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Jewish aid groups launch joint global appeal to help Rohingya Muslims

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims have been forced to flee from their homes in Myanmar

    A young Rohingya refugee walks back home with relief material at Thankhali refugee camp in Bangladesh's Ukhia district on January 21, 2018
    A young Rohingya refugee walks back home with relief material at Thankhali refugee camp in Bangladesh's Ukhia district on January 21, 2018 (Photo: Getty Images)

    Jewish humanitarian agencies are working together for the first time to coordinate a response to the Rohingya humanitarian crisis.

    World Jewish Relief has joined forces with IsraAid and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee to work on a global Jewish response to the crisis.

    Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims have been forced to flee from their homes in Myanmar because the government does not recognise them as citizens.

    Paul Anticoni, WJR chief executive, said the charity had been monitoring the situation carefully and was “appalled at another incident of ethnic cleansing and mass refugee movement.

    “This is the right time and the right place for a globally co-ordinated Jewish response.”

    The government of Myanmar, a predominately Buddhist country, claims the Rohingya people are illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh, leaving them stateless.

    Nearly 860,000 refugees are now living in official or makeshift refugee camps across the city of Cox’s Bazaar in southern Bangladesh.

    Mr Anticoni said: “The refugees are facing desperate conditions and are entirely dependent on humanitarian support with many having fled their homes with no possessions, traumatised by targeted persecution and violence.

    “Sanitation and healthcare is appalling and the threat of outbreaks of infectious disease looms.

    “Despite recent political assurances that they can start returning home, this is not going to happen anytime soon, if at all.”

    The collective appeal will provide essential non-food items to the most vulnerable refugee families, primarily women and girls, breastfeeding or pregnant mothers and child-led households.

    Mr Anticoni said: “We will distribute emergency packages containing hygiene and sanitary products, blankets, essential clothing and mosquito nets.

    “We also aim to provide mobile primary healthcare to parts of the camps that are not currently being accessed by existing services.

    “We will work where others are not and ensure all we deliver goes to those in greatest need.”

    Jewish leaders have called on people to support the campaign. 

    Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said the suffering of the Rohingya people was inexcusable and “a stain on the conscience of humanity”.

    He said it represents a failure of society to act on its commitment to protect the most vulnerable people in the world.

    “With so many people now living now in dire makeshift accommodation in Bangladesh, having fled violence and persecution in Myanmar, I urge every person who is able to, to support the efforts of World Jewish Relief and others and to ease the suffering of the Rohingya,” he said.  

    Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, senior rabbi of Masorti Judaism echoed his call.

    He said: “Our hearts go out to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya families who have fled terror and persecution and are now stateless, homeless, destitute and desperately in need of our help.”

    Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, senior rabbi to Reform Judaism, said the Jewish community understood the experience of fleeing persecution.

    She said: “Refugees from Myanmar are suffering brutal crimes, often targeting women and children.

    “I urge our community to support this unprecedented joint global Jewish effort to bring some solace to those suffering from the world's fastest growing refugee crisis.”

    Rabbi Danny Rich, senior rabbi of Liberal Judaism, welcomed the combined effort to work with other Jewish humanitarian organisations.

    “The Rohingya humanitarian crisis brings back chilling memories of what has happened to the Jewish people at many points in our history, which makes it even more vital that we do all we can to help them.”

    He said it was important the Jewish community donate to help those affected by the crisis.

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