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March 15, 1996 - Image 43

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1996-03-15

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Of Farmington Hills


views of how their classmates so-
cialize. "The school is somewhat
segregated," Elana said. "We
could integrate more, but it
doesn't seem so necessary to
speak out about it. I think it's a
bigger problem in society than
in our school."
Bashar believes the school
isn't segregated. "People hang
out with whomever they want to
hang out with," he said.
As a freshman, Bashar's
friends where almost entirely
Chaldean. But after his first year
in high school, he decided it was
important to meet new friends
and get to know a diverse group
of people.
Even students with friends of
other ethnicities and religions
typically spend most their time
out of school with friends who
are most similar to them.
Marni Rosenthal, a Groves
freshman, said her school is
racially diverse and, for the most
part, tension free. She said some
students at Groves tend to spend
their time only with those whose
backgrounds are similar. But,
she said, for the most part the
students integrate.
Marni's English class recent-
ly began a unit on multicultur-
The class just completed a sec-
tion on African Americans and
is now studying Judaism. In an-
other class, she learned about Is-
lam, Christianity and Judaism.
West Bloomfield High School
seniors Lora Weberman and
Zaid Dally knew each other
through student council and af-
ter-school activities. Their bond
of friendship didn't form until
last year when both were in the
school's vaudeville play.
"We share so much in com-
mon," Lora said.
Zaid, who was born in Iraq, is
Chaldean. Lora is Jewish. Inside
the school walls, the two stu-
dents are good friends. Outside
of school they rarely, if ever, see
each other.
In the presence of each other,
both students talk comfortably
about their views on diversity
and multiculturalism.
"The people I hang out with
on the weekends happen to be
Jewish," Lora said. "I think it's
because these are the people I
grew up with, and I know them
from Hebrew school and things
like that."
"My parents taught me never
to judge people by their back-
ground or something they don't
have the power to change," Zaid
said. "I also believe it's better to
be liked than to be hated. That's
just me. That's the type of per-
son I am."
Almost three years ago, a
black student and a Chaldean
student engaged in a well-pub-

licized fight in the West Bloom-
field High School parking lot,
leaving one student in a coma.
Outraged by the negative pub-
licity brought on by the fight,
Zaid said he did everything he
could to combat negative images
others had of Chaldeans. He
worked harder to improve his
grades and became active in ex-
tracurricular activities, includ-
ing yearbook and student
"I wasn't doing it for myself,"
Zaid said. "I tried to better the
Chaldean name, and people rec-
ognized it. I especially wanted to
make a good name for my
younger brother."
Mark Wilson, of the West
Bloonifield police department
and a liaison to the school, said
the May 1993 incident was not
racially motivated, although the
victim, still comatose, is
Said Officer Wilson, "I hate to
categorize, but fights, which are
rare, tend to be between people .,
of the same culture and are usu-
ally spats."
Orchard Lake police said a
December stabbing, involving
two West Bloomfield High
School students at an Orchard
Lake Road Burger King, also
was not racially motivated.
Police officers, who work close-
ly with high schools or teens in
other communities, said they
could not recall being called to
an altercation recently in which
race was a factor.
Mr. Lobenthal said the ADL
does not typically hear com-
plaints about racial tensions at
area schools.
"There are, at times, some ten-
sions," Mr. Lobenthal said. "But
for the most part that does not
reflect what the schools are like."
Mr. Lobenthal said Jewish
students know which of their
classmates do not like Jews.
"That doesn't mean they don't
have friends from the same
group as the person known for
his or her anti-Semitic or racist
views," he said.
The tension, these students
and police officers agree, isn't
necessarily between racial and
ethnic groups. It's between peo-
Mr. Haddad believes, "Ten-
sion among students is actual-
ly less than the tension
throughout the metro Detroit
area because schools are a con-
trolled environment.
"A high school is no different
than society at large," Mr. Had-
dad said. "People by nature tend
to congregate with others like
them because it's a comfort zone.
For the most part, these actions
are based on a lack of under-
standing and a fear of the un-
known." El



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