AJR Annual Report 2006

Highlights of the year

The year 2006 was one of growth for the AJR as we achieved an overall increase in membership, further developed our regional groups programme, and extended our social services programme to new areas of the country.

In May we made an historic first overseas trip when 24 members visited Berlin for a four-day cultural tour of the German capital. The itinerary included visits to the Jewish Museum and the Holocaust Memorial, inaugurated the previous May, where we were welcomed by the Deputy Speaker of the German Parliament and at a reception hosted by the city’s Mayor.

Also for the first time, we organised a three-day visit to London in November for our members who live in Scotland and the North of England. More than 40 members made the trip, which included visits to the Cabinet War Rooms and the Wiener Library. They also joined members from the London area for a national get-together at the Imperial War Museum, a visit which included a talk from The Times Deputy Editor Daniel Finkelstein.

We returned to the Watford Hilton for our Annual Tea and were greatly entertained by Glenys Groves and colleagues from The Royal Opera, who performed A Summer Serenade with Strauss and Friends. It was wonderful to see so many of our members enjoying the beautiful tea.

Personnel and membership

There has been an increase in staff in both the North and South of England. At Head Office, Lorna Moss replaced Joan Altman, who retired after seven years’ service as Carol Rossen’s secretary. Rosemary Peters joined us as Michael Newman’s secretary and Hazel Beiny was recruited to help expand our Southern region groups’ programme.

To help meet the increasing demand outside London, we added two new Northern social workers: Eileen Brady in the Newcastle area, and Anthony Fagan to work alongside Barbara Dorrity.

At the end of 2006, the AJR had 3,222 members (3,196 in 2005), including 235 new members (167 in 2005).

Social and welfare services

The social work team continues to offer the best possible support, advice and assistance to our members throughout the country and we were delighted to be able to expand our team in the North of England and Scotland. Eileen Brady and Anthony Fagan will help us serve a growing number of our Northern members. They are both highly qualified and bring their knowledge, experience and enthusiasm for the benefit of our members.

Our social workers liaise closely with the AJR Centre, the regional groups and the claims office to identify and assist any member who may be in need of our services.

The team also works closely with colleagues from other organisations which serve Holocaust survivors to exchange ideas, share clients and plan the provision of future services.

Our welfare benefits’ expert continued to help our members with claims for Attendance Allowance, Carer’s Allowance, Pension Credit, Housing Benefit and Council Benefit.

Regional groups

With the recruitment of a second group co-ordinator in the south of the country, we were able to start three new groups: Edgware, Hendon and West Hampstead. Of the 22 Southern groups, eight meet monthly and six bi-monthly. The Aberdeen and Dundee groups have merged with the main Edinburgh group and we now have 14 Northern AJR groups which meet regularly alongside our smaller gatherings in members’ homes. In 2006 we held 204 meetings nationwide attended by 4,076 people.

In April the Leeds group unveiled their Holocaust Memorial Book, which contains the names of family members who perished in the Holocaust obtained from our members who now live in the Leeds, Bradford and Harrogate areas. This was made possible by a substantial grant from the AJR Charitable Trust. The book contains over 400 names arranged over 73 pages which are turned weekly; members are informed when their page is on view. By request, copies of the book are now in the archives at Yad Vashem in Israel, the Washington Holocaust Museum, and the Imperial War Museum and Wiener Library in London.

A talented group of speakers inform, educate and entertain members, in addition to the socialising and interesting discussions which take place. The groups have also resulted in many new members for AJR as well as acting as a forum for AJR and other relevant projects.

The success of the groups is due largely to the fact that there are members prepared to involve themselves with the meetings. Their support is much appreciated.

Regional get-togethers

For members in the South of England we organised regional get-togethers in Tunbridge Wells and Welwyn Garden City, which featured a highly entertaining talk by journalist and social commentator Eve Pollard.

At the Edinburgh gathering in June, members heard about the Heartstone Holocaust Exhibition and, from author John Minnion, about his book Hitler’s List. At the Manchester meeting in August nearly 100 members enjoyed a talk by guest speaker Professor Eric Moonman OBE.

Holidays

In July we held our annual Northern holiday in St Annes-on-Sea, where 41 members from Glasgow, Newcastle, Chesterfield, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Bradford and London enjoyed a relaxing week. An additional 37 members from Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool came to join the holiday-makers for a day out in St Annes during the week.

Our other holidays to Bournemouth and Eastbourne were as popular as ever, with long waiting lists for future trips.

Volunteers

Our dedicated volunteers continue to assist the day-to-day work of our organisation. As well as making home visits, they helped out at Head Office, at the AJR Centre, and at regional group meetings. Rita Rosenbaum continues to arrange for the AJR Journal to be recorded for and distributed to blind and disabled members.

Volunteers continued to receive support and supervision as well as the opportunity to attend forums held, in the latter part of the year, in conjunction with volunteers at the Holocaust Survivor Centre. We also continued to work closely with other organisations, including various London universities and Bnei Brith 1st Unity Lodge. In addition, we continued our association with Action Reconciliation Service for Peace, arranging for four students from Poland and Germany to act as befrienders to our members.

Last summer we held a thank-you tea at Wizo House, where our volunteers were entertained and enjoyed a splendid cream tea.

Central Office for Holocaust Claims

With the time period for most compensation procedures having expired, much of the work of the Claims Office centred on ensuring payments reached their rightful recipients and assisting applicants with appeals for rejected claims.

The Claims Office dealt with numerous enquiries regarding the Austrian General Settlement Fund, the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims, and dormant Swiss bank accounts, as well as the Belgian government compensation scheme and the French railway litigation. We also received more than 120 requests for applications to the Hungarian government’s indemnification programme.

In a development which will greatly assist our members and the work of the AJR we received formal notification that the AJR may notarise annual life certificates for all German pensions.

AJR Journal

The Journal maintained its characteristic and lively blend of information on AJR and communal matters together with a mix of cultural material. Consultant Editor Dr Anthony Grenville continued his penetrating analyses of historical issues pertaining to the lives of members.

Point of View columnists provoked intense debate, sharply reflected in the correspondence columns. Here, issues pertaining to Israel and the Middle East were invariably the most passionately discussed, with the Journal maintaining a position of strict political neutrality. Also providing insight into this subject was Dorothea Shefer-Vanson’s thoughtful Letter from Israel.

Reviews of books, and occasionally of theatre and cinema events, continued to feature, accompanying arts correspondent Gloria Tessler’s masterly reviews. Humour, tinged with a dash of nostalgia, was injected in articles by Edith Argy.

To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the launch of AJR Information, the Journal’s forerunner, we produced a commemorative edition containing excerpts from a 1946 edition.

AJR Centre

The newly renamed Paul Balint AJR Centre celebrated another very busy and enjoyable year. As well as serving lunches and delivering Meals on Wheels, we arranged the monthly Luncheon Club and Kindertransport lunches.

We also organised a number of events alongside our popular keep fit classes on Wednesdays and Thursdays and our lively and interesting weekly discussion group. Our clothes sales still prove popular, as do our monthly chiropody and bi-annual optician visits.

In addition to a Yom Hashoah service and lunch, our Seder night was as successful as ever and we had a very large Kristallnacht service followed by lunch, also attended by members from Scotland and the North of England. We also catered for the AGM and, for the second year running, provided a tea for our Holocaust Memorial Day service at Belsize Square Synagogue.

We were fortunate to have the BBC film the Centre during the summer (for a documentary broadcast in March) and we held a celebratory lunch to mark the 20th anniversary of the Centre, at which past staff, volunteers and dignitaries were present.

We also organised outings to the Cabinet War Rooms, Brighton and Hove, and Wilkin & Tiptree Jam Factory and museum.

Kindertransport

Led by its Chairman, Hermann Hirschberger, KT continued an active programme centred on popular monthly luncheon meetings at the AJR Centre followed by a guest speaker.

In July a surprise party at the AJR Centre organised by Susie Kaufman and Bertha Leverton celebrated Herman Hirschberger’s 80th birthday. An enjoyable Chanukah party at the Centre completed the year’s activities.

The KT-AJR planning committee was regularly consulted on the acquisition of a replacement sculpture, which was erected on the concourse of Liverpool Street Station, and the wording of the two plaques. Leading Israeli sculptor Frank Meisler, a Kind himself, conceived and created a moving representation of five children arriving at the station after their escape from Nazi Europe. Special appreciation is due to Erich Reich, who managed the project. The AJR Charitable Trust generously agreed to fund the major part of the new project.

Work commenced on creating a Kindertransport survey to document the lives of Kinder, their experiences before and after the Second World War, and their contribution to life in this country.

Bertha Leverton continued to edit the much-appreciated quarterly Kindertransport Newsletter.

Refugee Voices and education

Dr Anthony Grenville and Dr Bea Lewkowicz oversaw the completion of the 150 interviews which will form the basis of the Refugee Voices project. The interviews will be fully transcribed, edited and catalogued.

In addition to grants to several institutions to support their work in Holocaust education, the AJR Charitable Trust made a substantial donation to the Wiener Library to defray the costs of its relocation in 2009.

All in all an extremely busy year. Our energies and resources are devoted, as ever, to ensuring as far as we are able, that our members enjoy a more comfortable life.

Andrew Kaufman
Chairman