James Libson, who is Executive Partner at law firm Mishcon de Reya and has been involved in WJR for a number of years, was appointed as Chairman on 26th September. He announced the new programme at an event celebrating the achievements of outgoing Chairman Nigel Layton, who had led the Board since 2002.
The new welfare project has been introduced due to recent changes to eligibility criteria for the Claims Conference which means that certain Jewish Refugees of Nazi persecution living in the former Soviet Union no longer qualify for support. WJR’s initiative will fill this gap, providing food, medical supplies, home repairs and warm clothing to 1,568 people living in poverty in the region.
Funding will come from money granted to WJR from the Otto Schiff Housing Association, which closed its doors in 2011. The funding is specifically restricted to help Jewish refugees of Nazi persecution. The programme will run for an initial period of three years, but is expected to continue after this date.
Speaking at the event, new WJR Chairman James Libson said:
“I’m thrilled that I am able to announce this essential new welfare programme on my first day as Chairman of WJR, which will make such a difference to the lives of almost 1,600 people in Jewish communities in Ukraine and Moldova.
“However, I cannot take any credit for the many months of planning that have already gone into it. For that, we must thank Nigel Layton, who has used his time as Chairman to secure WJR’s position as one of the UK’s leading Jewish charities. Anything I am able to achieve will be thanks to the hard work of those who came before me.
“WJR already helps thousands of people around the world, but we still have so much to do. In the 21st century, it is shocking that so many around the world continue to live in such staggering poverty. I’m looking forward to working with WJR’s Board and fantastic staff and volunteers to build on the charity’s groundbreaking work, ensuring we can have even more of an impact in the years to come.”
Outgoing Chairman Nigel Layton commented:
“This new programme adds to WJR’s proud legacy of providing vital support to victims of Nazi persecution, and demonstrates the charity’s ongoing expertise in working with Jewish communities in the former Soviet Union.
Commenting on his time as Chairman of WJR, he added: “It has been a privilege to lead the Board over the past decade, and I would like to thank the many inspiring people I’ve had the opportunity to work with. My great uncle was one of the founders of WJR, so the charity holds a place close to my heart, and I know that I will continue to be actively involved throughout my lifetime.
“James Libson is uniquely positioned to bring a fresh new approach to WJR, and I have no doubt that he is absolutely the right person to take the charity to ever new heights. His leadership and his passion for WJR’s work will ensure that the charity continues to flourish.”
James Libson heads law firm Mishcon de Reya’s Private department and previously headed the firm’s Litigation team. He has been involved in WJR for many years, first offering his legal services pro bono in 2006. Since then he has participated in many initiatives, joining the Board in 2010 and contributing to the charity’s strategy and governance.
He has also been very involved in the Jewish Leadership Council’s New Leadership Network, in which capacity he has sat on the Board of the JLC. He will continue to serve on this Board, now as WJR’s Chair.