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Shul and mosque join to sponsor refugee family

  • Syrian Refugees HOME
In Thornhill, Toronto, a shul and a neighbouring mosque share a parking lot. Now, they also share a family. Temple Har Zion and Imam Mahdi Islamic Centre teamed up last March to raise half a million rand to help bring a refugee family from Syria to Canada and assist them in settling. In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, their eight charges arrived. (File picture.)
by ANT KATZ | Jan 12, 2017

Now, what had been dubbed the Thornhill refugee project, has brought over the eight-member Elendari Druze family. The Druze, a sect of Islamic origin, is located mostly in north Israel, Lebanon and Syria.

Andrew Hazen, co-chair of the refugee project from Temple Har Zion, told the Liberal that the shul had decided to team up with the mosque because they thought this was a good way to increase “collaboration and contact and demonstrate Canadian values in action,” Hazen said. The mosque feels a similar “tikkun olam” – referring to the Jewish concept of healing and repairing the world.

Syrian Refugees CanadaHazen acknowledges that some people believe because of Jews’ tumultuous history of fleeing persecution, they are a natural choice to sponsor refugees.


RIGHT (from left: Afsaneh Beigi and Alireza Torabian of the Imam Mahdi Islamic Centre and Andrew Hazan and Martin Ginsherman of Temple Har Zion in the shul. The two religious institutions, which are located next to one another, joined forces to bring the eight-person Elendari refugee family to Canada

The argument was made, he says, that if anyone is doing this, it should be a Jewish congregation “because our parents and grandparents knew what it was like to be a refugee,” Hazen said.

A lot of the shul’s members are first- or second-generation Canadian, he said, and the reform shul is dedicated to social action and inclusion which includes reaching out to interfaith couples and families and promoting equality of women in religious services.

The shul and mosque are situated beside each other. The mosque, founded by Iranian-Canadian Muslims to promote the teaching of Islam, is “proud to have collaborated with its neighbour” it says on its website. “We are hoping this project will be a starting point of more collaboration between Muslim and Jewish communities in Toronto and Canada,” the website says.

The shul and mosque’s support for the family will include helping them find housing and find their way around, and helping them connect with English classes and other government services.

The Elendari family arrived in Toronto on Wednesday at 02:30 local time, their flight having been delayed by snow in Turkey, Hazen said.


Both congregations eagerly awaited their arrival 

“People are excited, happy for the family,” said Alireza Torabian, refugee project co-chair from the Islamic Centre. They have lined up temporary homes in which the family will stay. A member of the Islamic centre offered the family a furnished home for a limited time at no charge.

The shul and mosque raised C$46,000 (over R470,000 at today’s exchange rates) for the family in just three months.

Andrew Hazen has a clear message he hopes to convey to the Syrian family about Canada: “I want to support the family,” Hazen said. “I want to do it in a way that is Canadian, (to show) it is a different kind of place, a place where collaborations can happen. You don’t need to have animosity between groups like this.”

  • This interesting story emerged in the Thornhill Liberal, in Canada. Thornhill is home to the majority of SA expat Jews living in Canada.

1 Comment

  1. 1 Mervyh 12 Jan
    Kol Hakavod!

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