Bradford Muslims Rally To Save Synagogue
By Jessica Elgot
With only just over thirty members and an extravagant Grade II listed Moorish building, the tiny Jewish community of Bradford have for many years been in despair about their finances – until the local Muslim community stepped in to help.
The grand-looking Reform synagogue, is on an unassuming street, between the Yorkshire Tandoori, Al-Hijaab Islamic Clothing and the Jamia Shan-E-Islam Educational Centre.
Built in 1880, it has long been under threat of closure, but several Muslim organisations in the city have pledged to stop it falling into ruin, with donors giving Â£2,000 to save the synagogueâ€™s roof.
Zulfi Karim, the secretary of the Bradford Council of Mosques, said he hoped that the story of local collaboration, amid global Muslim-Jewish tensions, would be an inspirational one, and one that would improve the image of the city.
â€œMany people do seem to be massively taken aback that the Jewish and Muslim community are working hand-in-hand, when all you seem to hear about Bradford are the nasty things,â€ he told HuffPost UK.
â€œWe want to make sure this synagogue is protected, long-term, a heritage site for the whole community.â€
Rudi Leavor, chairman of the synagogue, told HuffPost UK he had originally begun to talk to his Muslim neighbours when they lobbied together to stop the conversion of a local building into a restaurant, and they successfully stopped the planning application.
â€œWhen I told him about the parlous state of our finances because of low membership, he referred me to the Carlisle Business Centre.
â€œHe sat on the committee and though the organisation was nominally non-denominational, it was Asian orientated. I was awarded several hundred pounds,â€ he told HuffPost UK.
Since making the contacts, Leaver said the synagogue had received a lot of assistance from different Muslim organisations, and has formed a close relationship with Mahmood Mohammed, a development officer for Bradford Council.
Leavor told HuffPost UK: â€œAt the time, rain has entered through a faulty roof and an adjacent building costing about Â£2,000 to repair most urgently. Mahmood said he had an anonymous donor who would underwrite the cost.
â€œIn the mean time he introduced me to Karim, of Bradford Council of Mosques. He met me at the Synagogue and was impressed with the building.â€
â€œThereâ€™s been a Jewish community in Bradford for 100 years, and now thereâ€™s barely a trace. I was so impressed by the architecture and the history of the synagogue, we couldnâ€™t let this go to waste,â€ Karim told HuffPost UK.
The anonymous benefactor turned out to be Kahlid Pervaiz, owner of the Drummond Mills Complex near the Synagogue, who also offered its members free parking.
Leaver said that if their collaboration can â€œcontribute just a little towards peace and harmony, then so much the better.â€
George Galloway, the Respect MP for Bradford West, has published an Early Day motion congratulating the Council of Mosques, which has been signed by 11 MPs. The EDM congratulates â€œthe members of the Bradford Muslim community for their extraordinary ecumenical gesture in raising a very large sum of money to repair the roof of Bradfordâ€™s last remaining synagogue, thereby enabling members of the Jewish community to continue to worship there; and believes that this generous gesture shows the true spirit of Islam towards other People of the Book.â€