Representatives of the Jewish, Gypsy and Traveller communities in Britain have agreed to work together on range on issues including hate crime, Holocaust remembrance, welfare and human rights, following a series of meetings in Leeds.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews and Leeds Jewish Representative Council were joined by human rights charity Rene Cassin at meetings with the Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange in the city. They visited Leeds GATE, which focuses on homes, health, education and employment for Gypsy and Traveller people and CATCH, in the Harehills district – a diverse, multi-faith and multi-ethnicity youth club, aimed at the 8-17 age group including many Roma young people. This was followed by a working lunch at to discuss the relationship between the Jewish and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.
Marie van der Zyl, Vice President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the national representative body of UK Jews, said after the event: “It was a pleasure to meet Gypsy and Traveller people today, who are working hard for the empowerment of their communities. Because of our history – like that of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities – the Jewish community is acutely aware of where racial prejudice can lead us. In 2017, racism remains a stain on our society, and we’re here today to say we stand in solidarity with other minority groups, who are facing obscene levels of hostility.”
Helen Jones, the Chief Executive Officer of the Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange, said: “Leeds GATE is really excited to be forging links with Rene Cassin, the Board of Deputies and local Jewish communities. Whilst some of our common ground is inevitably our experiences of being demonized, excluded and subject to hate, what is really exciting to explore is our shared experiences of promoting human rights, peace building and resilience.”
Mia Hasenson-Gross, Director of René Cassin, said: “It’s been an extremely positive few days in Leeds bringing together the Jewish and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. We have tragic historic ties as well as shared current and pressing issues such as rising hate crime. These are best tackled through building strong relationships and an understanding of the experiences of our respective communities. We look forward to building on these meetings.”
Simon Phillips, Director of Interfaith for the Leeds Jewish Representative Council, said “The Jewish community and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities have so much in common – the importance of family, a pride in culture, heritage and history and a commitment to challenging and tackling hate crime, racism and prejudice. We look forward to supporting at local level the work which the Board of Deputies have been doing nationally. The Jewish community have always had a strong belief in supporting the rights of minorities and we thank Rene Cassin for reminding us of our responsibilities for Tikkun Olam, the ‘healing of the world’.”
The visit to Leeds is part of an ongoing programme to bring the communities together and address the stereotypes that members of these communities might have of one another. Events have included a roundtable between Jewish and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communal organisations, and attendance by the Board of Deputies at the memorial ceremony in Hyde Park to remember Roma and Sinti victims of the Nazis.
Photo: Board of Deputies Vice President Marie van der Zyl visits Leeds GATE Heritage Centre