On November 14 the Peterborough community was shocked by the firebombing of a local mosque. The Peterborough Beth Israel Synagogue immediately offered the use of its facilities to hold daily prayers. The Muslim community responded positively to the invitation.
Synagogue President, Mr. Larry Gillman, was congratulated for his rapid response to this crisis.
His actions and the response of the Muslim community reflect the warm and respectful relations that the local faith communities have had with each other and reaffirm that the Peterborough community will not tolerate this 'hate crime'.
The Muslim community used the Synagogue for their large community services on November 27th and December 4th. The shul has also been reserved for their use for the remainder of the year should they choose to do so. The Muslim community is very appreciative of both the response of the Jewish, Unitarian and larger Peterborough Community.
Below is a list of media coverage about the community response.
CBC News (about the 10 minute mark)
Times Of Israel
Canadian Jewish News
I've just read of the amazing step you've done to help your Muslim neighbours, who suffered hate attack. I just want to say thank you! I myself an Israel,Bedouin, Muslim, and I've been serving for 11 years as an Israeli diplomat. in fact, in 2 days (November 30th) I'm completing 3 and half years in London, England, and going back home. As representing, Israel, the Jewish state, I've been advocating for tolerance and mutual respect. This is a value I grew up with as a Bedouin. - Ishmael
Today, I came across the CBC report: " Peterborough synagogue welcomes Muslims displaced by mosque arson" and wanted to share my thoughts and gratitude to the Honorable stand the synagogue took these past weeks in response to the hate crime in Masjid Alsalam. Your response was immediate and very generous in all aspects. As a Muslim and person of faith, I always feel a great connection with all believers and people of religion. As stated in the article we have more similarities than differences between Islam and Judaism.
Thanks for setting a positive example of working together with other places of faith, I am pretty sure the Muslim community of Peterborough are so proud to have a welcoming, warm synagogue in their community and are currently enjoying the potluck dinner and making new friends and neighbors.
These actions of kindness, tolerance, acceptance, sharing, empathy and care can go along way. I hope and pray this is a wake up call to all people regardless if they follow a religion or not, to learn to stand together and and spread peace in humanity. The message of peace that we all clamor for.
May God Reward you ...Amen Lila - A Muslim neighbor from the Ottawa Valley.
...When I first heard of this incident (mosque arson) I felt so very bad for the people of Peterborough. I know Peterborough is a wonderful town!! However, as this situation has developed in this way you all have given me great hope for our world. I think the best way to deal with hate is to react with kindness, generosity and hope, just as you good people there have indeed done. God Bless You All in this endeavor. - Brian
Peterborough Jewish community, you are a mensch of the highest regard. Keep up the good work helping others that need help. That's what the Hebrew people are really all about. Thanks for helping the Muslim community. I am glad to be a Hebrew, keep up the good work.- Barry (Mississauga)
I am neither a muslim nor a Jewish person and not particularly religious either. However, I am a immigrant and I just wanted to say that I applaud what you have done. It is a humane and kind gesture and you set a wonderful example in these difficult days. I love Canada! - Einar
I have just read that you have welcomed into your synagogue the Muslim people whose Mosque was burned earlier this month. Though I am a non-religious person, I would love to thank you for this. Acts like yours are a ray of hope for humanity as a whole. Peace. - Heidi Tester - Harrison Hot Springs
I just want to commend your organization for the compassion you have shown to the local Muslim community as a result of a fire affecting their mosque. There is a lot to learn here from what you have done in reaching out to another community and share your synagogue for Friday's prayer. It is refreshing to see for all Canadians and the whole world. And the world needs more of this kind of love. I was greatly touched by the interview of representatives of both organizations. Kudos to CBC also for bringing this to Canadians - Yves R. , Ret.GRC-RCMP Ret., Trois-Rivieres, Quebec
I understand that you invited Peterborough's Muslim community to share your space in light of recent damage done to their mosque due to vandalism. I want to personally thank you, and your congregation president Larry Gillman, for your kindness. I hope it will inspire other Jews and Canadians to act out of kindness, not fear. - Wendy G.
I just read the CBC coverage of your shul's outreach to the Muslim community. Yasher koach to Beth Israel's leaders and members. Your action and words have resonated with good, peace-loving people across the country and has made all Jews proud to be associated with you. Shabbat shalom from Vancouver, B.C. - Gail W
I read the story on the CBC about you opening your doors to the Muslim faith and I applaud you and thank you. I'm not Jewish or Muslim (I'm catholic) but want to say that you are truly representing what it is to be Canadian and to love God. I wish you blessings. - Gary M.
I was a horrified to hear about the mosque that was damaged in your community in the wake of the Paris attacks. As a Canadian and as a Jew I was thrilled to hear that your community is providing the local Muslim community with space to pray at your synagogue. I cannot tell you how touching this is. I hope we can share this story with everyone around the world. This is the kind of action and caring we need now more than ever. Thank you for doing the right thing. - Jordy G.
I hope that you are receiving lots of letters celebrating your generous outreach to the Muslim community of Peterborough. Your act is an inspiration. Thank you so much!! - Rose Anne L.
Just wanted to send along a word of thanks for your generous actions towards the worshipers of the Masjid Al-Salaam mosque. Your actions give me hope. - Mitch L. - Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec
I just ran across an article about how your synagogue and community members have opened up your house of worship to Muslims who lost their local mosque to arson. Thank you for your compassion, your empathy, and your big heart. The love is felt all the way down to South Florida where I am. This story is so heartening to read. Your example of solidarity, compassion, and combating islamophobia is an inspiration to others.- Debra E.
Thanks for embodying true human and Canadian values and helping out the Muslim community of Peterborough. Much appreciated! Shalom/Salam - Hammad
Just wanted to express my appreciation for your generous outreach to the folks at the Masjid al-Salaam mosque. I just read about it in the news, and the quote from Mr. Gillman "It's not about religion, it's not about race. Canadians do this."pretty much sums up how many of us feel. Thank you for putting compassion and human brotherhood ahead of religion, race or fear. Makes me proud to be a (albeit atheist) Canadian. Good job. - Steven H., Vancouver, Canada
Recently you allow Muslim people pray in your synagogue , I like to congratulate you and your colleague for this nice thing that you did and appreciate you as open mind Jews.with this decision you made a lot of friends for all Jewish community across Canada. I wish you all the best. - Ely G., Beth Tikvah Synagogue member
I have come to learn of your very kind gesture to house the Muslims in your synagogue to pray due to their mosque being attacked recently. As I read the story it brought a tear to my eye and may God bless all of you and reward you. - Conor I.
My name is Muhammad Razak from Richmond, Virginia USA. I saw an article on Reddit.com about the Beth Israel Synagogue helping my fellow Muslim brothers during this time of hardship as a result of their mosque being set alight.
I wanted to reach out and say thank you for what you are doing. I felt heartache being so far away and unable to offer any assistance, but reading about your efforts to help and take care of my fellow brothers and sisters means a lot to me. I don't know any of them nor do I know you, but I cannot thank you enough for what you are doing. Thank you. The whole Muslim community is grateful for your efforts. Thank you for setting an example to the community, the country, and ultimately the world. It may not seem like a big deal, but it is a very big deal. It may seem like it went unnoticed, but it doesn't go unnoticed.
In a world where religion, not specifically Islam, Judaism, Catholicism and more are ridiculed and isolated, its imperative that we help each other out as much as we can. I cannot offer any money at this time to compensate you for your efforts, but I can offer much gratitude and most important, even more valuable than money I will pray for you, your families, your community and for peace. -Muhammad - Richmond, VA
Just wanted to send along a word of thanks for your generous actions towards the worshipers of the Masjid Al-Salaam mosque. Your actions give me hope. - Mitch L.- Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec
I just wanted to thank you for support you have given the Muslim community in Canada. Peace be with you!!! - Khalid (England)
Cantor Leon Litvack - Thought for the Day - 4 December 2015
When I visit Canada, one place I frequently go to is Peterborough, Ontario. It’s a small city that’s often called the ‘gateway to the Kawarthas’, that series of beautiful, interconnected lakes where many people have summer homes. It’s also famous for being safe and welcoming to new Canadians, who now immigrate there from many parts of the world. As an expression of this sense of openness, the major faith communities hold an annual ‘Abraham Festival’, for which Jews, Christians and Muslims all work together in order, as they say, to ‘demystify the other’ and ‘grow relationships that bind together those who have been strangers’. There’s a film and book club, where people can gather to learn about the different faiths through artistic expression. On Mother’s Day they hold workshops to explore the roles of women in these three communities. They’ve also held a multi-faith environmental event, to explore how groups can introduce greener ideas and practices into their spiritual lives.
Now, you may say that this is all very nice; but what hard evidence is there that an ‘Abraham Festival’ can make a real difference? Well, this was clearly demonstrated in Peterborough a couple of weeks ago, in the wake of the city’s only mosque suffering fire damage in an arson attack, just two days after the events in Paris, in which a hundred and thirty people died. The fire at the mosque rendered the building unusable; but because of the strong friendships that had been built up through collaboration in the Festival, the Jewish community had no hesitation in offering the synagogue for Jumu’ah, the Friday prayers which are at the centre of Muslim weekly worship. This initiative has made news across Canada, because it’s rather unique; but what really strikes a chord are sensible, no-nonsense comments made by the community leaders. The President of the synagogue said, ‘As Canadians we have to stick together. . . It's not about religion; it's not about race. Canadians [just] do this’. The President of the mosque has offered equally practical remarks; he said, ‘Even though it came out of a tragedy, we are working together. We have more similarities than differences. We have so much in common — the details of worship and the ceremonies. Even the stories we hear are similar. At the end of the day, it's [another] house of God’.
As a Canadian, I am of course proud of these fellow citizens. But I’m also struck by the wider implications of these acts of cooperation. If we all took more time to treat those around us with sensitivity and understanding, we too could do unique things, and could show how well we can stick together.