Ukrainian War: British rabbi welcomes refugees after being inspired by his mother who fled the Nazis | UK News
Jonathan Romain cherishes a photo of his mother as a child growing up in Germany.
What happened to his mother, Gabriele Hertzberg, is part of the reason he decided to gift the two guest rooms of his house in Maidenhead, Berkshire, to a Ukrainian family.
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“My mother came from Nazi Germany when she was 11. She got here just in time in 1939 and she was a refugee,” he said.
“She came alone to a foreign country, a language she had never spoken before and was cared for under the Kindertransport program and given wonderful hospitality for about six months by a Quaker family in Devon. She never forgot him.
“I grew up with this story of how she was loved by this family and how Britain opened its arms and it’s really part of my DNA.
“If it hadn’t happened she wouldn’t have lived, I wouldn’t be here to talk to you now and so it’s my generation’s turn now to intervene in this disaster.”
Jonathan and his wife are already preparing the rooms. One, they hope, will be for children. They fill it with toys that their grandchildren play with when they stay.
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“On a personal level, my wife and I have children, they have all grown up, so we have free rooms, so we thought well, offer them to Ukrainians and give a family not only shelter but the warmth of human kindness, if you will, because that makes all the difference,” he said.
Jonathan is the rabbi of Maidenhead Synagogue. He began working with his local community to find other families willing to offer rooms. He was inundated with responses and heard from over 800 people across the UK.
“People are really trying to make refugees feel at home”
“They’re all over the country, from Kent to Aberdeen. People who have big houses, people who have a small apartment but say ‘we have a sofa so we can use it,'” he said .
“And also, what’s really good is that people have gone the extra mile to match up with who might be coming.
“For example, there was a lady who emailed me saying she was quite old and her husband had kidney problems and was on dialysis.
“I thought the email was going to end ‘so we can’t help but wish you well’ but no, she said ‘so if you have a family with someone also on dialysis send them us because I know how to look after them and I can take them and my husband to the hospital at the same time”.
“So people are really trying to make refugees feel at home,” he said.
“I think people across the country were screaming for this to happen and that’s why we had this tremendous response.
“As always the devil is in the details, we’re going to have to see how it works and how it’s going to be matched, are we going to have a choice of who we get or just be awarded?
“At least it’s happening, it’s a start, and people want to help and that’s one of the ways we can.”