Although this is my ninth year leading this astonishing organisation, I am constantly amazed by our remarkable ability to convert a pound coin in a tin here in the UK to a food card in Ukraine. Slowly but surely, we are lessening vulnerability across the Former Soviet Union. Lives are being transformed. Change is happening.
We cannot afford to be complacent. Events in eastern and southern Ukraine have changed everything. Fighting has forced more than a million people from their homes. Thousands of Jews need our help. My biggest worry is what they are going through and I’m constantly asking if we’re doing enough.
These are times of emergency for the Jews of Ukraine. The world’s attention might be slipping, but ours is not. Having spent seven years leading the British Red Cross’s response to international disasters, I know we can’t stand idly by.
Support will be delivered by my exceptional team who are real experts in their field. There is a very different feel to the office now than when I arrived in 2006. I know that for many of them, like me, it’s a six-day week and it’s rare for evenings and weekends not to be disturbed.
I’m lucky to have the most exceptional chair and ex-chair, James Libson and Nigel Layton, and the likes of my vice-chair Linda Rosenblatt who has dedicated more time than anyone to supporting us. It’s rare, I think, for a chief executive not to spend time moaning about their trustees and this is thanks to the commitment, modesty and expertise each of them brings.
My concern, though, is that few people know everything that we do. I’ve brought in a Communications Director to make us better known and better understood in the Jewish community and beyond.
I love talking to our supporters – even when someone calls in to complain. Personal contact is so important and we recently ran our first thank-a-thon where staff and volunteers took to the phones to thank as many of our supporters as we could. World Jewish Relief is proud to enjoy support from across the spectrum of the Jewish community. This helps our decision-making and provides us with multiple Jewish reference points. I’m always struck by the depth of our supporters – those touched by our history, and those driven by working in the horrors of today’s world.
The past year has shown that the more you put in to the JLC, the more you get out, and I was proud that we raised the issue of Ukraine with the Prime Minister as part of the JLC’s delegation to Number 10 last month. We will do whatever needs to be done to rebuild shattered lives. This is the promise we make and I know, thanks to the generosity of the Jewish community here in the UK, that it will be fulfilled.