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You are here: about - Strangers Into Citizens
Speech Given by Rabbi Wittenberg at the Strangers Into Citizens Rally, Trafalgar Square, London [4th May 2009]

I speak for your brothers and sisters of the Jewish faith who stand here today. The Jewish community is present in solidarity with this rally, with all of you.

The story of the stranger is our story also. The Jewish people has been strangers in many lands; all too often in our long history we have been exiles, refugees, aliens, seeking a safe haven to build a new home, to become good citizens, to make our contribution.

My mother fled to England from Nazi Germany; had she not been allowed to remain here in 1939, she and her family would have been killed in her native land and my brother and I would not have been born.
Our common Bible, the Torah, teaches: ‘You shall love the stranger; for you have known the soul of the stranger, when you were strangers in the Land of Egypt’. 

How many people are there, children, women and men, in this civilised country forced to live for years beneath the radar of the state, outside the shelter of its civic institutions, excluded from its assistance and amenities, in anguish over an uncertain future, vulnerable to exploitation, often destitute and frequently in fear, struggling for survival day by day, deprived of the opportunity to share their talents and qualifications, to work and make their contribution like everybody else?

How can it be right to treat for years in this less than human way, people who have fled their native lands in terror? This is not the love of the stranger which our Torah teaches us. This is not the conduct of a society which truly cares.

Therefore your Jewish brothers and sisters stand with you until strangers become citizens and together we create a more compassionate society, a more just world.