Don’t banish asylum seekers to Rwanda, Jewish community urges Home Secretary

More than 250 members of the Jewish community, including 29 Liberal, Masorti, Reform and United Synagogue rabbis, have signed an open letter to the Home Secretary, compelling the government to abandon plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.


The letter, co-ordinated by the Jewish Council for Racial Equality (JCORE), was sent ahead of a series of important votes on the Nationality and Borders Bill in the House of Commons this afternoon (20th April), where MPs have the chance to reject cruel proposals to offshore refugees.


Condemning the government’s plans, the signatories declare that such proposals “fly in the face of Jewish values, and… cannot be in our community’s name.”


And with the plans announced on the eve of Passover last week, a festival where the Jewish community celebrates its journey to safety from Egypt, the letter emphasizes that it “is deeply unsettling that the government is seeking to deprive the opportunity of freedom to those fleeing modern day tyrants”.


Highlighting how the Jewish community has a “long history of seeking refuge”, the signatories also urge the Home Secretary to learn from the “grave error” and “historic mistake” of the overseas internment of Jewish refugees during the Second World War.


Instead, the letter calls for the government to “reflect on its moral duty and protect, not punish, those fleeing conflict and persecution today”, and to uphold international refugee law.


And in contrast to the Home Secretary’s claims that the plans critics “fail to offer their own solutions”, the signatories state that “if your government is serious about preventing small boat crossings, it must instead act and introduce new safe routes to sanctuary in the UK, which are accessible to all refugee groups.”


Rabbis signing the letter included Rabbi David Mason, Muswell Hill Synagogue, Rabbi Rene Pfertzel, co-chair of the Conference of Liberal Rabbis and Cantors, Rabbi Dr Jackie Tabick, Convenor of Reform Judaism’s Beit Din and Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, Senior Rabbi of Masorti Judaism UK. Please see below for the full text of the statement and list of signatories.


Dr Edie Friedman, Executive Director at the Jewish Council for Racial Equality (JCORE), said: “Recent government attacks on religious leaders, who have rightly condemned these unethical plans, are utterly shameful and appalling.


Faith leaders and communities across the country have made it clear that these unconscionable proposals deeply contravene our values, and cannot be in our name. The government must listen, rethink, and ensure all those seeking safety in the UK are treated with dignity and respect.


None of us want to see refugees forced into taking dangerous journeys across the Channel. But plans to banish vulnerable people to Rwanda cannot be the answer. Instead, the government must urgently introduce new routes to safety, and scrap clauses in the shameful Nationality and Borders Bill which would criminalize and penalize refugees.”


The full text of the open letter can be found below:


Dear Home Secretary, Re: Appalling plans to offshore refugees: Don’t banish asylum seekers to Rwanda As members of the British Jewish community, we are writing to express our profound dismay at deeply unethical plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda for offshore processing. It is unconscionable that the UK government is seeking to replicate Australia’s disastrous offshoring system in Rwanda, a country frequently condemned for its appalling human rights record. Such a policy flies in the face of Jewish values, and would be a cruel, moral failure to those in urgent need of protections. This appalling abdication of responsibility cannot be in our community’s name. We are particularly disturbed that such plans have been announced shortly before our community celebrates Passover, a festival where Jews recall our journey to safety from Egypt. As we prepare to read the story of Exodus, it is deeply unsettling that the government is seeking to deprive the opportunity of freedom to those fleeing modern day tyrants. Such proposals also bring to mind unpleasant memories of the overseas internment of Jewish refugees in the Second World War. This policy was a grave error: we urge the government to learn from this historic mistake, uphold international refugee law and ensure all those seeking safety in the UK are treated with dignity and respect. None of us want to see refugees forced into taking dangerous journeys across the Channel. But plans to banish vulnerable people to Rwanda cannot be the answer. If your government is serious about preventing small boat crossings, it must instead act and introduce new safe routes to sanctuary in the UK, which are accessible to all refugee groups. And it should scrap clauses in the shameful Nationality and Borders Bill which would criminalize and penalize refugees. As members of a community with a long history of seeking refuge, we urge the government to withdraw these plans, reflect on its moral duty and protect, not punish, those fleeing conflict and persecution today. Yours sincerely,


Ruth Abraham

Max Adam

Jennifer Aizenberg

Bil Al

Len Alden

Mark Andrews

Ann Angel

Janice Arenstein

Alan Arnstein

Emma Aynsley

Patrick Banks

Helen Banks

Julia Bard

Ido Ben-Shaul

Daniel Bernstein Vulkan

James Bingham

Jonathan Black

Matt Black

Pamela Blakelock

Hannah Bloom

Viv Bogen

Alice Bondi

Rabbi Barbara Borts

Alexandra Boyd

Stuart Brown

Sally Brown

Rabbi Janet Burden

Josephine Burton

Ann Butterworth

Mike Cahill

John Charap

Maayan Cohen

Robert Cohen

Lucille Cohen

Laura Cohn

Andrew Colman

Rabbi Howard Cooper

Sara Cooper

Nicole Crampton

Judith Cravitz

Ilana Cravitz

Peter Crome

Nathalie Dakin

Catherine Davidson

Leilah Davis

Hilary De Santos

Kira Dillon

Jan Doole

Naomi Drapkin

Jane Drapkin

Barbara Dresner

Prof Miriam Dwek

Joshua Edelman

Ros Edwards

Daniel Ehrlich

Rabbi Colin Eimer

Rabbi Warren Elf

Caroline Elton

Gene Feder

Ian Ferrie

Paul Fertig

Mark Findlay

Vivienne Fleet

Denise Fluskey

Andrew Forman

Nadia Fraga

Rabbi Adam Frankenberg

Jennifer Frazer

Sheila Freedman

Nina Freedman

Rabbi Paul Freedman

Edie Friedman

Kenny Fryde

Alan Gelfer

Sybil Gilbert

Nicole Gluckman

Martin Golding

Rabbi Naomi Goldman

Rabbi Aaron Goldstein

Stephen Goldstone

Sarah Gonshaw

Stuart Goodman

Suzy Goodwin

Mark Goodwin

David Gordon

Rabbi Jeremy Gordon

Jean-Steéphane Gourévitch

Bernard Grant

John Grayson

Matthew Greener

Benjamin Greenman

Susan Halpern

Howard Harris

Ruth Harris

Hedy Harris

Alison Harris

Jenny Henriques

Kathy Hirst

Frankie Holman

Louise Howard

Sam Hussein

Gill Hyatt

Anthony Isaacs

Anna Isaacs

Raphael Isserlin

Rabbi Margaret Jacobi

Rabbi Richard Jacobi

Laura Jacobus

Deborah Jaffe

Keith Jones

Rick Jones

Rabbi Oliver Joseph

Dan Judelson

Ann Jungman

Dr Peter Kalve FRSA

Holly Kal-Weiss

Student Rabbi Gabriel Kanter-Webber

Jenny Kassman

Noah Katz

Leah Katz

Nicola Keller

Judith Kelman

Phil Kelvin

Bruce Kent

Leon King

Jenny King

Beth Kingsley

Maxine Klein

Rebecca Klug

Bob Knowles

Katherine Körner

Agnes Kory

Ann Kramer

Rachel Kudlick

Michael Kuhn

Jack Kushner

Tony Kushner

Sam Kushner

Rabbi Sandra Kviat

Shoshana Lavan

Renee Lavipour

Miriam Lennard

Michael Lesser

Leah Levane

Rose Levinson

Steven Levy

Jonathan Lewis

John Lipetz

Nicola Livingston

Jonathan Livingstone

Robert Lizar

Kristi Long

Stuart MacDonald

Jenny Mahimbo

Claire Mandel

Moshe Mankoff

Rabbi Natasha Mann

Barnaby Marder

Lisa Marsh

Richard Martin-Thomas

Samuel Martin-Thomas

Rabbi David Mason

Terence McGinity

Liz Mckeever

Joseph Millis

Dolf Mogendorff

Chris Mohr

Adam Morley

Sue Moss

Simon Mostyn

Rabbi Lea Muehlstein

Simon Myerson

Cllr Neil Nerva

Frances Niman

John Noble

Gabrielle Nohr

Thomas O Neill

Sylvia Oakes

Avigail Ochert

Toluwanimi Osunkoya

Margaret Owen

Gail Pearce

Tanya Pein

Norman Pein

Angela Pellow

Alex Perkin

Rabbi René Pfertzel

Judy Plaut

David Plaut

Linda Poulson

Owen Power

Charlotte Prager Williams

Carol Preece

Alison Rees

Rabbi Danny Rich

Flora Richards

Kevin Riley

Susan Robinson

Adam Rose

Joel Rosen

Michael Rosen

Ofra Rosenwasser

Rabbi Sylvia Rothschild

Michael Rubinstein

Barbara Saalfeld-Edwards

Caroline Salinger

Caroline Salinger

Joan Salter

Tasneem Samuels

Marsha Sanders

Myra Sands

Esther Saraga

Eric Schneider

Amos Schonfield

Linda Scott

Dr Malcolm Segall

David Selo

Rabbi Zahavit Shalev

Aaron Shaw

Rabbi Sybil Sheridan

David Shonfield

Danielle Simonson

Iris Singer

Ken Singer

Benjamin Smith

Janet Solomons

Tommer Spence

Bernard Spiegal

Katherine Standring

Alexis Steadman

Lawrence Stolzenberg

Jude Stratton

Paul Summerfield

Francesca Summerfield

Robert Symonds

Petra Tabaczynska

Rabbi Roni Tabick

Rabbi Jackie Tabick

Rabbi Larry Tabick

Keith Taylor

Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah

Louise Tolton

Kenneth Tomkins

Eva Turner

Deborah Twigger

Barend Velleman

Diamond Versi

Sandra Versi

Ruth Wacholder

Annette Wardell

Rabbi Lee Wax

Naomi Wayne

Paul Weeks

Tina Weinberg

Hannah Weisfeld

Emma Weleminsky

Linda Williams

Sue Wilson

Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg

Mary Wyatt

Gillian Yudkin