Holocaust survivors deliver letter to PM urging more help for refugees

Holocaust survivors deliver letter to PM urging more help for refugees

Stephen is the Jewish News' Foreign Editor

by Stephen Oryszczuk

Holocaust survivors have gone to 10 Downing Street to deliver a letter signed by over 100 Jewish religious leaders urging the government to do more to help the refugees flooding into Europe.

Two child refugees who came over on the Kindertransport joined the delegation on Monday morning, hand delivering their request for faster action to Prime Minister David Cameron, who has said the UK will take 20,000 refugees over several years.

Ernest Simon, who was born in Vienna in 1930, and Rabbi Harry Jacobi, who was born in Berlin 1925, asked Cameron to take the story of the Kinderstransport as his inspiration in responding to the refugee crisis.

You can read the letter here.

The organised rescue effort, which brought 10,000 Jewish youngsters to the UK between 1938 and 1940, was “the light of human kindness that shines into the darkest corners of history,” they said. 

The rabbis are asking that the UK settle at least 10,000 refugees in the next six months, and review the current approach to asylum seekers, with renewed efforts to help those who enter the country integrate and find a job. They are currently prevented from working, which means they “remain reliant on hand-outs,” the said.

“The great Jewish thinker and philosopher Maimonides taught us the importance of giving charity but stressed that the highest form of charity is to enable the needy person to become self-sufficient,” the faith leaders wrote.

“Let us not withhold this opportunity from those who are fleeing to this country in the hope of building a better future for themselves and their families.”

The rabbis in turn offered to support the government by finding homes for the refugees and raising funds for food, clothing and education, with many having already partnered initiatives by Citizens UK, JCORE and World Jewish Relief. 

The letter, which was signed by 105 rabbis and cantors from across the community, was co-ordinated by Tzelem UK, a charity supported by JHub, and is the latest communal action following a roundtable meeting last week.

The community has since set up a dedicated website for volunteers and donors (www.supportrefugees.org.uk) and begun recruiting extra resources, with the Movement for Reform Judaism (MRJ) this week advertising for a Refugee Response Co-ordinator, a part-time paid role.

“This is a vital time to focus on asylum seekers and refugees in Britain,” said an MJR statement. “As we see those fleeing conflict, violence and persecution, many of our communities have started initiatives to provide support. It is clear to us that there is a need to support our communities in their excellent work.”

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