A London mosque has played host for a local synagogue’s succah throughout the festival in a historic first for the UK.
Congregants of Brondesbury Park shul and Al-Khoei Foundation mosque together erected the structure in the latter’s forecourt following an initiative from the Three Faiths Forum. It came after several synagogues in the capital hosted meals for local Muslims to break the Ramadan fast in recent years.
Yousif Al-Khoei, public affairs for the Foundation, told the Jewish News: “We passionately believe in the power of goodness in people and try to break some of the barriers that exist. The Jewish community have hosted a number of Muslim communities for iftar so we thought we should do something similar. It emphasises the power of charity and of food in bringing people together.”
The open nature of the succah – with sides made up of wooden slats – meant all visitors to the site could see the temporary addition. A local Muslim school had an opportunity to learn about the festival during a visit to succah, while Muslim and Jewish families mingled at a breakfast on Sunday.
Al-Khoei said the response to the project had been “generally positive. This breakfast shows we have the support of the grassroots. All of our scriptures emphasise the power of good neighbourly relations. I don’t think this is bold as such but it’s certainly long overdue. We hope this kind of action will be normal in future.”
Rabbi Baruch Levin, of Brondesbury Park shul, described the experience as “absolutely magical” and thanked the “courageous” mosque for the move. “A succah is the ultimate equaliser; it’s all about openness, recognising we all rely on divine protection and that life is too transient to spend time squabbling,” he said.
“Seeing our children running around the mosque feeling uninhibited and in the fullness of time youngsters from the mosque coming to our synagogue will break down some of the psychological barriers between the next generation. I witnessed a group of girls chatting and playing on the floor together and for me it was a fantastic sign; the next generation will be equipped with more effective tools than our generation to deal with interfaith relations.”
UCS pupil Max Friend was visiting a mosque first time. “More people from the synagogue should come here,” said the 15-year-old. “With the news you’re reading the negatives. Being here I can see everyone is friendly and we have a lot in common. I was talking to one boy about exams and he gave me tips on what to do for my GCSE.”
As Brondesbury shul members floated ideas for how they could reciprocate the hositality, Aymen Ati, 23, looked forward to visiting Brondesbury shul, said: “Brexit didn’t create xenophobia but it was latent and Brexit empowered these people. We need to actively fight against that through community work like this that brings people together.” He said mixing with Jews would help to tackle anti-Semitism within the Muslim communities.
Mustafa Field, director of the Faiths Forum for London – who was joined at the breakfast by Rabbi Natan Levy – said: “What looks like a simple project represents a pronounced willingness on the part of both communities to stand united against all hate and bigotry. Food, people and a hut with no doors where everyone is invited inside is a great combination.”