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In an incredible display of Jewish solidarity with the principles of tolerance and peace for all, members of the Jewish community in Florida banded together to show support for a local mosque that fell victim to a sporadic arson attack. On Feburary 24, a community mosque called the Islamic Society of New Tampa suffered significant damage after being torched by arsonists in what seems to have clearly been a hate crime. Mosque leader Adeel Karim said he first noticed something was odd when the Mosque's crowd funding page started receiving a noticeable spike of donations in uncommon sums - instead of the typical donation amounts of multiples of 5 (like the recommended $25, $50, $75, $100 donation suggestions), Karim noticed that most donations followed the pattern of $18, $36, $72, and $90. After taking a deeper look and seeing that these donations were coming from family names like Avi, Cohen, Goldstein, and Rubin, Karim said it came by surprise to him that his mosque was benefiting from the Jewish practice of donating in multiples of 18 as a form of Chai - which wishes the recipient a long life. Chai is a Hebrew symbol that represents both life and the numerical value of eighteen. Fundraising efforts subsequently exceeded the $40,000 goal and ultimately reached $65,000.
The Jewish community is no stranger to hate crimes, especially after the recent wave of antisemitic incidents that includes the toppling of more than 100 headstones in a Philadelphia Jewish cemetery. Following this incident, members of the Muslim community traveled from other states to help repair the headstones in a show of interfaith solidarity. At a time of heightened conflict and political turmoil, acts of solidarity and commitment to the principles of helping your neighbors and those less fortunate become increasingly important. I urge others to look at this example from Florida as a model for how they can donate in the denomination of Chai to show the impact that Jewish teachings can have on those around us and to represent the good deeds of the Jewish community.
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As a world traveler, Renato has developed a truly globalized perspective. Him and his wife Siu care deeply about issue that affect people around the world and want to focus on contributing to organizations that can drive positive change.