Liberal shul helps secure Sukkot sanctuary for child refugees
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Liberal shul helps secure Sukkot sanctuary for child refugees

Finchley Progressive Synagogue's campaign will see three refugees taken in locally for each of the next 10 years if funding is approved

Jewish and Muslim speakers at Sunday night's event
Jewish and Muslim speakers at Sunday night's event

A campaign run by a Liberal Jewish shul in north London, has ensured that the local authority will offer sanctuary to more child refugees if government funding is provided.

Barnet Council has pledged to take in vulnerable young people fleeing conflict following a campaign run by Finchley Progressive Synagogue alongside Middlesex University Students Union and Citizens UK.

It will see locals take in three refugees every year, over the next 10 years, provided a government funded scheme to support resettlement is backed.

This comes after Barnet Citizens persuaded the local council to become the first Tory-run authority to resettle refugees under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme in 2015.

Welcoming the move, the shul’s Rabbi Rebecca Birk, held a ceremony at the synagogue on Sunday night, attended by Syrian refugees, local MP Mike Freer, and the chief executive & senior rabbi of Liberal Judaism, Rich Danny Rich.

Rabbi Birk welcomed the move and stressed the need to do more saying: “By engaging positively with Barnet Council, we have already secured the resettlement of 50 Syrian families that now call our borough home. Many visit the synagogue each week and have become true members of our community

“Finchley Progressive members strongly believe that we can and must do more to help refugees, as a borough and as a country.  I am delighted that Barnet continues to be a leading humanitarian voice on this issue and I hope we can encourage other councils to do the same. ”

The campaign coincides with the 80th anniversary of the Kindertransport, and a national campaign to resettle refugee children, spearheaded by the charity Safe Passage. It comes after Lord Alf Dubs, who was a refugee on the Kindertransport tabled a Brexit bill amendment in April to maintain the government’s responsibility to offer sanctuary after it leaves the European Union.

After backing the proposal, Council Leader Richard Cornelius praised the shul and Rabbi Birk, saying they’re “going to play an important part in this new proposal. In this year, the anniversary of the Kindertransport, Barnet can hardly fail to fulfil its part of this ambitious plan.”

Rabbi Danny Rich at Sunday night’s ceremony

A number of speakers addressed the ceremony on Sunday night, including Ruby Reich, member of the shul and granddaughter of kindertransport refugee from Austria, Eric Reich. Rabbi Harry Jacobi, who also came as a kinder has been supporting the campaign, and said during the ceremony, that “today we proved true what we said at the beginning of the service – truly it is good to be together as brothers and sisters.”. Other speakers included Syrian refugees and representatives from Middlesex University Students Union.

Rabbi Danny Rich, Senior Rabbi at Liberal Judaism said he was “proud of the early pioneering leadership of the Syrian refugee campaign by Liberal Judaism”, with the annual ‘Sanctuary Sukkot’ initiative now in its fourth year.

Charlotte Fischer, Senior Organiser at Citizens UK who has been working on the Safe Passage campaign said: “It is fantastic that Finchley Progressive Synagogue, Middlesex University Students Union and the members of Barnet Citizens have secured a pledge from Barnet council to take more child refugees, sending a clear message to government that our local politicians and communities are ready to help these incredibly.”

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