24/25 June 2022, 25/26 Sivan 5782

This week is Refugee Week, founded in 1998.

Many Jewish institutions are marking it by recalling our own gratitude for and continuing involvement with the migration of folk coming here for a safer and better life.

This morning I had coffee with refugee women currently residing in the Brent Cross Holiday Inn. They have been supported by so many fine folk to ease their arrival, but have been stuck for some months inside a small hotel room.

One woman I’d met earlier was a Judge in Afghanistan, and her husband an Engineer. She explained to me that when she lived in Afghanistan, she and her colleagues couldn’t take their sick children to hospital. As a professional woman, their details would be recorded and they’d be arrested immediately for a spurious charge, or a lack of modesty for working in such an elevated position.

Her life now is very difficult cooped up in a hotel room with no access to work or opportunities to be useful. And yet infinitely more bearable that the alternative of being home.

It is never uncomplicated, choosing to uproot yourself or your family. And rarely have attitudes to, and decisions about, refugees been more controversial. That plane grounded last week en route to Rwanda demonstrates that so clearly.

See SADA stories for the accounts of a million displaced persons and their stories.

It’s ingrained in us to have this understanding. After Costa Coffee in Brent Cross I visited Margot and Aaron Katz who are hosting a Ukrainian family – I met Natasha. Aaron helped her find a job at Finchley Nurseries – so she’s independent too and can care for her children.

So many of you have offered help and support, and bedrooms for those who need. Is that not at the core of our Judaism?

You shall Love the stranger as yourself for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Lev 19:33)

You shall love your neighbour as yourself, just a little earlier in Leviticus 19 reminds us there are plenty close to home that need our love and concern. We have identified two new charities to be in relationship with from this High Holiday period; this New Year coming.

The first charity is Generation to Generation, a charity nominated by our own Lesley Urbach, enabling Holocaust survivors and their descendants to tell their stories to the next generation, and – so powerfully – incorporating testimony into their presentations.

The second is The Rainbow Centre in Dollis Valley. It is a local community centre, offering support largely to people living on the Dollis Valley estate. They provide lunch clubs, food bank, debt advice, manicures and chat, and lots, lots more. Run by Steve and Sarah, it is a small and incredible organisation.

Shabbat Shalom