Is this still a place we can call home? Had you asked us just a week ago, we wouldn’t have had to think twice – but after last Thursday’s vote in favour of Brexit, we cannot but feel as strangers. This German and this French Rabbi met here in England, while training for the rabbinate at the Leo Baeck College in London. We both love London and the United Kingdom – not only because we received outstanding Rabbinic training here and have the privilege of serving vibrant Jewish communities but also because we treasure the cosmopolitan and multi-ethnic atmosphere in this fabulous city.
We take our friendship for granted but we should not be so complacent to forget that in the last 100 years alone our countries of birth, now pillars of a stable Europe, fought two brutal wars against each other.
We are not alone in noting the frightening rhetoric of the leave campaign – a rhetoric that demonised the other and glorified the self. The leave campaign was dominated by a lack of compassion for people who just happened to have been born elsewhere. As Jews we are all too familiar with the reply “but we don’t mean you” – it does not provide comfort or give confidence.
We are deeply saddened by the result of the referendum because the UK has abandoned the great idea of a peaceful, united Europe. We are worried about the future because a forward thinking nation like the UK has shown the world that fascism is electable again. We are concerned that this referendum will unleash a chain reaction strengthening the extreme right across Europe.
As Liberal Rabbis, we urge our British fellows not to let divisions grow. And we call on our fellow European citizens not to despair, and to have faith in Britain and her people. Better together—whatever the formal relationship will be in the future we must unite in working for a better Britain in a better Europe. Britain—you are our home and we are not ready to give up on you.
Rabbi Lea Mühlstein born in Aachen, Germany moved to the UK in 1996. She serves Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogue.
Rabbi Rene Pfertzel is from Strasbourg, France, now at the heart of the EU. He is rabbi at The Liberal Jewish Synagogue.