East End Life
23 September 2001
Chief Rabbi attacks the 'virus of racism'
by Jessica Odubayo
BRITAIN OWES DEBT TO REFUGEES, HE SAYS
Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has returned to his East end roots to challenge communities at home and abroad to overcome the 'virus of racism'.
For the recording of his tenth televised message for Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, Professor Sacks revisited Spitalfields, where his grandparents settled when they arrived in Britain after fleeing persecution abroad.
In the former synagogue at the Spitalfields Centre, 19 Princelet Street, and surrounded by works of art and poetry by school children of many races and religions, the Chief Rabbi reflected on what he called the real challenge
to love the stranger, the person who isn't like us, who has a different skin colour or a different faith, or a different background.
Who would have thought that even in Britain this year, we'd still be seeing scenes of violence and prejudice between the different groups in our society?
Why is it that racism, hatred, and fear of the stranger are like viruses that mutate but never seem to die?
During his visit, Professor Sacks spoke to Nick Hardwick, chief executive of the Refugee Council, who commented on the enormous contribution refugees have made to the British economy.
Prof Sacks concluded:
One day future generations will look back and see how much Britain owes its immigrant groups.
Already Asian, African and West Indian communities have enriched our language and music, our food and dress. They've created new enterprise. They've given Britain a cosmopolitanism it didn't have before, and that's made us richer as a nation, culturally, economically and spiritually.
The Chief Rabbi later strolled in Brick Lane and talked to people including journalist Yasmin Alibhai Brown and the Rev Joel Edwards of the Evangelical Alliance.