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May 2003 Journal

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AJR ANNUAL REPORT 2002

60th Anniversary

The highlight event of AJR’s 60th Anniversary celebrations was the ‘Continental Britons’ exhibition at the Jewish Museum, opened by Lord Moser. It was accompanied by a film of refugee testimonies, a history of the experiences of the German-speaking Jewish refugee community in Britain specially written by Dr Anthony Grenville, and complemented with a programme of talks, visits and concerts which together attracted a record 10,000 visitors.

An AJR-funded project at the University of Manchester, started in 2002, is researching and writing the history of refugees who settled in the Greater Manchester area.

Membership and AJR Groups

At the end of 2002, the AJR had 3,499 members (3,648 in 2001), including 166 new members.

The number and activity programmes of AJR’s 18 groups nationwide were continually expanded to serve members in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Harrogate, Sheffield, Hull, Birmingham, Nottingham, North London, Pinner, South London, Surrey, Westcliff, Bournemouth, and Brighton and Hove. Many previously unable to benefit from AJR’s activities and support services joined as AJR members. The financial support of the Claims Conference, especially for the transport budget, which enabled otherwise housebound members to participate in group meetings, was particularly appreciated. Members from groups in many parts of the country made specially conducted visits to the Continental Britons exhibition.

Get-togethers

‘Get-togethers’ for AJR groups and individual members from Scotland, the North of England and the Midlands were initiated in June at Beth Shalom Holocaust Centre in Nottinghamshire. Members received information and advice on AJR social services and Holocaust claims and expressed their opinions. A second Get-together was held in Manchester in November at which AJR’s ‘Refugee Voices’ video testimony archive project was launched. This important and imaginative undertaking will conduct 120 professionally structured interviews over three years, commencing with AJR members from the Day Centre and reaching out to a representative cross section of the refugee community nationwide.

Kindertransport

The film ‘The Power of Good’, recording attempts to save Czech Kinder, was shown at the Imperial War Museum as the KT-AJR’s contribution to the 60th Anniversary celebrations, in the company of Sir Nicholas Winton, Esther Rantzen, Vera Gissing and the Museum’s Director General, Robert Crawford, and in the presence of 200 Kinder.

KT-AJR members continued their successful monthly luncheon meetings at the AJR Day Centre, ending the year with their traditional Chanukah party.

Social Services

AJR’s Social Work team continued to meet the increasing demand for their services from members throughout Britain. They worked closely with AJR groups and regional organisers to identify and offer support to AJR members around the country, undertaking to visit each client at least once a year. The appointment of a part-time Manchester-based social worker strengthened the provision of AJR services to members living in the North.

Both existing and newly enrolled members sought much needed help with problems brought on by old age, which included poor health, loneliness and isolation, as well as financial advice, emotional problems and how best to cope at home or decide to move. Expert advice is available on welfare benefit rights and on issues relating to German and Austrian pensions.

Homecare Assistance, Emergency Fund and Self Aid

For refugees and survivors who are increasingly frail and living on a low income,
dealing with their personal care, home cleaning, laundry and gardening becomes a source of daily anxiety. By providing continual support, the Homecare Assistance scheme enabled them to maintain independence and remain in the security of their own homes as long as possible with more dignity and comfort. In 2002 the scheme expanded significantly to serve 106 members (7 others passed away during the year) at a total cost of £91,696, part of which was offset with a contribution from the Claims Conference.

A total of £44,557 was paid to 120 claimants from the AJR’s Emergency Fund, supported by the Claims Conference, helping needy individuals with medical and other emergency expenditures. Self Aid grants were made to 205 members at a total cost of £254,448 during 2002, an increase of 5.6% on 2001. A further £57,689 was granted in loans.

Paul Balint AJR Day Centre

There was a significant increase in Meals-on-Wheels prepared in, and delivered by, the Day Centre. The Centre’s regular activities, which continued to attract an appreciative following, included the entertainment programme, a discussion group, a keep fit group, and increasing participation in the cards and games club. Special celebrations of the Jewish festivals included a popular second night Pesach Seder. Clothing and shoe suppliers regularly attended at the Centre.

The Luncheon Club, meeting usually on the third Wednesday of each month, attracted large audiences for a variety of interesting speakers. Tea was served in the garden for a Bournemouth reunion and lunch provided for members of provincial groups visiting the Continental Britons exhibition.

Staffing, Holidays, Outings and Events

Carol Hart was appointed Volunteers’ Co-ordinator and, with the retirement of Agi Alexander after years of devoted service, Linda Kasmir took over the Welfare Rights portfolio.

Both holidays in Bournemouth were again over-subscribed. Special day trips were arranged for members to Eastbourne, Althorp House, the Maids of Honour Tea Room in Kew, and the Continental Britons exhibition. AJR’s Annual Celebration Tea at the Marriott Hotel, Grosvenor Square, with entertainment provided by the ‘Garden Party’ opera company, was greatly enjoyed by 600 guests.

AJR Journal

The AJR Journal continued to command respect and attention for its analysis of current affairs and presentation of a spectrum of news, comment, reviews, the arts, science, profiles, information, events and AJR group activities. The editorial’s robust defence of Israel, commencing with January’s My country, wrong or wrong, when faced with continual suicide bombs and other attacks on civilians - several on buses and on children - from extremist Palestinian groups, filled the letters pages with a correspondence from markedly differing viewpoints.

AJR Website

The website recorded more than 3,000 visits per month. It was regularly updated with information and news from the Claims Conference and the Central Office for Holocaust Claims, as well as search notices, regional groups’ events and reports, Day Centre programmes and articles from the AJR Journal.

Volunteers

A number of volunteers were recruited to meet the needs of AJR members seeking befrienders. Others undertook to drive members to the Day Centre, or to record and distribute a monthly taped version of the AJR Journal. Training and support were provided for all volunteers, many of whom attended AJR’s regular volunteers’ forums. New links were established with B’nai B’rith First Unity Lodge, AJ6, Jewish Lads and Girls Brigade (JLGB), and University College, London. An updated volunteers’ quarterly newsletter added to their understanding of the work, and a volunteers’ party expressed AJR’s appreciation.

Central Office for Holocaust Claims

The Central Office offered free advice and assistance to victims of Nazi persecution and their heirs living in the UK. During 2002 it helped to direct £12 million in compensation and restitution payments to refugees and Holocaust survivors from more than a dozen different indemnification funds. Representatives spoke at meetings across the country and held personal consultations at AJR’s Northern Get-togethers at Beth Shalom and Manchester.

The Central Office negotiated directly with government departments to obtain a beneficial change in social security legislation and an amendment to tax regulations. It also helped to draft the British Bankers Association’s guidelines on the repayment of bank charges on Holocaust reparations and publicised the outcome. Updated claims procedures and the answers to many enquiries appeared in the AJR Journal, on the website and in the press.

Summary

As can be seen from the above report, it was another busy year. We did our utmost to ensure that services to AJR members were delivered speedily, effectively and, above all, caringly.
Andrew Kaufman, Chairman

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