Canadian synagogue, mosque join forces to help Syrian refugee family
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Canadian synagogue, mosque join forces to help Syrian refugee family

Two communities cooperate in raising funds, help family torn by civil war reunite and find a home in Toronto

Rasha Elendari meeting her family at the airport in Canada after they were reunited thanks to the cooperation of a mosque and a synagogue in Toronto. (Screen capture CBC News)
Rasha Elendari meeting her family at the airport in Canada after they were reunited thanks to the cooperation of a mosque and a synagogue in Toronto. (Screen capture CBC News)

A synagogue and a mosque in Canada have joined forces to take in a Syrian refugee family, helping them escape the ongoing civil war in Syria and resettle in Toronto, according to a report by CBC news.

“A group of Muslims and a group of Jewish people showed the community, showed the country and, hopefully, we can show to the world that people may be different [but] there are lots common things,” Alireza Torabian, the mosque’s chair for sponsorship, was quoted by CBC as saying.

“We have to build our community, our relationships, our country based on the common aspects that we share.”

Andrew Hazen, a member of Temple Har Zion and co-chair of the synagogue’s Refugee Committee, partnered with the Imam Mahdi Islamic Centre last winter after Har Zion Rabbi Cory Weiss approached his Muslim counterpart with the idea of sponsoring the family. Both communities supported their spiritual leaders’ cooperation.

“We were trying to rescue a family from a war zone, but also do it in a way that showed that Canada was that kind of place that we were proud of,” Hazen said.

The two communities raised more than $45,000 to finance the family’s rent and expenses, and representatives spent two weeks touring houses that could hold the family of nine. They also cooperated on collecting furniture to fill the home.

One member of the family has left Syria prior to the start of the conflict to pursue studies at the University of Arkansas in the US. She had expected to return home but then the civil war broke out.

“I was so worried about my family,” Rasha Elendari was quoted by CBC as saying in an interview before their arrival. “I wanted to stand by them, by my family at that time.”

Her sisters, Manya Elendari and Feras Azzam, were both residents of Damascus when the war began. The bombings prompted them to flee southward to their parents’ home in Sweida, in the southern Syrian Golan Heights.

“The situation there wasn’t as bad, but my parents were active in civil society and the humanitarian organizations, which caused many problems for them by the [government’s] security forces,” Rasha Elendari said.

She said that the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad arrested her father because he hosted a displaced family in his home.

After a bomb fell near their home in Sweida, they decided to leave, escaping first to Lebanon and then to Turkey.

Rasha Elendari began trying to find a way to bring her loved ones to Canada. This week, they joined her, along with more than 35,000 Syrian refugees who have settled in Canada as privately sponsored or government-assisted refugees.

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