Muslim Man Appointed to British Synagogue Council

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Bradford Liberal Synagogue.Credit: John Yeadon

A synagogue in the British city of Bradford appointed a Muslim man to its council, citing the local Muslim community's financial rescue of the synagogue as the reason for the appointment.

“The local Muslim community has been an unfailing partner in the fight to keep the building open and flourishing,” a spokesperson for the synagogue said, The U.K.'s Independent reported.

“At a time when both the Jewish and Muslim communities are reeling from the impact of the horrific attacks in Paris,” the spokesperson added, “the positive and supportive relationship between Bradford’s Jews and Muslims has grown another step closer.” 

In 2013, the Bradford Council for Mosques made a donation that helped save the city's only synagogue, which is on an official list of historical buildings. Built in 1880 by Rabbi Joseph Strauss, one of the first Reform rabbis in England, Bradford's synagogue features Sephardi-influenced Moorish architecture.

Bradford's Jewish population has been dwindling for decades, and took a serious hit during the economic crisis of the 1980s. When the roof of the synagogue started leaking, the congregation counted just 40 families and was facing possible closure.

But within a few days of hearing that the synagogue may be going under, the Muslim community had raised 2,000 pounds for emergency repairs, saving the synagogue.

The decision to appoint Jani Rashid, head of diversity and cohesion at Bradford Council’s children’s services, was passed unanimously, the Independent reported.

“This helps us to respect one another’s diversity and, just as importantly, to share in our common beliefs of decency, respect, and compassion for our fellow human beings,” Rashid said, according to the Independent.

A Jewish community has existed in Bradford since the early 19th century, though its numbers have dwindled since. Nearly one quarter of the population of Bradford is Muslim, according to the city's website.

Bradford's name has been embroiled in a recent controversy, after British Parliament Member George Galloway declared the city "an Israel-free zone" in August 2014.

“We don’t even want any Israeli tourists to come to Bradford, if any of them had thought of doing so. We reject this illegal, barbarous, savage state that calls itself Israel. And you have to do the same," Galloway said in statements made during the war between Gaza and Israel.

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