After Texas Mosque Destroyed, Muslim Community Given Keys to Synagogue

After Texas Mosque Destroyed, Muslim Community Given Keys to Synagogue
Facebook, Victoria Islamic Center
The 100 members of the Victoria, Texas mosque gutted by a mysterious fire last Saturday have been give a temporary new home: the local synagogue.

Days after a fire destroyed the Victoria Islamic Center (the only Muslim place of worship in the small town of around 65,000), members of the local Jewish community gave the mosque's founder, Shahid Hashmi, keys to their sole synagogue.

“This is sad for everyone in the community," Robert Loeb, the president of Temple B'nai Israel, told Forward. "As Jews, we especially have to feel for the Muslim community. When a calamity like this happens, we have to stand together."

And Victoria Jews are too familiar with this strain of calamity. In 2008, Loeb's temple was defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti — another moment that drew support from other local religious communities.

In a town the size of Victoria, where "everyone knows everyone," the decision just made sense to Loeb.

“We have probably 25 to 30 Jewish people in Victoria, and they probably have 100 Muslims. We got a lot of building for a small amount of Jews," he said.

Loeb's congregation isn't the only community offering aid to Victoria Muslims. In the past four days, people across the world have raised more than $1 million through an online fundraising campaign to help rebuild the mosque.

The FBI has yet to pinpoint what started the Saturday morning fire, but its timing — a day after President Donald Trump signed an executive order blocking people traveling from Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. — has drawn suspicions.

City spokesman O.C. Garza told the New York Times that the feds are working faster than usual with local law enforcement to get answers, "given the nature of this fire and what was burned."

On Sunday, hundreds met in font of the torched mosque for an interfaith prayer rally. Instead of dwelling on the cause, community members spoke on how the incident further strengthens the town's support system.

“Whether this was a kitchen fire, short circuit or a psychopath, the result of the spark is not what stands behind me,” said Gary Branfman, a member of B'nai Israel, according to the Victoria Advocate. “It’s what stands before me.”


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