Tikva is an inspirational school and children’s home in Odessa, Ukraine, 275 miles south of the capital, Kiev. The city became home to a large Jewish community during the 19th century. Though a centre of Jewish artistic and intellectual expression, Jews were repeatedly subjected to severe persecution and massacres. The community grew, but during the Nazi Occupation, 80% of the 210,000 strong Jewish community were murdered. Nowadays there are approximately 45,000 Jews living in Odessa, many of whom are struggling to survive amid the severe economic downturn. Given the poor living standards and lack of social safety nets, many parents cannot cope and abandon their children out of sheer desperation.
In 1993, Rabbi Shlomo Baksht arrived in Odessa to revive Jewish life in this former communist region. Seeking out the Jews who had remained, he established a small Jewish school. While working towards that goal, Rabbi Baksht discovered the plight of hundreds of local Jewish children, those without homes, those who had suffered abuse and neglect, those living on the streets, and those confined to bleak institutional settings. In response, he secured an apartment, removed six Jewish children from a state orphanage, and created the first “children’s home”, the nucleus of what was to become Tikva. Today, Tikva has a total of 720 children enrolled in its Jewish Day School system, and does incredible work to build up these young people, giving them hope where once there was only hopelessness.
Back to London, and the fundraising dinner at one of our regular venues, the beautiful Millennium Mayfair. This was a smart affair, where many generous and well-known individuals gave their time and resources to help those in need. One of those people was comedy genius and author, David Walliams, who entertained guests in a way that only he can, in conversation with esteemed journalist Tania Bryer. It must be said, David Walliams had time for everybody, signing books that parents had brought with on behalf of their kids, and posing for selfies with everybody who asked… a true gentleman.
Well done to Karen and the entire team at Tikva, alongside the Hostess of the Dinner, the very glamorous Arabella Spiro – not only for putting on such a wonderful event but for the work you do every single day in order to better the lives of young people in Odessa. Here are a few of our favourite images from an inspirational, emotional, and entertaining evening…