Ort delighted to dine out again

'How refreshing to be back to see people and schmooze,' says guest as charity celebrates centenary and raises £350,000


When Ort UK first told supporters that it would be organising an in-person dinner, the response was slow.

But a trickle soon became a flood, indicating the desire of many to return to communal normality.

And on Tuesday, 175 guests gathered at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel to celebrate the educational charity’s centenary — and the success of its Jump mentoring scheme.

They arrived in masks but these were ditched as the reception food and drink made the rounds.

In 2020, the annual dinner replacement of an online fundraiser featuring Tracy-Ann Oberman and David Baddiel had done well.

But Ort UK CEO Dan Rickman acknowledged: “There is something unique about having people in the room.

“You build the tapestry of a story at an in-person event.”

Charity chair Annette Kurer added: “We debated it and it felt like time.”

However, in staging the first major communal dinner since the pandemic, Ort prioritised Covid safety, with attendance at half the venue’s capacity.

It was also a younger crowd than normal, the JC was told, reflecting both a new generation of donors and a possible reluctance among some more senior backers to attend a physical event.

The youngest guests were the teenagers who attested to the value of the Jump programme, established in 2009, explaining how the mentoring had helped them to get ahead through career guidance and CV advice.

Mia Lyons, who is managing the scheme’s expansion into non-Jewish schools, said it “provides them with life skills” and “exposes them to a network of people”. One benefit of the pandemic had been that Jump programmes had a bigger reach online. Mrs Lyons said the charity now hoped to work towards hybrid Jump provision.

Another sign of a return to normality was the auction of a week’s stay at a luxury Jamaican villa. Bidding started awkwardly at £2,000 but ended up in a two-way battle, the winning bid leaving Ort £11,000 the richer. Overall, the night raised £350,000.

There was also entertainment from Israeli mentalist Marom Mor, who claims to have surpassed the feats of his hero Yuri Geller.

After a flick of the wrist, he returned my fork with one prong bent at a 90 degree angle, suggesting I’d be able to twist my pasta more easily in future.

His stage show featured Ort deputy president Simon Alberga and his wife Julia, who founded the Jump programme and were being honoured by the charity.

Head of events at Ort, Hannah Schaller, said the evening had confirmed that “people are ready to get out now”.

Mrs Lyons’ husband, Rob, agreed, saying fundraising was easier in person.

“Some don’t touch and don’t hug but I do. How refreshing to be back to see people and schmooze.”

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