British Jews laud success of appeal to help Syrian refugees

World Jewish Relief raises £944,000 for migrants in Turkey, Greece.

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September 2, 2016 07:11
3 minute read.
World Jewish Relief

AN AID WORKER speaks with refugees in Greece in 2015. (. (photo credit: WORLD JEWISH RELIEF)

 
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Exactly one year after Britain’s World Jewish Relief launched an emergency appeal for refugees from Syria and the region, it announced on Thursday that the campaign has helped over 17,500 refugees in Greece and Turkey.

The humanitarian agency said that since last September, it has provided 3,169 children with winter kits including coats and blankets for children living in freezing conditions in camps on the Turkish-Syrian border. Aid has also included 2,050 back-to-school kits for refugee children in Turkey, medical care for 4,837 people in Greece, and humanitarian essentials such as water, food and warm clothes for another 7,474 refugees in the same country.

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Since the start of the Syrian civil war in March 2011, an estimated 400,000 people have been killed and some 11 million, half the country’s pre-war population, have fled their homes.

In total, World Jewish Relief’s Refugee Crisis Appeal has raised nearly £944,000 in a year, making it the organization’s second-largest ever appeal after the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami appeal. The organization will continue to welcome donations, which will go toward the ongoing refugee projects in Greece and Turkey.

Paul Anticoni, World Jewish Relief’s chief executive, said: “One year ago, a photo of a three-year-old Syrian boy named Alan Kurdi washed up on a beach, shocked the world into action. Thanks to the British Jewish community’s outstanding generosity, over the past year, we’ve made a difference to 17,557 lives.”

In an interview with The Jerusalem Post one year ago, at the start of the appeal, Anticoni expressed a strong feeling of resonance within the Jewish community around its own history. “My own grandparents were refugees in Britain, and I think my story is similar to many in my generation and my parents’ generation. We have an empathy of looking after the stranger, and I think there is a desire to assist, irrespective of the nationality of the individual,” he told the Post.

Twelve months later, Anticoni issued a statement of gratitude at the beginning of a report outlining the campaign’s success: “The response from our community to the refugee crisis was exceptional. I’d like to thank each and every person who contributed to our appeal for enabling the Jewish community to come together and make such a huge difference to the lives of thousands of refugees impacted by war and persecution.”

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This wasn’t the organization’s first fund-raising effort for Syrian refugees; in 2013 it provided food and shelter to some 70,000 Syrian children living in the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan.

World Jewish Relief was formed in 1933, and it assisted tens of thousands of Jewish refugees fleeing persecution in Europe, culminating in its orchestration of the Kindertransport before to the outbreak of World War II, in which Britain took in nearly 10,000 mostly Jewish children from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland and the Free City of Danzig, as well as assistance for camp survivors after liberation.

World Jewish Relief has since helped Jews in crisis across the globe, including providing welfare services to vulnerable Jews in the former Soviet Union after the collapse of the Iron Curtain. The organization is now drawing on the latter experience to help refugees at home, having created a program to help integrate the 20,000 Syrian refugees former prime minister David Cameron vowed to resettle and house by 2020.

World Jewish Relief is assisting 1,000 of the 20,000 Syrian refugees in finding employment and integrating into life in the UK, beginning with a pilot program in Bradford aiming to help 50 Syrian refugees to find work.

World Jewish Relief is a coalition partner of OLAM, an organization of 46 Israeli and Jewish NGOs raising awareness of the importance of supporting the world’s most vulnerable communities. Executive Director of OLAM Dyonna Ginsburg hailed the refugees appeal as a “remarkable testament to the Jewish community’s commitment to the welfare and aid of those in need.

“We will continue to highlight and connect those Jewish organizations which heed the prophetic call to action to aid and assist those who need it most around the world,” she said.

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