Serbian musician Masa Babic and the Barbican Piano Trio have helped World Jewish Relief’s (WJR) Connections Committee raise an incredible £16,000 by performing a concert at a private home in Hampstead Garden Suburb.
Over 60 supporters attended the annual Musical Evening which marked the 20th anniversary of Connections. Established in 1992, in response to the upheaval caused by the civil war in Former Yugoslavia, Connections helps vulnerable Jewish students in the region to continue their studies. The scheme also encourages young Jewish students to play an active role in Jewish life, thereby supporting the redevelopment of Jewish communities in Serbia and Bosnia.
The pianist, Masa Babic, is just one of the 386 Jewish students who have benefitted from the support of WJR’s Connections since it was founded. The scholarship she received allowed her to attend a prestigious music school, before developing a successful career as a professional musician that has seen her perform at venues across Europe. She commented;
“I will never forget the compassion and involvement shown by ladies from Connections, who truly were my greatest benefactors in a seemingly hopeless situation.”
She performed alongside the Barbican Piano Trio, one of the UK's leading ensembles with a reputation for stimulating performances, breadth of repertoire and exceptional audience rapport.
After enjoying a first class musical performance, attendees watched a film made by one of the Bosnian students that illustrated the impact of the scholarship programme on the lives of 6 students who have benefited from the support of Connections.
Graduate Vladimir Andrle from Sarajevo received financial aid in 2006. Aside from funding his education, Connections has helped Vladimir find employment, which proved difficult even with a degree. Vladimir commented; “I am very grateful for the help of Connections…Connections gave me a scholarship in 2006, they showed me that there are good people willing to help.”
The guests also heard from Jonathan Ornstein, Director of the Jewish Community Centre (JCC) in Krakow, built by WJR and opened in 2008 by HRH Prince of Wales. Connections is planning to expand its Scholarship Programme to attract young Poles with Jewish origins to study in Krakow where they will also benefit from the revival of Jewish life.
Connections Chair, Jean Marks, said; “We were delighted to celebrate our 20th Anniversary and we were so proud of Masa Babic, one of our students who came especially from Belgrade to play for us. We look forward to our new challenge of supporting Jewish students in Krakow, Poland”.
*Photos taken by Carole Cutner