Do British Jews have a duty to welcome new immigrants?

November 22, 2013
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JC readers have their say

David Finlay, member of Alyth Reform Synagogue

“I agree we have to be sympathetic towards new immigrants. But there are broader issues to do with the economy and the benefits system. Immigrants who come here need to make a proper contribution to the country. Jewish people have always found work and made a contribution. Immigrants have an obligation to repay the hospitality given to them and not be a burden on the welfare system. ”

Rhea Wolfson, aged 23, communications manager

“The Jewish community absolutely should stand side-by-side with immigrant communities in the UK. We all have a moral obligation to speak out for others suffering hardship and it is hypocritical for Jews not to stand firmly in the corner of immigrants and economic migrants.”

Judy Gillespie, aged 56, member of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue

“There’s not enough space on this island. The Romanians don’t have a particularly good reputation. Crime is escalating and it’s too easy for them to use the benefits system. There aren’t enough checks and balances, and there aren’t enough jobs to go round.

"I guess it’s too late now. We’ve opened the door and now all that’s left is to be a gracious host. I’m very worried though. My husband wants to put up new gates outside our house because we feel there has been an increase in crime.”

Rebecca Lee, aged 27, recent graduate in sociology

“Jews have a responsibility always to try and speak up for those deemed ‘outsiders’. It’s worrying that Israelis seem to be ever shifting to the right, and making life hard for immigrants. If British Jews can be a voice for immigrants inside UK society, it will help others, strengthen our shared Jewish values and keep the sense of our own history alive.”

Aya Berr, aged 58, manager of Steimatzky bookshop, Golders Green, originally from Israel, has lived in the
UK for 27 years

“Immigration is a good thing — it adds cultural diversity, but immigrants have to obey the law of this country and not try to enforce their culture on the rest of society. ”

Adam Cohen, aged 28, lawyer

“For me it’s a no-brainer. Of course we should welcome these newcomers. But I don’t think it’s necessarily an issue specifically for the Jewish community — it’s a society-wide thing. We get the benefits from being in the EU, like free trade and open markets for our exporters, so we also have to accept the other side of things.

"People from other EU countries are going to want to come here. We don’t say anything about the numbers of French people here in London.”

Steven M (declined to give full name), 50, property developer

“There are two types of immigrants — those who make a contribution like the Jews and those who take advantage of the welfare state. I think there are many immigrants who take advantage of the British temperament of being very open and good to people. But when it comes to Romanians, they make a great contribution and are very hard-working.”

Interviews by Daniel Easterman

Last updated: 8:45am, November 22 2013