What do a former Nigerian breakdancing champion and a rabbi have in common? On the face of it, not much, until one realises that the one-time dancer is now Sheikh Mustafa Badru of the Harlesden Ummah Community Centre, and the rabbi is Rabbi David Mason of Muswell Hill United Synagogue, writes Jenni Frazer.
Both men, and four other rabbis plus a student rabbi, joined forces this week with a unique group of Orthodox rabbis and imams to visit the Calais refugee camp known as the jungle. Monday’s event marked the first time that Orthodox rabbis had addressed the Calais issue on-site.
The joint initiative – organised by the Board of Deputies’ Rabbi Natan Levy and Mustafa Field of the Faiths Forum for London – was remarkable both for the friendship between the rabbis and the imams, and the willingness of all the men to brave the camp’s distressing conditions to see the situation for themselves.
Those taking part in the visit included Belmont’s trainee rabbi Alex Goldberg; Golders Green rabbi Harvey Belovski; Stamford Hill’s senior rabbi, Avraham Pinter; and Rabbi Herschel Gluck, founder of the Muslim-Jewish Forum.
From the Muslim side, there were Sheikh Mohammed al-Hilli of the Noor Trust; Sheikh Sayed Ali Abbas Razawi, chair of external affairs for the European Council of [Islamic] Scholars; Sheikh Mustafa Badru of Harlesden, and humanitarian volunteer Yussuf Hussain, who has most recently worked for Mitzvah Day.
They were accompanied by Tim Pare, the director of First Give, a JHub resident charity. Rabbi Pinter spoke of an elderly cousin’s post-war escape from Poland.
“He got as far as Calais and asked an Allied soldier for food.
Sadly, the response was: ‘Get away from me, you dirty Jew!’” Seventy years later, Calais is again appalling, but this time rabbis and imams hope to challenge such bigotry.