Tearful Maitlis supports WJR

By Jessica Elgot, December 2, 2010

Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis was moved to tears as she recalled her participation in a World Jewish Relief mission to Moldova.

Ms Maitlis told more than 500 guests at the WJR dinner at London's Guildhall that she joined a mission last November, having been a regular supporter.

"WJR is an organisation I know well, in a community which is my own. But I always said no - I was either having a baby, or the country was having an election. But this time I found myself without an excuse when WJR invited me to Moldova."

Describing her meeting with bedridden 72-year-old Chelia Bondereva, she said: "It struck me that for the vagaries of migration and the randomness of history, I might have been visiting me."

The event raised £1.5 million towards the work of WJR, which chairman Nigel Layton said covered 22 countries across five continents, helping 118,000 people.

Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks said: "WJR's projects to help relieve extreme suffering after the Haiti earthquake and the huge effort to help Pakistan after the floods make me proud to be a Jew.

"Most other religions have reconciled people to suffering, saying everything will be fine in the after-life. But Jews have said no, we want to work with God to fight poverty. We want to heal a small fragment of the world."

The appeal was made by Keren Bagon, 25, the youngest member of WJR's council, and Parker Crockford, who both went on a mission to Moldova in October which was featured in the appeal video.

"We spoke to the mother of twin girls who works 18-hour days and still can't afford to feed her family," Ms Bagon reported. "My first feeling was one of anger that people within five hours of London have to live this way. But I also felt pride that the charity is helping them."

Last updated: 1:29pm, December 2 2010