Rabbis have joined Muslim, Christian and Sikh leaders to demand that Theresa May does more to help refugees fleeing Middle East warzones, saying Jews know all too well what it feels like to need help.
More than 200 clerics from Britain’s major faiths took part in the “unprecedented” interfaith initiative on Monday, underscoring the strength of feeling, as anger at government policy restrictions came to a head.
The coordinated call-to-arms included a keynote speech by Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, St. John’s Wood.
Muslim-Jewish Forum founder Rabbi Herschel Gluck, recalled his family’s own story in making the case. “Being the son of refugees from Hitler, who lost over 100 of their close family members because of the lack of compassion and vision with regard to family reunification by the authorities at that time, I feel especially obliged to help ensure that we don’t repeat those mistakes,” he said.
“Under the present immigration rules, a British doctor of Syrian origin could not bring her parents from a refugee camp in Lebanon, even though they were refugees and she could support and house them. A Syrian child who arrived alone in the UK could not bring his parents from a refugee camp in Jordan, even if the child were recognised a refugee and even though his parents were themselves refugees.”
The Rt Revd Peter Hill, Bishop of Barking, was pointedly damning about family reunion policy affecting unaccompanied refugee children.
“The system is broken,” he said. “At the current rate of reunification it will take a year before all the children in Calais are reunited with their families. This is forcing children onto railway tracks and into lorries, putting themselves into the hands of unscrupulous people traffickers. How can a civilised country allow this?”
The government’s handling of the refugee crisis has been slammed as ineffective and unfair by Britain’s top judges, many Jewish, as well as the world’s top economists and diplomats, many speaking out on retirement.
An opinion poll conducted in May by Amnesty International showed that 83 percent of Britons would welcome refugees into their neighbourhoods and households, suggesting that there is overwhelming public support for the religious leaders’ call.
“In the face of the unfolding human catastrophe, there are immediate and viable steps that the Government can take to offer sanctuary to more refugees,” they write. “We call on you to create safe, legal routes of travel, for example by adopting fair and humane family reunion policies for refugees.”
The letter was signed by dozens of rabbis, including the leaders of Reform, Masorti and Liberal Judaism, as well as Leonie Lewis of Faith Forum for London and Andrew Gilbert of London Jewish Forum, but the Chief Rabbi did not add his name.
You can read the letter in full here: