North London Rabbis back World Jewish Relief refugee employment project
PUBLISHED: 12:30 05 July 2019
A group of United Synagogues Rabbis led by Muswell Hill’s Rabbi David Mason took a trip to Coventry in June to help inform their own charitable work.
Also on the outing were Rabbi Nicky Liss from Highgate Synagogue and Rabbi Ephraim Guttentag from Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue.
The trio were part of a six-strong group who visited World Jewish Relief's STEP project which supports recently arrived refugees into employment.
Rabbi Mason told this newspaper: "This idea came from one of the members of the synagague - Janice Lopatkin.
"I spoke to her about getting a group of Rabbis together. It's inspiring stuff. It's educating people into work and its an important way of giving refugees life opportunities.
"We are looking at expanding STEP in our community, but we also do a great deal here already."
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On the visit, the Rabbis met Martin and Alyaa, both refugees from Iraq and heard stories of how they have been helped by World Jewish Relief.
Talking of what the synagogue is already doing itself, Rabbi Mason cited the visit on Sunday of the chief executive director of the Refugee Council Maurice Wren, who was interviewed - along with a refugee Kandia Diop - about her story of seeking asylum.
Kandia has been looked after by the United Synagogues' asylum-support centres in Hendon and Woodford.
On the field trip, the Rabbis also spent time visiting Coventry's Jewish cemetery, accompanied by the refugees and stopped by the Synagogue which is currently derelict.
The Garden Suburb-based Rabbi Guttentag said the work done by World Jewish Relief was "the highest form of charity", while Rabbi Liss from Highgate said: "We are blessed to live in a generation where we are settled in the UK but we have the option to reach further afield and make a difference.
"World Jewish Relief and the United Synagogue (with its drop in centres) are both showing how we can do that." While in Coventry the Rabbis also got what Rabbi Mason described as the "humbling" opportunity to spend time with refugee families who had only arrived in the UK during an English class.
STEP was launched by Muswell Hill's Janice Lopatkin, who is World Jewish Relief's UK programme director.