BORN HOLBORN, LONDON, AUGUST 10, 1924. DIED WILLESDEN, LONDON, OCTOBER 28, 2015, AGED 91
LYDIA CALLENDER was one of a dying breed — part of that first generation of British Jews whose families came to Britain at the end of the 19th century to escape persecution in Eastern Europe.
Lydia’s life was forged by the horrors of the Second World War and the Holocaust. She attended James Allen’s Girls’ School in Dulwich but, as bombs fell on London during the Blitz, she was evacuated with her school to the English countryside, separated from her parents and other family members to live with strangers. It was her wartime experiences that shaped her sense of self and of Jewishness.
Lydia was a devoted Jew and fervent supporter of the newly establish Jewish state of Israel. After the war, she became one of the British founders of Magen David Adom, the medical emergency and ambulance service that serves all Israelis regardless of race, creed or ethnic affiliation.The charity was Lydia’s lifelong passion. She played
Lydia Callender: a strong and determined woman and role model a key role in setting up the fundraising infrastructure for MDA in England. In recognition of her many years of chari- table work there is a blood donation facility in Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel dedicated in her name.
Lydia was a woman who knew what she wanted in life and was fearless in pursuing it. She ran her company, Script Breakdown Services, for 40 years with formidable determination building it into a successful business that provided information to talent agents about plays, television and films that were being cast in London.
Lydia met her husband Martin Callender after the war at a Fabian Society weekend retreat at Loxwood Hall House in Sussex in March 1948. After a whirlwind romance, Martin proposed to Lydia on June 8 on Hampstead Heath under the moonlight and they married on September 14 that year.
Martin, who grew up in Hackney, London, graduated from the London School of Economics and, after volunteering for active service in 1941, rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Indian Army. After the war, he joined the 43 Group fighting Oswald Mosley’s blackshirts and regularly spoke out against the British fascist movement at Speakers Corner.
After Martin died, Lydia became the matriarch of the Callender family and her home at Sidmouth Road in North- West London, where she had lived for 60 years, became both her sanctuary and gathering point for family members from far and wide. Her love of music,hergarden,andallthingsJewish, informed every corner of her home.
As the family matriarch, Lydia, the witty, strong and determined woman, became a role model for the next generation of Callenders — her grandchildren and nieces and nephews in Israel, Canada and America. She adored them and they in turn adored her.
And, for that next generation, Lydia was and always will remain the link between the old country and the new, between their Jewish heritage and their life today in a modern multicultural world. And so she lives on in Callender family memory and will be remembered with a smile, with love, respect, and great admiration. She is survived by her son Colin and his wife Elizabeth, and her grandchildren in New York — Ian, Caroline and Charlotte — her daughter Claire and her partner Annette, and her son Neeman and his daughters Rivka, Sarah, Chava and Meira in Israel and sister Wendy.