Rabbis call for action on hunger

A busy food bank in south-east London. Numbers relying on food donations have soared over the past year

A busy food bank in south-east London. Numbers relying on food donations have soared over the past year

A cross-communal group of 30 rabbis is calling on political leaders to take urgent measures to help people who cannot afford to feed themselves.

In a letter addressed to David Cameron, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Opposition leader Ed Miliband, they wrote: “We call for action to provide a safety net for every hungry family and individual. This net should be woven by our synagogues, faith centres, communities, government and welfare system working together to ensure no one will cry out in hunger in the land of plenty.”

The initiative was organised by the Jewish Social Action Forum, the Board of Deputies and foodbank charity, the Trussell Trust, which brought together rabbis from the Reform, Liberal, Masorti and Orthodox movements to highlight the issue of hunger over the Pesach period.

“For us as Jews at Pesach, nothing could be more resonant than ‘all who are hungry, come and eat’,” said Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, senior rabbi to the Reform Movement and one of the signatories to the letter.

“The growth of food banks in our society is a huge flag for us. Something serious is happening and we need to do something urgently about it.

“Widespread food poverty exists, even in the Jewish community. One of the things we know is that there are many Jewish users of food banks, and not just in the Charedi community.

According to the Trussell Trust, the number of adults and children using its food banks has increased by 264,000 in the past year, making a total of 614,000.

Signatory Rabbi Natan Levy, of the Board of Deputies said: “We hold up the bread of affliction on Pesach and open our doors. How can we say that meaningfully and truly when three quarters of a million people in this country will go hungry this year.”

Rabbi David Mason, one of two United Synagogue rabbis to sign the letter — the other being Leo Dee of Radlett — said he was pleased by the cross-communal nature of the initiative. He stressed that new solutions needed to be found to the issue of hunger. “Poverty is not just a global problem, its happening on our doorstep,” he said.

Some 27 Anglican bishops have also written to David Cameron urging him to examine how changes in the welfare system have exacerbated food poverty.

Last updated: 5:45pm, April 17 2014