Advertisement Close

Peterborough synagogue welcomes Muslims displaced by mosque arson

posted on: Nov 27, 2015

Peterborough synagogue welcomes Muslims displaced by mosque arson

A Muslim group in Peterborough, Ont., will kneel and pray today at a local synagogue, where they will be welcomed after their own mosque was damaged in an arson attack earlier this month that police are investigating as a hate crime.

“As Canadians we have to stick together,” said Larry Gillman, president of the  Beth Israel Synagogue, in an interview on  CBC’s Metro Morning today. “It’s not about religion, it’s not about race. Canadians do this.”

The Masjid al-Salaam mosque was damaged in a fire set deliberately on Nov. 14, part of a wave of anti-Muslim crimes after the attack in Paris a day earlier. A firebomb was placed in one of the windows of the mosque. The resulting fire caused $80,000 in damage.

The Beth Israel Synagogue will host two prayer sessions for local Muslims and a potluck dinner today.

It’s a partnership between Kenzu Abdella, the president of the Kawartha Muslim Religious Association, and Gillman.

As soon as Gillman heard about the fire at the mosque, he reached out to his synagogue’s board of directors to find out about sharing space with the Muslim congregation. They voted unanimously in favour.

“I hope this can be some kind of small example to others,” said Gillman.

Abdella wasn’t sure what to think at first. “Can we be here?” he remembered thinking.

Larry Gillman, president of the Beth Israel Synagogue, invited Muslims into his synagogue in Peterborough, Ont., for prayer. (Beth Israel Synagogue)

“In the beginning, it was a shock,” he said. “Within 24 hours, that changed. They walked to the mosque and told us that whatever we need, they will support us.

“Even though it came out of a tragedy, we are working together.”

The invitation to the synagogue marked the first meeting between Abdella and Gillman.

Since then, Gillman has given a speech at the Muslim Institute of Toronto and his synagogue has become part of an interfaith group working to sponsor Syrian refugees to come to Canada.

Abdella said there are political differences between Jewish and Muslim groups around the world, but the two are not that dissimilar.

“We have more similarities than differences. We have so much common — the details of worship and the ceremonies. Even the stories we hear are similar,” he said.

“At the end of the day, it’s a house of God.”