Making the Jewish Case for Human Rights – Discrimination and Minority Rights

Mobilising on Hate Crime

The Jewish community knows from first-hand experience the corrosive effect of casual and embedded prejudice. We have learnt the bitter lesson that such intolerance must be challenged and tackled before it becomes normalised and leads to institutional discrimination or worse.

Sadly, we are living in a time when hate crime is on the rise. This is an issue which affects many groups in the UK. As well as hatred towards Jews, recent years have seen an uptake in hate directed against Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) communities, alongside other forms of hate towards Muslims, the disabled and LBGTI people.

Standing in Solidarity with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Communities

Supporting the GRT community

Along with the Jews, the Romani Gypsies were the only other ethnic minority targeted by Nazis for extermination. Of the intended destruction of the Romani community, one high-ranking Nazi official stated, “In the same way as the National Socialist state has solved the Jewish question, it will also have to settle the Gypsy question once and for all.”

However, the Roma Holocaust is increasingly at risk of being ignored or forgotten. Every year, therefore, René Cassin assembles Rabbis, lay leaders and other members of the Jewish community to join in the commemoration of the Roma Holocaust, which takes place on the 2nd of August.

“We believe that there can be no human rights for anyone unless they are accorded to all. We particularly support groups whose human rights are neglected or withheld. Therefore, we stand in solidarity with the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) community today, and every day, which continues to be subject to adverse discrimination and faces multiple disadvantages, such as with regards to education, health, the workplace and the justice system.”

Ruth Barnett, Kindertransport refugee, speaking for René Cassin

In a series of seminars, we brought together faith leaders from different religious groups and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller campaign organisations, raising awareness on the particular aspect of discrimination and prejudice experienced by these communities.

The estimated 150,000 to 300,000 Gypsies, Roma and Travellers who live in the UK today do not enjoy the same acceptance that Jews do. They are one of the most marginalised and discriminated against ethnic minorities.

René Cassin’s 2014 ‘Together in Service’ award for interfaith work

Our pioneering work on counteringthe racism and discrimination faced by the UK’s Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities won René Cassin a 2014 ‘Together in Service’ award and the commendation of the Prime Minister.

“This is a brilliant way of putting the spotlight on the work that faith groups do daily across the country, and recognising those who have been at the heart of making a difference in their communities.”

Prime Minister David Cameron

Mobilising the Jewish Community

In its 2017 manifesto, the Board of Deputies has included commitments to tackle discrimination and prejudice against Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. These commitments were the result of many years of dialogue and relationship building between the leaders of the Jewish and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, facilitated by René Cassin.

Both communities recognised that we share common issues around racism and hate and agreed to support each other’s strategies to promote human rights, peace-building and resilience.

Affecting policy

René Cassin has taken part in, and influenced, several recent parliamentary and governmental consultations addressing issues of discrimination and hate crime. Notably, in 2017, we contributed to to the Parliamentary Women and Equality Select Committee, and in 2018 we submitted a report to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hate Crime.

The Government does pay attention to our submissions. In 2016, together with partners, we brought to the Government’s attention the need to record Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children in ethnic monitoring processes – a vital step in understanding why Gypsy, Roma and Traveller youth are over- represented in the youth criminal justice system. In 2017, the Government committed to making this change and to rolling it out in 2018.

Read or download Making the Jewish Case for Human Rights in the UK as a PDF