Founders & Pioneers

Dr Bea Lewkowicz,
Director AJR Refugee Voices Archive

I conducted the interview with Rabbi Jacobi in May 2016, four years ago. I remember it very clearly, as Rabbi Jacobi’s humility and wisdom made a great impression on me.

I was privileged to listen to his life story and learn about his childhood in Berlin and Auerbach, his Bar Mitzvah in October 1938, his escape to Amsterdam, and his adventurous journey on the SS Bodegraven in May 1939 to Britain. I learnt about the Dutch woman called Truus Wijsmuller, whose incredible efforts made it possible for the last Kindertransport from Europe to board this ship and leave Holland just before the Dutch government surrendered. Rabbi Jacobi talks about his life as a refugee boy in a hostel in Manchester, about joining the Jewish Brigade, and settling in Amsterdam after the war.

He also told me about his rabbinical journey, set in motion by meeting Leo Baeck and Lily Montagu in Holland. He beautifully ends the interviewing by urging families to be close to each other, citing from the prophets ‘Elijah will come and turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents. I think in these difficult Covid-19 times we can take inspiration from Rabbi Jacobi’s message. Although we are physically separated from family, friends, and colleagues, we can turn our hearts to each other and learn from another.

Learning and Remembering are at the heart of the work of the AJR Refugee Voices Archive, a ground-breaking video oral history archive which consist of interviews with more than 250 refugees and survivors from Nazi Europe. We are privileged to be able to share highlights of Rabbi Jacobi’s story through a special film we prepared for you today, on the 22 May 2020 – 81 years after the SS Bodegraven with the last group of 74 Kindertransportees was allowed to dock in Liverpool.

If you would like to find out more about Refugee Voices, please visit:

The Video is shared with the Lily’s Legacy Project courtesy of AJR Refugee Voices Archive, Association of Jewish Refugees. Used with grateful acknowledgment.