On Tuesday 2 February World Jewish Relief’s first ever virtual annual event Make a World of Difference 2021 took an astounding 1,270 guests on a journey to meet community members from across the world. There is every indication that the evening will achieve their target, raising in excess of £1 million. The evening was hosted by BBC journalist Emily Maitlis and guests heard from the charity’s Patron His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales, Coldplay’s Chris Martin and outgoing Chair Dan Rosenfield.
Travelling from the comfort of their homes to meet individuals the charity supports in Eastern Europe and East Africa, guests were reminded of the sobering reality the world’s most vulnerable communities have faced this year, and the astonishing work World Jewish Relief is doing to save lives and transform communities.
A pre-recorded message from His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales addressed World Jewish Relief’s supporters, thanking them for their support. HRH referenced World Jewish Relief’s history, saving lives since 1933. In HRH’s words ‘I am enormously proud to be a Patron of World Jewish Relief, just as I am proud of the British Jewish community, precisely because of the compassion you show to others’. The Prince also paid tribute to his close friend the late former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks, describing him as a ‘man of extraordinary wisdom, humility and compassion’.
Coldplay’s Chris Martin contributed to the event with a personal message to guests, wishing them well and expressing how proud he is to support World Jewish Relief. Guests enjoyed a special musical performance of Coldplay’s ‘A Sky Full of Stars’, played on guitar and sung by Chris from his home.
In an interview with Emily Maitlis, Dan Rosenfield described how he was drawn to World Jewish Relief as it has deeply Jewish roots but is unafraid to look beyond the community and respond to vulnerability globally. He affirmed that the charity continues to be guided by the principle that no older Jewish person should ever be left alone by the community, and this would remain at the top of their agenda.
Dan announced that accomplished Jewish communal leader and businessman Maurice Helfgott will take over as Chair, bringing significant expertise and ambition to the role. Until recently, Maurice served as Chair of the Union of Jewish Students. He also serves as Vice Chair and committee member of the ‘45 Aid Society, UK Holocaust Survivors and Second Generation. In his professional life he is an experienced Chairman and Independent Director in e-commerce, technology and consumer business, formerly an Executive Director on the main Board of Marks & Spencer.
In 1945 Maurice’s father, Sir Ben Helfgott, was one of 732 child concentration camp survivors rescued by World Jewish Relief and supported to build new lives in the UK. Ben went on to become Captain of the British Olympic weightlifting team and for over five decades has continued to work tirelessly to ensure that the Holocaust, and lessons learned from it, are never forgotten.
For Maurice, the history of the organisation is intimately connected to his own family’s past. He says:
I am here today in no small part because World Jewish Relief brought an orphan refugee called Ben Helfgott to Britain in 1945 and helped him establish his life here. It is an immense privilege to be able to help World Jewish Relief continue its humanitarian impact across the world.
World Jewish Relief's President Henry Grunwald said of the appointment:
We are very fortunate to have Maurice as our new Chair. He brings a successful commercial and communal background to the position, on top of which he has World Jewish Relief in his blood, being one of the sons of Sir Ben Helfgott, of The Boys, and in particular the Windermere Boys, who owe their successful integration into the life of the UK to World Jewish Relief. He is therefore very familiar with what we do. I have worked with Maurice on communal matters before, and I look forward to working with him at this great organisation.
Thanks to the unwavering support of the Jewish community over this difficult year, World Jewish Relief has been able to reach 73,000 people in 18 countries with friendship, food, and medicine as well as new enterprise and employment support. They have supported communities across the world to respond to the pandemic, meeting urgent humanitarian needs, providing companionship to older people under lockdown, and helping those who have lost their jobs to find new employment.
If you were unable to join, you can watch Make a World of Difference 2021 now on our YouTube channel: