London diners learn how Tikva changes young lives in Ukraine

A London dinner has raised £1 million-plus for a 'Search and Rescue' programme of impoverished or abused young Jews in Ukraine


Before Rachel Grigoriva came to Tikva in 2010, her Jewish involvement barely extended beyond watching Schindler’s List once a year with her mother.

Ms Grigoriva had no Jewish friends growing up in Ukraine. The only Jews she knew were family members, she told guests at Tikva UK’s annual dinner at the Millennium Mayfair.

“People never hid their dislike towards Jews. I never felt able to defend myself because I did not have the knowledge.”

But her life had been transformed through the educational support of the Odessa-based charity, whose core mission is “to care for the homeless, abandoned and abused Jewish children of Ukraine and neighbouring regions”.

Now 24, she has made aliyah, is shomer Shabbat and keeps kosher. She is furthering her studies in Israel, having obtained a degree from Tikva’s accredited university, and is hoping to put her fluency in five languages to use by working as a translator.

“I could not imagine my life without Tikva,” she said.

Although she had limited time in London, she was looking forward to visiting the British Museum and Harry Potter sites.

The £1.1 million-plus raised on the night will go towards Tikva’s “Search and Rescue” programme. Explained Karen Bodenstein, Tikva UK’s executive director: “It is literally finding those children who have become invisible from poverty, homelessness, abuse or neglect and giving them a home, a family and hope for the future.”

Refael Kruskal, chief executive of Tikva Odessa, told supporters there were “hundreds of children in dire circumstances who need a safe and warm home”.

Tikva’s services include infants and children’s homes, primary and high schools and a university.

It supports more than 1,000 young people up to the age of 21 — over 300 living in its homes. The organisation employs 128 teachers and six psychologists and there are some three dozen people in the “Search and Rescue” team. It is also expanding its international profile, assisting alumni who move to Israel.

Entertainment at the dinner was provided by Joanna Lumley, who gave a lighthearted account of her career from Bond girl to Ab Fab.

“This is the only place to be in London tonight,” she said. “This means more to me than I can tell you. I love what you are doing.”

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