The main American and British Jewish charities focused on supporting refugees and asylum seekers are to join forces amid the worst refugee crisis in Europe since the 1940s.
The Jewish Council for Racial Equality (JCORE) in the UK is teaming up with HIAS, connecting two Jewish agencies with long histories of helping those seeking safety in foreign lands.
The two organisations decided to pool resources after millions were made homeless by the war in Ukraine, which erupted in February.
They said the partnership would “enable both to better respond to meet the needs of those affected” and “significantly enhance the UK Jewish response to issues of asylum, refugees and racial equality”.
HIAS, originally the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, was founded in 1881 to support Jews fleeing persecution
Last year, JCORE was controversially denied membership of the Board of Deputies, an umbrella organisation of British Jewry. It said it was “dismayed” and “saddened that the Board didn’t see fit to welcome the community’s voice on race and asylum into its membership”.
HIAS, originally the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, was founded in 1881 to support Jews fleeing persecution and poverty in Eastern Europe, and was based in New York, which was then the immigrant gateway to the United States.
In a statement issued on Monday, HIAS and JCORE said the UK focus would include “the education of young Jews on racial equality”, as well as introducing the HIAS Welcome Campaign to British synagogues.
Beyond the Jewish community, they said the organisation “will have greater capacity to support programmes such as JCORE’s befriending project for unaccompanied asylum-seeking young people (JUMP) and Refugee Doctors mentoring”.
JCORE director and founder Dr Edie Friedman, who is originally from the United States, will become the new group’s honorary president, with a new chief executive announced in the coming months. There will also be a major launch event this autumn.
“It has been a privilege to have developed JCORE’s work in my adopted country,” said Friedman. “I am proud that, over the past 45 years, we have consistently encouraged the Jewish community to take action on race and asylum in the UK.
“I am also proud that we have helped to make the Jewish voice on these issues part of the national conversation, respected by politicians, other communities, and refugee and anti-racism organisations. I look forward to the next chapter.”
JCORE chair Adam Rose said the merger “gives our community access to a pool of knowledge and talent which will add huge support to the projects and campaigns that JCORE runs”. He called Friedman “truly remarkable and inspiring”.
HIAS chief executive Mark Hetfield said his organisation “used to help refugees because they were Jewish, today we help refugees… because we are Jewish”.
He added that “the Jewish community of the UK knows the heart of the stranger, so we are very excited to build on JCORE’s work… The global refugee crisis demands an international response as no one community can do it alone.”
It comes as JCORE denounced as “inhumane” the UK government’s policy of flying asylum-seekers to Rwanda for processing, in the week that the first one-way flight was scheduled to take off.
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