steven-jaffe

The non-Jewish community committed to helping the Jews around the world

July 28, 2016 - Board of Deputies - Share: Twitter Facebook

A small depot tucked in the back of a car park in the West Midlands.

A team of a dozen or so volunteers are hard at work. They are processing boxes of clothes destined for impoverished Jewish communities in Eastern Europe and poor people in Israel.

Not a single volunteer I chat with is Jewish. They belong to the Christadelphian community.

The clothes are collected from across the UK – and even as far afield as Australia. Second-hand items are checked for quality and boxed together with specially-knitted clothing and blankets.

Editor of The Christadelphian magazine, Andrew Bramhill explains: “As a community, we believe in providing practical humanitarian support to Israel and the Jewish people”.

“We are strictly  non-political. As a matter of fact, we don’t even vote in elections. However, we are dismayed at the surge of antisemitism throughout the world and very concerned for Israel ”.

Christadelphians are a Bible-based faith group with fewer than 100,000 members world wide. They have no hierarchies or central governing bodies. However, their churches – known as ecclesias – are hubs of humanitarian relief for impoverished Jews.

According to Andrew: “This is derived from our Biblical understanding that Israel and the Jewish people are special to God. We consider the restoration of the Jews to the land of Israel to be a fulfilment of God’s promises to the Patriarchs. As followers of Jesus we see it also as a precursor to his Second Coming.”

While aspects of their theology are decidedly “unkosher” in Jewish eyes, their philanthropy is provided without strings.

David Griffin oversees the work of Christadelphian Jewish Clothing Relief (CJCR). He says: ” We very rarely meet the Jewish people who are recipients of our aid. We want the Jewish people to know that we hugely respect their Biblical contribution towards our faith and the world generally.”

David explains how for a number of years the Christadelphians worked with World Jewish Relief (WJR) to distribute the clothes in Eastern Europe. However, practical difficulties in distribution caused WJR to focus on other forms of aid. Today CJCR benefit tremendously from the support of a Christian-owned haulage company based in Holland.

I learn that the record of Christadelphian support for the Jewish people is over 70 years old.

During the Second World War the Christadelphians provided assistance to Jewish refugees. Like the Quakers they set up hostels for kindertransport children and hosted refugees from Nazi persecution in their homes.

The Christadelphians continue to hold the rebirth of Israel in a positive light.

“Our support for the Jewish people in Israel and around the world is based on our Biblical beliefs, not on the political whims of the day” Andrew Bramhill is keen to emphasise.

In the meantime, I watch as a pallet containing 80 boxes of clothes is wheeled out of the depot awaiting dispatch to either Israel or Eastern Europe.

Steven Jaffe is consultant to the Board of Deputies.