Interfaith Relations Save an English Synagogue

As seen in Bradford, England, there is indeed power in even small acts of care and reaching out. One never knows when a natural human kindness will translate into something much greater, often when we least expect it.  

With the grateful help of a local Muslim leader and friends, a decaying and disintegrating synagogue now shows a bright, promising future. IRFWP celebrates these ideals of mutual respect. It is clear to see that positive interfaith respect and actions for good can create enduring change toward more harmonious social environments. 

One year ago, the trustees of Bradford’s only remaining synagogue stood unsure of the synagogue’s future. Plagued with serious damage, the only option seemed to sell the building, leaving the town without any Jewish worship centers for miles.

Fortunately, an intervention from Bradford’s Muslim community secured both “the long-term future of the synagogue” and “a friendship between Bradfordian followers of Islam and Judaism.” Through a fundraising effort headed by a nearby mosque’s secretary and the owner of a popular curry house and a local textile magnate, the synagogue’s bank account received 103,000 euros of lottery money for the building’s revival.

Photograph: Gary Calton

How did this relationship come about? Zulficar Ali, a man who owns a popular restaurant just a few doors down from the synagogue, introduced Rudi Leavor, the synagogue’s chairman “to a local social enterprise called the Carlisle Business Centre, which awards grants to worthy causes.” Shortly after the synagogue received their first donation for emergency roof repairs, Zulfi Karim became involved with the organization. He learned that the mill his father worked at upon emigrating from Pakistan “was run by a Jewish descendant of Joseph Strauss, the rabbi who founded the synagogue in 1880.” Through the repairs, Karim has become very close with Leavor, developing an interfaith relationship.

The Muslim’s community’s efforts to help rebuild the synagogue represents a beautiful beginning to interfaith dialogue in Bradford. According to Karim, “the way forward is interfaith dialogue – perhaps through food, perhaps through visiting a synagogue or other places of worship.”

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