|Type||International Development, Humanitarian Aid|
|Headquarters||London, England (UK)|
World Jewish Relief is a British Jewish charitable organisation and is the main Jewish overseas aid organisation in the United Kingdom. World Jewish Relief was formed in 1933 as a support group to German Jews under Nazi rule and played a major role in organising the Kindertransport which rescued around 10,000 German and Austrian children from Nazi Germany. Currently, World Jewish Relief functions as one of Britain's leading development organizations, working with Jewish and non-Jewish communities alike. World Jewish Relief operates programmes mainly in the Former Soviet Union but also in Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia.
World Jewish Relief was originally called the Central British Fund for German Jewry (CBF) and was founded in 1933. CBF was founded following a meeting of UK Jewish community leaders with Members of Parliament. The meeting was the initiative of Neville Laski and Leonard Montefiore, president of the Anglo-Jewish Association. The pair were co-chairmen of the Joint Foreign Committee, which united the efforts of the Board of Deputies and the Anglo-Jewish Association. Also involved was Otto Schiff, a German Jew from a prominent family (notably his uncle, the philanthropist Jacob Schiff) who had moved to the UK in 1896 and had been active in aiding refugees and migrants for decades, having been awarded an OBE for his efforts to aid Belgians during the First World War.
Founding members included Simon Marks, chairman and managing director of Marks & Spencer, Sir Robert Waley Cohen, managing director of Shell Oil, Lionel and Anthony de Rothschild, managing partners of N M Rothschild & Sons, and Dr Chaim Weizmann, who would later become the first President of Israel. Another leading member, Sir Osmond Elim d'Avigdor-Goldsmid felt that, through the CBF, ‘Jews of every shade of belief and political thought have united in their efforts to assist German Jewry’. Originally intended to provide support for German Jews who were immigrating to the British Mandate of Palestine, CBF originally funded projects such at Hebrew University, the Technion, and the Maccabi World Union so that these organisations could provide immigrants with the skills and experience needed to become functional members of society in Palestine.
By the time of the launch of CBF's initial appeal in the Jewish Chronicle on the 26 May 1933, £61,900 had been raised by 42 donors. By the end of 1933, almost £250,000 had been raised. The 1934 appeal raised £176,000.
Due to funding problems, CBF increasingly turned its efforts away from Palestine and towards Britain. By 1935, CBF and the Jewish Refugees Committee (JRC) were funding a programme that placed Jewish scholars in British universities willing to take on faculty members and graduate students. The two programmes placed more than 200 refugees at universities, including Ernst Chain, whose subsequent work on penicillin earned him a Nobel Prize. In 1936, Robert Waley Cohen and the other CBF leadership were angered at the placement of Youth Aliyah emigrants into non-religious environments in Palestine.
CBF coordinated with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) in 1936 to create the Council for German Jewry, which carried out much of the pre-war operations to emigrate German Jews. The two organisations aimed to raise £3m that would resettle 66,000 German Jews.
Resulting from the German-Austrian Anschluss in 1938, thousands of new refugees in Austria looked to emigrate. Due to the volume of need for refugees, the Council for German Jewry, represented by Norman Bentwich, attended the Évian Conference in France to push world leaders for less restrictive immigration policies, but they were largely ignored. The advent of Kristallnacht later in that year exacerbated the refugee crisis, leaving the JDC overwhelmed in both financial and human resource capacity. The Council for German Jewry was eventually able to persuade the UK Home Office to admit Jews regardless of financial backing, and consequently 68,000 Jews registered before the start of war. For its part, CBF worked with the NGO Save the Children to establish the Inter-Aid Committee, which helped 471 Jewish and Christian children go to boarding schools in Britain.
In November 1938, Jewish leaders met with British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain to advocate for allowing German Jewish children to immigrate to the British Mandate of Palestine. This led the subject of children's immigration to Great Britain to be discussed in the next Cabinet meeting, and the UK changed its policy to allow for admittance of Jewish children with largely no paperwork. Having secured government support, CBF started the Kindertransport effort by establishing the Movement for Care of Children from Germany; together with the Baldwin Fund (headed by ex-Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin) the Movement raised £545,000 (£28.8 million in 2013 GBP) for Kindertransport. The Movement also identified thousands of Jewish and non-Jewish families from across Britain to host Jewish children during the war years. Additionally, it set up unused summer camps on the south coast of England to house refugees waiting for homes, and coordinated with Dutch organisations to transport children from Germany to the UK. Their efforts were aided by Gertruida Wijsmuller-Meijer, a member of the Netherlands Children's Refugee Committee, who met with eventual Final Solution administrator Adolf Eichmann and persuaded him to permit unaccompanied children to go to Britain. By the outbreak of war, the Movement had evacuated 9,354 children from Germany, 90% of them Jewish.
Though evacuation attempts halted with the outbreak of war, CBF continued to support children who had already been evacuated and started new projects. CBF ensured that children were being educated in Jewish contexts, and together with the Movement, they took pains to ensure that every child could get religious education in the religion of her parents. After the war, CBF helped refugees to file claims to recover their families’ property. Additionally, CBF and the Council for German Jewry leased a property with two campsites for £350 a year in 1939, renovating them within six months and opening up a camp for young German men at risk of deportation, the Kitchener Camp at Richborough. Over 3,500 men and hundreds of their wives were in residence when war broke out, many of whom would have surely perished in the Holocaust. The camp was disbanded by 1940 as many of the men enlisted, fighting for Britain. The Richborough men ended up in the British company that was evacuated from Dunkirk in 1940.
CBF set up and financed the Jewish Committee for Relief Abroad to help administer aid and support to Jewish survivors of Nazi-occupied areas, which was especially instrumental in the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. In 1947, Movement children were granted British citizenship, and CBF helped file claims to recover refugees’ families’ property. In addition, CBF supported hundreds of orphaned children in their relocation to Britain after the war and set up the Primrose Club, a community centre in Belsize Park to assist their transition to post-war life. Most became British citizens.
The dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 prompted CBF to shift the focus of its aid efforts to support the two million Jews living there. CBF changed its name to World Jewish Relief in 1994 and has since the early 1990s focused on addressing the causes of poverty in the communities in which it works, in addition to meeting immediate needs. World Jewish Relief integrated with World Jewish Aid in 2007. World Jewish Relief currently funds three main types of projects: meeting immediate needs of vulnerable communities, securing sustainable livelihoods for those in poverty, and responding to international disasters.