Jewish Care's record £4.4m meal
John Bercow with service users Hettie Tauber and Freddie Knoller
Jewish Care raised a record-breaking £4.4 million at its annual dinner at Grosvenor House on Monday.
In the week after charity chairman Steven Lewis accused British Jews of becoming more "materialistic and selfish", more than 1,000 guests at the central London venue demonstrated their support for the community's largest welfare organisation.
The centrepiece was a lively interview with four service users by Commons Speaker John Bercow. Seated on a high green chair against a virtual Parliamentary backdrop, Mr Bercow praised Jewish Care's "work and commitment".
He went on to ask the service users - Hettie Tauber, 98; Freddie Knoller, 93; Max Levitas, 99 and Annette Yarrow, 86 - about their life experiences and politics.
Mrs Tauber, a resident of the charity's Rubens home in Redbridge, sells items she knits to raise funds for Jewish Care. She chose Lady Thatcher as her most influential political leader because "she always kept her word". Vienna-born Mr Knoller, a member of the Holocaust Survivors' Centre in Hendon, opted for Sir Winston Churchill - "the reason why we were not occupied by the Nazis".
Kathy Sledge at the Golders Green campus
But it was Mr Levitas, a member of the Stepney Jewish Community Centre, who earned the loudest applause after passionately advocating a Jewish renaissance in Tower Hamlets.
The self-described communist, still a regular at Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park, who campaigns against fascism and racism, said the diminishing Jewish East End population was "a disgrace. We need you!"
Complimenting him on "the art of oratory", Mr Bercow paid tribute to his "opposition to Mosley, fascism, Nazism, racism and all the bigotry and misery those creeds spawned" - and his ongoing stand against the British National Party and English Defence League.
Mrs Yarrow, a volunteer at the Brenner Community Centre in Stamford Hill, urged more people to offer their services. "We are getting older and we need to know that you young people out there will follow in our footsteps."
Charity president Lord Levy described the quartet as the "heart of Jewish Care. They represent different facets of the organisation, from our residential homes to our day centres to our Holocaust Survivors' Centre."
Outlining future projects, Mr Lewis said that "with the closing of the Ella and Ridley Jacobs home in Hendon next year, this site will become the next location for another independent living complex. Our plans for the Redbridge community are also moving forward as we intend to submit a planning application for the redevelopment of Sinclair House, where we aim to create a third campus of care for that community. And, finally, the board have committed to undertake the preliminary work which will see the redevelopment of the Princess Alexandra home in Stanmore."
At the end of the evening, Lord Levy joined singer Kathy Sledge from iconic disco band Sister Sledge on stage. Ms Sledge said it was an "honour" to perform at the event and to have visited the charity's flagship campus in Golders Green with dinner chair Nicola Loftus. "I felt so much love there and I feel it again in this room this evening. You are a complete family."