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A Trailblazer For Sure: The Muslim Gatekeepers of the Jewish Synagogue



By Ejaz Naqvi

September 24, 2018

 Earlier this month, I wrote about forgiveness and how an American mosque is walking the walk. I want to now share this heart-warming video that can serve as an example of Jewish-Muslim harmony and co-existence at a synagogue in India. These Jews and Muslims are leading by example and prove that the Jews-Muslims peace is not just a pipe dream, giving hope to rest of us striving for interfaith peace and harmony.

The video titled, “The Muslim gatekeepers of the Jewish synagogue”, was sent to me as a link by one of my Indian Muslim friends, and is pretty self- explanatory. It shows two Muslim caretakers, Anwar and Rabbul speak affectionately about Maghen David synagogue and the Jewish congregation in Kolkata, India. The two Muslim men are employed by the synagogue as the gatekeepers and caretakers- a task that goes back three generations. Mrs. Cohen, the General Secretary of the Jewish Community Affairs at the synagogue speaks lovingly about them, as well as the Muslim tradition in general and points out to our common ancestor- Abraham.

“We have a close relationship with the Jews of this synagogue and it is almost like a blood relation between us and them, says Rabbul, one of the two Muslim gatekeepers. “Our Jewish prophets are also common to the Muslim Quran Shareef”, Mrs. Cohen explains. “What happens in other parts of the world is extremely unfortunate and very short-sighted.”

The two Muslim men have no problem taking care of the Jewish place of worship. The Jewish congregation has no problem with having Muslims serve as the caretaker of the synagogue and offer the Muslim prayers in the synagogue. Some Muslims may frown upon these two Muslims looking after a synagogue but the following verse from the Qur’an should serve as a reminder that this is in line with the Islamic teachings.

… if God had not driven some people back by means of others, monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques, where God’s name is mentioned much, would have been pulled down and destroyed. God will certainly help those who help Him – God is All-Strong, Almighty. Qur’an 22:40

This makes me wonder: why can’t we duplicate this beautiful relationship elsewhere? America is rich in cultural and religious diversity too but how many synagogues would employ Muslim caretakers? How many mosques in America would employ a caretaker/gatekeeper from the Jewish community (or people of other faith)? Can we copy and paste this beautiful example of Jewish-Muslim relationship in the Holy Land? I wonder if we have similar examples in Israel. Surely, it would also be wonderful to have the opposite- Jews working in a mosque in a Muslim-majority country.

Am I dreaming? Can it happen in our lifetime?

It is certainly already happening in a small synagogue in Kolkata, India. Small, because of the size of its membership, but very big as measured by the heart of its members and those serving it.

A trailblazer for sure.