WJR has royally benefited from Charles’ patronage

In my 17 years at World Jewish Relief, the King has had many touchpoints with this remarkable charity

May 04, 2023 13:22

I’ll be watching the coronation ceremony of King Charles and Queen Camilla with great personal interest and, perhaps, a touch of embarrassed envy, wishing I was in Westminster Abbey for such an historic occasion.

I am deeply fortunate that in my 17 years at World Jewish Relief, the King has had many touchpoints with this remarkable charity. There is no doubting his genuine interest, commitment and passion for what we do, how we do it and the values that underpin our work.

For an organisation that traditionally prides itself on getting on with the job without fanfare and noise, his patronage of World Jewish Relief has brought celebrity sparkle, gravitas and profile. This has certainly helped us in our complex endeavours, enabling us to generate more money and deliver better services to more people.

It was as Prince of Wales back in 2002 that, following a deeply emotional visit to Auschwitz, he met Holocaust survivors in Krakow and was encouraged to consider how best to assist this small but historic Jewish community to rise from the ashes.

WJR willingly took up the mantle and helped establish the Krakow Jewish Community Centre — today a beacon of bustling Jewish life just 60 kilometres from the epicentre of the Holocaust.

In a logistical exercise that stretched even my amazing team, we were thrilled that Charles and Camilla were back in Krakow in 2008 to open the centre. We enjoyed the famous photo of His Royal Highness banging in the mezuzah with a hammer delicately poised over the rabbi’s shtreimel!

He has long drawn inspiration from the selfless actions of his grandmother, Princess Alice of Greece, who in 1943, in Nazi-occupied Athens, saved a Jewish family by hiding them in her home. I know it is a source of immense pride to him that she is counted by Yad Vashem as one of the Righteous Among the Nations.

In 2010, driven by a deep-rooted passion to help people find work and gain their independence, he became patron of World Jewish Relief’s Back to Work programme in Ukraine.

I have enjoyed him quoting Maimonides’ Eight levels of Tzedakah, reminding us that the highest level of Jewish charity is to help someone earn a living so they can help themselves and, ultimately, assist others.

To our delight, he became WJR’s royal patron in 2015. Joining us at a fundraising dinner, he admitted that a film highlighting the challenges that our elderly Jewish clients faced across Eastern Europe brought a tear to his eye.

It spurred him into an even more active role within the charity, championing our programme across Ukraine to upgrade 3,000 homes and apartments in an appalling state of disrepair.

And finally, he has been a remarkable advocate of our work assisting refugees from across the world with language and employment support. He celebrated our community’s backing to Afghans and Ukrainians settling in the UK, just as WJR welcomed almost 65,000 Jewish refugees in the 1930s and 40s.

It was with some amazement that in April 2022, we were notified that the then Prince of Wales would be visiting our humble offices in Cricklewood to thank our volunteer and staff team for their response to the Ukraine situation.

The encouragement and energy he brought to a slightly weary and overworked team was palpable. He politely remarked on the “authenticity” of our premises, pleased to see we were not spending charity money where it might not be needed!

Of course, we also celebrate his wider Jewish engagement with JLGB, the Holocaust Educational Trust, and through his recent visit to JW3.

Royal patronage comes with responsibility. Regular updates on our work are required and our standards of integrity and accountability need to be of the highest order. His team, led by the remarkable Sir Clive Alderton, has been a pleasure to work with for many years.

Mazeltov on the coronation. Long live the King.

Paul Anticoni is CEO of World Jewish Relief

May 04, 2023 13:22

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