British Jews have a long history of helping those escaping war and terror
By Adrian Hawkes, Special to ASSIST News Service
LONDON, UK (ANS – September 1, 2016) – Many of you will know that in 2012, my wife, Pauline, and I, helped to launch our British charity, Phoenix Community Care (http://phoenixcommunity.org/charity), which brings together the work we do here in London with refugees and asylum seekers, as well educational and housing projects in our wider international communities of projects in Kenya, Sri Lanka and Romania.
And so, because of the work of Phoenix Community Care, we often get invited to various events that help refugees and asylum seekers. At one such event held recently at Queen Mary University of London to see the film “Leave to Remain” (http://leave2remainthefilm.com/).
According to the British Council Film website (http://film.britishcouncil.org/leave-to-remain), here is a brief description of the film: “Featuring Toby Jones and an original soundtrack from Mercury Award winning Brit nominees Alt-J, comes a story that defines our times. From a world hidden from view, this is a film about teenagers cast away from their homes who now learn to survive, at any cost, here in the UK.
“‘Leave to Remain’ is a provocative coming of age story about a young Afghan boy whose arrival sets off a chain of events that jeopardizes the future of those closest to him. Unwittingly he plays an unimaginable game of chance where winning and getting ‘Leave to Remain’ to stay in the UK is not always what it seems, and all hope hinges on just how good a story he can tell.”
It goes on to say that Bruce Goodison wrote this film from the “real experiences” of the thousands of teenagers who land in the UK alone every year, “Imagine what it is like to lose everything that is familiar to you and have to cope as an adult while still a teenager, in an alien society. Their stories can tell us something important about ourselves, and the way we treat others,” he says.
This bold and enlightening film features, alongside established actors, a cast of teenage refugees who have been trained through a Film Academy run by the films creative team. (http://www.leave2remain.org/). You can see the trailer at http://leave2remainthefilm.com/trailer.
We were very touched by the film, and during the screening, I sat next to a lady called Rita Adler, and after it was over, we got talking about our various interests and Rita invited Pauline and I to take a look at the project she was organizing once a month at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, which is located in St. John’s Wood, in London, right opposite the famous Lord’s Cricket Ground. We soon learned that Rita helps with a drop-In center for destitute asylum seekers and refugees.
So we agreed to attend this Sunday refugee help centre at the synagogue to see what happens there and we soon found that was occurs is most impressive. Once a month, around 40 mainly Jewish volunteers, mostly from the synagogue, split up into teams to assist refugees and asylum seekers.
On the day were there, some 108 people turned up, all seeking help. They came from countries like Albania, Congo, Eritrea, and Syria, and represented all kinds of nationalities and religions, and despite the Jewish location, there were quite a sprinkling of Muslims.
Tables where laid out with all kinds of clothing — children’s, adults, outdoor and indoor – all free, with volunteers manning the long tables with the sorted clothes all donated for the needy people who had turned up.
Entering the synagogue, which is located in one of London’s most elegant areas, and a far cry from the war zones the people were from, was not that straight forward, as along with other Jewish faculties that I have been too, such as Jewish schools, the tough security is always a constant reminder that this is also a community that has had its fair share of racist attacks.
There were a few volunteers at the gate to check us in. Then, in another hall, there was a long table staffed by volunteers serving hot meals to all who wanted them. The food was all laid on for free and well-cooked, and even took into account those who want food that is Halal (food which is permissible to use or engage in, according to Islamic law). There was no meat, so that was not a problem for the Muslims.
We were then taken to another room where Pauline and I sat with three people who told me that they had done background checks on those coming for help on that day, and they had discovered that some needed money, mainly for travel, and each client was given a special card to come along to the table where cash help was given to them.
Talking to the chief fund raiser, Martin Slowe, I asked him how much it cost to put on such a regular help event as this one, and he told me that with food and funding, it was costing this community around £30,000 to £40,000 UK pounds a year, which he said, he is managing to raise.
I talked also with another helper, a doctor who had come all the way from Yorkshire (almost 200 miles), and when I pointed out that he had “come a long way to work as a volunteer”, he laughed and said, “Well, my daughter is a pediatrician at a London hospital, so I also get to see her and my grandchildren once a month. I time it so I can be here each month to help with this event and also see them.”
I then asked him why he so much wanted to help at such an event, and he told me, “My parents would have been sent to the concentration camps in Germany during World War II, had they not become refugees to Britain. So we Jews understand what it’s like to be running from war and destruction, just like the Syrians and the Eritreans who are here today are experiencing. So we, as a community, want to do our part in being able help to them, as we were helped in the past.”
These two experiences – the film and the drop-in center for refugees — have certainly backed up my strong belief that we all need to work together to help those who are suffering from hate and war, and our Jewish friends are certainly playing vital role in doing this in London.
Theirs is a great example to all of us, whatever our religious background.
By the way, if you would like to know more about the Jewish work I have detailed above, just e-mail Rita Adler at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am sure she would be glad to hear from you.
Photo captions: 1) The grandchildren of one of “Britain’s Schindler”, Sir Nicholas Winton’s Kindertransport refugees thank him for their lives. Sir Nicholas, himself a Jew, saved more than 650 children from death at the hands of the Nazis. (Daily Mail). 2) “Leave to Remain” poster. 3) Asylum Seekers in London. 4) Jewish youths, who arrived in Britain as orphans after World War II, protesting in London during 1946 against British policy in Palestine. (© 2011 United States Holocaust Memorial Museum). 5) Adrian and Pauline Hawkes.
About the writer: Adrian Hawkes is married to Pauline — Dan Wooding was best man at their wedding — and they have three children, 10 Grandchildren and two Great Grandchildren. He is still part of the Rainbow Church North London which he used to lead and he also works with Sri Lankan churches in France, Switzerland, Norway, Canada and Sri Lanka, as well as a church in Norway. He helped to form Phoenix Community Care Ltd, which looks after some 30+ unaccompanied minors, and vulnerable adults in housing in North London; alongside his wife Pauline, he established PCC Foster Care agency and has launched London Training Consortium Ltd., which trains refugees and asylum seekers with ESOL, IT, and Literacy. He has also written various books including: “Leadership and.,” “Attracting Training: Releasing Youth,” “The Jacob Generation,” “HELLO is that you God?”, “Culture Clash,” and his first, fiction book, “ICEJACKED. He can be contacted by e-mail at: email@example.com.
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