Baroness Julia Neuberger says the Jewish community must speak out more on behalf of immigrants, and should welcome the Romanians and Bulgarians expected to arrive in the UK next year.
Baroness Neuberger, the senior rabbi of West London Synagogue, said prejudice against the immigrants from the two Balkan states — who will be able to settle in Britain in 2014 as a result of membership of the EU — “really does stink”.
She added: “Unless they are a convert, no Jew in the UK is not an immigrant or economic migrant. We who know about prejudice should speak out. There is a Jewish voice on immigration, but it’s not a loud voice.
“It’s not a popular thing to say, ‘let more people into Britain’.”
She praised the migrant drop-in centres organised by the West London and New North London synagogues. “These things are enormously important,” she said.
The baroness also found fault with the community’s care for the elderly, saying more could be done for the “old and frail.
“As a community, we take the view that we include people as much as we can, [but] we’re not perfect. There’s plenty that I could criticise.
“Our own care organisations are thinking very creatively and do a great job, but I’m not at all sure our wider Jewish community has taken on how great an obligation or pleasure the volunteering opportunity there will be.”
Speaking at a screening of the film Regina, a documentary about the first ordained woman rabbi Regina Jonas, she praised the efforts of Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis in advancing the role of Jewish women in the United Synagogue.
Baroness Neuberger said: “Prejudice hasn’t gone away, but it’s got a good deal better. I think a great deal of it has to do with our new Chief Rabbi.
The event, at the Tricycle Theatre, attended by 230 people, was sponsored by Yad Vashem UK.