British envoy opens first of seven Holocaust survivor clubs in Israel

By Nathan Jeffay, February 16, 2012
Matthew Gould (centre) with his wife at the opening

Matthew Gould (centre) with his wife at the opening

Praising the British Jewish community's generosity as "fantastic", Britain's ambassador to Israel has opened the first of seven new social clubs for Holocaust survivors funded by philanthropists in the UK.

Matthew Gould and his wife Celia, together with Israeli Minister for Welfare and Social Services Moshe Kahlon, launched the centre in Hadera on Tuesday.

He came up with the idea of helping Holocaust survivors soon after becoming ambassador in September 2010. "It struck me how deeply sad it is that people survived the Holocaust and yet live today without friends, family or much human contact, and without much chance to talk to people about their traumas," he said.

Mr Gould said that due to his personal Holocaust connection, he has always cared deeply for survivors. His paternal grandfather came to Britain in the 1920s from Warsaw as a refugee, one of only three brothers and sisters from his family who got out before the Nazis invaded Poland in 1933. Seven other siblings perished, along with great-grandfather.

He added that his determination to help survivors was particularly high when he arrived in Israel as he had recently visited Auschwitz. "Coming here straight from Auschwitz and then meeting survivors made me want to find a way to make a difference to them," he said.

Mr Gould turned to the British Jewish community, and is halfway to the £2 million target which will keep the centres running for five years.

Aside from Hadera, the centres will be established in Eshkol region near Ashkelon, Migdal Haemek near Nazareth, Kiryat Bialik near Haifa and two neighbourhoods of Bnei Brak.

Elazar Stern, chairman of the Foundation for the Benefit of the Holocaust Victims in Israel, said: "These clubs offer a real anchor in the lives of many of the survivors, as for many of them, this is the only opportunity they have to get out of the house and meet people. This is an incredibly important initiative."

Last updated: 1:36pm, February 16 2012