Gordon Brown told an 800-strong audience on Monday night that the Jewish community's ethic of "goodwill and moral purpose" and its "investment in hope" had a resonant message for getting through the financial crisis.
The Prime Minister told UJIA's annual dinner that "successful market economics need trust, which can only be built through shared values".
Such values "celebrate hard work, effort, enterprise and responsible risk-taking". The markets, he said, "need morals. Where there has been irresponsibility we must now have instead transparency, integrity, responsibility, good housekeeping and international co-operation as the vital foundation stones of our financial system."
His admiration for the charity's work had an immediate effect on donors, who raised £3.77 million for the new campaign year.
He told them: "You don't just give money. You invest in the future, you invest in people. You invest in hope."
He added: "You have proved that over the past 60 years, when people of goodwill and moral purpose come together, they can make a real difference. Hope is the defining theme of Jewish history."
Mr Brown recalled visits he had made to Israel, particularly his most recent one a when he became the first British premier to address the Knesset.
He said he had revisited Yad Vashem, noting: "Nothing prepares you for the enormity of what you see."
He also pledged himself as a firm friend of both Israel and the Jewish community. He told his audience: "My hope is that Iran will heed the clear message from the rest of the world by suspending its nuclear programme.
"If Iran makes the wrong choice, it is not just a threat to Israel but to the entire world. So I say to the Iranian regime, join the world and get the benefits of being part of the global society, or face isolation from all of us. If Iran does not co-operate, we will demand the imposition of ever-tougher sanctions."
He wanted progress in the Middle East peace talks and praised his predecessor, Tony Blair, for his Quartet work.
"There should be a two-state solution, yes, but one that guarantees the security and borders of Israel.
"We will stand four-square against any discrimination of Jewish people in our country, four-square against any boycotts of Israeli academics and institutions".