Canadian shul and mosque join to sponsor refugees

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A shul and a neighbouring mosque in Thornhill share a parking lot. Now, they also share a family!
by ANT KATZ | Feb 02, 2017

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 family has since arrived in Canada.

What had been dubbed “the Thornhill refugee project”, has brought to Canada 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-chairman of the refugee project from Temple Har Zion, told the Liberal newspaper 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”. The mosque feels a similar “tikkun olam” - referring to the Jewish concept of healing and repairing the world.

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

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 added.

Many 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 encompasses 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, 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 adds.

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

 “People are excited, happy for the family,” said Alireza Torabian, refugee project co-chairman 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.

Hazen has a clear message he hopes to convey to the Syrian family about Canada: “I want to support the family. 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 these.”

Thornhill is home to a large number of South African expatriate Jews living in Canada.


1 Comment

  1. 1 sied 15 Mar
    How can i meet the mosque


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