Tributes were paid to Wizo UK for “moving mountains, cultivating the arts and creating an empire of good” in the 100 years since it was founded, guests heard at a celebratory lunch on Wednesday afternoon.
More than 300 supporters gathered at St John’s Wood Synagogue to mark the special anniversary of the Women’s International Zionist Organisation, set up by Marks and Spencer heiress Rebecca Sieff and Vera Weizmann, wife of Chaim Weizmann, who later became the first president of the State of Israel, in 1918.
The social welfare organisation supports more than 800 projects in Israel, including child care centres, vocational schools and youth villages for at-risk teenagers, support for single parent families and elderly, as well as shelters for women and children who have suffered abuse.
Newly-appointed chairman Ronit Ribak Madari described the charity as “a unique and vital organisation” and revealed she has been involved with Wizo since her youth.
“As an Israeli, I already knew of the amazing work that Wizo did in my home country,” she said. “I had attended a Wizo school. Wizo was a household word where I grew up in Rosh Ha’ayin.”
She added: “I am proud to join a long and celebrated list of Wizo UK leaders, strong and hardworking British Zionist women who spearheaded this movement through its golden past. I am proud of the women who saw the need, who rolled up their sleeves and got the job done.”
Keynote speaker Rivka Lazovsky, chairperson of World Wizo, also paid tribute to the “visionary” founders who “dared to not just dream, but turn those dreams into reality.”
Speaking about how the organisation has “provided the very foundations on which generations of Israelis are raised and flourish”, Lazovsky highlighted the example of Eliahu Sharvit, a student helped by Wizo, who was recently named as the recipient of a prestigious education award.
“Eliyahu is an example of how every one of our students can overcome every challenge, every difficulty with Wizo’s support, guidance and education.”
She added: “Thank you for 100 years of giving dreams, hopes, education and guidance to hundreds of thousands of Israelis.
“Thank you for your vision and devotion, thank you for taking part in the miracle building and supporting our beloved state of Israel.”
The event also featured Antiques Roadshow expert John Benjamin regaling stories from his time on the popular BBC show.