When a Texas mosque burned down, a local synagogue took in the congregation.



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When a Victoria, Texas, mosque burned down under mysterious circumstances on early Jan. 28, 2017, members were distraught.

The fire, which collapsed the building, left the congregants of the Victoria Islamic Center without a place to worship.

That is, at least, until members of a local Jewish congregation showed up at a mosque founder’s house with a key to their synagogue.  

“This is sad for everyone in the community and as Jews we especially have to feel for the Muslim community. When a calamity like this happens, we have to stand together,” Robert Loeb, the synagogue’s president, told Reuters.

Both communities are small — Victoria boasts a few dozen Jewish and about 100 Muslim residents — which synagogue officials said makes sticking together all the more important.

“Everyone knows everybody, I know several members of the mosque, and we felt for them,” Loeb said.

Others in the community pitched in as well.

The Victoria Islamic Center, before the fire. Photo by Victoria Islamic Center/Facebook.

A few days after the fire, local high school students rallied in support of the mosque, praying and planting trees. Donations to a GoFundMe page set up to raise money for rebuilding have exceeded $1 million.

After an election year that saw an increase in anti-Semitic and Islamophobic incidents, Jewish and Muslim groups have been coming together to support one another.

Back in November, the Islamic Society of North America and the American Jewish Committee joined forces to create the Muslim-Jewish Advisory Committee, with the goal of combatting hateful speech and violence toward members of either faith and pushing for expanded rights for religious and ethnic minorities.

Meanwhile, groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations and Bend the Arc Jewish Action have been leading protests and petitions against Donald Trump’s executive order barring travelers from Muslim nations from entering the United States.

While it’s still unclear whether the Texas mosque fire was an act of hate, the synagogue said it had plenty of space to welcome their neighbors.

When terrible things happen to those nearby, the least we can do is find that space in ourselves.

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