WHEN I asked Dan Rosenfield the classic question, “Did you have *insert famous name* round for Shabbat dinner?” I wasn’t expecting a confirmation.
But the 41-year-old Mancunian surprised me when I asked this of his former boss, the then-Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling.
The World Jewish Relief chairman said: “He’s got a very dry sense of humour.
“The first time we discussed Shabbat dinner, he said, ‘so you’re telling me that you have chicken liver, then chicken soup, then roast chicken? Why would you do that?’.
“I explained to him about Ashkenazi food and how it was about using the entire bird and getting the best flavour.
“He said ‘yeah, but you can afford a shoulder of lamb now so why can’t you do something different?’.”
Having taken up an invite to Dan and wife Jessica’s London home for Shabbat dinner, with wife Maggie, he quickly understood what the father of three meant.
“He started tucking into the roast chicken, looked at my wife and said ‘this is actually quite nice’, to which she responded ‘well, don’t be so bloody surprised!’,” he laughed.
Dan began his Jewish journey at north Manchester’s Sha’are Shalom Reform synagogue.
He described it as his “second home”, attending sleepovers and sessions organised by RSY-Netzer youth movement. His Judaism was “pretty central” to his life.
From age 10 to around 25, he spent at least two weeks of every summer at an RSY event or camp of some sort — including spending a year in Israel where he milked cows on a kibbutz.
He said: “That defined my Jewish identity, and it was also where I met my wife (at an RSY camp). You don’t get much more life-changing than that.”
The former Manchester Grammar School prefect described his past self as “not a goody-two-shoes by any means”, but admits he was engaged and active.
Dan focused on maths, French and German for his A-levels, with the latter leading him to take a year abroad in Munich, during a University College London degree.
He spent the majority of his first few months there only saying yes to anything appropriate he was offered.
He said: “I got stuck into German literature, language and culture.
“I wanted to go to a big town, and decided to go to Munich as Manchester United were drawn against them in the European Champions League group stage that season.
“I put aside what I thought I liked and did everything — I was thrilled about broadening my horizon. I ended up sharing a flat with four German students, who all had different interest — from film, to handball, to antiques.
“My overarching memory is making good friends — some of whom I’m still friendly with today.”
Dan’s first job, after finishing his degree, was as a policy adviser at HM Treasury.
His luck was in, as it was the first job for which he applied.
He recalled: “I thought I would give it a go as it was something I was interested in and that it would be a good interview experience.
“I had no expectation of getting it, but I remember reading the letter and feeling thrilled and exhilarated — I actually thought it was a mistake!”
But on his first day on the job, in September, 2000, the reaction of his boss, who would later become a mentor, surprised him.
It was far from a ‘welcome to the team’ reaction. He was asked: “So, when are you going to get a proper job?”.
Dan recalled: “I’m sitting there, wearing a suit and tie, having got to work at 8.45am, thinking that it is a pretty bloody proper job in my book.
“It was a really good grounding, starting there, because you took the job and the work seriously, but not yourself.
“It taught me about working together, having humility and seeing the bigger picture.”
Dan worked in several areas during his time at HM Treasury, from public spending to budget and tax policy to international finance, before joining the senior civil service in 2005 to run a team called the Devolved Countries and Regions Scheme.
His biggest role, at that point, was being handed the purse strings for the 2012 London Olympics.
He recalled: “I was the mug who took the job on of leading the treasury effort at putting a budget together for the Olympics the day after we won the bid.
“There were not many people in the treasury who were expecting us to win the bid.
“There was no meaningful budget or plan, so we were starting from not far off the bottom.
“Our approach was to control the cost as aggressively as we could, but we had won the bid on a budget of £2.3 billion, and every expert I could find was telling me that we didn’t have a cat in hell’s chance of delivering the games at that amount.”
He added: “I spent six months trying to persuade people not to have an argument about the cost, because I was certain we would spend enough to deliver the games on time and that it would be of a reasonable quality.
“Instead, we had a big argument on how we would fund it and which departments would step up.
“From that point on it was fantastic and we had a really good relationship with the Olympic Delivery Authority, with the London organisers and we became part of the team.
“The budget ended up at £9.3 billion, we delivered it, and a plan, and we did a great job.”
Much was made of the ‘Olympic legacy’, such as the future usage of the London Stadium.
The overall look of the plan, he points out, was to create a long-term regeneration project which happened to accommodate a three-week festival of sport.
After leaving the Olympics project, in 2007, he became principal private secretary to the now Baron Darling of Roulanish — a “fantastic job”.
He said: “I got to work for a decent, smart, capable and straightforward man while being right at the centre of the government. It was daunting and hugely exciting.”
That was until the global financial crisis of 2008.
Much of his time in the role, both under Mr Darling and his predecessor, George Osbourne, was spent dealing with the crisis.
“It became very clear that we were dealing with some quite fundamentally difficult challenges,” Dan said.
“When you supported the Chancellor in the decisions he made, you knew they were the ones that would stay around for 10 years.
“That sense of knowing that the bailing out of the banks, which I absolutely think was the right thing to do on a case-by-case basis, was going to create public anger and a sense of us and them.
“Did I expect it to last this long? No, but we did see the themes emerging at the time. It was tough.”
He continued: “If we hadn’t have done what we did, things would have been considerably worse for the British public.
“On a more personal level, I was dealing with a job involving a lot of pressure, such as getting a call at 9am on a Saturday with instructions from the Prime Minister to do X, Y and Z by Monday morning.”
He also showed this same dedication to his family. He explained: “I promised my son a trampoline for his second birthday.
“I got home at 2am, not realising it would need building, but I was determined to do it — it took me under two hours to do so.
“I finished at 3.30am, and was back at my desk at 6am, but I got more energy from that than I lost from having poor sleep.”
Dan’s family also became involved with his work, thanks to a special invite from Mr Darling and an out-of-the-blue phone call to his parents.
They had been invited, by Maggie Darling, for afternoon tea at 11 Downing Street.
“It was a sign that they recognised how hard I worked,” Dan said. “My parents are these nice Jewish people from Whitefield who don’t expect this kind of thing.
“They had afternoon tea, met then Prime Minister Gordon Brown, met the Chancellor and looked around the Cabinet Room — it was a great example of how thoughtful he is.”
He was thought of so highly that when George Osbourne took over, the pair sat down for several hours to discuss how to formulate a budget.
Despite having a reputation for being somewhat smug, Dan was quick to point out that Mr Osbourne was far from it.
On his first day in the new role, he brought his entire family in who were “warm and friendly”.
Dan said: “I knew that this was a guy who was grounded. He was very much a man who knew that he needed help with the job of Chancellor, and asked for my help.”
Dan left his role after five years, ending a 12-year sting at the Treasury for a role as managing director at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, where he would spend nearly five years. He left in April, 2016, to become a partner of Hakluyt Bank, where he remains.
But while Dan was more than busy with his professional life, he also began another role — as a trustee of World Jewish Relief, of which he is now chairman.
He recalled: “I was starting to think that I wanted to do something beyond my professional role, and thought about charity work.
“By chance, as I started thinking about that, there was an advert in the Jewish newspapers for a trustee at WJR, and they needed someone with policy experience.
“As I learned more about WJR and its work, I knew it was something I wanted to be involved in.
“Yes, I don’t have a long affinity with the charity, but I fell in love with the people and the work that it does.”
World Jewish Relief’s profile has risen massively in the last five years, raising more than £1.2 million at its annual dinner last year. The money will support 18,000 older Jews worldwide with home care and welfare programmes and put another 3,000 people through livelihood programmes to find jobs and break the cycle of poverty.
Dan said: “We’ve become a very good, professional organisation, and have created a real niche.
“If we are working in refugee camps or post-disaster recovery, our focus is about helping people to generate their own livelihood and income.
“It’s something you are going to hear a lot of about in the future.”
And, because football overtakes most things in life, Dan attended his first Manchester United game at Old Trafford in 1983, his first big memory being the 1985 1-0 FA Cup final victory over Everton.
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