Jewish charities are heading in to the new year with renewed hope (2023)

80 trees for 80 years

Becoming an octogenarian is something to celebrate and as it enters its ninth decade the Association of Jewish Refugess (AJR) has done just that by planting 80 oak trees in locations significant to Jewish refugees. Each tree acts as a platform for telling the story of Britain’s Jewish refugees. The majority of were planted along with a time capsule containing key facts about the Jewish refugee community and sharing the life story of one or more AJR members. 80 Trees for 80 Years project manager Jo Briggs says: “It’s been incredibly special to involve local communities with this initiative.” All tree locations are included in the new UK Holocaust Map, developed by the AJR in partnership with the UK Government. This digital resource helps communities to learn about their local connections to the worst crime ever committed.”

The social care of the refugees who fled Nazi persecution and the survivors who came to the UK after the Holocaust is the focus of the AJR. Today the majority of members are children and grandchildren who join to honour the memory of their parents and grandparents, to celebrate the heritage and culture of their ancestors and to connect with others from similar backgrounds. The AJR is the UK’s largest dedicated funder of programmes and projects to promote teaching and learning about the Holocaust. It has also produced several resources of its own, such as the audio-visual testimony archive AJR Refugee Voices, which contains over 270-filmed testimonies.

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Jewish charities are heading in to the new year with renewed hope (1)

Anastasia and one of her children

Safety net of support

Anastasia moved to Israel from Russia with her two children over 10 years ago. Forced to flee an abusive relationship with her two young girls she found refuge in a WIZO shelter in Hadera. When it was time for her to leave the shelter, the WIZO Safety Net programme provided complete support, counselling, financial services and every possible assistance to begin a new life. The WIZO charity shop ‘bigudit’ was a resource for clothing and second-hand items to furnish her new home. “I was struck by the incredible amount of caring and support I received,” said Anastasia. Wanting to give back, she began volunteering at the shop, and when the manager retired, she offered the paid position to Anastasia. Today, Anastasia leads a team of over 20 volunteers, designs store displays, signs off on the final selection of clothing, plans vintage bazaars and other special events, and promotes the store in the community. From powerless to empowered, Anastasia’s story is a powerful example of WIZO’s impact. The WIZO Safety Net programme is for women who have completed their stay in shelters for victims of domestic violence and face enormous challenges in rebuilding their lives. In 2021, 371 women and children took part in this programme in six locations around Israel. This is just one of the many programmes and initiatives highlighted in WIZOUK’s Women Leading the Way campaign, supporting vulnerable and disadvantaged young women and girls.

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A new beginning

John’s world was turned upside down a few years ago. Having once been the life and soul of the party, he became quiet, withdrawn and increasingly more isolated. He says: “I stopped socialising and then I felt lonely and had a lot of negative thoughts. I thought no one cared about me and everyone hated me. It was torturous living through each day.”

After attempting to take his own life, John realised he needed professional help to get better. He says: “Jami gave me hope. Hope for life, hope for the future and hope that I’ll be around for much longer.”

John’s first interaction with Jami, the mental health service for the Jewish community, was at an event at its Head Room Café in Golders Green. Here he met people going through similar experiences to him and it convinced him that the charity’s other services could help him too. John’s weekly one-to-one sessions with two Jami support workers, who were there to listen and set goals to help him move forwards, gradually enabled him to go from rock bottom to feeling on top of the world. He says: “With Jami’s support, I began to make positive choices. Now, I do a job I love and spend quality time with my wife and family. I’m happy. And that’s thanks to Jami.”

If the job fits

For many the rising cost of living is giving them cause to look for a new job with a higher salary. That’s where Work Avenue can help. The community’s leading employment and business support organisation has helped thousands of people into work, to change jobs, to start a business and to reskill for new careers. Danielle is one of those people as she had a part-job and needed to utilise her skills to make more money.

“I was given my own dedicated adviser, who was just wonderful. She helped guide and direct me confidentially towards the jobs I would suit and put my anxieties at ease over the recruitment process.

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I also attended a couple of Work Avenue’s workshops, including one on transferable skills which made me appreciate how much of what I did in my current job – and how running a busy house – could be used elsewhere.”

Everything Work Avenue offers is free – from one-to-one careers guidance with experienced and professional employment advisers to their range of workshops and events.

And the good news is the job market is more buoyant now than it has been in years and Work Avenue’s Jobs Board has more than 100 positions being advertised currently, with new ones being added every day.

Jewish charities are heading in to the new year with renewed hope (3)

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