World Jewish Relief chair Dan Rosenfield has made an impassioned plea to “end Jewish poverty”, highlighting the tens of thousands in destitution “just a three hour flight from Heathrow”.
Addressing 500 supporters at the charity’s annual dinner at London’s Guildhall, Mr Rosenfield said he was “sounding the alarm bell” about the Jews living in desperate circumstances in the former Soviet bloc.
“Their stories could be our stories. There are so many lives we could transform. We can and we must end Jewish poverty.
“This is local. It is our family and our backyard.”
Writer and art historian Jacky Klein hosted the dinner, which raised £1.2 million. She introduced a new volunteer award, named in honour of Harry Heber, who was presented with the inaugural prize.
Mr Heber was among some 10,000 Jewish children who came to the UK on the Kindertransport.
Decades later, he read about how the Central British Fund — the precursor of WJR — had helped sponsor the child refugees.
Having enjoyed a successful career as an optician, he joined WJR as a volunteer around 20 years ago and has since arranged to send 60,000 pairs of glasses to Jewish communities in Eastern Europe.
The guest speaker was lawyer Philippe Sands, who discussed his latest book, East West Street, on the origins of genocide and crimes against humanity. He said his own family had been “supported by the predecessor of World Jewish Relief.
“It is an extraordinary organisation which provides necessary help.”