Religious 'Shopping Mall' Models Harmony

Article excerpt

"Parking is the key to world peace," the rabbi says with a chuckle. "We have an unmanned border."

It's obvious he has a well-rehearsed arsenal of quips at the ready, and uses them to describe the landscape outside the window of his synagogue north of Toronto.

No more than 40 yards away, the robed, turbaned and bearded imam sitting in his mosque's book-lined study offers a less colorful take.

"The best way to describe it is just good neighborly relations," he says in a measured voice. "I think it's quite a natural thing."

Perhaps so in this bedroom suburb of Thornhill. But when the Ja'ffari Islamic Centre opened in 1979 to serve Toronto's burgeoning Muslim population, the fact that it shared its parking lot with Temple Har Zion next door--and vice versa--was news.

The synagogue-mosque parking area has become something of a landmark in Toronto. It is the subject of ongoing curiosity and even pilgrimages by proponents of Muslim-Jewish dialogue.

The symbolism is plain: It's a path to lasting friendship and partnership between the communities.

The congregations alert each other to upcoming religious functions to avoid parking problems in the 200-car lot. …