This week Two Voices asks: what can our community do to help the world’s refugees?
Rabbi Janet Darley says…
‘My father was a wandering Aramean.’ These words from Deuteronomy 26:5, which we read during our seders, teach us of our history. We know what it means to need to be taken in and accepted; we also know what it can be like to be mistreated.
As we watch the news of violence, we cannot ignore the plight of those millions who have lost their homes and are forced to look for new places to dwell. Our main lesson to be drawn from Passover is compassion. According to Babylonian Talmud (Bava Metzia 59b), Torah discusses proper treatment of the stranger 36 times – far more than it mentions other key aspects of Judaism, such as love of God.
As Jews, we must speak and act. That is why many communities, including my own, have joined Citizens UK’s call to ask that this country accepts more refugees fleeing places such as Syria.
I’m proud some of my congregants befriend and support young asylum seekers through the Jewish Council for Racial Equality. We opened our seders with the words: “Let all who are hungry come and eat” and invited strangers to our tables. This must be more than a symbolic act. We must mean it. By remembering our story of redemption, and inviting those in need to share in it, we allow ourselves to again be redeemed from a place of fear and indifference. We leave Mitzrayim again and walk towards Sinai.
Rabbi Janet Darley, rabbi at South London Liberal Synagogue
Amelia Viney says..
Two weeks ago I stood with four communities united by a common heritage – Jewish, Bengali, Congolese and Syrian. Each has sought sanctuary on these shores, all journeying to a new home in search of safety, equality and opportunity.
We came together in Birmingham, under the umbrella of Citizens UK, to recognise Britain’s proud legacy of providing sanctuary. We came together to demand the continuing commitment to providing dignity and shelter to the world’s most vulnerable.
There were 600 activists from all backgrounds at the Citizens’ Assembly and it was our collective power, and the efforts of countless dedicated campaigners, that led to a substantial victory. And yet, one of the poorest represented groups in the room was the Jewish community.
Our journey from the East End to more affluent neighbourhoods has led to many members of our community shedding their immigrant skin. And yet, it was exactly this unique and compelling Jewish narrative on sanctuary that led Kevin Davis, leader of Kingston Council, to recently pledge – while sheltered under the succah – to welcome 50 Syrian refugees into his borough.
There is power in our story – not just for our own sake but for those who still wander, in search of a promised land.
Amelia Viney, is trustee of Liberal Judaism with responsibility for social justice