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NEWS: Supporting a local synagogue (Dec. 2018)

December 30th, 2018 · No Comments

Multi-faith ring of peace circles City Shul

Christian and Muslim members of local churches and mosques circled City Shul on November 1 in a ring of peace. Organizers wanted to show solidarity with the synagogue, which operates out of the Bloor Street United Church at Bloor and Huron streets, after a deadly attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. Ahmed Hagar/Gleaner News

By Ahmed Hagar

Christians and Muslims surrounded the City Shul synagogue on November 1 in a show of solidarity with the synagogue’s Jewish congregants in response to the attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27. Participants carrying signs with supportive messages greeted congregants for the 10 a.m. service.

Barb Wentworth and Richard Kirsh, members of the First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto, took part in what was called the ring of peace. They both said that they wanted to show support to the Jewish community.

“The world is crazy, and to do this little thing, it is important,” said Wentworth, who held a sign reading “What the world needs now is love”.

“Being able to have your spiritual practice in peace is important,” added Kirsh. “To have our own freedom, we need to support everyone else’s freedom.”

Former member of provincial Parliament, Reverend Dr. Cheri DiNovo of Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church also participated, because different religious communities coming together and showing solidarity is “very critical”.

“In the wake of the tragedy that happened in Pittsburgh, we wanted to show our solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sisters,” she said. “We are all in the Abrahamic traditions, so we are here with Muslims and Christians of all denominations.”

It’s one of many rings of peace to show support for the Jewish community that have been held at synagogues throughout Toronto since the attack in Pittsburgh.

Reverend Gary van der Meer of St. Anne’s Anglican Church helped organize the City Shul event, and had reached out to City Shul Rabbi Elyse Goldstein shortly after hearing about the attack.

“On the Sunday, we created a big card and we asked people to sign it and we had special prayers in our church service,” he said. “And I was in touch with the rabbi to convey my support.”

Rabbi Goldstein said the community was “vulnerable and frightened” after receiving news of the attack. She added that the synagogue is supported by the community, and other religious leaders responded immediately.

“We feel very loved and equal in Canada,” she said. “When the government officials come to the synagogue, I will ask them on behalf of the Jewish community to stay strong in their commitment to protect all vulnerable minorities.”

This was not the first time Reverend van der Meer has participated in a ring of peace. He and Rabbi Goldstein also participated in one for the Islamic Information and Dawah Centre after the Quebec City mosque shooting in 2017.

Reverend van der Meer said his congregation supported the mosque to “show support from their neighbours.

“My own congregation members came to me, not in the ‘we have to do it for them because we did it for the others’, but more in ‘this is who we are’.”

The City Shul’s members thanked the members of the ring of peace, distributing Timbits.

It was a “warm feeling to have all of these people say that they are standing for us,” said Nick Gunz, who worships at City Shul. “It has touched a dark memory in our communities and the memories have been of a past in which this sort of thing happened and no one came out. And now everyone is coming out and that is really nice.”

Gunz also said that the support the community has shown is an ideal example of the importance of interfaith solidarity.

“This is why interfaith is important because it allows us to stand together and understand one another when times are bad,” he said.

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