Thornhill synagogue partners with mosque
The two neighbourhood congregations welcome Syrian refugee family to Canada
Temple Har Zion (THZ) synagogue wanted to sponsor a Syrian refugee family. The Imam Mahdi Islamic Centre (IMIC) did too.
The synagogue and mosque share a parking lot on Bayview Avenue on the Markham side of Thornhill.
In teaming up and welcoming the Elendari family into Canada, the two centres became a family of their own.
“We wanted to show people that these communities, although they look different in the political world, there are lots of common grounds,” said Alireza Torabian, co-chair from the IMIC.
Torabian, along with fellow co-chairs Afsaneh Beigi, Andrew Hazen and Martin Ginsherman, broached the idea in November 2015 to THZ to sponsor a refugee family and created the Refugee Project. It was the start of a new relationship between the two congregations.
Prior to the Refugee Project, despite residing beside each other in Thornhill for years, the two congregations’ main interactions consisted of sharing meeting schedules and a parking lot. This was the first big team endeavour.
When the project officially lauched in March 2016, each congregation held fundraisers, raising approximately $25,000.
Over the past three months, the two congregations have been collecting furniture, arranging living accomdations and working to get the family proper health care and jobs. Then they waited to see which family they would be sponsoring.
On Jan 11, the Elendari family, a family of eight, arrived at Toronto Pearson International Airport.
Hazen, co-chair from THZ, said this project has been a good opportunity to “pay it forward.” He said the motives for this project were to help a family, demonstrate “tikkun olam” — a phrase in Hebrew that means “heal and repair” — and finally, to collaborate with the mosque. He said he wants this project to show people that Canada is a place where these sorts of religious and communal alliances can happen.
“We, as Muslim Iranian immigrants, salute this collaboration, for a better relationship and friendship between two centres,” said Beigi.
Currently the committee doesn’t have any other specific projects lined up, but Beigi hopes that together they can collaborate on other aspects in the future.
We, as Muslim Iranian immigrants, salute this collaboration.”
Members from Temple Har Zion and the Imam Mahdi Islamic Centre