On Sunday 8 November World Jewish Relief’s Birmingham and West Midlands Committee held their annual appeal event. The event looked a little different this year, taking place virtually. Nonetheless it was a resounding success, with over 50 households tuning in to hear an address by special guest former MP Lord Alfred Dubs. In keeping with tradition, the committee chose to support World Jewish Relief’s Home Repairs programme for older people in eastern Europe, for which they have previously raised £40,000.
Lord Dubs was introduced by Lia Lesser, who like him was a child refugee born in Czechoslovakia who came to Britain on Kindertransport. He shared his personal journey from being a child refugee in Prague to an MP in Westminster, and spoke of his relentless fight in support of other child refugees. He paid tribute to Nicholas Winton, without whom none of the Kinder children would have survived.
Lord Dubs described how he fought in Government for an amendment to the 2016 Immigration Bill welcoming child refugees to be reunited with close family members in Britain. Despite pressure to withdraw his amendment, he continued to fight, and it was eventually passed. He believes his amendment to the Immigration Bill was accepted because of public opinion, as the media spread awareness of the terrible suffering of child refugees, and called for continued public support as we fight to win back humanity and compassion in Britain.
Lord Dubs spoke of his visits to refugee camps in Lesbos, Jordan and Calais, where he was shocked to see young, vulnerable children with no hope. He said that without hope people are driven to do desperate things. He believes that Britain can do more to provide a future for these vulnerable young people.
He spoke of the outpouring of support for refugees from within the Jewish community, describing it as a sign of great humanitarian generosity that this community campaigns so hard on behalf of non-Jewish refugees.
Paul Anticoni, Chief Executive of World Jewish Relief, commended Lord Dubs on his incredible and unstinting fight on behalf of refugees. Birmingham and West Midlands Committee Treasurer Michael Rowe thanked Lord Dubs for ensuring his voice and the voice of others across the country has been heard by Government, and reminded guests that Lord Dubs’ message is at the core of World Jewish Relief’s work. Finally, Chairman Frank Maxwell thanked the committee for their great efforts over the years supporting World Jewish Relief, asking them to do so again this year in support of the Home Repairs programme.
Paul shared with pride that this year, even in adversity, World Jewish Relief has supported 50,000 Jews in eastern Europe with food, medicine, home care and home repairs, as well as employment support for younger community members. He noted that World Jewish Relief continues to support refugees to secure employment and build a future here in Britain. In his words, “World Jewish Relief helped refugees in the 1930s because they were Jewish. We help them today because we are Jewish.”
Paul also paid tribute to the late Lord Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, noting that his message of welcoming the stranger is key to World Jewish Relief’s ethos.
Paul said “I am truly humbled at the support and generosity of Birmingham's Jewish community towards World Jewish Relief. This year is no exception, and, following a powerful and inspiring message from Lord Dubs on the importance of helping the stranger and welcoming the refugee, I am so proud that this community has raised critical funds to assist our work in eastern Europe.”