Rabbis Herschel Gluck and David Mason were among hundreds to sleep rough in the heart of the capital on Saturday in a bid to raise cash to tackle homelessness.
As the mercury dropped to around 10 degrees and amid heavy rain, the pair were joined by leaders from Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist faith communities in hunkering down for the night in a sleeping bag in Trafalgar Square at the World’s Big Sleep Out.
The campaign to address rough sleeping was created by the co-founder of the charity Social Bite, Josh Littlejohn. It saw thousands take part around the world this year, with camp outs across 52 cities, including New York, Dublin and Brisbane.
In London, the actress Dame Helen Mirren read a bedtime story to those in the square and the bands Tom Walker, Rag ‘N’ Bone Man, Travis performed sets on stage.
Speaking after the event, Rabbi Gluck described the experience as “very moving.”
“The adverse weather conditions gave us a glimpse into the horrible suffering of so many people,” he said. “I learnt a lot from speaking to other people there, particularly those whom have slept rough for long periods.”
Rabbi Mason, of Muswell Hill Synagogue, said the “it was really important for the Jewish voice to be represented” in what he described as a “global act of solidarity.”
“We were proudly joined by clerics and representatives from other faiths. At my shul, we participate in a charity’s scheme to provide shelter for the homeless during winter months. My community has responded magnificently to my fund-raising efforts. As Jews, we need to get stuck in to tackling these social problems,” he added.
Interfaith activist Zaki Cooper, who also attended the camp out, said: “Sleeping in the cold with an increasingly wet sleeping bag, as the rain came down, gave us a taste of the horror faced by so many.
“It’s a travesty that over 700 homeless people died in the UK in the last calendar year. There is so much talk of disagreements between faiths but, as Jews, we were able to come together with other faith groups and say, our religions tell us that homelessness in unacceptable. The importance our faiths place on social justice tell us we have to act.”