Jewish leaders visited the two mosques targeted in the Christchurch terror attack today to mark a $1.1 million donation from their communities around the world.
In what became a poignant visit, representatives from both religions made a point to express their desire for unity, putting aside the historic strains between the two beliefs.
Both held tours for the other through their places of worship, including the Al Noor and Linwood mosques and the city synagogue, going as far as to respect each other’s religious traditions.
At times the Jewish delegates knelt in the mosque alongside the Muslim worshipers to listen to the imam, while the Muslim representatives donned the traditional skullcap or kippah inside the Canterbury Hebrew Congregation synagogue.
Speaking at the Al Noor mosque today, the CEO of the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies said he wanted to support Christchurch’s Muslims “spiritually” and “emotionally”.
“Sadly, the Jewish community has experienced its own share of attacks of anti-Semitism, of attacks against it, so we understood the pain that the Muslim community of Christchurch would be going through,” he said.
“[We want] to give a message to the Muslim community that we feel your pain, that we understand what you're going through, and we are here to support you.”
The $1.1 million dollar fund was raised in the months following the attack, with fundraisers arranged by the New South Wales Jewish Community, the American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh in the US, which has also suffered from a terrorist attack.
It quickly spread around with the world and will now be known as the New Zealand Abrahamic Fund, a nod to the central place the figure Abraham holds in both religions, and support the victims in the long term.
The imam of Al Noor mosque, Gamal Fouda, met the delegation today and gave a short address describing the meeting as a “golden opportunity” for the two religions to work together.
“The Jewish community, the Jewish people, are the siblings of Muslims and Judaism is a close religion to Islam as well,” he said.
“That shows that people are actually willing to continue working together as one body against hate, against hatred speech and against racial discrimination.”
The first cheque was handed over in a ceremony at the Christchurch City Council and will be administered by charitable body The Christchurch Foundation.