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Co-Chair Heather Fletcher's speech at Adam Day 2016

13 August 2016

Adam Day is organised each year on 10 August by the UK arm of the Azeemia Foundation. The purpose of the event is to bring people together to reflect on mankind's common descent from Adam.

Our Co-Chair Heather Fletcher made a speech based on the wider aspects of the Jewish concept of "Hachnasat orchim" (welcoming the stranger). It is reproduced below with her permission.

Speech

Good evening, ladies, gentlemen and distinguished guests. Once more I am honoured to be speaking at this Adam Day event from a Jewish perspective.

Tonight I would like to tell you about the Jewish virtue of hachnasat orchim which means the virtue of “welcoming the stranger” and “offering hospitality.” I think it is very important thing to consider in this current climate of anti-refugee and anti-immigrant feeling.

In the Torah there is a story about Abraham who was sitting outside his tent when he noticed three strangers approaching. When he saw them he ran up to greet them. Though he had no idea who they were, he still bowed down before them and offered them plenty of food. The strangers turned out to be Angels.

The Rabbis consider this to be an important story as it illustrates the virtue of welcoming strangers and also shows Abraham was willing to offer hospitality even though he was totally unaware of the identity of the three strangers.

There can be dire consequences of turning away refugees. For example the St Louis ship set sail from Hamburg in 1939 with over 1,000 passengers who were all German Jewish refugees but the ship was refused entry to Cuba, the USA and Canada and had to sail back to Europe. Thereafter many of the ship’s passengers perished in the Holocaust because these countries did not practice the virtue of welcoming strangers.

A constant theme in the Torah is caring for the well being of strangers. This is probably because we as Jews we know what it is like to be on the outside, looking in. We know what it is like to be excluded, ignored, insulted and even hated.

 Therefore it is important that we go out of our way to welcome others. It does not matter who the strangers are. It also does not matter if they are like us or dramatically different from us. I have been involved in interfaith work for 11 years and I see that all our faiths and cultures have so much in common but the diversity that does exists really  enriches our lives and society

In conclusion, whether we are similar or different, we are all part of G-d’s family and we are all descended from Adam, whose birthday we celebrate tonight. So we should welcome each other, look out for each other, learn from each other and unite together to make our world a better and more peaceful place

 

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Established to develop the cultural and social ties between the Muslim and Jewish Communities of Greater Manchester

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