A London synagogue is to convert part of its premises into a home for refugees as a leaving gift to its retiring rabbi.
South London Liberal Synagogue (SLLS) announced plans for the project, expected to cost up to £50,000 project, in recognition of Rabbi Janet Darley’s work in supporting newcomers to Britain. It is hoped that the conversion will enable a family of refugees to live there.
SLLS chair Alice Alphandary, who announced the plan at the end of a special Shabbat service in Janet’s honour, said: “We are all so proud of the work Janet has been doing – alongside Citizens UK and other local faith groups – to both encourage the Government to allow more refugees into Britain, and then welcome them when they get here.
“We knew the best present we could give Janet was to mark her retirement with a project that continued this amazing social justice work.”
Rabbi Darley, who has served South London Liberal Synagogue for seven years, was part of a Citizens UK team that won the Champions of the Year prize at the Women on the Move Awards. The charity recently won a major legal victory for children in the refugee camps in Calais, who have relatives in the UK, which will enable these children to come and join their families and have their applications for asylum examined here.
A series of fundraising initiatives will be held within the local community in addition to donations and grants. Alphandary explained that the synagogue has previously used the space for general rental, but were now “inspired by Janet’s work to inject this project with Jewish values and use it to truly welcome the stranger.”
Describing the service as “both moving and exciting”, rabbi Darley said: “I received some lovely presents from the congregation, but the best one of all was the promise that the flat they hope to create in part of the building to provide an income stream will be rented to a Syrian refugee family.”
Tributes were paid during the service, which was followed by a kiddush, by the Mayor of Lambeth Councillor Saleha Jaffer, chief executive of Citizens UK UK Neil Jameson and Liberal Judaism’s senior Rabbi Danny Rich. Rabbi Darley was presented with a special tallit – masterminded by cheder head teacher Jackie Ashton and made by the community’s children – and a donation to her refugee appeal.
Student Rabbi Nathan Godleman will take over the South London pulpit for the next year, as part of his Leo Baeck College fourth-year placement.