Make a World of Difference: Special Guests Celebrate a Year of Impact
On Monday 7 February World Jewish Relief’s virtual annual fundraising event Make a World of Difference 2022 took more than 800 guests around the world to meet individuals we have supported to transform their lives this past year. The event, which raised in excess of £1 million, was hosted by BBC journalist and broadcaster Yalda Hakim, who interviewed Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, and also included a musical performance from renowned violinist and composer Maxim Vengerov and a unique recital from former UK poetry slam champion Adam Kammerling.
Yalda Hakim is an Afghan refugee whose family fled the Soviet-occupied country when she was 6 months old. She opened the evening by paying tribute to the people who reached out to her family in their early years as refugees in Australia, and whose ‘kindness has never been forgotten’. As such, she understands World Jewish Relief’s drive to assist refugees arriving in the UK today as they find work and rebuild their lives.
In an exclusive interview with Chief Rabbi Mirvis, he shared with Yalda Hakim how we as Jews ‘know perhaps more than any other people what it means to be on the road, to be homeless, to be looking desperately for a safe haven, for a country that will take us in, looking for work and looking for dignity’. He recalled how a visit to a World Jewish Relief project providing medical and other urgent relief to refugees in Adomeni (on the border of Greece and North Macedonia) was ‘one of the most poignant moments’ of his Chief Rabbinate.
Maxim Vengerov shared a message of support for our work. He expressed how growing up in a Jewish family in Russia he knew what it meant to be a minority, and the value his family placed on reaching out and helping others. He performed a beautiful rendition of Liebesleid Fritz, by Kreisler, from his home.
During 2021 World Jewish Relief changed the lives of 115,000 people in 21 countries, and throughout the evening guests were transported to meet just three of these individuals in Moldova, Rwanda, and here in the UK. They were reminded of the continued isolation and loneliness experienced by older people as the pandemic rages on, as well as the barriers to finding employment for young Genocide survivors in Rwanda and Syrian refugees here in the UK. Thanks to our global projects, these people have not had to face their hardships alone.
Our Chair Maurice Helfgott spoke movingly about his recent trip to our projects in Turkey supporting Uyghur refugees who have fled China’s campaign of surveillance and persecution targeting their community. He described meeting four teenage girls who had come to the project to learn Turkish. They had lost their fathers, their homes, and left everything they knew behind to start new lives. He couldn’t help but think of his father Sir Ben Helfgott in that moment, whom World Jewish Relief brought over to the UK aged 16 having been orphaned during the Holocaust. He shared his father’s story with the girls and said ‘I don’t mind admitting that I shed a few tears’ as he did so. This is the World Jewish Relief story. As our mantra goes, ‘We helped refugees in the 1930s and 40s because they were Jewish. We help refugees today because we are Jewish.’
Trustee Hilda Worth emphasised how as our reach broadens, we will never forget our ‘deep-rooted promise’ to assist older Jewish people in eastern Europe, many of them part of the Survivor Generation. Last year World Jewish Relief met the daily needs of 10,809 older Jews in Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova and Georgia, ensuring they had warm, safe homes with hot water, companionship, and were part of the Jewish communities that we have helped rebuild. Our commitment to this largely forgotten client group is uncompromising.
This year, World Jewish Relief anticipates a colossal task ahead. With thousands of older people vulnerable and reliant upon us to stay warm, healthy, and avoid loneliness, with the biggest refugee crisis of our times upon us, and with climate-related disasters and armed conflict on the rise, we must be ready to respond to unexpected events at a moment’s notice. We have the expertise to do this well, but we cannot do it without the help of the Jewish community. This year we expect to need to reach at least 115,000 people in more than 20 countries, at a cost of £6 million. We appealed for the Jewish community to give generously, joining us as we rise to this challenge.
If you were unable to join, you can watch Make a World of Difference 2022 now on World Jewish Relief’s YouTube channel. You can still donate here