The Duchess of York, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Tracy-Ann Oberman and Caprice were celebrity supporters of the inaugural dinner of the UK support group of Tikva Jewish children’s home in Odessa. Mitch and Jane Winehouse were also among almost 300 people at the Mayfair dinner, which raised £.1.1 million.
As guests sat down, the duchess told the JC: “I’m here as the heart of a mother to help make the smile of a child. The Jewish people have always got behind me and so I thought tonight was a good opportunity to say thank you.”
Sir Ranulph, the guest speaker, talked about his experiences as an explorer, going on to implore his audience to give generously to children “whose lives would otherwise be hideous”.
Members of a young Tikva committee were moved to tears when a video was screened of children they had recently visited at the home having their own party to celebrate the evening.
The committee, established after the visit to Ukraine, talked at their table about the “unimaginable” conditions the abandoned children had been surviving in before they came to Tikva.
Since 1997 more than 1,500 children have been accommodated at the home. “After you see where they have come from, you don’t want to let them go,” said committee chair Samantha Rosen, 23.
Talking informally with Ms Oberman, Tikva supporter Richard Matthews said it was “the last chance” to help the children. Mr Winehouse expressed “amazement that any child should be living on the street” and called on the “Jewish community to do a little more”.
The first Tikva Award was presented to Harold and Anna Schimmel for their continuing support by Chief Rabbi of Odessa Shlomo Baksht and the home’s chief executive Refael Kruskal.
British Friends of Tikva executive director Karen Bodenstein wants to promote greater awareness of Tikva’s work “to save the Jewish children of Odessa from severe abuse, neglect and death”.