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Key Supporter Update: August 2023


Dear Friends,

It is hard to believe that it has been 17 months since Russian forces invaded Ukraine and it is important that we do not see this context as anything close to being normal.

On June 6, an explosion at Kakhovka dam in Kherson region, southern Ukraine caused devastating flooding, putting 42,000 people at direct risk and leaving hundreds of thousands without clean drinking water.

This catastrophe shows that the conflict in Ukraine is still real, still impacting the lives people daily, and still at the forefront of our minds. World Jewish Relief will do all we can to continue to operate at scale, providing life-saving and life-changing interventions, assisting those within and beyond our community to survive this protracted horror. You can read about our current activities and our plans in this newsletter.

Additionally, we will strive to meet our ambitions in 16 other countries across the globe, in a multitude of ways including providing employment support to refugees in the UK, unique livelihood development work in Rwanda, the provision of food, hygiene packages and shelter kits to those affected by humanitarian disasters and continuing to develop our innovative climate programmes in Ethiopia and Nepal.

February 2023 was a significant month for World Jewish Relief as we celebrated our 90th anniversary, with many of you attending our Annual Dinner at the Roundhouse. Born out of desire to save Jewish life under threat in Germany, it was in 1933 that a remarkable group of individuals within British Jewy established what was then The Central British Fund for German Jewry (now World Jewish Relief).

Ninety years on, and our work has never been more necessary and whilst we celebrate our dedicated professional staff and our incredible partners around the world and what we are able to achieve together, we strive to improve our services and deliver more to those who need us the most. None of this would be possible without the generous and unwavering support of our donors such as yourselves. We never take this for granted, especially over the last 12 months as this crisis continues to affect us all. I think we can anticipate a similar, challenging 12 months ahead and I thank you in advance for your continuing interest and overwhelmingly generous philanthropic support of World Jewish Relief, for which we are enormously grateful.

Paul Anticoni
Chief Executive

Ukraine Crisis

What Next?

Since our Ukraine Crisis Response was launched in February 2022, World Jewish Relief has provided life-saving and life-changing action to 236,101 people in 228 locations across Ukraine. Our support entailed humanitarian support (cash, food, hygiene items, and medicines), evacuation, shelter, psychosocial support, and winter preparedness (blankets, power banks, gas stoves) along with our established interventions of employment and livelihood support and life-saving care for older members of the Jewish community. As the war has become a protracted conflict, our focus has turned to Ukrainians’ longer-term needs. World Jewish Relief will continue to provide tailored and targeted interventions, reaching difficult geographies, marginalised demographics, and fill gaps in provision.

Our Priorities

Below are our key priority areas over the coming year, through which we aim to foster rebuilding, resilience, and recovery in local communities.

1. Employment and Livelihoods

In 2022, Ukraine’s economy contracted by a staggering 29%, and by the end of 2023, unemployment is projected to reach 26%. Displaced women are disproportionately affected by the impact of the crisis. However, unemployment is expected to gradually decline over 2024, as the recovery of key industries presents opportunities for individuals to recover lost livelihoods. Based on 12 years of experience providing employment support across Ukraine, our ‘Back to Work’ programmes will use a holistic approach to recovering livelihoods. We prioritise empowerment and mindset change, focusing on the participants’ capabilities and potential, alongside a range of vocational training, mentorship opportunities, and psychological support.

2. Children and Families

The protracted war, after Covid-19, is having a profound impact on Ukraine’s children. Years of disrupted education and the trauma of war are impacting young people’s development. Due to the war, families are experiencing poor mental health, family breakdown, domestic violence, debt, chronic unemployment, and substance abuse, all of which have severe consequences for children.

3. War Damaged Home Repairs

Older people have suffered disproportionately because of the war. Despite the threat of military action, this demographic is least likely to evacuate and relocate, for a range of reasons, including: uncertainty, deep connections to their homes, chronic health conditions, and being unable to afford temporary rental accommodation. 34% of civilian deaths in Ukraine have been over 60s. Many older people are now isolated, family and friends having evacuated elsewhere, and are living in severely bombed-out homes. As part of our focus on recovery we run our bespoke, person-centred Home Repairs programme for older people. In locations with safe access, we make vital repairs to homes that have been partially destroyed, lacking functional roofs, windows, electricity or heating.

4. Older People

Our essential Active Ageing and Homecare activities for older members of the Jewish community will continue. This provision of active ageing support will keep people physically and mentally active as they age. With many younger people leaving Ukraine, there is a higher number of Jewish older people without the support networks they previously had. This means that more people need homecare in some form to help them survive and we will continue to provide this vital care.

5. Psychological Support

According to Ukraine’s Ministry of Health, 15 million Ukrainians will need psychological help after the war. In recent months, demand for therapy in the country has grown, as more than 90% of Ukrainians have at least one symptom of an anxiety disorder, and 50% need psychological support. However, 66% of people do not know where to turn for the psychological support they so desperately need.

We work with a team of 44 psychologists across the country, who are training mental health professionals in local communities to be able to provide trauma informed care that Ukrainians desperately need, with a particular focus on the needs of children and parents. Across all our programmes, psychological support is an important component of the services we offer.

Home Repairs

Providing hope where there is despair

In Eastern Europe, approximately two-thirds of older Jewish people live alone, with most living in Soviet style apartments that have been entirely neglected since they were built in the 1960s. Older people are forced to live with crumbling ceilings, no hot or even running water, inadequate bathrooms and kitchens, constant damp, and freezing temperatures. These unacceptable living conditions cause poor physical and mental health. To combat this, in 2011, World Jewish Relief started repairing homes of vulnerable Jewish clients and to date, we have repaired 2,619 homes.

The 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine has only compounded the problem. Since the war began, the scale of devastation is hard to comprehend. As of January 2023, a total of 149,300 residential buildings were damaged or destroyed. One such person whose home was affected was Lyudmila, who lives in Kharkiv.

In March 2022, several shells exploded in front of Lyudmila’s home, narrowly avoiding injuring her. All three windows in her home were blown out and the front door was warped leaving her home unsecure and at risk from intruders. The windows were initially covered with film, but the temperature was just 4 degrees, and the shelling was intensifying. With no light, gas or electricity, Lyudmila was afraid of every noise she heard. Thanks to World Jewish Relief, Lyudmila now has new windows – since the repairs were made she has light and good ventilation and her home is liveable once more.

One of our goals is to provide “life-changing support to vulnerable elderly Jews” and this year more than ever, our bespoke, person-centred approach to repairing people’s homes is critical. Over the next year, our aim is to repair 270 homes through nine local partners, reaching 457 people. Every repair will improve the living conditions of our clients by ensuring at least one room is warm, dry, accessible and safe, and there is easy access to clean water and sanitation.

Lyudmila tells us: “When they put up the windows and there was light, now I go to the windows all the time and see that there is life. The crew that put in the windows were caring and encouraging. Thank you all very much.”

To maximise our impact and reach more vulnerable people we are planning to partner with a new UK organisation, Insulate Ukraine. They have devised a prototype for a temporary window which costs just $15 for materials and can withstand impact, is transparent (as opposed to plywood coverings) and provides insulation during winter months.

Due to the scale of destruction, ongoing military action and a slow, limited response by the Ukrainian Government to establish a compensation scheme for damaged property, we predict the need for home repairs will only increase.

Humanitarian Disaster

What do we do?

We respond immediately in the face of conflict and disaster, with shelter, health and urgent food support. In the aftermath we support recovery, with a focus on livelihoods. We work with a network of trusted local partners in disaster-prone regions of the world, helping them prepare for disasters before they occur, and respond quickly and effectively when they do. We responded to 23 humanitarian crises last year, reaching 95,000 people, including the Turkey/Syria Earthquake: On Monday 6th February 2023 two deadly earthquakes hit Turkey and Syria, followed by thousands of aftershocks, displacing 6 million people and claiming over 50,000 lives. Initial needs assessments indicated food and shelter for those exposed to freezing winter temperatures.

We put out an emergency appeal and raised £750,000. Within days we were able to provide 9,000 meal kits, feeding 3,000 people with 3 meals per day, 1,000 blankets to those sheltering outside as well as food and shelter, to those affected on both sides of the Turkey-Syria border. As the crisis evolved, we provided hygiene and non-food items, prefabricated shelters which offered privacy and safety, and mental health support.

Through our partner, the International Blue Crescent, we are planning large-scale livelihood support for people whose sources of income were decimated overnight. This will help keep people active, and able to earn money and provide for themselves again. Life-saving support reached 8,500 people across Turkey and Syria, and 42 prefabricated homes were supplied providing safety and privacy to internally displaced persons (IDPs).


Then and Now

Since 1933, World Jewish Relief has been a lifeline for people fleeing war, persecution and disaster. So, in 2016, when images first appeared of Syrians fleeing brutal civil war and arriving on Europe’s shores in search of a safe home, we knew we had to help. We established our Specialist Training and Employment Programme (STEP) for refugees arriving in the UK with the right to work.

STEP gives refugees access to bespoke 1:1 CV support, advice from an expert Employment Advisor, IT skills training, and intensive English language support. By the end of the programme, 39% of participants have found employment (compared to a national average of 2%), and all are better prepared to take their next steps.

Naikmal is an Afghan refugee who came to the UK in August 2021 to escape persecution from the Taliban. Having been through STEP, he is now an Employment Advisor helping other Afghan refugees. He said: “I needed someone to push me. As soon as you know there is someone supporting you and you can depend on that support, you feel motivated and can move forward.”

Last March, when Russia invaded Ukraine and millions began to flee across borders to safety, World Jewish Relief sprang into action. We are one of four Government-recognised agencies matching hosts and Ukrainian families appropriately and safely through the Homes for Ukraine scheme. We have been there for more than 12,522 Ukrainians fleeing into Poland and Moldova, providing shelter, food, psychological support and winter essentials. Anna is one of those people. Here is her story, one of upheaval, resilience and new beginnings. “Before the invasion I lived the casual life of an ordinary Ukrainian teacher. Life was good. On 24th of February I woke up at about 5am, I heard what I thought were fireworks. I didn’t think it was bombing.”

Forced to flee, Anna and her family finally made it to safety in Krakow after a dangerous journey. Here they were given food, water, and shelter by our local partner JCC Krakow. “The first time I met Jonathan (from JCC Krakow) it was amazing. I was in such a desperate situation. He told me everything was going to be alright.”

Leaving Kyiv behind was heart-breaking. Her daughter wept for their loss. However, despite uprooting their life completely, Anna’s family started to feel some sense of normality in Krakow; Anna’s children were at school, and she was working as an English teacher. JCC Krakow stepped in and helped the family get back on their feet, providing food and toiletries, and even giving Anna’s son a cake and gift on his birthday. “Right now, we are in the UK. Our sponsors are amazing. But we miss our life in Krakow.”

Soon after we met Anna in May, her family’s UK visas came through. For many of us, it is hard to comprehend abandoning our life once. Almost impossible to think of uprooting for a second time. Anna told us that her kids had adapted to the changes well, but that it was harder for parents like herself; organising new schools for children, finding employment, and settling into the community. “I am a teacher, and I want to work. It is very important for me to be independent. To become part of the society, to work, to pay taxes.” Anna is just one of millions of Ukrainians forging news lives for themselves in safety.


Working for a better future

Campaigns and Communications Manager, Annie Levy, went to Rwanda last year and shares her experience. “For many people, Rwanda will be associated with the 1994 Genocide in which an estimated 1 million minority Tutsis were murdered over 100 brutal days. Yet, to associate Rwanda only with violence and the failure of foreign intervention, would be to drastically overlook what the country has become. Similarly to the Jewish community, the Rwandan people have shown incredible resilience, rebuilding lives, families and an entire country in the wreckage of such tragedy. Our shared history has inspired World Jewish Relief’s work in the country from the beginning.

Last Autumn, I visited our Enable project in the Eastern Province of Rwanda. The initiative is run in partnership with local organisations the Streets Ahead Children’s Centre Association (SACCA) and Uyisenga Ni Imanzi (UNM). Both were set up following the Genocide to help street children and vulnerable youth to rebuild their lives through family reunification, psychological support, education and ultimately employment. The country has a fast-growing economy, yet there are still less than 400,000 formal jobs in a country of more than 13 million.

Our students are from the poorest families, and many have dropped out of school and face chronic unemployment. On our vocational track, students choose between trainings in construction, hospitality, beauty and tailoring, four fast growing sectors in Rwanda. Incredibly, 100% of students successfully find work after graduating. Student Uwambajimana Chantal told me: “The training centre is a place where anyone can come and feel welcomed. SACCA does not leave anyone behind. We may need support setting targets, but with a family like SACCA we will succeed.”

On our agricultural track, we provide training and guidance to young farmers. We help them to use their small plots of land to grow cash crops, moving away from subsistence farming so they can make a profit selling to national markets. Climate change is creating new challenges for our farmers, and with rainfall at a record low, successful irrigation is the difference between a poor harvest and one that will provide financial security. Incredibly, 92% of farmers have doubled their income through the programme.

My visit instilled in me a deep pride in our local partnerships. Without our funding, made possible through the incredible generosity of supporters, the Enable project simply wouldn’t exist. Our work in Rwanda cuts to the core of World Jewish Relief’s principle of partnership: that, to quote Chaste Uwihoreye, the Director of UNM, communities and individuals are “the experts of knowing what they need”.

Annie Levy
Campaigns and Communication Manager

World Jewish Relief at 90

The Historian Using the Past to Connect the Present

Dr Rachel Pistol joined World Jewish Relief in 2019 as our first ever voluntary Honorary Historian.

Based at King’s College London, Rachel is the UK National Coordinator of the European Holocaust Research Infrastructure. She also teaches Refugee History at Cambridge University and is a Visiting Fellow at the Parkes Institute of Southampton. She tells us how she first got involved, and why it is important to bring our history to life.

“My PhD focused on WWII internment of Japanese in America, and Germans, Italians and Austrians in the UK. I am fascinated by the similarities and differences between how these groups were treated, and the treatment of refugees and immigrants is a topic that has underpinned my research career. My work asks important questions around how refugees have come to this country and integrated into society. As a historian I am driven by telling stories that can influence policy and improve the experiences of refugees today.

I first encountered World Jewish Relief when I visited the offices to find my family’s files within the archive. I’d never known my grandfather, who was a Jewish refugee from Vienna, and through the archive some of the gaps in our family’s history were finally filled in.
We’d always wondered what happened to our great aunt, who moved to America during the war, and we were able to find out her married name and track down our long-lost cousins in America. Last autumn we travelled to America and met up with our cousin, which was just amazing. She gave us some jewellery which my great grandfather, a jeweller, had made in Austria. I’d never been able to physically touch my family’s past. After years of providing documentation to other people who wanted to find out about family members, I finally had my own experience of how powerful an archive can be. It was amazing.

In 2019, Paul Anticoni approached me as he wanted to make the archive more accessible and better known and was looking for someone to pick up the project and run with it. I was quick to agree, and I spent considerable time exploring the unparalleled record of all the refugees who came to the UK in the 1930s and 40s with the charity’s help. Nowhere else is such an archive held.

I would encourage anyone with Jewish heritage whose family came from Austria, Germany or elsewhere in Central Europe to enquire about their family’s history. I see my role at World Jewish Relief as twofold: to make the archive more accessible to more people, and to raise awareness of it so we can connect more people with their families’ stories, like I was so lucky to be able to connect with mine. I love that World Jewish Relief uses its history as the inspiration for its continued work today, helping people wherever they are in times of crisis.

The speed and expertise with which the team can get help on the ground is truly incredible, and I am proud to be associated with the charity. More people need to know about World Jewish Relief, and I hope that through the archive we can play a part in connecting the past with the present. 

Enquire about your family’s history here.

An Insight: Our Climate Portfolio

We sat down with Laura Hendy, Climate and Resilience Programmes Manager, to talk about the new and exciting climate portfolio, its achievements and plans moving forward.

What is our climate resilience programme portfolio, and how has it evolved?

In 2022, we started small, so that we could learn how to utilise our programme experience and our relationships with partners to understand how a changing climate affects our work. In year 1, we piloted three programmes with partners in Nepal,Bangladesh and Myanmar, each with varying levels of technical expertise and populations facing different risks. Our activities varied from securing land for landless farmers and teaching drought-resistant flood farming techniques, planting bamboo on slopes to prevent landslides, establishing new livelihoods that aren’t sensitive to climate for women with low incomes, and teaching a community how to prepare for cyclones. For year 2, we built on our learnings and refined our programme design. Assessing participant communities’ vulnerability to the changing climate became more comprehensive, and local gender advisors were employed to ensure men, women, boys and girls were all able to participate.

Why is it important to involve participants in programme design?

There is no single solution to the climate crisis; every community is facing different challenges and has different knowledge, skills, and resources that they can use to cope. When designing our programmes, we always invite the community to map out how their local environment has changed, how they are being impacted, and what solutions would work. This makes the programme more effective and ensures it doesn’t stop when we leave!

Where do you see this programme portfolio in five years time?

In five years time I’d like to see five climate resilience programmes, reaching around 5,000 people each. Some would focus on adapting livelihoods, some on preparing for disasters, but all would support people that are not getting help from elsewhere, due to marginalisation, extreme poverty, and landlessness. I have recently returned from my first OLAM Focal Point conference, which displayed exciting technological developments in early warning systems, crop insurance, and innovative finance mechanisms to support early intervention in disasters. I look forward to seeing how new innovations will benefit our climate work in years
to come.

Laura Hendy
Climate and Resilience Programmes Manager