What a West Oak Lane building’s transition from synagogue to church to mosque says about religious nonviolence:
A local beacon of hope
It started 66 years ago when a squat, angular building was constructed on the corner of Washington Lane and Limekiln Pike in West Oak Lane.
Back then, the neighborhood was largely Jewish, and the building was the new home for a synagogue called Temple Sinai. The congregation later added a school.
An older Jewish friend who attended the synagogue back then remembers it as the place where she received her religious instruction.
By the 1960s, however, the neighborhood was beginning to change complexion. Blacks, including my own parents, began to move into the area. That’s when the building was sold to a black Christian congregation—the West Oak Lane Church of God.
The transition was peaceful. No one was attacked, beaten or burned. The building was not looted or destroyed. And while there was a racial element to the transition of both the neighborhood and the building, no one was castigated based on their religion. In the aftermath of the sale, the Christian congregation thrived there for decades……………..
We left the church a number of years ago, but we learned recently that the building had been sold again—this time to a Muslim congregation.
The Muslim presence is growing in Philadelphia, especially in the black community.
Muslims are not strangers. They are, in many cases, our brothers or our cousins, our friends or our neighbors. They are people we know.