How WJR chair treasured job with Osborne

Interview: Dan Rosenfield


The man about to take over the Jewish community's leading international humanitarian charity says that working as a senior adviser to George Osborne has uniquely prepared him for the role.

For Dan Rosenfield, who served as Principal Private Secretary under the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, and his Labour predecessor Alistair Darling, his 11 years at the Treasury taught him "the skills of management and leadership".

Mr Rosenfield, 39, who takes over as chair of World Jewish Relief next week, says: "Everyone talks about Darling and Osborne, but I was managing a team of 65 people, working with ministers to meet demands at short notice, and I learned as much in doing that as I did from Al and George."

He has fond memories of working closely with Mr Osborne, who was removed from the Cabinet when Theresa May became Prime Minister in July.

"I really enjoyed working with George," he says. "He is a really professional guy, and someone who cares deeply about making a difference. I enjoyed every minute." And, Mr Rosenfield reveals, he took his departure in his stride: "George is of the political world, and understands that sometimes you win, and sometimes you don't."

Helping Jews at home can't be the whole story

Mr Rosenfield describe himself as "incredibly proud" to take the helm at WJR, which helps rescue Jews and non-Jews across the world from poverty, disease and natural disasters.

"This charity is passionate and devoted, but also not blinded by what it does - it's able to ask itself the tough questions," he says, adding: "We want to be the flagship for that desire to help others."

Mr Rosenfield, who is married with three children and lives in north London, says he is particularly inspired by a WJR scheme to help 1,000 Syrian refugees in Britain.

The groundbreaking initiative was first used by the charity to help displaced Jews in Ukraine - under it, more than 1,500 Ukrainians have found jobs since 2014.

The UK pilot project aims to provide much-needed language and employment skills to Syrians newly arrived in Britain.

The Livelihoods Programme is an example of WJR "acting with our hearts and thinking with our heads", he says.

"That's why we went to Theresa May and Richard Harrington (the minister charged with co-ordinating the government's response to the refugee crisis), and asked them what would be helpful.

"They said there were mechanisms to provide shelter and welfare but not livelihood support. I wouldn't claim exclusivity, but our livelihoods work is something we can do that no one else can. So now we're helping refugees to make a difference to British society."

But what of critics who question whether a Jewish charity should make efforts to aid non-Jews?

"The Jewish community is, almost by definition, an outward-looking community, and we are its voice when it comes to humanitarian disaster," he says.

"Obviously helping Jews at home and the relationship with Israel is important as well, but that can't be the whole story."

The North Western Reform Synagogue member, whose previous role at WJR was head of financial allocations overseeing spending decisions, is not looking to make radical changes.

"I have fallen in love with the organisation, and gained massive respect for it - and I have lots to offer. But this isn't about me, and I don't feel the need to put 'Rosenfield's stamp' on the charity."

He says ensuring continuity is uppermost in his mind at the start of what could turn out to be two potential three-year terms as chair.

"I'm taking over a charity that's very well-run, so the least I can do is make sure that continues and not mess it up," he says.

"But if I look back on my time, I want to say we met more needs, addressed more poverty, that the Livelihoods Programme grew in size and strength, and that we celebrate, loud and proud, what we do."

Mr Rosenfield will combine his duties at WJR with his position at Hakluyt, a management consultancy.

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