Towering boost to coffers of cash-strapped charity

By Jessica Elgot, September 15, 2011
Simone Abel (centre) with Shauna Leven and Andy Baum

Simone Abel (centre) with Shauna Leven and Andy Baum

Human rights charity René Cassin showed high ambition by hosting its first gala fundraising dinner at the top of the BT Tower.

A sell-out crowd of 90 enjoyed a panoramic view of the London sights, raising more than £26,000, including proceeds from a charity auction.

The restaurant was closed to the public in 1980 because of security concerns and is currently available only for private functions.

BT chief executive and René Cassin supporter Ian Livingston hosted the dinner.

The opening address was from Rabbi Naftali Brawer, chief executive of Spiritual Capital Foundation and the former Elstree Synagogue minister.

"When we talk about human rights, people either switch off, or they believe you are talking about hard left, anti-Israel policies," he said. "We must reclaim human rights."

Jewish human rights campaigning was not a new trendy phenomenon, but dated back to biblical times.

René Cassin director Simone Abel said the charity focused on three key issues - human trafficking and slavery, the rights of travellers and ending child detention.

It also wanted to raise a broader awareness of René Cassin, the French-Jewish human rights lawyer who co-drafted the UN declaration of human rights.

Chair Maya Jaffe hoped this year would see the charity's "transformation from a small organisation with a core support into a larger, more prominent organisation". But a financial crisis had left it "fighting for survival".

Guest speaker was Yale historian Professor Jay Winter, who has published a biography of René Cassin in French, and is planning an English-language version.

The dinner was also attended by representatives of the charity's partner organisation Friends, Families and Travellers, which René Cassin is working with on a campaign for the rights of gypsies and travellers.

Ms Abel was "thrilled that we raised well beyond our target. We are so unbelievably grateful for the donation of the venue, which was key to the event's success.

"But we are still in a precarious situation and have a long way to go."

    Last updated: 3:16pm, September 15 2011