May 2001 Journal

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The enrolment of 550 new members in the year 2000 brought an encouraging increase in AJR’s total membership to 3,801, despite 136 deaths and some 160 who allowed their membership to lapse. The increase was due mainly to welcoming members of KT (Kindertransport) for whom the AJR have formed a special interest group, and to others who appreciated the advice, guidance and support to which membership would entitle them.

Social Services
The Social Services Department continued to meet a wide variety of needs. Members have become increasingly frail, dependant and often isolated in their own homes, and mental health problems and dementia were often encountered. Following a referral, the team undertakes to visit, assess and offer appropriate assistance.

In accordance with an on-going programme offering more extensive and intensive support, the Department reached out to members living in all parts of the country, many of whom received an annual visit. Often in need of emotional or financial support, the contact established with a Jewish organisation was particularly appreciated. During the year the Department recorded 354 new referrals (including meals-on-wheels) and at the year’s end were serving 386 long-term clients (including those on Self Aid).

The Department also offered a welfare benefits advisory service which included pensions and compensation issues. In co-operation with agents of the US courts, AJR advised members on the completion of claims for the Holocaust Victims Assets Litigation Fund. This proved a huge task but, with the assistance of trained volunteers, some 600 people were helped to complete the forms in their homes, on the telephone or at the AJR office.

Homecare Services
Following the successful completion of a pilot project, the AJR expanded the offer of Homecare Services to enable members to remain in their own homes for as long as possible. AJR paid for cleaning, caring or gardening up to a maximum of six hours a week, all of which has been very much appreciated by the 32 members already benefiting from the scheme. At a total cost of £18,000 for the year 2000, the service represented excellent value for money and will be further developed during 2001.

Welfare Rights Advisory Service
Specialist advice and assistance continued to be given on UK welfare rights, foreign pensions, restitution, grants and a variety of domestic matters by AJR’s Welfare Rights Officer. Weekly ‘drop-in’ surgeries were conducted at the AJR Day Centre.

There was a considerable increase in the number of applications made for Attendance Allowance and two members were represented at DSS Tribunal appeals which secured their allowances. The completion of a variety of claim forms continued throughout the year, including Swiss Assets Litigation and Insurance and Slave Labour claims.

Paul Balint AJR Day Centre
AJR’s Day Centre continued to offer a full programme of activities and entertainment, continental-style catering and a meeting place for Jewish refugees from a German-speaking cultural background, though the overall numbers attending had declined.

Among its activities were a daily programme of musical entertainment, a Monday Kard & Games Klub with a buffet lunch, twice-weekly keep fit, an art class and a most enjoyable Kaffee Klatsch. A welfare rights adviser was available at the Centre once a week. Clothes and shoe sales and regular chiropody and optical services were well supported by members. A staff member made regular visits to members in hospital

The monthly KT-AJR Luncheon Club retained its popularity with a succession of interesting guest speakers and KT-AJR monthly luncheon get-togethers commenced in November. All Jewish religious festivals were observed and the Centre was again pleased to welcome Rabbi William Wolff to lead their Seder service. AJR outings began with lunch at the Day Centre.

Following an accident, the Centre regretted having to lose several volunteer drivers whose services had been very much appreciated.

Catering and Meals-on-Wheels
The Catering Department at the Day Centre continued to prepare and serve high-quality kosher meals and buffets for members. Special events catered for included an afternoon tea for AJR Volunteers, the KT-AJR’s Chanukah Party, Marianne Herz’s 80th birthday party, Ruth Finestone’s anniversary lunch, and the Kaffee Klatsch.

Meals-on-wheels (frozen) were prepared and delivered twice weekly to members in a wide area of north-west London, and meals were also prepared and packed for members to take from the Day Centre. Camden Council’s Environmental Health Officer, impressed by the high standards of the kitchens, was again pleased to commend the AJR’s catering facilities.

AJR Information (since restyled as ‘AJR Journal’)
AJR Information continued to be published monthly and remained greatly appreciated by all the membership as a unique source of information, comment and opinion on matters of concern to the refugee community and their families. The high standards of reportage, reviews and historical commentary were well maintained.

The magazine acted as a prime source of updated information on the availability and progress of compensation and reparation funds throughout the year.

At the year’s end 170 volunteers were enabling the AJR to provide a wide range of additional services. 52 newcomers were recruited and 43 of them were each successfully matched to help an AJR member. AJR’s Volunteer Services Co-ordinator organised a number of befrienders’ support group meetings. Throughout the year volunteers were offered the opportunity to join training sessions in listening skills. Fresher events at universities proved successful volunteer recruiting points.

Rita Rosenbaum continued to organise the reading and recording of AJR Information onto tape cassettes for the benefit of the poorly sighted. The annual volunteers’ ‘thank you’ party was held at the AJR Day Centre with a full tea and piano entertainment. The AJR is greatly indebted to all volunteers for their continuing efforts and devotion.

AJR Groups
Six years have elapsed since the first of AJR’s groups, South London was established and it continued to flourish. There were nine groups in total from Manchester and Leeds in the north to Brighton and Bournemouth in the south, each having its own distinctive character. Programmes typically included speakers, discussions, outings and garden parties.

Groups are semi-autonomous and organised by the local members with the support of AJR’s part-time Regional Co-ordinator. Further groups are to be established in Scotland and England. (For more information members should contact their nearest group via the telephone number given in AJR Journal or the Regional Co-ordinator at Head Office).

The traditions of the Kindertransport were maintained by the newly incorporated KT-AJR special interest group. It offered a newsletter in a new format, increasingly popular Kinderlunches and participation in the Luncheon Club, all of which helped to attract additional members to the Day Centre. KT Publications continued to supply copies of the 1999 Reunion book and video to communal organisations, and the film ‘The Children Who Cheated the Nazis’ was shown on television and entered into the educational curriculum.

Self Aid
The Self Aid Fund helped to improve the quality of life for members living on low incomes by granting regular monthly payments without prejudicing state benefits. One-off payments are also made in response to unanticipated needs. Self Aid grants were made to 185 members in 2000 at a total cost of £229,000, an increase of 16%.

The annual concert, the 52nd, was held for the second time at Imperial College, Kensington, again featuring the London Concertino conducted by Richard Dickins, with the international piano soloist Noriko Ogawa playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 14. As in the previous year, the full afternoon tea served during the interval proved extremely popular with the members. The generous support of members and friends enabled a brochure-programme to raise additional funds for Self Aid.

AJR chose the hottest day of the year to take a coach-full of members to Beth Shalom Holocaust Centre in Nottinghamshire. Joined by AJR members from Brighton, the Smith family’s warm welcome added to an informative and pleasant visit.

Sheltered Accommodation
A site continued to be sought in north-west London for the establishment of a sheltered housing complex which would eventually replace the existing accommodation available to AJR members. At the year’s end no such suitable site had been secured, not least due to competition and the high value being placed on land suitable for residential or commercial development.

Plans for AJR’s 60th Anniversary
Next year (2001) the Association plans to celebrate its 60th Anniversary with a number of special events and activities. These already include researching and preparing an exhibition narrating the settlement of German-speaking Jewish refugees and their subsequent lives in Britain; a symposium on AJR Information as an historical resource, led by the German-Jewish Studies Centre of the University of Sussex; an AJR commemorative and celebratory Shabbat at Belsize Square Synagogue; the annual concert comprising cabaret and a special tea at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London in September; and appropriate gatherings in AJR groups throughout the country.

Andrew Kaufman

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