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Celebrating our Elders

עד מאה ועשרים שנה 

“May those in our countdown live until 120.” 

It’s a traditional blessing and this week when the passing of centenarian Captain Sir Tom Moore struck a chord with the entire nation it’s timely to reflect on the inspiration and achievements of our senior Reform Judaism members who happily are still with us.

The Jewish News assembled a formidable group of judges to select 120 over 80s from all Jewish congregations, including Rabbi Mark Goldsmith of Edgware and Hendon Reform Synagogue, and this week’s edition completes their proud line up.

So, in case you haven’t been following them we wanted to give our own RJ seniors a special ‘shout-out’. We are very proud of the depth and range of achievements by our Seniors, and grateful for their contributions to the Reform community and beyond.

Alan and Marilyn Lazarus MBE helped co-found the Jewish mental health charity Jami in 1989. This “visionary couple”, have raised awareness of mental health and wellbeing in the community for more than 30 years. 

Alan Tyler’s distinguished naval career includes sinking the German battleship, Scharnhorst, and leading the fleet into Singapore for the Japanese surrender. Post-war, his naval responsibilities included handing over control of Haifa port on the eve of Israeli independence. Alan who’s 96 is a former national chairman of AJEX and president of the Jewish Committee for HM Forces. 

Aubrey Rose is a “ground-breaking” campaigner for minority groups. His proud service as a human rights lawyer includes co-founding the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative and being the first Jewish Commissioner at the commission for Racial Equality. The 94-year-old served on the Board of Deputies for more than 50 years and is a past president of the Indian-Jewish Association.  

Bernard Davis played a leading role in transforming the movement’s reputation within the Zionist Federation and the World Zionist Organization. He became South West Essex Reform Synagogue’s first president and was the youngest chair of the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain. Now 91 Bernard is currently a patron of Leo Baeck College and remains a leading figure within Reform Zionism. 

Clive Marks is one of the great benefactors of British Jewry. As administrator of the former Ashdown Trust, he oversaw £50 million of donations between 1977 and 2012. Domestic projects included saving the London School of Jewish Studies (the former Jews’ College) from bankruptcy and donating generously to the Reform movement. And through the international ORT network, 89-year-old Clive funded schools in Latin America, and established the UJIA-Ashdown Fellowship, which helps students to study in Israel and the United States during their gap years. 

David Duke-Cohan is a former chair and president of Edgware and District Reform Synagogue (EDRS). The 92-year-old ensured EDRS remained part of the Reform Movement during a turbulent period in the synagogue’s history. David is the former vice chair of the Zionist Federation and has headed up its finance, constitution and Yom Ha’atzmaut committees. He is also one of the founders of Pro-Zion, the UK’s diverse Zionist movement for Progressive Judaism. He remains a dedicated and enthusiastic Talmud student at the now EHRS. 

For more than half a century David Farbey has served as a senior representative of the progressive Jewish movement. His dedication to communal leadership includes 22 years on the Board of Deputies as Deputy for Finchley Reform Synagogue. He was also convenor of Progressive Deputies for 15 years. A much-loved Limmud presenter, the 88-year-old has authored several books and continues lecturing on a range of subjects, including historical Jewish opera singers, sharing his passion with students at Oxford, Bradford and Westminster universities. 

Edna Marks is Jewish Care’s oldest and longest-serving volunteer. For over 35 years, the 92-year-old has dedicated her time to the Michael Sobell Jewish Community Centre. Her many contributions include presenting a programme of classical music. Keeping up with the times Edna has learned to use iTunes and connects her iPod to a Bluetooth speaker!  

Geoffrey and Audrey Morris have been described as the beating hearts of British Jewry. Together they helped keep the Finchley Reform community flourishing having joined FRS more than 50 years ago. Geoffrey, 88, was named a Diamond Champion by older people’s charity, WRVS, in recognition of his volunteering efforts. Audrey who’s 89, was integral in co-founding Raphael, the Jewish counselling service. The pair continue to inspire everyone with their commitment to Jewish learning. 

Harry Spiro has dedicated his life to Holocaust education. Born in Poland, he survived the Piotrków ghetto, as well as Buchenwald and Rehmsdorf concentration camps, before being liberated in Terezín. One of the so called ‘Boys’ who travelled to Britain in 1945, last year, the 90-year-old was interviewed by Robert Rinder to mark Holocaust Memorial Day. The webcast reached 39,000 people across 700 schools and 42 other organisations, including government departments. 

Sir Ivan Lawrence’s achievements span the legal profession, politics as well as the Jewish community. Called to the Bar in 1962, Ivan became one of the country’s top criminal barristers and was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1981. His career includes defending serial killer Dennis Nilsen, negotiating the Soviet Union’s compliance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and sponsoring the 1991 War Crimes Act. Elected the Conservative MP for Burton in 1974, he chaired both the Home Affairs Select Committee and the Conservative Friends of Israel. A founding member of North West Surrey Synagogue, the 83-year-old has campaigned to retain kashrut and represented Britain at the World Jewish Congress. 

Jackie Gryn has delivered exceptional dedication to the progressive Jewish community for over 75-years. The wife of Rabbi Hugo Gryn, the couple initially lived in Bombay in the 1950s to join India’s leading liberal Jewish congregation. During Jackie’s 32 years as “Rebbetzen extraordinaire” of West London Synagogue, she welcomed and entertained thousands of congregants and visitors. She travelled to the Soviet Union to support refuseniks, and was the leading light of the British Friends of the Kibbutz Dance Company. At 88 Jackie is still an active communal figure.

Jean Gaffin has inspired generations of health sector professionals and volunteers. Her illustrious career includes founding the Child Accident Prevention Trust, which made rear seatbelts compulsory, and establishing the National Hospice Council. Awarded an OBE for services to health, the 84-year-old chaired Brent Primary Care Trust from 2002-2005 and became the inaugural UK Pain Champion in 2013. Still highly active, Jean serves on several health-related committees and works on Care Quality Commission inspections. 

Jenny Jankel has supported vulnerable members of the North West Surrey Synagogue for decades. At 80 she is still a carer and regularly volunteers with Nightingale House in south London, organising seminars on dementia awareness, mental health, loneliness and safeguarding. Jenny is president of NWSS and is currently the CEO and chair of the trustees of the Jewish Music Institute. 

Louis Rapaport has been a longstanding leader in Manchester’s Jewish community. An active member for more than 60 years, he served as president of the Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester from 2004 to 2007, tackling challenging issues including attacks on Jewish gravestones at Rainsough Jewish cemetery. Louis has served on the Board of Deputies since 1956 and is an executive member of Manchester Council for Community Relations. A veteran of the Korean War, the 87-year-old also remains an active member and supporter of AJEX. He is described as “tireless, energetic and enthusiastic,” and received a Special Recognition Award by the Manchester Representative Council in 2019.

Malcolm Ozin is president of Jewish Blind & Disabled (JBD), a charity providing secure homes to hundreds of disabled Jews. Alongside the late Cecil Rosen, Malcolm established the charity in 1969. More than 50 years later, the charity now provides 317 purpose-built warden assisted flats across London, Essex and Hertfordshire and has helped thousands of people to live independently. Malcolm now 86 was awarded an MBE in 2012 for his services to charity.  

Michael Bogod’s contribution to the Reform movement spans over 70 years. The 92-year-old has sat on Cardiff Reform Synagogue’s council since 1950, first as youth liaison officer and then for nearly 40 years as honorary treasurer. Michael’s dedication to the national Reform movement includes vice chair of the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain (RSGB), which established the Leo Baeck College. Michael first oversaw the rebuild of Cardiff Reform Synagogue in 1949 and has been involved in all subsequent structural developments which now include a ‘Bogod Hall’.  

Morella Kayman is the co-founder and vice president of the Alzheimer’s Society. With little support available after her husband developed early onset dementia in his 40s, Morella helped established the Alzheimer’s Disease Society in 1979. Later rebranded the Alzheimer’s Society, the charity now employs more than 100 people, operates a £100 million budget and reaches thousands of people every year. The 85-year-old was awarded an MBE in 2012 for services to healthcare and won Jewish Care’s Unsung Hero award in 2011.  

Lady Morris of Kenwood is warmly regarded as a “formidable and courageous leader”, the 87-year-old trailblazer was the first female senior partner of a substantial firm of London solicitors and only recently retired. As president of Habonim Dror (1979 to date), her tenacity and insight has been invaluable in ensuring the movement’s long-term sustainability. Ruth was awarded a CBE in 2014 for services to the Jewish community.

Neville Sassienie is a passionate environmentalist and stalwart of the Reform movement. Now 89 he has successfully pushed the green agenda among communal leaders for decades. The former chair of The Movement for Reform Judaism Neville was also instrumental in establishing both ‘Faith for the Climate’ working on climate change, and ‘Eco Synagogue’, which promotes environmental engagement across the Jewish community. Neville also helped found Finchley Reform Synagogue in 1974.  

Peter Levy played an integral role in transforming the status of Reform Judaism. The “strategic funder” behind the Reform Movement’s Sternberg Centre, the 81-year-old worked to create other Jewish educational institutions, including Akiva School and most recently Shofar Daycare Nursery. Peter also served as chairman of the Jewish Chronicle for five years, and until recently as honorary vice president of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research. Peter was awarded an OBE in 1991 in recognition of services to charity. Sadly, Peter passed away after this list was selected. 

Dr Richard Stone is a leading expert in anti-racism and Islamophobia. He chaired the Runnymede Trust’s Commission which found parallels between anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Richard was also a member of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry which criticised the Metropolitan Police’s response as being ‘institutionally racist’. He was president of the Jewish Council for Racial Equality in 2010. Now 83 he was awarded an OBE for public and voluntary service. 

Ron Shelley has demonstrated outstanding commitment to the Association of Jewish ex-servicemen and women (AJEX) for more than 50 years. The 91 year old continues to lead Ajax’s annual ceremony and parade at the Cenotaph. As chair of the Jewish Military Museum, Ron showcases artefacts that demonstrate the community’s unique contribution to Britain’s national security. In 2007 Ron received an MBE for services to Ajax, and to the London Jewish community. 

Rudi Leavor arrived in Bradford as a refugee from Germany in 1937. He became president and chairman of Bradford Reform Synagogue dedicating himself to interfaith initiatives. He helped secure assistance from the local Muslim community to restore the Grade 11-listed synagogue. A keen musician, in 2019 his cantata reflecting on the Holocaust was performed with an orchestra some 40-years after he composed it. Now 94 he was awarded a BEM for his interfaith work in Bradford. 

Ruth Bourne is an inspirational war hero. She served her country with distinction as a codebreaker at Bletchley Park working on deciphering the German code and operated Alan Turing’s code breaking Bombe machines. Having signed the Official Secrets Act, Ruth could not tell her family about her work until 1974. Now 94 she was awarded France’s highest honour The Légion d’honneur in 2018 for her remarkable efforts. 

Lord Stanley Clinton-Davis has been a prominent advocate for the Jewish community for more than 50 years. The Labour MP for Hackney central from 1970 to 1983, he was promoted to Minister of State for trade under Prime Minister Tony Blair, before being raised to a peerage in 1990. The 92 year old is a vocal supporter of labour friends of Israel, and served as vice president of the all-party parliamentary group against antisemitism and also as a member of the Board of Deputies. 

Stephen Rubin is a businessman and leading Jewish philanthropist. As chair of the Pentland Group, which owns the Speedo and Berghaus brands, the 82-year campaigned to eliminate child exploitation and tackle climate change. Through the Rubin Family Charitable Trust, Stephen has donated generously to lay and Jewish causes, including Crimestoppers, artsdepot in North Finchley, and various sporting initiatives in Israel. He is also president of the Holocaust Educational Trust and vice president of the Council of Christians and Jews. In 2002, Stephen was awarded OBE for services to business and human rights, and was more recently inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. 

Sir Trevor Chinn is an outstanding philanthropist and charismatic leader. The 85 year old is senior advisor at private equity group CVC Capital Partners having formerly chaired RAC plc, Quick-Fit, and The AA.  Trevor has also served as president of UJIA and Norwood, and only recently stepped down as president of our Movement for Reform Judaism. He also formerly chaired the Friends of the Duke of Edinburgh award. He was knighted in 1990 for charitable services. 

Valerie Bello has been a leading activist in the Jewish community for 70-years. Now 88 she remains passionate about improving the status of Jewish women. Valerie became Chair of the Association of Jewish Women and founded League of Jewish Women branches in Blackburn, and Harrow in the 1950s and 60s. She joined the Board of the Reformed Synagogues of Great Britain, leading the women’s division. Valerie played a key role in bringing the Annual European Days of Jewish Culture and Heritage to Britain in 2012. 

You can read the full list of the 120 over 80 here, here, here and here.

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