Walk­ing in our Un­cle Yoni’s foot­steps


WE ARE 13-year-old twin sis­ters and Yoni Jesner was our un­cle. We have al­ways known about Un­cle Yoni. He was killed by a sui­cide bomb in Is­rael 15 years ago this month, be­fore we were born. Un­cle Yoni was 19 and just be­gin­ning his sec­ond gap year in Is­rael when he was killed.

He was head of Bnei Akiva in Glas­gow and he was very in­volved in the Jewish com­mu­nity there — rep­re­sent­ing them at the Scot­tish Youth Par­lia­ment as well as be­ing the youngest mem­ber of the Chevra Kadisha (the Jewish Burial So­ci­ety).

Un­cle Yoni planned to be a doc­tor and had a place to study medicine at Univer­sity Col­lege Hospi­tal Lon­don but was killed be­fore he could take it up. Af­ter he died, our fam­ily de­cided to do­nate his or­gans, mean­ing that Un­cle Yoni could save lives af­ter his death — one of his or­gans even went to a young Pales­tinian girl.

We have al­ways loved hear­ing sto­ries about Un­cle Yoni and feel a real con­nec­tion to him even though we didn’t meet him. This year, we were fi­nally old enough to take part in the Yoni Jesner Awards. We are the first mem­bers of Yoni’s fam­ily to take part. The Yoni Jesner Awards, run by JLGB, en­cour­age peo­ple our age to get in­volved by do­ing acts of kind­ness and vol­un­teer­ing.

Each year, Grandma (Yoni’s mum, Mar­sha Glad­stone) speaks to hun­dreds of peo­ple in schools and talks about Un­cle Yoni, what he was like and why he was so spe­cial. One of our favourite things to hear about him is how he would al­ways find a way to bring the best out of peo­ple — by telling jokes, mak­ing friends or be­ing silly. Un­cle Yoni was once asked to help teach a bar­mitz­vah boy who was re­ally strug­gling and had tried sev­eral dif­fer­ent tu­tors.

Un­cle Yoni took on the chal­lenge and very quickly had the boy run­ning around the din­ing room ta­ble while recit­ing his por­tion; our un­cle had found the best way to get him to learn. This story helped us to re­alise that spend­ing time and show­ing an in­ter­est in some­one can make a huge dif­fer­ence to peo­ple’s lives — this is what the Yoni Jesner Awards are all about.

For the YJ Award, we felt some pres­sure to do well, as hav­ing the same name car­ried a re­spon­si­bil­ity. We re­ally wanted to go above and be­yond and man­aged to fin­ish over 100 hours of vol­un­teer­ing, com­plet­ing the Yoni Jesner Plus Award. Now we have fin­ished the Award, we re­alise the pres­sure of the name didn’t mat­ter. We feel like we have stepped into Un­cle Yoni’s shoes by help­ing peo­ple. When we were vol­un­teer­ing, we felt like we were walk­ing along with Un­cle Yoni, car­ry­ing on what he did.

So far, over 1,000 young peo­ple aged 11-13 have taken part in the Yoni Jesner Awards, each fin­ish­ing at least 20 hours of vol­un­teer­ing. We vol­un­teered at Edg­ware Beavers, helped a lo­cal fam­ily who has a child with spe­cial needs and as­sisted our lo­cal Men­cap group with their weekly foot­ball ses­sions at Bore­ham­wood Foot­ball Club.

As our other Un­cle, Ari, said at Un­cle Yoni’s fu­neral, Yoni achieved more in his 19 years than most achieve in 90. We hope that Un­cle Yoni is proud of us and all of those who have taken part in the Yoni Jesner Awards. Un­cle Yoni wrote: “If you don’t do it, who will?” By do­ing the award we are mo­ti­vated to help oth­ers as Un­cle Yoni did.

Chloe and Leora get their awards (right) Yoni Jesner (left)

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