Communal asylum charity chief urges politicians to stop using immigration to fuel hate

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Communal asylum charity chief urges politicians to stop using immigration to fuel hate

Rabbi David Mason was applauded after speaking at HIAS+JCORE charity event and pledging to work towards creating 'a more welcoming, more cohesive United Kingdom'

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Rabbi David Mason speaking at HIAS+JCORE event
Rabbi David Mason speaking at HIAS+JCORE event

The executive director of a communal charity that aims to influence policy around race and asylum has given a poignant pre-general election warning to politicians who use immigration as a divisive issue.

Speaking at a packed anniversary event for the newly amalgamated HIAS+JCORE organisation, Rabbi David Mason told the audience at New North London Synagogue that attempts to dehumanise and “other” those seeking to escape persecution was a recipe for hate to “grow and fester.”

Mason spoke of a need to “wrench asylum out of high politics and into the sphere of solutions” as he vowed to step up the work his organisation does in working towards “a more welcoming United Kingdom” and a country that “is less racist … more cohesive and brings communities together.”

During his speech he  said:”“While we want an asylum system that is ordered and fair, it must also be one built on compassion.

“Isn’t that what many of our grandparents or great-grandparents wanted when they came here from Russia or Germany or elsewhere?”

Mason, formerly the United Synagogue rabbi at Muswell Hill Synagogue, noted how the Torah had commanded us to love the stranger, adding: “Our very founding story was the story of asylum and being persecuted for that. We as a people cannot stand by while refugees suffer today.”

Monday evening’s event also featured a fascinating discussion with keynote speaker Sunder Katwala, director of the British Future think-tank, who was quizzed by Judith Flacks-Leigh, chair of the trustees of the HIAS+JCORE.

Katwala, who spoke of his shared British, Indian, and Irish background, is the author of the widely acclaimed book How to Be a Patriot  on British national identity and immigration, which was recently updated to include a chapter on the impact of the October 7th Hamas massacre on the Jewish community and others in the UK.

Praising the work of the charity Katwala said:”It is incredibly important to have a strong British Jewish movement for refugees. And a strong British Jewish movement for anti-racism.

“Those are different challenges. ”

Judith Flacks-Leigh in conversation with Sunder Katwala , director of British Future

He spoke of the important need to get these issues right for the wider society, but also said there “are challenges in getting it right.”

Katwala added:”Telling stories and saying the Kindertransport was very important and so on, and therefore you have just got to be as willing as you can… there are lots of questions within the Jewish community about what we need to do now in this moment to get it right.

“And to actually get anti-racism right, so that Jewish people can be part of anti-racism. It is getting much harder. If we are saying ‘oh well, you’ve got privilege now, you’ve been here a long time.'”
Katwala said on occasions so-called anti-racism did now sound like that. 

He continued:”It’s incredibly important to get our argument right.

“Anti-racism refugee issues are not the job of the migrant minority communities, they are the job of the country. And therefore I think the Jewish voice is actually incredibly important on the issue for everybody.”

Dawn Butler MP and Rabbi David Mason

The evening, which also aimed to raise vital funds for the charity’s work also saw Hias+Jcore deputy director Amos Schonfield  speak with Josh Stein, a volunteer with the group’s innovative Jump scheme where volunteers befriend asylum seekers who arrive in this country often knowing nobody, and without help to fill in documents to stay here.

Stein, who was made aware of the scheme from a colleague at his shul in Streatham, has spent the past five years helping Mo, a refugee from Somalia, get used to life in London.

Also honoured posthumously was the late social justice campaigner Dr Richard Stone, a former HIAS chair, with two of his now grown up children attending the event to collect the Lord Dubs award, named after the peer, who came here on Kindertransport and continues in the Lords to speak out on refugee and asylum issues.

JCORE founder Edie Friedman said Stone had honoured the “Jewish prophetic tradition” by always fearlessly speaking out on justice matters. 

In attendance at the anniversary event were former chair of trustees and international development partner at Mishcon de Reya legal firm Adam Rose, along with Brent Central Labour MP Dawn Butler and Sarah Sackman, the party’s parliamentary candidate for Finchley and Golders Green.

Michael Wegier chief executive at the Board of Deputies also attended, along with former president Marie van der Zyl, and Michael Ziff, who had impressed during the recent elections at the communal organisation.

Mason became executive director over the newly merged the Jewish Council for Racial Equality and Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society from the USA, just over one year ago.

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: