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May 2002 Journal

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The year 2001, which marked the 60th anniversary of the foundation of the Association of Jewish Refugees during the Second World War, was celebrated by a number of specially arranged events. In June a symposium on AJR Information as a remarkable publishing achievement, organised with the Universities of Sussex and London, brought together refugees and many distinguished academics, with Lord Moser, Prof John Grenville and Prof Edward Timms among the contributors. In September over 500 members, founders and their families were welcomed to a magnificent anniversary tea and entertainment at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel. All enjoyed the opportunity to meet and greet old friends and acquaintances and to celebrate the Association’s six decades of continuous service to the Jewish refugee community. The AJR Shabbat service at Belsize Square Synagogue in November, led by Rabbi Rodney Mariner, was attended by many members and friends. Camden’s Mayor, Cllr Roger Robinson, who was called to a reading of the Torah, congratulated the Association. Research, writing and preparations were made for the AJR-sponsored exhibition ‘Continental Britons’, which narrates the story of Jewish refugees from Nazi Europe with which the 60th anniversary celebrations will conclude in 2002.

Membership and AJR Groups

There were 3,648 members of the AJR at the end of 2001, including 149 new members, a number greater than those who passed away during the year.

New AJR groups were established in Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, North London and Essex as a result of the priority given to their formation and development. The securing of funding from the Claims Conference specifically for this task supported the outstanding work of AJR’s part-time Northern and Southern Group Regional Co-ordinators in forming and strengthening existing groups whose activities are regularly reported in AJR Journal. Each group’s distinctive character is made by its volunteer members, who give time and energy to their meetings. The special interest group KT-AJR attracted an increasing number of Kinder to their regular luncheon meetings at the AJR Day Centre and continued the publication of their own magazine. The Wiener Library readily agreed to house the Bertha Leverton Kindertransport archives.

Social Services

The social workers of the Social Services Department dealt with 360 new referrals in 2001 in addition to 400 existing clients. They visited, assessed and offered appropriate assistance to members unavoidably becoming increasingly frail, dependent and often isolated in their own homes. Mental health problems such as depression and dementia were frequently encountered.

The expansion in the number of regional groups meant AJR’s social services became more widely known, enabling the AJR to reach out to more isolated members in need of emotional and financial support. The head of department worked in close co-operation with the two regional groups organisers to provide improved services to existing members and to find new members in all parts of the country entitled to the AJR’s help and support. The social services team endeavoured to visit members in outlying areas at least once a year. Advice and assistance continued to be given on welfare rights, including attendance allowances

Homecare Assistance and Self Aid

The Homecare Assistance scheme expanded to benefit 63 members at a total cost of £43,000. Self Aid grants were made to 181 members at a total cost of £241,000, an increase of 5 per cent on the previous year.

Paul Balint AJR Day Centre

The Centre continued to offer members a full programme of entertainment, activities and high-quality kosher meals, and remained open for Sunday afternoon tea. Members benefited from visits by the chiropodist, optician and welfare rights adviser, and appreciated the regular clothes sales. Every month the Centre hosted the popular Luncheon Club and the Kinder Transport Lunches, while specially catered events included the KT Chanukah party, a tea dance, the second Seder night, and a buffet lunch celebrating 25 years service by Sylvia Matus and Renee Lee. The Centre relied on a small bank of voluntary drivers augmented by the weekly hire of a minibus. More members required a subsidy to take advantage of the meals-on-wheels service, preferring to have the meals delivered at home.

Holidays, Outings and Events

Twice-yearly group holidays in Bournemouth, offered to members of AJR groups outside London as well as those attending the Day Centre, proved so popular that several were unavoidably disappointed that participation had to be curtailed. An increased number of outings was organised for members through head office in co-operation with the Day Centre. These included visits to the Imperial War Museum, the Gilbert Collection and a day in Westcliff-on-Sea.

The AJR participated in the national commemoration, in London, of the UK’s first Holocaust Memorial Day, attended by Prince Charles and the Prime Minister. The AJR initiated and sponsored a day of ‘Holocaust Remembrance Through Film’ on the campus of the University of Sussex and a memorial concert at Imperial College, London.

AJR Journal

The AJR Journal (formerly AJR Information) completed a first year of publication in its modernised format and revised content with a consolidated reputation. Contributors included BBC Home Affairs Correspondent Jon Silverman, Prof Michael Spiro, Emma Klein, Gloria Tessler and Dr Anthony Grenville. An anniversary supplement in the October issue gave a retrospect of the Association’s 60 years of activity and service. Editor-in-Chief Richard Grunberger was presented with an embossed and bound volume of AJR Information by Lord Moser at a symposium recognising the magazine’s value to historical scholarship.

AJR Website

Visitors to the AJR website, launched in June 2001 (exceeding 1,200 monthly), read feature articles and news from the AJR Journal, learned about membership and centrally organised events, obtained contacts and information about regional groups and their programmes, placed search notices for the attention of a world-wide audience, and found selected links to other Jewish refugee, Holocaust and educational institutions.


AJR’s team of volunteers increased to 195. Following their induction training, newcomers were either matched to befriend members, or to drive, read or assist in the office. Befrienders shared experiences at support group meetings organised during the year. The recording and distribution of AJR Journal continued to be carried out by volunteers. A ‘thank you’ party was held in appreciation of volunteers’ time and devotion.

Sheltered Housing

Plans for the establishment of a new sheltered housing complex had finally to be abandoned for lack of a suitable site. The B’nai B’rith JGB Housing Association, which took over the management of the Otto Schiff Housing Association’s sheltered properties, began rehousing the remaining tenants of Eleanor Rathbone House, Highgate, many of whom are members of the AJR, as the building no longer meets modern requirements.

Umbrella Group

As a leading member of an Umbrella Group of six refugee and survivor organisations, the AJR researched and edited a brochure detailing the range of community services available for Jewish victims of Nazi persecution and more recently arrived refugees.

The Claims Conference responded positively to joint applications from the Umbrella Group by agreeing to provide additional funding in support of the AJR’s Homecare Assistance, Regional Group Development and Emergency Fund, as well as the Central Office for Holocaust Claims set up under the aegis of, and largely financed by, members of the Umbrella Group.

Central Office for Holocaust Claims (UK)

During 2001 this newly established office, based at the AJR, assisted thousands of refugees and survivors across the country to gain, wherever possible, some measure of financial compensation for Nazi persecution and restitution for lost, stolen and confiscated assets. The Central Office provided well-informed free advice and guidance on reparations schemes, supported by a monthly column with the latest information in the AJR Journal and website, and by publication in the national and regional media. Advisory sessions were held at the AJR offices and the Holocaust Survivors Centre, and public meetings were held in the North of England, Scotland and North Wales
Andrew Kaufman, Chairman

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