UK Jews look to long-term aid for London fire victims

Many of the residents were low-income families or disabled people.

Major blaze erupts in central London tower block (photo credit: REUTERS)
Major blaze erupts in central London tower block
(photo credit: REUTERS)
UK Jewish community organizations and synagogues called on its members to donate to London charities that will provide long-term support to the victims of Wednesday’s deadly fire in London, after the victims were inundated with material offerings.
Fire engulfed the social housing block, where as many as 600 people lived in more than 120 apartments, in the early hours of Wednesday.
The death toll from the blaze that ripped through Grenfell Tower in west London rose to 17 on Thursday, with many people still missing. A final toll may not be known for weeks.
Thirty-seven people remained in the hospital, with 17 of them in critical care. Other survivors spent the night at emergency shelters.
Synagogues on Wednesday had swiftly mobilized to gather donations for survivors who lost all their belongings in the blaze, with synagogues such as Holland Park Synagogue – located a few streets away from the building – West London Synagogue and Borehamwood Synagogue working to coordinate donations.
Collections underway at Borehamwood Synagogue, London following Wednesday's deadly fire (Courtesy)Collections underway at Borehamwood Synagogue, London following Wednesday's deadly fire (Courtesy)
But due to an overwhelming desire by Londoners to help, the local authority, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, thanked donors but said it could not take any further donations for the time being.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews put out a statement saying: “Our hearts go out to the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire. We have been speaking to Jewish and interfaith colleagues about how best to help. We understand that the surrounding churches, mosques and temples have received enough material goods and volunteers for the time being. Therefore the best way to support those affected is to donate to a charity like The Kensington & Chelsea Foundation.”
Britain’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis Tweeted Wednesday: “Images of #GrenfellTower are truly harrowing. My prayers today are with all affected and with the heroes running toward danger to save lives.”
West London Synagogue said it has been “fielding calls all day from this remarkable community about how we can help those affected by the terrible fire.”
“What is needed is to build capacity in the organizations working directly with those affected, and who will be working with them for the long term,” it stated on its Facebook page. “The Kensington and Chelsea Foundation have a collection, and a significant amount of matched funding for any donations. They are local, well established, and well placed to meet the ongoing needs. This is a good place to direct our support.”
The foundation had raised over £500,000 by Thursday afternoon.
An investigation into the cause of the blaze, the worst in the British capital in a generation, was underway.
Reuters contributed to this report.