A Syrian refugee child looks on, moments after arriving on a raft with other Syrian refugees on a beach on the Greek island of Lesbos.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Congregants of a UK synagogue are seeking to raise funds in order to permanently house a family of Syrian refugees on the holy site's premises, The Independent reported Wednesday.
Members of the South London Liberal Synagogue in Streatham, south London, say they need to raise 50, 000 pounds ($62,869 ) in order to convert a religious studies teaching room into a two-bedroom apartment, with two architects already pledging their services free of charge.
“It really is lovely,” Alice Alphandary, the synagogue chair, told The Independent. “It’s very important to remember that we are talking about human beings. There are more things that unite us than divide us."
Alphandary said members of of the synagogue are thrilled to help and are "pulling together" to assist their guests.
“It’s very easy for religion and politics to get confused, and I think it is very important to recognize our common humanity and to help challenge perceptions slightly," she said.
“If you look at the rhetoric that was in the press maybe 150 years ago when there was a lot of Jewish immigration coming into the country, it’s not dissimilar to the language used today towards immigrants and refugees," the local Jewish community leader added.
Yet, not all members of the Jewish diaspora were so quick to praise the Streatham synagogue's kind gesture.
Upon learning of the shul's hospitality through social media, Michael Burd, a presenter at a Jewish radio station in Melbourne, Australia, who has previously described “divisive, progressive Democrats” as "new fascists,” urged the worldwide Jewish community to exercise more caution in assisting their new Middle East neighbors.
“We in Australia are forced to engage armed guards at our synagogues specifically because of fear of attack from extremist Muslims including Syrian, Palestinian and other Muslims."
“In fact, due to increased Muslim immigration some of our Jewish day schools and Jewish community centers are in the process of erecting bomb-proof walls in the event of Muslim-related attacks, deranged lone wolves etc."
“Jews in London must be very lucky and the only Jews in Europe not living under siege,” he added.
Alphandary, however, says she has no such reservations in assisting a needy family, whether they be Syrian, Arab or Muslim.
“It’s also important to distinguish between what is at the heart of a religion and what isn’t,” she said.
“For so many people, it’s the chance to make a bit of a difference. It’s hard to make great change in life, but if you can just take one small positive action, it’s a good place to start,” added Alphandary.