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Writer calls for Jews to battle holocausts

PUBLISHED: 17:43 07 June 2007 | UPDATED: 14:33 07 September 2010

WRITER and broadcaster Jonathan Freedland has urged members of the Jewish community to do more to act against holocausts across the globe. He was speaking to a full house at the Hampstead Synagogue last week as a coalition of Jewish

By Marc Mullen

WRITER and broadcaster Jonathan Freedland has urged members of the Jewish community to do more to act against holocausts across the globe.

He was speaking to a full house at the Hampstead Synagogue last week as a coalition of Jewish organisations called for action in Darfur.

The campaign aims to build a network of professionals from the Jewish community to support those in the conflict hit region.

More than 250 people packed in to the synagogue's main hall in Dennington Park Road, West Hampstead, for the event last Wednesday.

Mr Freedland, who lives in Hampstead and is a columnist for The Guardian, said: "The cliché is that after the holocaust Jews said never again. Do we mean never again must this happen to us or is there something larger, bigger, more dramatic in this phrase.

"I believe the latter. If I am really brutally honest we have said it since 1945 but didn't act on it - in Cambodia, Srebrenica and most dramatically in Rwanda.

"Tonight is a focus on action - on consciousness raising. The more eyes and ears there are the better; the media are doing very little and the politicians need something to react to - we can be that something.

"There is a restless tradition and historic tension within Judaism to repair what is torn - but we did let it happen again after the Holocaust, and now is the time to rescue 'never again' from the cliché and to make it a tangible goal."

The campaign has been organised by a coalition of charities - World Jewish Relief (WJR), the Aegis Trust, the Pears Foundation, JCORE, Rene Cassin and the Hampstead Synagogue.

Rachel Grunwald from the Hampstead Synagogue introduced the campaign and Nick Donovan from the Aegis Trust, who has spent time in Darfur, described the atrocities which have been going on.

Mr Freedland declared himself "anti-semantics", when it came to the debate about the numbers killed and displaced as a result of the conflict.

The lowest estimates put the number killed at 200,000, but relief agencies put the figure much higher - close to half a million.

More than two million people have been driven from their homes by Sudanese government forces and state-sponsored militias.

The displaced are staying in refugee camps - with women warned against leaving the security of the camp for fear of rape, and men for fear of murder.

After the speeches attendees divided into groups to discuss what they could do to raise the profile of Darfur and were joined by refugees from the region.

Charlotte Casselson from WJR said: "The issue of Darfur is on everybody's radar but few have concrete ideas of how to turn concern into action. We formed this coalition to do just that.

"We are sure that with the support of the community; with its abundance of skills, creativity and drive, we won't have to look future generations in the face and tell them that we did nothing. Act for Darfur is just the beginning."

To donate to WJR's Darfur Emergency Appeal, visit www.worldjewishrelief. org.uk/darfur or call 020-7691 1771.

marc.mullen@hamhigh.co.uk

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