Jewish calls to safeguard Europe’s largest ethnic minority

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Jewish calls to safeguard Europe’s largest ethnic minority

Rabbis and human rights groups say Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities "share a history of persecution with Jewish people”.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid. Photo credit: Aaron Chown/PA Wire
Home Secretary Sajid Javid. Photo credit: Aaron Chown/PA Wire

Rabbis and Jewish human rights groups have urged Home Secretary Sajid Javid to better protect Britain’s Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.

An open letter, signed by rabbis from all denominations as well as the Jewish Council for Racial Equality (JCORE), expressed “deep concern at the Government’s portrayal and treatment” of Europe’s largest ethnic minority.

It follows a Home Office announcement earlier this month regarding a crackdown on “illegal traveller sites” as a way of “protecting our local communities” as an example of language she said evidenced “the last bastion of acceptable racism”.

Mia Hasenson-Gross, director of the René Cassin human rights group, another signatory, said the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities “share a history of persecution with Jewish people”.

Among those signing the letter include senior Orthodox Rabbi Herschel Gluck, senior Masorti Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, Rabbi David Mason of Muswell Hill United Synagogue, and Rabbi Aaron Goldstein, chair of the Conference of Liberal Rabbis and Cantors. Others include youth groups such as RSY-Netzer and the heads of University Jewish societies.

Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities “experience more racism and discrimination than any other group and face multiple disadvantages, such as education, health, housing, the workplace and the justice system,” they said.

Homelessness was a particular issue, they told Javid, with those who live on unauthorised sites “largely doing so because there are not enough authorised sites to park”.

René Cassin has worked in partnership with the Board of Deputies on fighting anti-Gypsy racism, holding a roundtable meeting with rabbis from all denominations in 2017 and inviting Gypsy, Roma and Traveller representatives to discuss concerns at a synagogue in Leeds.

The Board sends representatives to Gypsy Holocaust Memorial Day in Hyde Park every year, but does not currently have any plans for further initiatives.

The Board’s vice president Edwin Shuker said: “We agree with René Cassin about the need for increased local provision for authorised Gypsy, Roma and Traveller sites.

“Local authorities and central government both have an key role to play in addressing the concerns of these communities, particularly with respect to planning policy for authorised sites.

“A lack of these often leads to the proliferation of unauthorised sites, which can be a source of friction between communities.”

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