By Deborah Cohen
The unfolding horrors in the Ukraine have stirred the Jewish community, including our own, to action, to raise funds and to volunteer to sponsor refugees under the government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme. The Jewish Board of Deputies has a dedicated page on its website with concrete actions that people can take to help assist with humanitarian relief efforts on the ground in Ukraine, in neighbouring countries and right here at home. You can find out more at bod.org.uk/ukraine.
The Board of Deputies’ bi-monthly meeting on 20 March was addressed by Melinda Simmons, the UK Ambassador to the Ukraine, who is a member of Finchley Reform Synagogue, and Maurice Helfgott, Chair of World Jewish Relief. This was one of the most moving Board meetings in which I’ve participated. You can hear and see the speakers on Youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JIGL6fxo-wI – they start at 19 minutes into the recording.
The Board of Deputies has also been tracking the progress of the Nationality and Borders Bill through Parliament. The Board has expressed its concerns about a number of elements of this legislation, which puts the UK outside the standards of international law, including the 1951 Refugee Convention. The Board has been working with the René Cassin charity, the Jewish voice for human rights (renecassin.org/). The Board urges synagogue members to write to their MPs to show the extent of feeling in the Jewish community about the situation in the Ukraine and about the threats to the rights of refugees. A template letter to MPs by the Board and René Cassin that you can use or adapt is available here: https://synagogue.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/UkraineRefugeesMPTemplateLetter.docx.
As members of a Synagogue founded by refugees, I am sure that you will appreciate the need and the importance for us to speak out.
Belsize Square Synagogue is represented on the Board of Deputies of British Jews by Deborah Cohen together with Peter Strauss and Dilys Tausz.