‘Praying With Our Feet’: Reform Congregations in Toronto and London Stand Against Religious Discrimination

In the aftermath of a deadly shooting at a Quebec City mosque on January 29, hundreds of Jews and other Canadians formed “rings of peace” around mosques across Canada on Friday February 3.

The protective human shields were the initiative of Rabbi Yael Splansky, Senior Rabbi at Toronto’s Holy Blossom Temple

“After Splansky floated the idea by her pan-denominational colleagues and gained support from Toronto Board of Rabbis,” reported The Times of Israel, “many of the city’s synagogues worked together to rally people to come out midday on Friday to encircle seven mosques throughout the Greater Toronto Area. The mosques were all receptive to the gesture, and in some cases local churches partnered in the interfaith effort.”

Holy Blossom Temple’s Rabbi Yael Splansky (right)
speaks with the leader of the Imdadul Islamic Centre
in Toronto, Canada, on February 3, 2017.
(Facebook/Holy Blossom Temple)

Splansky told The Times of Israel she came up with the idea after sending a condolence letter to leaders of the Muslim congregation, the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre, that was targeted.

“Words are just words. But then I suddenly remembered having read about how two years ago Muslims formed a ring of peace around a synagogue in Oslo, Norway after murderous attacks against Jews in Paris and Copenhagen. I thought that could be something we could do here — only in reverse, with Jews showing solidarity with Muslims,” Splansky said.

Carole Sterling, Chair of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ), attended the protest, and shared these thoughts with the World Union about her reasons for attending and the experience of being there: “It was a freezing cold day, the kind of day that makes one not want to leave the house, or be outside, and I thought how much more significant and important it would be for us to head outside and show our support on a day like today. People are feeling helpless and that there is nothing to do. Protests like this enable us to ‘pray with our feet’ – to have our presence and effort be the signal for hope and change and tikkun olam.

“It was very moving being at the mosque and surrounding it with our beliefs in tolerance and togetherness. There was no distinction between gender, religion or age among us. And as the men walked in to pray they expressed sheer gratitude, some surprise, and many were so touched. There were ‘rings of peace’ across seven mosques or Islamic centers that day – a significant number in Judaism.  

“The fact that there was so much media coverage there spoke to the need for more action like this. I was very proud to be a part of a community – and congregation – that values and supports differences and diversity. I am also very proud of Rabbi Yael Splansky for her leadership, sensitivity and compassion.” 

In London, a similar “circle of solidarity” was formed by members of all faiths at one of the capital’s biggest mosques during prayers on February 3. 

Londoners of all faiths and beliefs formed a human circle of solidarity around the Wightman Road Mosque during Friday prayers. The event was jointly sponsored by Reform Judaism, the Islamic Society of Britain, the Christian Muslim Forum, the Faiths Forum for London, and Hope not Hate, and strove to demonstrate solidarity with Muslims at a time of international turbulence.

“London and Britain stands as one,” tweeted Rabbi Laura
Janner-Klausner at the Circle of Solidarity demonstration
in London on February 3, 2017

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism said: “This week started with President Trump’s executive order, and is ending with news that anti-Semitism is at record levels in the UK. Tomorrow, we will show our determination, as minorities and people of different religions, to stand together and protect one another.”

Talking with Reform Judaism, Ajmal Masroor, Chair of Islamic Society of Britain, noted: “After recent events in the US and Canada, we received calls from leaders of many faiths and beliefs wanting to show solidarity with British Muslims. I feel these leaders wanted to relay the message that we are all equal citizens of this great country and that we must stand as one when any of us feels isolated or scared. We are deeply touched by this real show of support”.

For more about the event in London, read the following articles in The StandardThe Times of Israel, or watch this video on YouTube.

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