Synagogue Donates to Burned California Mosque

‘Brothers in faith’

by Roger Phillips

Oldest synagogue in East Bay reaches out to Stockton mosque

STOCKTON – Worshippers at the Masjid al Emaan mosque congregate in a nondescript office park on Pershing Avenue in north Stockton. The mosque has been around for only a few years, and its small membership has diminished in the aftermath of an unsolved arson fire seven months ago.

Temple Sinai in Oakland is the oldest synagogue in the East Bay, dating back more than 130 years, with nearly 1,000 member families. In terms of its history and size, it would seem to be much farther from Masjid al Emaan than a mere 75-minute drive.

And yet, when members of Temple Sinai learned of the fire that damaged Masjid al Emaan, they were moved. Recently, the temple donated $100 to Masjid al Emaan. Mosque officials say it is the only contribution they have received from outside the Muslim community.

“That’s wonderful,” said Basel Karabala, the mosque’s vice president and treasurer. “It’s a beautiful gesture. Unfortunately, people don’t know the history behind that. You had Jews and Muslims and Christians living side by side for thousands of years. The flare-ups have only been in the last 60 or 70 years. Before that, for eons, we had been living in peace.”

The temple’s rabbi, Andrew Straus, also noted the relationship between Jews and Muslims. Straus said that in making the contribution, his congregation was saying, “Yes, there have been strains and challenges, but like us, you were created in God’s image, and when one suffers tragedy, one forgets the strains in a relationship and says, ‘You are our brothers.’ ”

Masjid al Emaan’s 60 members worship in office space in the same office park that housed their previous facility, which was destroyed by the fire. Mosque officials are looking for a more permanent rental site with the long-range goal of purchasing a facility.

They do not plan to apply the temple’s donation to rent and also said there are no plans to put the $100 into a fund to be applied later toward purchase of a facility because Muslim religious law forbids investing money for interest. Instead, the mosque plans to make a donation of its own.

“Maybe we can use that money and feed the poor, maybe in the Bay Area or in Stockton,” Karabala said.

Straus said, “I was not aware of that. That’s a decision for them to make. We’re saying, ‘Losing a building in a fire, with the emotional and physical harm that causes, we want to help you.’

“We wanted to reach out to the Muslim community and say, ‘We are brothers in faith. We’ve been there. We remember and we want to reach out to you.’ ”

Contact reporter Roger Phillips at (209) 546-8299 orrphillips@recordnet.com. Visit his blog at recordnet.com/phillipsblog.

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