World Jewish Relief ‘gives us belief in our future’

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World Jewish Relief ‘gives us belief in our future’

Emotional annual dinner features message from Prince Charles who said he is 'enormously proud' to be patron of the charity

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Prince Charles speaking at a WJR event
Prince Charles speaking at a WJR event

It would, said retired Ukrainian teacher Lidia, be impossible to survive without World Jewish Relief (WJR). It was a message echoed repeatedly during an emotional virtual event held by the charity.

Hosted by BBC journalist Emily Maitlis, the evening, for which more than 1,000 people registered, featured a heartfelt message from the charity’s patron, Prince Charles, a discussion with the outgoing chair, Dan Rosenfield – now Chief of Staff in Downing Street – and, courtesy of a longstanding university friendship with Rosenfield, a special one-off message and performance from Coldplay singer-songwriter, Chris Martin.

As WJR’s chief executive Paul Anticoni made clear, its work spans 18 countries with 66 separate partner organisations. Last year, the charity provided services to 73,000 people.

But this year’s theme, “saving lives, transforming communities”, was highlighted in the work WJR does in Jewish communities in eastern Europe. Lidia, the retired teacher from Kherson, Ukraine, has a disabled husband, and the couple receive help from WJR via its local partner. 

Apart from vital medicines and social welfare care, there is now the opportunity for them to engage in daily programmes online. She said: “I know that every day at 11am when I sit down with my husband, after this online meeting, we will have belief in our future again.”

Dan Rosenfield and Emily Maitlis

Online opportunities have transformed the lives of many of WJR’s clients. One of the charity’s areas of expertise is employment retraining. Natalya Akulova, from Kyiv, lost her travel job as a result of the pandemic but has now received training and mental health coaching, to begin a new career as an English teacher and thanked WJR for its support.

Rosenfield spoke of the highlights of his six years in the post. “I found a charity which was ‘of’ the Jewish community yet not constrained by it”, he said, adding he had been attracted by WJR’s “fundamental principle of not turning your back”. 

He welcomed his successor as chairman, Maurice Helfgott, son of Sir Ben Helfgott, one of the original “Boys” who were brought to Britain and helped by WJR’s founding organisation, the Central British Fund. 

The Prince of Wales said: “I am enormously proud to be a patron of World Jewish Relief, just as I am proud of the British Jewish community, precisely because of the compassion you show to others.” 

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