Peer rais­ing mil­lions for Jerusalem

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The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY MAR­CUS DYSCH

HOWARD LEIGH’S well-ap­pointed but un­der­stated of­fice is the per­fect place from which to di­rect the char­ity he now heads.

Ap­pointed as chair­man of the Jerusalem Foun­da­tion UK this week, Lord Leigh has the task of en­cour­ag­ing high­level donors to sup­ply much-needed funds to fi­nance cul­tural, ed­u­ca­tional and wel­fare projects in Is­rael’s cap­i­tal city.

The foun­da­tion over­sees thou­sands of ini­tia­tives pro­vid­ing fa­cil­i­ties for Jerusalemites of all religious and eth­nic back­grounds, and has raised more than £1 bil­lion in its 50-year his­tory. But its work rarely grabs the head­lines.

In the el­e­gant board room at his cor­po­rate fi­nance firm tucked away in cen­tral Lon­don’s pres­ti­gious Port­land Place, Lord Leigh, who is also se­nior trea­surer of the Con­ser­va­tive Party, ex­plained how UK donors were con­tin­u­ing the work of leg­endary Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek.

“The foun­da­tion was Teddy’s brain­child. Jerusalem is the poor­est city in Is­rael be­cause a huge pro­por­tion of the prop­er­ties are ex­empt from tax: syn­a­gogues, churches, mosques, education build­ings.

“The city doesn’t re­ceive any­thing like the fund­ing it should do. He ac­knowl­edged there was a short­fall.”

Mr Kollek en­sured the foun­da­tion fo­cused on wealthy in­di­vid­u­als, us­ing the city’s religious and his­toric ap­peal to en­cour­age them to do­nate sub­stan­tial sums for ex­plicit ven­tures.

Big money meant big names, and when Lord Leigh was first in­vited to join the board 25 years ago, the foun­da­tion was led by some of Bri­tish Jewry’s most no­table fig­ures. Its chair was L a b o u r peer Lord B e r n - s t e i n , w i t h s up- port from Lord Roth­schild, Lord Moser, Sir Harry Djano­gly, Lord Wei­den­feld, Dame Vivien Duffield and oth­ers.

“It was re­ally the great and good,” Lord Leigh said. “They were all ex­tremely gen­er­ous but didn’t want to go out fundrais­ing. They pretty much funded it them­selves with a few mates.”

TheJerusalemFoun­da­tion’sap­proach re­mains the same — qui­etly ask­ing a small num­ber of peo­ple to fund big projects. On one oc­ca­sion Lord Leigh se­cured a $10m do­na­tion from one in­di­vid­ual to build a re­tire­ment home.

But as the char­ity marks its half cen­tury this year, its new UK chair­man is con­scious of the need to en­cour­age a new gen­er­a­tion of donors to dig deep.

“We are go­ing to change gear,” the 56-year-old peer ex­plained. “There are a num­ber of peo­ple who will come on board who are from the next gen­er­a­tion of the orig­i­nal found­ing fam­i­lies. When I joined I was the youngest per­son on the board —– and I still am.

“We are go­ing to bring in peo­ple of my age group and younger who are look­ing af­ter their fam­ily trust or have had rea­son­able suc­cess and it will be the same phi­los­o­phy of iden­ti­fy­ing projects for the ben­e­fit of all in Jerusalem.”

Se­nior part­ner at the Cavendish Cor­po­rate Fi­nance firm which he set up in 1988, Lord Leigh is also a for­mer Jewish Care trustee, a Jewish Lead­er­ship Coun­cil vice-pres­i­dent, West­min­ster Syn­a­gogue pres­i­dent, and In­sti­tute for Jewish Pol­icy Re­search pres­i­dent.

So how does he as­sess An­glo-Jewry’s ef­forts to en­cour­age younger donors to grow into the roles va­cated by the lead­ing lights of pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions? “I’m very op­ti­mistic. I t de­pends what you mean by ‘younger’ peo­ple — the def­i­ni­tion of young in Jewish char­i­ties is not hav­ing grand­chil­dren.

“There’s a huge new wave of peo­ple who have made a lot of money in hedge funds, prop­erty, tech — the chal­lenge is to keep them con­nected to the com­mu­nity. Ev­ery gen­er­a­tion has al­ways wor­ried that the next gen­er­a­tion won’t fol- A keen run­ner, Lord Leigh takes part in the Jerusalem marathon. The foun­da­tion has funded a range of projects in­clud­ing a zoo and the city’s botan­i­cal gar­den ( low them, but they do get there.”

Bri­tish-based fund­ing con­tin­ues to flow to the foun­da­tion, and it has helped back a se­ries of cul­tural and ed­u­ca­tional fa­cil­i­ties, in­clud­ing a bas­ket­ball court in the Old City, Jerusalem’s bib­li­cal zoo, and its botan­i­cal gar­dens.

Donors are en­cour­aged to give to projects which have a per­sonal link. Lord Leigh sup­ported the cre­ation of a school car­pen­try work­shop; his grand­fa­ther, and then mother, had run a fam­ily fur­ni­ture busi­ness.

Among the 4,000 projects have been lit­er­acy pro­grammes for Ethiopi­ans, health and wel­fare pro­vi­sion for Arab Is­raelis, and the Max Rayne Hand-in­Hand bilin­gual school ed­u­cat­ing Jews and Arabs side-by-side.

“We do a lot of work in Arab Jerusalem,” Lord Leigh said. “Teddy’s view was that if you treat cit­i­zens equally and in­vest in them all equally they will not feel ag­grieved, they will feel com­fort­able. That is our phi­los­o­phy.”

Mar­ried with two chil­dren, Lord Leigh was en­no­bled by David Cameron in 2013 af­ter spend­ing more than a decade in se­nior po­si­tions in the Con­ser­va­tive Party, mainly as trea­surer or se­nior trea­surer, the role he now holds.

He is one of sev­eral Jewish Tories who help form Mr Cameron’s view of the con­tri­bu­tion Jews make to the coun­try. The com­mu­nity has rarely, if ever, had it so good, Lord Leigh be­lieves.

“Cameron has a great em­pa­thy with peo­ple of faith; he has his own faith. He is a nat­u­ral Zion­ist and he is not alone in the cab­i­net. When the JLC went to see the Prime Min­is­ter there wasn’t, frankly, any­thing they wanted that they didn’t get. The com­mu­nity is in safe hands while Cameron, or any­one in the cab­i­net who I know, is around.”

Lord Leigh will next month help lead a cross-party del­e­ga­tion of peers to Is­rael for the first trip of its kind “in liv­ing mem­ory”, he said. “They will be un­aligned peers, so not known for their Zion­ist or anti-Zion­ist in­ter­est. The chal­lenge is to get peo­ple with mod­er­ate views to speak up [in the Lords]. There has been a lot of anti-Is­rael com­ment in the House.” As the foun­da­tion pre­pares for its 50th an­niver­sary gala this year, Lord Leigh be­lieves it is on the right track. “Ev­ery Jewish per­son wants to have a con­nec­tion with Jerusalem. It pulls at the heart­strings,” he said. Tellingly the peer con­cludes that the job of the city is to be “a quiet and con­stant pres­ence” — much like the foun­da­tion that bears its name.

PHOTO: FLASH 90

PHOTO: FLASH 90

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