The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMUNITY - BY JOSH JACKMAN

BORIS JOHN­SON has ap­plauded Nor­wood’s char­i­ta­ble work, de­scrib­ing it as an ex­am­ple of the dif­fer­ence be­tween western val­ues and those of the Is­lamic ex­trem­ists who per­pe­trated the Paris terror at­tacks.

A record-break­ing 1,350 guests at­tended the chil­dren and fam­i­lies char­ity’s an­nual din­ner at Grosvenor House in cen­tral Lon­don on Mon­day, rais­ing £3.4 mil­lion.

Tak­ing the plat­form fol­low­ing a minute’s si­lence for vic­tims of the Paris at­tacks, Mr John­son — who vis­ited Is­rael last week — told them that he wanted to “speak from the heart”. Prais­ing Nor­wood, he ob­served that “if you want to see the con­trast be­tween the warmth and the hu­man­ity of our democ­racy and their [the ter­ror­ists’] ni­hilism, it is here tonight.

“Be­cause in Raqqa, they treat the dis­abled with bru­tal­ity and con­tempt, and here tonight we are gath­ered to raise funds for the dis­abled, to build schools for them, to pay for their helpers, their teach­ers, and to en­sure that ev­ery­one, what­ever their abil­ity, can live the life they choose. And that, fun­da­men­tally, is the dif­fer­ence be­tween them and us.” Mr John­son also took part in a Q&A with au­di­ence mem­bers.

Nor­wood’s ap­peal video high­lighted its £12 mil­lion short­fall af­ter statu­tory fund­ing, demon­strat­ing the dif­fi­cul­ties faced by wel­fare char­i­ties in a tough eco­nomic cli­mate. Among those fea­tured in the video was Lizi Jackson, a sin­gle mother of two sup­ported by the char­ity. Be­cause of Nor­wood, she said, “my fam­ily and I have t he best pos­si­ble c hance o f suc­ceed­ing”. A few years Lord and Lady Men­del­sohn back, she was newly mar­ried, pur­chas­ing a house and pur­su­ing a ca­reer. At that point she “never could have imag­ined” need­ing Nor­wood. “But no one can pre­pare for the re­al­i­ties that life can throw at you. Too of­ten I lie awake wor­ry­ing about what will hap­pen to my chil­dren when I’m not here­any­more.Know­ing Nor­wood will be with them through their whole lives al­lays so many of my fears.”

Re­tailer Sir Philip G r e e n , L a b o u r MP Sadiq Khan and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis were also among the din­ner guests. And t h e d e s s e r t course was spiced up by a four-song set by Bryan Ferry.

It was an­nounced that Nor­wood has re­cruited a stel­lar couple to share its pres­i­den­tial du­ties — for­mer Labour Party ad­viser Lord Men­del­sohn and his wife, Ni­cola, Face­book’s Euro­pean vice-pres­i­dent.

Speak­ing ahead of the din­ner, Lady Men­del­sohn said the couple were “in­cred­i­bly hum­bled” to have been ap­proached.

“I’ve al­ways been a huge ad­mirer of the work the char­ity does in sup­port­ing vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple and chil­dren with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties. The chance to do some­thing with Jon and give some­thing back to the com­mu­nity was too good to re­sist. Both of us grew up in very com­mu­nity-minded fam­i­lies and that’s al­ways been at the heart of ev­ery­thing we’ve done.

“Two heads are bet­ter than one. I work in the world of tech, so in­no­va­tion is my best friend. We both bring very dif­fer­ent skills and will ap­proach chal­lenges in dif­fer­ent ways. I’m a strong be­liever that if you want some­thing done, you ask a busy per­son.”

She said her Face­book col­leagues were “very warm and sup­port­ive” about her new role, adding: “I think Nor­wood al­ready does a huge amount in the so­cial me­dia area, but I’m hop­ing that the skills I’ve picked up in 21 years of work­ing will help the or­gan­i­sa­tion.”

Lord Men­del­sohn — shadow spokesper­son for busi­ness, in­no­va­tion and skills — said he had been at­tracted by the idea of be­ing in­volved in a char­ity that was “well run, with high stan­dards and a great team who are very pro­fes­sional”.

Nor­wood chief ex­ec­u­tive, Elaine Kerr, said the char­ity was “hugely ex­cited to have Ni­cola and Jon as our pres­i­dents, know­ing they share our vi­sion to be there for those who need us.

“In­di­vid­u­ally they bring a wealth of work ex­pe­ri­ence, knowl­edge and skills which will in­evitably make very valu­able con­tri­bu­tions to the fu­ture of our or­gan­i­sa­tion.”

The Men­del­sohns suc­ceed me­dia boss Richard Des­mond, who stood down as pres­i­dent in March.

Boris John­son stay­ing in the pic­ture


Bryan Ferry per­form­ing at the din­ner

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