Charities exist to help the underprivileged, not to be holier than thou

Prince Charles (Jewish News)
Prince Charles (Jewish News)

Life would be much easier if you could select your parents while still in the womb. Unfortunately this is not possible and there are any number of youngsters who do not have loving parents, possessing substantial incomes, comfortable homes and high IQs. 

For 43,000 young people though, in 2021, there was help available from a charity called the Princes Trust. Its Royal Charter had stated its strategy. when it was founded by Prince Charles in 1976 “To promote by all charitable means the mental, spiritual, moral and physical development and improvement of young people, and to provide opportunities for them to develop to their full capacities, and enable them to become responsible members of society, so that their conditions of life may be improved.”

You will not be surprised to learn that this admirable objective costs a lot of money. In 2021 just over £69 million. It is very similar to a long-time Jewish charity. As long ago as 1859 we felt we had to help our poor and disadvantaged youngsters when we created the Board of Guardians. Modesty forbids, but we’re pretty good when it comes to charity.

The Princes Trust has done an enormous amount of good, but Prince Charles is now being attacked for taking a donation of £1.6m from members of the Bin Laden family, and £1 million packed in suitcases from the prime minister of Qatar.

It is suggested that the image of the prince will suffer from his decision to accept the money. It clearly will not be questioned by the 43,000 youngsters it went to help in 2021, and all the others it assisted in previous years.

Nobody is suggesting that the half brothers of Osama bin Laden approved of his terrorist activities. Equally, the idea that a cheque from Qatar might have been more appropriate than filling a suitcase with bank notes is just silly.

The Princes Trust has done an enormous amount of good, but Prince Charles is now being attacked for taking a donation of £1.6m from members of the Bin Laden family, and £1 million packed in suitcases from the prime minister of Qatar.

The origins of charitable donations are quite often deliberately forgotten. The London ambulance service was created by a Jewish banker whose firm made a lot of money promoting South American loans which went sour. Guys Hospital was financed by one of the few investors in the South Sea Bubble, the 18th century scam, who got out at the top of the market.

Jesus College, Cambridge wants to forget the large donation of a 17th century slave owner alumnus who provided a fortune to educate orphaned children of clerics.  There is  a movement to take down the memorial to Cecil Rhodes from an Oxford College, but Rhodes created the Rhodes Trust which has enabled large numbers of scholars to further their education over the years.

It’s all very well criticising people whose business lives were often a disgrace. There is absolutely no point, however, in depriving the beneficiaries of their largesse. It won’t change their history; it will just make it more difficult to pay the bills of charities which are doing a great deal of good. Charities exist to help the underprivileged, not to be holier than thou.

Of course, the critics can say they are taking a moral stand, but the beneficiaries of the large amounts of money which are needed to enable a charity to continue its excellent work are not among them. We need to keep our eye on the charity ball.

Prince Charles would not accept the criticisms of his royal advisers, who considered the reaction of the media to the donations was likely to be damaging.  We won’t, however, see the media criticising their proprietors, many of whose business lives are also not without fault.

About the Author
Derek is an author & former editor of the Jewish Year Book
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