On Sunday 22nd June members of the Al Khoei Foundation and the Brondesbury Park Synagogue took part in an exchange visit to their respective places of worship, introducing each other to the basics of Islam and Judaism.
Members of the Imam Khoei Islamic Centre received a whistlestop tour of the main elementsof the synagogue service and Jewish life by Rabbi Baruch Levin, and were told about the history of the Jewish presence in Willesden, as well as hearing about the rejuvenation of today’s community by Brondesbury Park.
Brondesbury’s congregants heard that the Islamic Centre previously served as the Brondesbury Synagogue on Chevening Road, before closing down in 1974 and being converted into a Mosque in the 1980s.
Speeches at the Al Khoei Centre included a welcome by Sayid Yousif Al Khoei, a presentation on the introduction to Islam by Sayid Jafar Milani,a description of local interfaith work of the Al Khoei Foundation, a description by pupils from Al Sadiq and Al Zahra Schools on the meaning of the Khoei logo, a presentation from Jo Winsloe from the London Interfaith Centre, Catriona Robertson from the London Peace Network and a talk by Charlotte Fisher from London Citizens. Members of the synagogue had their names written in traditional Islamic calligraphy by renowned calligrapher Samir Malik.
Rabbi Baruch Levin said: “Events of this kind are hugely important as they break down perceived barriers between faith communities at a local level, thereby enriching the sense of social cohesion and highlighting the range of common interests that we share”.
Daniel Turner said: “Learning about each other’s religious customs and practices made for a wonderful day and it was thrilling to see how keen ourvisitors were to find out about Judaism. For our part, learning about Islam was truly fascinating, and the excitement of visiting the old Brondesbury Synagogue, as it once was, was a memorable experience. I am looking forward to continuing to build our friendship with the foundation.”
Sayid Yousif Al Khoei said,”The reciprocal meeting between the Brondesbury Park community and the Al Khoei Foundation was an inspiring event which demonstrated a deep commitment to good community relations. It was heartening and wonderful to learn that everyone enjoyed an informed perspective on both faiths contributing to significantly to community cohesion. Good community relations are at the heart of a society where people can live together harmoniously as neighbours.”
Aliya Azam said, ” The reciprocal meeting between the Al Khoei Foundation and the Brondesbury Synagogue was a spiritually uplifting event. It is recognised that contributing to community relations is only one dimension of Religious Education. RE can be a strong contributor to good community relations through enabling students and adults to acquire systematic knowledge and conceptual understanding of religions. We all learnt about our beliefs from each other during this visit and visitors through personal encounters. The encounter enabled people to articulate their own opinions while respecting the right of others to differ. Students who participated were empowered with confidence and openness in dialogue. Overall the event had an extremely positive impact on the community.”
Aliya Azam, Al-Khoei Foundation and President, Christian Muslim Forum