30 rabbis and community leaders back bill urging end to Uyghur persecution

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30 rabbis and community leaders back bill urging end to Uyghur persecution

Faith leaders from all denominations back Rene Cassin's appeal to take action, as Board president Marie van der Zyl writes to the Prime Minister asking for support

Jack Mendel is the Online Editor at the Jewish News.

Protestors against discrimination of Uyghurs
Protestors against discrimination of Uyghurs

More than 30 rabbis and community leaders have given their support to a bill in parliament, to put pressure on China to end its persecution of Uyghur Muslims.

Representatives from key synagogue and youth movements have called on politicians to pass an amendment to the Trade Bill next week. If successful, it would allow the UK High Court to rule on whether China is committing genocide against Uyghur Muslims, and revoke trade deals with offenders, including companies using forced labour.

It is thought that up to one million Muslims are detained in camps in the north-western region of Xinjiang.

Organised by Human Rights group Rene Cassin, the statement in support of the bill  says persecution of Uyghur Muslims includes the use of “gulag of mass internment camps, forced labour, forced sterilisation, a language banned, sacred practises defiled and religious sites bulldozed”.

It says, “for Jews, of course, that list has a terrible resonance. The Chinese Government is trying to systematically destroy a people and its culture. This is genocide. We must act.”

Rene Cassin’s statement continues that while “it is easy to feel powerless.. there is something that we can do”. It says “each and every one of us can act – by writing to our MPs asking them to support the Genocide Amendment.”

Among signatories are Rabbis David Mason and Dr Moshe Freedman, both executive members of the Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue, Aaron Lipsey of the United Hebrew Congregation of Newcastle Upon Tyne,  Jonathan Wittenberg, Senior Rabbi of Masorti Judaism, Laura Janner-Klausner, the former senior rabbi of the Reform movement.

Also backing the statement are the President of the Union of Jewish Students, and directors of youth organisations Habonim Dror and FZY.

This comes after an emergency meeting was held by the Board of Deputies with MPs on Thursday, where parliamentarians appealed to colleagues to back the amendment. On Friday, Board President Marie van der Zyl wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson asking for his support. The amendment  has been passed by the Lords and has support of numerous MPs across the Commons,

Writing to Boris Johnson, Marie van der Zyl, said: “I know you understand that, as a community, we are always extremely hesitant to consider comparisons with the Holocaust”.

Citing an “astonishing and distressing interview with the Chinese Ambassador last July”, she said she wrote to the embassy and “noted the similarities” between persecution of Uyghurs by China and of Jews by the Nazis.

“Prime Minister, we ask today that the UK Government accepts the amendment to the Trade Bill and takes its rightful place at the head of the global charge against what is shaping up to be the most serious outrage of our time.”

The full list of signatories to Rene Cassin’s statement are as follows:

  • Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, Senior Rabbi of Masorti Judaism
  • Rabbi Dr Margaret Jacobi, Birmingham Progressive Synagogue
  • Rabbi Monique Mayer, Liberal Judaism
  • Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Former Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism
  • Rabbi Roni Tabick, New Stoke Newington Synagogue
  • Harrison Engler, Mazkir (National Director) Habonim Dror
  • Rabbi Helen Freeman, West London Synagogue
  • Rabbi David Mason, Muswell Hill Synagogue, Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue Exec member
  • James Harris, President, Union of Jewish Students (UJS).
  • Rabbi Dr Michael Harris, Hampstead Synagogue
  • Rabbi Dr Moshe Freedman, New West End Synagogue, Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue Exec member
  • Student Rabbi Gabriel Kanter-Webber
  • Rabbi Bentzi Mann, Mill Hill East Jewish Community
  • Imi Wise, National Director (Mazkira), FZY
  • Michelle Brooks Evans, Chair Bromley Reform Synagogue
  • Rabbi Naomi Goldman, Kol Chai Hatch End Reform Jewish Community
  • Rabbi Alexandra Wright, The Liberal Jewish Synagogue
  • Rabbi Sam Taylor, Borehamwood and Elstree United Synagogue
  • Rabbi Dr Michael Hilton
  • Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah, Brighton and Hove Progressive Synagogue
  • Rabbi Aaron Goldstein, The Ark Synagogue
  • Rabbi Michael Leitner, Finchley United Synagogue
  • Rabbi Joel Kenigsberg, Magen Avot Synagogue
  • Rabbi Aaron Lipsey, United Hebrew Congregation of Newcastle Upon Tyne
  • Rabbi Daniel Roselaar, Kehilat Alei Tzion
  • Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence, Senior Rabbi, Finchley United Synagogue (Kinloss)
  • Rabbi Baruch Davis, Chigwell and Hainault United Synagogue
  • Mia Hasenson-Gross, executive director, René Cassin, the Jewish voice for human rights
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