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Jews open temple to Muslims after mosque burns down

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 2/02/2017 Humankind

VICTORIA, Texas — Early Saturday morning, members of the Victoria Islamic Center were notified that that their mosque had been destroyed by a fire overnight.

The incident occurred just hours after President Donald Trump signed his controversial executive order blocking citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. At this time, the cause of the fire is unknown and being investigated.

The small town of 62,000 immediately came together, with leaders of different faiths sharing their support. 

Members of the one Jewish temple in the town, the Congregation B’Nai Israel, were the first to offer their house of worship. They handed their synagogue’s keys to one of the mosque's founders.

“We were very happy to do this,” Melvin Lack, treasurer of Congregation B’Nai Israel tells USA TODAY. “You feel what’s happening in the community and everyone reacts.”

Soon, a GoFundMe page was created to raise money for reconstruction. Within only a few days, over $1 million had been donated, far surpassing the initial goal of $850,000.

“Our hearts are filled with gratitude for the tremendous support we've received,” writes the page’s organizer, Omar Rachid. “The outpouring of love, kind words, hugs, helping hands and the financial contributions are examples of the true American Spirit and Humanity at its best.”

This is not the first time that different faith-based organizations have supported each other in time of need in Victoria. 

In 2008, the Temple B’Nai Israel was vandalized when assailants painted swastikas and other anti-Semitic slurs on the building. The perpetrators were caught and the temple was cleaned. “Throughout that time period,” Lack says. “churches and the Muslim community, everyone poured out their hearts to us and said this is horrible.”

Days after last weekend’s fire, the community continues to offer their support. On Tuesday, pictures emerged of young members of the community holding signs of love and support. 

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