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Rabbinical student puts his PGCE to good use in life and studies

Claude Vecht-Wolf's professional life has been wide-ranging 

Claude Vecht-Wolf is the son of Jewish refugees who fled Nazi Germany during World War II.

He is also a University of East London (UEL) alumnus who has found more ways than one to put his PGCE in ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) to good use – as a teacher, rabbi-in-training, and coordinator with the Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR).

After ten years teaching in schools, Claude moved to the AJR in 2015, where he is now the Computer Help Programme Coordinator. In 2013, he began a five-year rabbinical training course.

Claude says, “I think having a UEL PGCE qualification in teaching ICT, and spending years in front of classrooms teaching, explaining, and correcting students has been invaluable. 

“A lot of a rabbi’s time is spent teaching and talking to congregations.”

At the AJR, “We have a lot of older members, so we make sure to give them opportunities to learn computer skills, which is useful for all sorts of reasons, like keeping in touch with relatives and friends.” 

Claude, who lives in Bushey, studied for a PGCE in Secondary ICT at UEL from 2004-5, at UEL’s Cass School of Education and Communities. 

He says, “I had always gravitated towards the teaching profession and when the opportunity arose to study for a PGCE, I knew this was what I wanted to do.” 

“The staff at UEL were fantastic. John Macklin, in particular, was full of passion, supportive, and really the right sort of lecturer and facilitator I needed. I was 37 years old at the time and coming back into

education. It has been good preparation for my life now, as I’m working full-time and studying again.”

The AJR was founded in 1941, to support efforts to protect Jews fleeing Europe under Nazi rule. This included the Kindertransport, which saw the UK offer refuge to around 10,000 mostly Jewish children from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland.

 After World War II ended, the AJR also helped survivors of the ghettos and concentration camps who settled in the UK. 

Today, the AJR provides social, welfare and care services to Jewish victims of Nazi oppression living in the UK, as well as their spouses, children and grandchildren.

It’s a part of history that is very close to Claude’s heart.

Claude says, “My own father fled from Belgium on the last ship that left Antwerp for New York, a month before the invasion of Belgium in May 1940. My mother and her family were interned under forced residence in the Belgian village of Spa, near the German border. They were protected due to my grandfather’s British nationality. 

“His Polish sisters-in-law and their father were hidden and protected by a Catholic family in the village. 

“Growing up, my mother wasn’t told she was Jewish for her own safety and only found out at the end of the war, at age seven.”

Claude’s parents met after the war and settled in England.

He says, “The refugee experience is something that’s been part of my family environment and upbringing, so I feel like I’m also preserving and sharing that legacy.

“And with the AJR I’m putting my UEL PGCE and experience to good use, teaching and explaining computers, and doing something I’m passionate about.”