Jews rally to support burned Florida mosque, $18 at a time

After a Florida mosque was torched in an arson attack, a local Muslim noticed something odd about donations made to a repair fund he launched.

Instead of the round numbers Adeel Karim expected —$25, $50, $100 or more —the donations were in multiples of $18 — $36, $72, $90 and more.

“I couldn’t understand why people were donating in what seemed like weird amounts to the cause,” Karim wrote in a Facebook post Monday.

“Then I figured out after clicking on the names Avi, Cohen, Goldstein, Rubin, Fisher….Jews donate in multiples of 18 as a form of what is called ‘Chai.’ It wishes the recipient a long life.”

Specifically, each Hebrew letter has a numerical value; the letter “chet” equals 8 and “yod” equals 10. Together they form the Hebrew word “chai,” which has a numerical value of 18 and means “life.”

Karim’s local mosque, the Islamic Society of New Tampa, damaged by an arsonist Feb. 24, is the latest beneficiary of a new wave of interfaith support between Jews and Muslims.

Other instances include:

• When vandals damaged headstones in a Missouri Jewish cemetery on Feb. 21, Muslim activists raised more than $125,000 to fund repairs.

• When a Victoria, Texas, mosque was razed by vandals in early February, members of a local Jewish congregation allowed the displaced Muslim worshippers to worship in their synagogue.

• And when vandals toppled more than 100 headstones in a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia last weekend, Muslims and others traveled from other states to repair them.

• The Muslim Student Associations of Florida State and Florida A&M universities delivered bouquets of flowers to campus Jewish organizations and local synagogues in a show of solidarity following the two cemetery attacks.

• Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the Anti-Defamation League, an anti-Semitism watchdog group, received a standing ovation when he said at a conference that if U.S. Muslims were forced to register with the government, he would register as a Muslim, too.

“All of us have heard the story of the Danish king who said if his country’s Jews had to wear a gold star,” Greenblatt told the New York Times, “all of Denmark would, too.”

As in those incidents, fundraising efforts to repair the damage at the Tampa mosque quickly exceeded the $40,000 goal to reach $65,000.

Religion News Service


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