The Muslim congregants of a Manhattan mosque closed after a fire were not without a place to pray on Friday. “Allah had a better plan,” the imam said, after a nearby synagogue opened its doors to them.
The tense situation turned into a beautiful moment for both the Islamic Society of Mid-Manhattan and Central Synagogue, a historic New York congregation. The mosque was temporarily closed a few days earlier after a fire started in a restaurant on the first floor of its building. Friday is the holiest day in the Muslim week, and Muslims traditionally gather for prayer in the early afternoon, called Jummah.
On Friday afternoon, the imam had been hoping that the fire department’s investigation of the building would be done in time for Jummah. Outside the mosque, several members of Central Synagogue, which is just one block east, had already gathered to welcome them in, as they had done last Friday.
When it became clear that the growing crowd of congregants waiting to go inside would likely be turned away, the Central members invited them to the synagogue, according to Rabbi Stephanie Kolin, a rabbi at Central.
Over the next several minutes, more than 600 Muslims walked a block east to Central, and filed into the synagogue’s indoor pavilion, leaving their shoes in the hallway. A facilities manager at Central located a hand-washing station for the Muslim congregants, as hand-washing is a part of Jummah prayers.
Kolin said that the Islamic Society’s imam spoke about how he had a plan for how to conduct that day’s prayers, marking one week since the massacre of Muslims at two mosques in New Zealand. Central’s hospitality left him in awe — he called it “one of the most blessed moments of my life in New York.” He told the attendees that this was a moment they would talk about with their children and grandchildren. He said the moment showed that “light can come out of darkness.”
The sentiment brought many of the people in the room to tears, Kolin said.
“It was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve seen in my life,” she said.
Watch the imam’s sermon below.
Rabbi Angela Buchdahl, the leader of Central, posted on Facebook that the moment was one of her community’s holiest moments.
Kolin said that having the Islamic Society pray in Central was deeply powerful.
“I feel like I’m still integrating it,” she said. “I’m still a little shaking from the spiritual power of what happened.”
Kolin said she spoke at the end of prayers at the invite of the Islamic Society’s leader, and spoke about how the attack on the mosques in New Zealand and the attack on the synagogue in Pittsburgh are part and parcel of the same violent ideology.
“These attacks on our communities are one and the same,” she said. Kolin’s words at Central were met with a round of applause from the Muslim guests.
Watch an excerpt of Rabbi Kolin’s speech below.
During Kolin’s speech, the imam led his congregation in call in response.
“Are you happy?” “Yes!”
“Do you love it?” “Yes!”
“Do you love this beautiful experience?” “Yes!”
Then he asked his congregation to bless the synagogue and its rabbis, and they did.
This story "‘Allah’s Plan’ Fulfilled When Synagogue Hosts Prayers" was written by Ari Feldman and Alyssa Fisher.