The Association of Jewish Refugees is marking their 80th anniversary by planting 80 native oak trees across the country. Students from Brentnall Primary School planted a sapling on Wednesday afternoon at Clowes Park, Broughton.

The trees will be planted to celebrate the enormous contribution that Jewish refugees have made to our country since making a home in the UK after fleeing Nazi persecution in Europe before and during the Second World War.

Broughton welcomed many Jewish refugees in the 20th century and is still home to a large Jewish community, in the 2011 census, 14.2% of Broughton residents listed their religion as Jewish.

In front of the tree, there is a plaque which reads: ‘This native oak was planted by the association of Jewish Refugees in honour of our 80th anniversary, with thanks to all the people of Britain who helped holocaust refugees, and for the family of Alf Silverman who came from Germany in 1939 and found a haven here.’

The Plaque in front of the newly planted tree.
Credit: James McGregor

The event was attended by Councillor Rabbi Arnie Saunders, Councillor Andrew Walters, Salford Ceremonial Mayor, John Mullin and City Mayor, Paul Dennet.

John Mullin gave the attendants some background about the story of the family to whom the tree was dedicated he said: “Alf was born in Berlin in 1926 as an only child, he was seven years old when the Nazis came to power, so his early years were difficult. Alf then saw his father arrested by the Gestapo, an event which traumatised him ever since, Alf was only twelve when he and his mother escaped to England and Alf was reunited with his father who arrived via a different route. Most of the rest of his family died in the holocaust.

“At evening classes, Alf qualified as an engineer and later joined his father in his timber importing business and together, they forged a successful enterprise from which he made a successful and honourable living. Alf has been married to his wife for 67 years, they have two children, four grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.”

Councillor Mullin finished his speech with a personal message from Alf which read as follows: “May this tree grow strong and be a permanent reminder of all those who through the holocaust were denied the chance to grow at all.”

After this touching speech, the pupils from Brentnall Primary School were invited to help to plant the sapling. Other attendees were also given the opportunity to add some compost to the tree.

Brentnall Community Primary School, Headteacher, Matt Thompson spoke about how important it was for the young people to be involved in the trees planting, he said: “It was a great opportunity for the children, I think ‘a life for a life’ has such an underlying meaning and I think for our children to be part of this in their community as we are very much a community school that likes to be involved with the Jewish community.

Brentnall pupils help plant the tree. Credit: James McGregor.

“It’s also important for them to be able to watch the tree grow, they’ve already asked me. if they can come back at the end of the year to see how it is going. It has been great for them really.”

Mr Thompson also spoke of the importance of the awareness-raising element of this event, he said: “In terms of awareness, I think it’s great, our school already has strong links with the Jewish community here in Broughton.

“We want to make sure the children are aware of the holocaust and the impact that it had on our friends in the Jewish community. Events like this give a great opportunity for the students to hear about people’s first-hand experiences of families for the children to hear about the reality of the holocaust.”

Rabbi Councillor Saunders and Councillor Walters also gave short speeches after the planting ceremony. You can watch Councillor Saunders’ speech here.

Councillor Walters emphasised the need for action, he said: “We don’t need to be remembering, we need to be doing something about it. There’s no point in just remembering history, history is only useful to us if it is going to help shape the present and shape the future.

“We need to look at the mistakes we made in the past as well as the good things and use those to fix the problems we are facing now. It doesn’t help to apologise if you’re just going to end up doing the same thing again.

“Throughout history, many different groups of people have been persecuted. I think the mistake that people are making now is viewing their own group as special. The treatment of any group of people differently because of religion, gender, sexuality culture or skin colour, just remember that that must go.

“My dream is to see a world without borders; racism is socially unacceptable, anti-Semitism is socially unacceptable, any ‘isms’ are unacceptable yet discriminating based on nationality is deemed perfectly acceptable. Why is it acceptable to refuse someone entry based on the sole fact they were born in another country?”

Community coordinator, Fran Horwich gives her speech to those gathered. Credit: James McGregor

Community Coordinator for the Association for Jewish Refugees, Fran Horwich discussed the importance of events such as these in bringing communities together, she said: “It’s a great opportunity to have these different segments of society represented and you’ll find that most local authorities will try and address that by having people for example from;  the disabled community, the LGBTQ community and we also encourage the recognition of other genocides that occurred subsequently.

“We also like to look at what’s going on right now, people are particularly worried about situations in Afghanistan, Syria and the refugee crisis we’re seeing in many different parts of the world.

“Holocaust Memorial Day is definitely a good time to remember because what they say about the holocaust is ‘lest we forget’ to never let it happen again and yet, it does, and it does, and it does.”

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