World Jewish Relief has teamed up with Israeli and American Jewish groups to launch a “united global Jewish response” to the Rohingya humanitarian crisis in a first-of-its-kind collaboration.
London-based WJR agreed to pool resources with IsraAid and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee to help 860,000 Muslim refugees now living in official or makeshift refugee camps across Cox’s Bazaar in southern Bangladesh.
The three-way tie-up is the first time that the leading global Jewish international humanitarian agencies have created a collective response, six months after a small faction of Rohingya militants attacked Myanmar police posts in Rakhine state, killing 12 members of the security forces.
The response by the Myanmar Army on Rohingya villages has been called “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing” by the United Nations and leading charities, and rabbis in the UK and elsewhere have long called for Jewish action.
“Rohingya Muslims have been utterly failed,” wrote Rabbi Aaron Goldstein of Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogue in November. “Why have there been no large demonstrations outside the Myanmar Embassy? Why no debate about military intervention? Why no call upon World Jewish Relief to act?”
This week Jewish religious leaders in the UK threw their weight behind WJR’s joint appeal, with WJR chief executive Paul Anticoni warning that “sanitation and healthcare is appalling and the threat of outbreaks of infectious disease looms”.
The three organisations said they would provide essential non-food items to the most vulnerable refugee families, primarily women and girls, breastfeeding or pregnant mothers and child-led households.
“We will distribute emergency packages containing hygiene and sanitary products, blankets, essential clothing and mosquito nets, and aim to provide mobile primary healthcare to parts of the camps not currently served,” said Anticoni.
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said: “The inexcusable suffering of the Rohingya is a stain on the conscience of humanity and represents a failure to act upon our commitment to protect the most vulnerable people in our world… I urge every person who is able, to support these aid efforts.”
Senior Masorti Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg said Rohingya families were now “stateless, homeless, destitute and desperately in need of our help” while Senior Reform Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner said: “The Jewish community knows from our history what it is like to flee persecution.”
Senior Liberal Rabbi Danny Rich echoed those thoughts, saying the crisis “brings back chilling memories of what has happened to the Jewish people at many points in our history, which makes it even more vital that we do all we can to help them”.
Readers can donate here: www.worldjewishrelief.org/rohingya