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A former shul chairman and leading philanthropist are among those honoured
A FLURRY of Jewish names have been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honour’s list, with Ben Helfgott, the Holocaust survivor, educator and British Olympian, leading the way alongside celebrity names from arts, academia and local communities.
Sir Ben, who was knighted for services to Holocaust remembrance and education, told the JC he “never thought to receive such an honour,” adding that he felt “humbled”.
“What I did was because I felt compelled to talk about the Holocaust. Noone will ever understand the horror and enormity of it,” he said.
“My mother, father and sister perished. In my class of 43 only two of us survived. I wanted to tell people about the Holocaust and for the six million who perished to be remembered, and to create a more tolerant society.”
Sir Ben lost all his immediate family in the Shoah apart from one sister, Mala.
He came to Britain in 1945 with 700 other survivors, who would become known as “The Boys”.
He went on to be a British weightlifting champion, captaining Britain’s team at the 1956 and 1960 Olympics.
He is chairman of the 45 Aid Society, established in 1963 by The Boys to raise money for charitable causes. He also chairs the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.
Sir Simon Schama, who was knighted for services to history, said his honour would spur him on to finish the third book of his series The History of the Jews.
He told the JC: “Our Jewish community is feeling a little beleaguered, if not alarmed by the rise of antisemitism.
“In spreading our story lies the power of defying and defeating stereotypes, distortions and dehumanisations, as well as celebrating the passions, wisdom and beauty of our own heritage. This is not a time for slacking off.”
Sir Simon said his first thought on hearing of his honour was what his parents would have made of it.
“Probably something along the lines of ‘so they couldn’t do it while we were still alive?’,” he remarked.
Louise Ellman, Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside, told the JC she was “delighted” to be made a dame for parliamentary services, adding the honour had come “as a great surprise”.
The veteran MP is honorary president of the Jewish Labour Movement and was first elected to the Commons in 1997.
She has been the target of antisemitic abuse, including within her own constituency party, partly as a result of her long-standing support for Israel.
Lloyd Dorfman, the founder of the Travelex Group, was knighted for services to philanthropy and the arts.
He said: “Through all my philanthropic activity I have tried to give time as well as money.
“Whether in the Jewish community, the arts, education or welfare, the goal is to enable people to fulfil their potential, express their creativity and help the vulnerable. It continues to be a privilege and a pleasure.”
Sir Lloyd is chairman of the Prince’s Trust and has held senior leadership positions on a series of arts and Jewish charities, including the Royal Opera House and JW3, and is currently the deputy chair of the Community Security Trust.
Opera singer Simon Keenlyside was knighted for services to music. In a 2008 interview in the JC he explained how he had never publicised his Jewish background.
He added: “But my Jewishness is very, very important to me, and the reason I keep quiet about it is because I don’t like people one-upping me.
“I don’t like some of my dear friends saying: ‘Well, you don’t speak Yiddish, you don’t know anything about any of the festivals, your father isn’t Jewish’.”
Jonathan Haskel, the newlyappointed member of the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee, was made a CBE for services to economics.
Prof Haskel last year shared the inaugural Indigo Prize for economics, worth £125,000, after designing a better way to measure national wealth than the existing Gross Domestic Product figure.
Debbie Wiseman, composer and conductor, received an OBE for services to music.
“I’m hugely honoured and overwhelmed to receive the OBE,” she said.
“It’s wonderful to be able to share the honour with all the talented musicians that bring my music to life, all the brilliant directors and producers that have given me the opportunity to compose music for their film and television productions.”
Fenella Fielding received an OBE for services to drama and charity.
The actress, best known for her appearances in Carry On films, was born Fenella Marion Feldman, to Jewish immigrant parents.
The 90-year old called her honour “a huge surprise. I’m terribly moved. It’s lovely to have my work acknowledged in a serious way. It would never have occurred to me that this might happen”.
Roger Kline, head of strategy and delivery at the NHS, was made an OBE for his services to equality in the health service.
He said: “Being from a Jewish background has certainly been an influence on my attitudes to discrimination of all sorts and so has influenced my writing and interventions.”
Judith Bernstein was made an OBE for public service. She is the joint head of coroners, burials and cremation and the inquiries policy team at the Ministry of Justice.
She has been a magistrate since 1993, provided advice to ministers and was a former governor of JFS. She is a member of New North London Synagogue.
Colonel Martin Newman, chairman of the Jewish Committee for HM Forces, was made an MBE for voluntary service to armed forces personnel.
The 70-year-old, from Manchester, joined the committee in 2004, becoming chairman three years later.
“His approach epitomises the best of selfless commitment, applying quiet diplomacy, pluralism inclusion and wise pragmatism in the national interest,” the honours committee said.
I felt compelled to talk about the Holocaust’ I have tried to give time, as well as money’ Aside from my family, it’s the most important thing’