Twinning up in Vilnius deepens connections
REBECCA IS in the final year of her chemistry degree and has been accepted to complete a PhD at Imperial College London. But her life would have been very different without Norwood’s support.
Addressing more than 500 guests at the Young Norwood Property Awards, Rebecca recalled a troubled childhood.
With her parents struggling to look after her and her two siblings, she had lived in 16 homes —“from council estates to bed and breakfasts” — when, with Norwood’s support, she moved in with her aunt and uncle at the age of 14. A Norwood social worker provided counselling.
After A-levels, she desperately wanted to continue her education but the maximum government support barely covered her rent. Norwood put her in contact with charities offering scholarships and grants to students. It also gave her money to buy pots, pans, bedding and other student essentials.
“Norwood was there for me throughout my whole life,” she said. “During my difficult childhood, they helped me feel like a normal child, then helped me to achieve my dream of going to university. They never gave up on me.”
The dinner raised £170,000-plus to help vulnerable children and families.
ANOUSKA ORNSTEIN did not want her upcoming batmitzvah to be about “me and the presents and the party”.
Keen to develop a deeper connection to her Jewishness, the 12-year-old Channing School, Highgate, pupil joined a group of bar- and batmitzvah celebrants on an Ort UK trip to meet Lithuanian counterparts in Vilnius.
“I wanted to do something meaningful that would form part of my dvar Torah,” explained Anouska, whose family are Muswell Hill Synagogue members.
The 10 participants were matched with a “twin” from Ort’s Sholom Aleichem School, with whom they swapped information about their lives, their communities and their traditions.
“It was incredible to see how other young Jewish people’s lives are,” Anouska said. “They were so proud to be Jewish and happy to have someone to tell it to. I’m looking forward to talking about what I learnt and sharing it with my friends.”
The young group’s itinerary also included the wood at Ponary, where Nazi and Lithuanian collaborators murdered 70,000 Jews, as well as 30,000 Poles, Russians and others. “It was really moving and eye opening.”
Real twin Ari Wilson, 12, was partnered with another. “It was great to share information about our families,” he said. “And interesting to see how the country was quite different and how the Jewish community there was very small.
“I felt lucky we have such a big and welcoming community in London.”
For Algis Davidavicius, whose son Simon was one of the Vilnius participants, the exchange represented “a great opportunity. It provides a good framework for young people from our communities to build an international bridge of communication.”
The British children presented €500 they had raised by packing bags at the Temple Fortune Marks & Spencer to the school and trees were planted to celebrate the project.
Rebecca addressing diners at the central London venue
Making friends and (top) Anouska Ornstein and “twin” Ela Lichtisain