The Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, and his wife Valerie, marked the opening of Refugee Week with a visit to a groundbreaking World Jewish Relief project in Yorkshire.

The programme works on a one-to-one basis with Syrian refugees to give them the best possible start in seeking employment and settling in to their new lives in Britain.

WJR offers English lessons, training and mentoring for the UK job market, and the Chief Rabbi blessed the refugees, saying that they should be successful in all their endeavours and hoping that they should be reunited with their families when the war finally comes to an end.

During his visit there was a roundtable discussion, chaired by WJR’s chief executive, Paul Anticoni. The group discussed the war in Syria, their impressions of the UK and their aspirations for the future.

One of the refugees thanked the Chief Rabbi for listening to the group’s stories and expressed appreciation for everything the Jewish community was doing to support them. Another told the Chief Rabbi how all Syrians have experienced the loss of at least one family member or have a relative who has been tortured in a Syrian jail.

Fifty-one refugees have taken part in the programme which launched last year, with 22 now identified as “job ready”. Eleven have found employment, including working at a major supermarket, civil engineering and one who has been hired as a dental technician.

The Chief Rabbi said: “It is humbling to listen to the remarkable positivity of people who have endured such enormous upheaval, and yet refuse to allow this to define their future. I am tremendously proud of the generosity of our community, which is helping the refugees to meet their needs so impressively. The response of World Jewish Relief to the refugee crisis, a major challenge of our time, both far from our borders close its source, and now in the UK, has been exemplary.”