The key influences
WE PRESENT week two of our countdown of those who exert the greatest influence within British Jewry. An independent panel of judges (listed on page 6) considered nominations from JC readers and added some of their own before arguing out the composition of the 100. Judges’ chairman Ben Rich — a senior public-affairs professional who advises communal organisations — explains that the main criterion for inclusion is impact, in whatever form, on UK Jewish life. This has excluded some well-known Jews whose power is confined largely to the wider community. Next week, we will reveal the top 30 and then ask for your opinions on the panel’s selections
31(New) Credited with improving the community’s relations with Ken Livingstone through his chairmanship of the London Jewish Forum, which promotes the interests of the capital’s Jewry with the Greater London Authority. The forum draws its membership from across the religious and political spectrums. A partner at London law firm Clifford Chance specialising in insolvency and corporate reconstruction, Mr Cohen is a past chair of the Union of Jewish Students who has also been convenor of the Canary Wharf kehilla. He would probably have been higher on the list had he not been on sabbatical in Israel.
32(15) The drop in position of the educational philanthropist is the result of the ongoing debate on whether the Jewish school bubble has burst — a report from the Board of Deputies’ Community Policy Research Group suggests an excess of Jewish day-school primary and secondary places within five years in the mainstream sector. However, Mr Perl remains bullish, declaring: “We have been told on numerous occasions, ‘We don’t need more schools’, yet every one I have opened is now full.” Mr Perl’s support has been crucial to the building of a number of Orthodox schools here and in Israel. His Huntingdon Foundation takes its title from the Cambridgeshire location of his gift company.
33(26) As chief executive of UJIA, Doug Krikler occupies one of hottest seats within Anglo-Jewry. In the words of one panel member, the 42-year-old Londoner has “learnt a lot from the Gerald Ronson school of management... he runs a tight ship”. He has taken over the reins at a time the charity is committed to an ambitious fundraising programme, expanding its educational work and directing money to help alleviate poverty in Arab towns and villages. He was previously executive director of the Community Security Trust and director of the Maimonides Foundation, promoting Muslim-Jewish relations.
34(88) The veteran property player is a hugely supportive presence to educational projects including the Kisharon special-education school and outreach organisation Project Seed. He established the Rachel Charitable Trust — which has helped more than 30 special-needs schools to achieve specialist status — and is the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust’s Sponsor of the Year. He recently hosted the annual Community Security Trust dinner. Mr Noe is the founding partner at REIT Asset Management, whose global portfolio of properties under management is valued at over six billion euros.
(45) The Bury South MP and Care Services Minister is keenly attuned to the welfare demands of his constituents, having been chief executive of the Manchester Jewish Federation prior to his election in 1997. Regarded as a good constituency MP, working assiduously to improve local amenities, he is passionate about his ministerial brief. Has the happy knack of being able to get people working together. In March, he accused the government of being out of touch with ordinary voters, albeit adding: “This is not a criticism of Gordon [Brown].”
36(New) Our judges feel the former Rochdale Labour MP is finding her feet at Bicom, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, devoted to improving Israel’s image in the UK. They describe her as “politically astute and using her outsider [non-Jewish] status to her advantage”. Ms Fitzsimons, 40, was president of the National Union of Students from 1992-94. Her first visit to Israel was as an NUS executive member. Elected to the Commons in 1997, she became a Labour Friends of Israel member. She set up a consultancy after narrowly losing Rochdale to the Lib-Dems in 2005 and took up the Bicom post in late 2006.
(New) A low-key property tycoon who gives something back as one of North-West London’s leading benefactors of the Charedi community. As well as backing local enterprises, Mr Gertner looks sympathetically on appeals to lend small sums to individuals on an interest-free basis — for example, towards a deposit on a house. The 50-year-old and his brother Mendi, 48, also have interests in copper and the Gertners are valued at £430 million in the latest Sunday Times Rich List.
(62) The partner in legal firm Berwin Leighton Paisner puts his expertise at the disposal of a great many communal organisations, among them the Weizmann Institute Foundation, the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, the Holocaust Educational Trust and the Pincus Fund for Jewish education in the diaspora. Mr Paisner, 64, has been an adviser to Tony Blair and was awarded a CBE for charitable services in 2004.
SIR RONALD COHEN
39(93) The private-equity boss and philanthropist has the ear of Gordon Brown, although he diplomatically couches himself as “a friend of the Prime Minister, just as I was a friend of Tony Blair”. However, his rise up the Power 100 rec- ognises the Cairo-born businessman’s increasing efforts to ease the path to Middle East peace. His Portland Trust endeavours to bolster economic development in Gaza and the West Bank. In January, the 62-year-old launched a £500 million Palestinian housing project at the Herzliya conference of world Jewish leaders. “Politics and security have always been on the agenda,” he noted. “It is encouraging now to see economics coming into the picture.” Sir Ronald co-founded Apax Partners, a global private-equity group advising on funds totalling $35 billion. His third wife is film producer Sharon Harel.
DAYAN YONASON ABRAHAM
40(New) Seen as the younger face of the London Beth Din, Dayan Abraham is making an impact on the synagogue circuit as an engaging and informative lecturer. London-born, he arrived at the Beth Din after a peripatetic existence which took in studies in Gateshead and New Jersey, marriage in Australia and further studies in Jerusalem. Returning to Melbourne, he became rabbi of Caulfield Hebrew Congregation in 1995, joining the Melbourne Beth Din two years later. Invited to join the London authority in 2001, he has become involved in organisations including Tribe and the Jewish Association for Business Ethics.
(72) A non-Jew devoted to Holocaust education, Stephen Smith founded the Beth Shalom Holocaust Centre in Nottinghamshire in 1995 with his brother James as “a place of education, memory, testimony, art, academia and so much more besides”. The centre offers facilities for people of all ages and backgrounds to explore the history and implications of the Shoah. Its success led to his involvement in the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, which he chairs. The trust is responsible for the national HMD commemoration, which will next year be in Coventry on the theme of “Stand up to Hatred”.
RABBI JONATHAN WITTENBERG
42(39) The New North London Synagogue minister has been enjoying a dog’s life of late — a 100-mile walk in the company of his pet Mitzpah to raise funds for the shul’s building development. The trek, taking in places reflecting “the values to which the community aspires”, typifies the enterprise of the leading voice of Masorti in Britain, who has turned his Finchley congregation into one of the country’s largest and most influential. Glasgow-born Rabbi Wittenberg, 50, is also a gifted speaker and writer and is active in Jewish-Muslim dialogue.
43(21) A major Manchester educational player and philanthropist, whose goal is for young people to grow up with a Jewish identity. To this end, he is an unstinting supporter of the Manchester King David School, of which he is governors’ chairman. Mr Rowe was one of the fiercest critics of Education Secretary Ed Balls for naming faith schools said to have breached the government’s admissions policy, arguing: “You are not dealing with gangsters, but people who give their time for the benefit of the community.” The qualified pilot is also a respected Manchester speaker on other issues of concern.
44(56) Progress up the list for the Jewish Leadership Council chief executive recognises that the JLC is “beginning to find its legs” in its mission to enhance the effectiveness of the community’s political representation, influence strategic priorities and encourage greater cooperation. A savvy and diplomatic operator, the 35-year-old built his reputation as an effective communications director for Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks, having previously served the Board of Deputies as internationalaffairs officer. After his stint for the Chief Rabbi, he ran a consultancy working for a number of Jewish organisations and was director of the Antisemitism Coordination Unit, monitoring threats in the UK and abroad.
RABBI DR ABRAHAM LEVY
45(13) The long-time spiritual head of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Congregation is liked and respected as a voice for unity and moderation. But judges argued that his ranking last year reflected deference to the Sephardi community rather than an accurate assessment of his influence. Gibraltarborn Rabbi Levy, 68, presides over his community’s largest synagogue, Lauderdale Road in Maida Vale. He founded the Naima Jewish Primary School and supervises the UK’s only modern Orthodox rabbinical ordination course.
46(18) There was a divergence of views among the panel over the placing of the 56year-old educationist. His supporters laud him as one of the community’s most charismatic personalities, expressing admiration for his chairmanship of Tzedek, the UK-based overseas-development charity which works with some of the world’s poorest communities. The former Liverpool King David High head and Liverpool educational authority deputy director was a major force behind the rise of the cross-congregational Limmud educational project.
47(New) A steady hand in the progress of children and family charity Norwood, Norma Brier has served as chief executive since 1997. Family breakdown accounts for a significant percentage of Norwood’s caseload and Mrs Brier, 58, points out that such circumstances can leave children in a “very vulnerable state, needing a great deal of support at a time when they might not be getting it from their family”. She was formerly executive director of the Ravenswood Foundation, a lecturer in social work and a psychiatric social worker.
PROFESSOR DAVID CESARANI
48(New) The research professor in modern history at Royal Holloway, University of London, is one of Britain’s foremost authorities on the Holocaust and advised the Home Office unit responsible for Holocaust Memorial Day. He has written widely on the subject and was engaged as a consultant to TV documentaries on Nuremberg and Auschwitz. Professor Cesarani was previously director of the Parkes Centre for the study of Jewish/non-Jewish relations at Southampton University. Awarded an OBE in 2005 for services to Holocaust education, the 51-year-old has been overseeing a major research project on Jewish philanthropy and social development in Europe (1800-1940).
RABBI DR JONATHAN ROMAIN
49(9) The long-serving Maidenhead Reform minister remains a capable media performer and has added a new string to a sizeable bow as chair of the Assembly of Reform Rabbis. But some on our panel considered his 2007 top 10 placing somewhat generous. The 53-year-old minister has helped his congregation grow from 80 families to 700 over the past 30 years. A
34 Leo Noe
39 Sir Ronald Cohen
36 Lorna Fitzsimons
44 Jeremy Newmark