The Chief Rabbi was this week joined by the leaders of Reform, Masorti and Liberal Judaism plus the head of the Sephardi community in urging British Jews to help save millions from starvation in Africa.
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Senior Reform Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Liberal Judaism’s chief executive Rabbi Danny Rich, Senior Masorti Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg and S&P head Rabbi Joseph Dweck all united in the famine appeal.
The religious leaders urged their communities to support World Jewish Relief’s East Africa Food Crisis appeal, as millions stand on the brink of starvation in what aid workers described as the “worst such situation in decades”.
World Jewish Relief launched its appeal last week with the backing of 13 major communal organisations, after warnings that 16 million people were in need of immediate food assistance. Hundreds have already died after drought, poor rains and conflict decimated harvests and left millions in a critical situation.
Mirvis said: “It is a fundamental axiom of Jewish belief that we have a responsibility to protect the most vulnerable people in our world, whether in our own family, our own community or on the other side of the world. Every human life is precious.”
The countries hardest hit are Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria, and Mirvis said the thought that millions could die “should make us all pause to consider our responsibility to them”.
He asked: “How can we enjoy a meal while millions face famine? How can we sleep soundly while millions lie awake from the pangs of hunger? I urge everyone who is able, to contribute something to this essential appeal.”
The communal response is being led by World Jewish Relief, whose chief executive Paul Anticoni said: “This is the worst food security situation the world has seen for decades… There is no justice for millions of people starving in East Africa so we are calling on our community to respond generously as I know they always do.”
Janner-Klausner said: “With Passover around the corner, marking the spring harvest, we are aware that ecosystems are so fragile. In east Africa, 16 million urgently need help. I know our community will draw on our duty as Jews to give tzedakah, particularly at this time of year.”
Wittenberg echoed the sentiment, saying: “We cannot simply sit down amidst plenty when others are starving to death. Our humanity is defined by the depth of our solidarity with those who are suffering. It is our duty to care and to give.”
Rich praised WJR and British Jews who had already given to appeals, while Dweck warned against “disregarding the plight and suffering that people are experiencing in Africa,” adding: “It is our responsibility to heed the call with our best efforts.”
Donations can be made by visiting World Jewish Relief’s website or by calling 0208 736 1250.