By Dr Bea Lewkowicz
I was very pleased to have participated in the opening to the ‘Square of Hope: Shelter from Storm’ initiative on 1 October 2020, launched by the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ) where I discussed our contribution, which you can see here.
The square features portraits of eight Jewish women and men who found refuge and shelter in the United Kingdom.
Eve Gill, Rabbi Harry Jacobi, Otto Hutter, and Daisy Hoffner came in the late thirties from Germany and Austria to flee from Nazism. Ivy Shashoua, Alec Messulam, Vivienne Haris and Raphael Luzon emigrated to Britain in the fifties and sixties from Egypt, Libya and Iraq to escape discrimination and expulsion.
As we are approaching Sukkot, it is important to think of the relevance of shelter. The Sukkah, reminds us of the temporality and universality of human experiences. It reminds us that while many of our interviewees suffered prosecution and discrimination because they were Jewish, they were also helped by individuals and organisations from different faiths and given shelter, in form of a physical place or in form of a visa or permit to enter the UK.
I feel strongly that our Oral History Archives provide a shelter for the lived experiences of all our interviewees, referring to two aspects. The first one is the process of the actual interview itself, where the act of listening becomes a ‘safe space’ and secondly the archive as a digital shelter for the voices, stories, photographs and documents of our interviewees, to be kept for posterity, so that we can learn from the past experiences of Jewish refugees in this country.
We wish everyone a very happy Sukkot!