Hayim Pin­ner


The Jewish Chronicle - - OBITUARIES -

ALIFELONG LABOUR ZION­IST, Hayim Pin­ner spent his later ca­reer deal­ing with right-wing gov­ern­ments in Bri­tain and Is­rael. As sec­re­tary gen­eral of the Board of Deputies from 1977 to 1991, he served un­der Board pres­i­dents Lord (Sammy) Fisher, MP Gre­ville Jan­ner and Dr Lionel Kopelowitz. An ad­min­is­tra­tor­cum-diplo­mat, he ar­ranged and took part in del­e­ga­tions, meet­ing ev­ery gov­ern­ment min­is­ter and depart­ment that im­pinged on Jewish in­ter­ests.

He dealt with is­sues such as the an­ti­she­chi­tah cam­paign, in­ter­vened on be­half of Jews per­se­cuted in Ar­gentina and the Soviet Union and mon­i­tored the shift in me­dia per­cep­tion of Is­rael’s stand­ing in the Mid­dle East.

He con­ducted a long-run­ning bat­tle with The Guardian news­pa­per, orig­i­nally one of Is­rael’s strong­est sup­port­ers, as it turned hos­tile in the wake of Is­rael’s un­ex­pected ter­ri­to­rial gains in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Pin­ner ob­jected to the one-sid­ed­ness of The Guardian and the BBC’s pre­sen­ta­tion of Is­rael’s dilemma of rul­ing over an Arab pop­u­la­tion in its bib­li­cal heart­land.

In 1980 he noted that me­dia at­tacks on Is­rael and Zion­ism, cou­pled with ef­forts to le­git­imise the Pales­tine Lib­er­a­tion Or­gan­i­sa­tion, were lead­ing to a com­mu­nity sense of un­ease un­prece­dented since the 1930s. The new anti-Zion­ism of the New Left shocked tra­di­tional Jewish so­cial­ists.

Things only got worse af­ter Is­rael’s in­cur­sion into Le­banon in 1981. Pin­ner led del­e­ga­tions to brief Is­rael’s prime min­is­ter, Menachem Be­gin, and to Paris and Tu­nisia to show sol­i­dar­ity af­ter at­tacks on Jews there.

He reg­is­tered the Board’s con­cern at Bri­tain’s recog­ni­tion of the PLO and its new Lon­don of­fice, point­ing out the PLO’s ter­ror­ist in­volve­ment. He tack­led anti-Is­rael bias in re­ports of the Bri­tish Refugee Coun­cil and Ox­fam, ac­cus­ing them of us­ing “ten­den­tious” ma­te­rial and stray­ing into pol­i­tics.

While he may have had less ef­fect on char­i­ties’ be­hav­iour, he did stop Madame Tus­saud’s new wax­work statue of Yasser Arafat in 1990 be­ing la­belled the “Pres­i­dent of the State of Pales­tine”.

He was also con­cerned with Jewish stu­dent safety and se­cu­rity in an in­creas­ingly hos­tile cam­pus en­vi­ron­ment. He com­plained about de­bates on Is­rael whose speak­ers com­prised solely Arabs and Is­raeli self-crit­ics.

Such themes de­vel­oped his con­cerns in his pre­vi­ous job as ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of B’nai B’rith for 20 years from 1957. Here his ad­min­is­tra­tive skills un­der­pinned the char­i­ta­ble and so­cial or­gan­i­sa­tion’s dy­namic growth, adding some 20 lodges.

An only child, Hayim Pin­ner fol­lowed his fa­ther, Si­mon, into Poalé Zion, the Labour Zion­ist move­ment, be­com­ing sec­re­tary of its youth wing in 1949. He edited its journal, The Jewish Van­guard, from 1950-74 and was na­tional chair­man from 1967-70, then po­lit­i­cal sec­re­tary. He was vice-pres­i­dent of the Zion­ist Fed­er­a­tion af­ter serv­ing as its trea­surer from 1971-75.

Through his friend­ship with Labour fig­ures, he se­cured the then prime min­is­ter, Harold Wil­son, as guest of hon­our at the Van­guard’s 20th an­niver­sary in 1969.

A pupil at Davenant Foun­da­tion School, he at­tended the East End’s noted Yeshivah Etz Chaim af­ter school hours, mak­ing him flu­ent in Yid­dish and He­brew. He qual­i­fied in teach­ing but never prac­tised. From 1944-48 he served in the Royal Army Ord­nance Corps, clear­ing up am­mu­ni­tion.

His in­dus­try, ef­fi­ciency, knowl­edge and kind­li­ness were utilised in re­tire­ment by the Stern­berg Foun­da­tion. He took part in meet­ings of the In­ter­na­tional Coun­cil of Chris­tians and Jews and helped Sir Sig­mund Stern­berg in dis­cus­sions with church lead­ers to defuse the long-run­ning dis­pute over the Carmelite convent in Auschwitz.

In 1993 he re­ceived Spain’s or­der of civil merit for help­ing the foun­da­tion ar­range Sepharad, the 1992 com­mem­o­ra­tion of the 500th an­niver­sary of the ex­pul­sion of Jews from Spain. He was ap­pointed OBE in 1989. He later suf­fered from Parkin­son’s dis­ease.

Di­vorced in 1980, he is sur­vived by a son, Si­mon; daugh­ter, Rachelle; and nine grand­chil­dren.

Hyam Pin­ner: Labour Zion­ist and se­nior com­mu­nal civil ser­vant

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