ready to speak.
“Safia didn’t move here from anywhere else,” I explained. “She has lived here all her life. She just transferred here from another school.”
Naomi was used to transfers. “Which school did you go to?” she asked.
I turned to Safia and smiled. “Go ahead Safia. Tell Naomi the name of your school.”
“I went to the Islamic school,” Safia whispered.
Naomi puzzled over this. I wasn’t sure if she’d even heard Safia, so I said, “She went to the Islamic school for the last four years. Now she’s going to be in our school.”
Naomi’s eyes stopped focusing on Safia and I could tell she was thinking about this. Finally she asked, “Are you Catholic?”
Safia’s face looked stricken. She didn’t know what to say. She looked at me pleadingly. Naomi doesn’t know what Islamic means. “Naomi,” I explained, “Safia is Muslim. The Islamic school is a Muslim school.” I wondered if Naomi had ever heard the word “Muslim.” “That’s Safia’s religion.”
Sarah continued to stare at Safia. Then she said, “I’m Jewish.”
It was Safia’s turn to look puzzled. I turned to Safia and said, “Naomi is Jewish. That’s her religion. Your religion is Muslim and Naomi is Jewish.”
This seemed to satisfy both girls because they both smiled at each other.
“Hello Safia,” whispered Naomi.
“Hello Naomi,” whispered Safia.
“Let’s work on some math problems,” I said, passing out small whiteboards, markers, and erasers. If only world peace could be achieved this easily, I thought.
I wrote the first problem on my whiteboard and showed it to the girls, but Naomi was already busy working on her whiteboard. Her head was bent down, tilted to the side, and she was biting the tip of her tongue as she carefully drew a Star of David.