by Daisy Bogod
I could quote various Jewish sources on why we should help those who are suffering, or how we were refugees in both ancient and recent history – but the discourse is unproductive.
As Progressive Jews, we are well aware of the relationship between our faith and the pursuit of social justice. We are just not always very good at it.
However, two events in the past month filled me with hope. The first was when more than 100 members of Barnet Citizens and their friends gathered at Finchley Progressive Synagogue to ask Barnet Council to resettle 50 Syrian refugees.
This unusual alliance of Jews, Christians, Muslims and those of no faith – synagogues, churches, youth movements and schools – sang Havdalah together and watched a Rwandan dance troupe perform.
We heard testimonies about the brutal reality of being a Syrian refugee. Doctors, landlords, head teachers and employers pledged to help if the 50 were resettled there. It was an emotional, inspiring and powerful plea from many communities united as one. The atmosphere as the head of Barnet Council, Richard Cornelius, filmed by Sky News, gave his response, was a buzz of hopeful anticipation.
The moment he said “yes” and the proceeding minutes are a surreal blur in my mind; everyone crying (okay, maybe that was just me) and cheering and singing to Oseh Shalom, an atmosphere of exhilaration and delight.
This is what social action and our Judaism should be. The second event saw 1,000 people gather at Old Palace Yard in Westminster to call on David Cameron to resettle 1,000 Syrian refugees before Christmas, and to commit to taking 10,000 a year for the next five years.
When Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marched alongside Martin Luther King in Selma, he said his “feet were praying”. LJY-Netzer adopted this as our theme at Kadimah summer camp. It’s a powerful reminder of the mitzvah of social action that underpins our religion. • Daisy Bogod is a leader in LJY-Netzer, the youth movement of Liberal Judaism