On Sunday 14 July, 50 international students participating in our 2018-19 Emerging International Leaders programme visited Kingston Liberal Synagogue, to learn more about the Jewish faith.

Rabbi Rene Pfertzel showed the students the Torah, the sacred book of Judaism, and spoke to them about Progressive Judaism and the importance of interfaith dialogue. Speaking to The Jewish News, he said, 'They were truly a group of inspirational and amazing young leaders. We had great conversations on many topics. I was truly impressed with the level of their questions and the depth of their interest'.

The students were taking part in their final study retreat as part of the Cumberland Lodge programme, looking at Freedom of Religion or Belief in Action.

María Celeste Alvarez, a participant from Colombia, who is currently studying a postgraduate degree at the University of Warwick, said, 'I’m so grateful to the synagogue for opening its doors to us as part of this remarkable visit. It was a message of love, tolerance, respect, hope and interfaith dialogue for us all'.


Our Emerging International Leaders programme aims to empower international postgraduate students, who are currently studying in the UK, to become advocates of human rights in their universities and home countries.

It equips high-potential students from all over the world with the skills and insight necessary to drive debate, influence policy and build a powerful global network around Freedom of Religion or Belief.

This year, 50 students took part, from 30 UK universities and 28 nationalities.

Inspirational words

After the Sunday morning visit to Kingston Liberal Synagogue, our 2018-19 programme closed with an inspirational address from Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of State for the Commonwealth, the UN and South Asia, and the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

As the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Lord Ahmad promotes the UK's support for religious tolerance, and demonstrates our commitment to religious freedom by promoting interfaith respect and dialogue internationally.

His role is also responsible for promoting the UK’s firm stance on religious tolerance and respect abroad, helping to tackle religious discrimination in countries where minority faith groups face persecution.

Lord Ahmad presented certificates to each of the participants, alongside our Chief Executive, Canon Dr Edmund Newell.