By Henry Grunwald, QC OBE, President of World Jewish Relief
Happy birthday, Your Royal Highness!
Prince Charles celebrates his 65th birthday this week, which, for many, would signal retirement and spare time to enjoy the fruits of our labour.
There is no such option for him. As the Prince jokingly told the emeritus Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, earlier this year: “I realise, of course, that we have both reached the official age of retirement, but I hope yours is going to be a bit more realistic than mine!”
While HRH may not be able to shrug off his royal duties, we would like to mark the occasion by expressing our appreciation for his tireless work for global charitable causes. Beyond setting up more than 20 charities to address challenges, such as climate change and youth unemployment, he has lent his support to hundreds of charities, including those in the Jewish community, such as World Jewish Relief (WJR).
The history of WJR’s relationship with Prince Charles goes back to 2002 when the Prince, on a visit to Krakow, met with Holocaust survivors. He was so moved by the living conditions of those elderly members of the Jewish community, that, on his return, he was determined to do something to improve their lives. After reaching out to WJR, plans were developed to create a centre, which would revitalise a community that has suffered so much over the years while simultaneously enabling the rich history of Jewish life in Krakow to be rekindled and enhanced.
Together with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, WJR was able to secure funding to build the Jewish Community Centre in Krakow. The Prince attended and performed at the 2008 formal opening ceremony. Today, more than 1,000 Jewish and non-Jewish community members are brought together there to enjoy social, educational and religious programmes.
The Prince has continued to be involved in our organisation and has been one of our greatest supporters over the years. In 2011 he became the patron of WJR’s Wohl Livelihood Development Programme in Ukraine. The programme aims to reduce the number of Jewish families and people living in poverty and dependent on welfare sup- port by removing barriers to finding work through three key interventions. The programme established job centres to match employment and work experience for those on low incomes or out of work as well as provide skills and training and childcare facilities enabling parents to re-enter the workplace. Youth Business International, one of His Royal Highness’ global charities, is working closely with the WJR programme so, together, they can tackle some of the fundamental causes of poverty in urban communities.
The Prince’s support has given us credibility, higher profile and a tangible boost to make a real difference in peoples’ lives worldwide. We are privileged beyond words for his incredible commitment to our organisation and his affinity with the Jewish values of giving humanitarian and development help to those in need. We aren’t the only communal charity to benefit from the Prince’s patronage.
He has been patron of the Jewish Museum since 2008, and his own charitable organisations, such as the Prince’s Trust and Business in the Community, have been supported by Jewish donors and touched the lives of thousands of people around the world. In some ways, the Prince’s charitable endeavours find a natural kinship with our community’s own charitable activities.
Addressing the 250th anniversary dinner of the Board of Deputies in 2011, he said British society had benefited from a “great deal of Jewish philanthropy”. The admiration is two-way. You don’t have to be a card-carrying monarchist to respect what the Prince has done for charity. His efforts have often been pioneering, identifying challenges and solutions before they become mainstream. His 65th birthday gives us an opportunity to express appreciation for what he has done for WJR, and many other charitable causes in this country and the Commonwealth.
Thank you, and happy birthday, Your Royal Highness.