East End synagogue is sold to its Muslim neighbours


The sale of an old East End synagogue to a neighbouring mosque has been hailed as an example of positive relations between Jews and Muslims.

Fieldgate Street Great Synagogue, which shut earlier this year, has been bought by the adjacent East London Mosque, the largest in the country.

Judge Khurshid Drabu, a trustee of the Joseph Interfaith Foundation, noted that the synagogue had given their "Muslim brothers next door" first option on the building.

A few years ago, the mosque gave a grant to the Federation of Synagogues congregation towards repairs.

Judge Drabu said the mosque's trustees were now considering "keeping that synagogue as a mark of heritage for Jewish people and [to] use the centre for scholastic exchange" for people from different faiths.

We have no choice. We must deepen engagement

He was speaking at a meeting of the foundation chaired by Lord Stone of Blackheath in the House of Lords.

Senior imam of the Makkah Mosque in Leeds, Qari Mohammad Asim, recommended more joint activities such as the Mitzvah Day collection for refugees in which members of the local Muslim community were taking part this weekend.

He said his visit to Alyth shul in Golders Green for Yom Kippur had been an "eye-opener. It showed goodwill and generosity from the Jewish community."

Muslims and Jews in Europe "must not see each other only through the lens of the Israel and Palestine conflict. I am pleased to say that, in recent decades, there have been concerted efforts… to forward positive relationships. The landscape is changing, albeit slowly."

The Muslim community "must not tolerate any comments made by British Muslims who believe in conspiracy theories and claim that things go wrong because of Jews", the imam added. The Jewish community "must also be less suspicious, misunderstanding and afraid of the Muslim community".

Echoing the call for closer ties, Board of Deputies president Jonathan Arkush said that, "we have no choice. We must deepen Jewish-Muslim engagement and that means not just in the House of Lords, or between mosque and synagogue in Finchley, but places where Jews and Muslims don't necessarily meet each other."

One university Muslim chaplain argued that the word "interfaith" held little appeal for young people and joint social events were more effective. One group of Muslim and Jewish students had recently gone paint-balling together.

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