All Systems Go in Britain to Help Absorb Boat People

Britain’s Jewish community will play its part in welcoming and helping to absorb the 10,000 Vietnamese refugees whom the government has said that it will allow into this country, Chief Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits said at a press conference. He recalled that he himself had come to this country as a refugee from Nazi Germany. He arrived at the age of 16, speaking no English. Now he is in a “privileged position” and wants to do whatever is possible to help today’s refugees, he said.

What British Jewry is doing, Jakobovits said “is an indication of our empathy with our fellow-sufferers.” Recalling the Biblical injunction to help the stranger, he called on the entire Jewish community to offer the hand of friendship.

Centralizing the community’s efforts will be the Board of Deputies of British Jews. Its newly-elected president, Greville Janner, said that the community wanted to identify itself publicly with the plight of the Vietnamese refugees, “whose suffering is reflected in our own history.” The community, itself recently immigrants, was “well-placed and duty-bound” to play its part.

Exactly what that part will be is not yet clear. Many Jews, organizations as well as individuals, have already spontaneously contributed to the central appeal which has been set up on a national scale. The Board has officially urged all sections of the Jewish community to contribute. Both Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and former Prime Minister James Callaghan have told the Board they are glad about its role in this undertaking.

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