New Year’s honours for survivors and stars
A football supremo, an actress, a magician and several Holocaust educators were among the Jews on the honours list
JEWISH NAMES on the New Year’s Honours List included one of the first magicians to appear on British television, the former vice chair of the Football Association and a Tony Award winning actress.
David Berglas, one of the bestknown magicians of his generation, received an MBE for “services to magic and psychology”. The 92-year-old became a British household name in the 1960s and 1970s as a result of his work on television and on radio. His technique for locating a specific playing card from a pack, which has become known as “the Berglas effect”, has been described as “the Holy Grail” of card tricks.
David Dein, who is also a former vice chair of Arsenal football club, also received an MBE, for services to football and voluntary work in schools and prisons, which he visits as a motivational speaker.
Sophie Okonedo, star of films including Hotel Rwanda and The Secret Life of Bees, was awarded a CBE for “services to drama”. The actress, whose recent work includes an acclaimed role in Antony and Cleopatra at the National Theatre, previously received an OBE in 2010.
Professor David Klenerman, professor of Biophysical Chemistry at the University of Cambridge, received a knighthood for services to science and the development of High Speed DNA sequencing technology.
Stanley Soffa received the British Empire Medal for services to community cohesion, combating antisemitism and supporting the Jewish community in Cardiff. A distinguished member of the Welsh Jewish community, he is a regular speaker on Judaism at local schools in Cardiff and beyond. He also brought the Jewish Living experience exhibition to the Senedd [Welsh Parliament] and worked with senior figures in the Welsh Muslim community to bring the Righteous Muslims exhibition to Cardiff Reform synagogue, about Muslims who saved Jewish lives in Second World War.
He told the JC that much of the work had begun in the summer of 2012.
He said: “It’s something I’ve been doing since I retired seven years ago now, I took over the chairmanship of the South Wales Jewish representative council of 2012 on July 1, having retired from work on June 30. I went from working to working, so to speak.
“That led on to other things. I was always interested in interfaith work, it [the South Wales rep council] led on to the Interfaith Council for Wales and the Faith Communities Forum, which is a Welsh Assembly body.”
He said he was “surprised and pleased” to have been honoured.
“I am assuming that it was probably someone on the Interfaith Council for Wales who had put my name forward — I might be totally wrong, maybe one day somebody will tell me!”
Holocaust survivors recognised for their work in the field of Shoah education include Vera Schaufeld and Cirla Lewis, who have received MBEs, and Helena Aronson, Taube Biber, Eva Clarke, Steven Frank and Joanna Millan, who have been awarded the British Empire Medal.
Mrs Schaufeld was just nine years old when she left Czechoslovakia for England, one of the children saved by Sir Nicholas Winton just months prior to the Second World War. She never saw her family again.
She has worked in Holocaust education for many years, visiting schools around the UK and working with organisations including the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET) and the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT). She has also been involved in the establishment of the Holocaust Centre and Museum planned for Victoria Tower Gardens, outside Parliament.
She told the JC that she had “felt absolutely astonished” to receive the news.
“I had no such thought or any expectation. I received a letter telling me this — I opened the letter and was absolutely amazed. It never entered my head — it was a complete surprise to me.”
Karen Pollock, chief executive of HET, said the organisation was “absolutely delighted” that the seven survivors “have all been honoured for their tireless efforts to ensure that future generations learn the lessons of the past and that the victims of the Holocaust are remembered.”
She described how HET had “seen first-hand the inspirational impact that they have had on thousands of young peoples’ lives.
“Through sharing their testimonies, they have given a human face to history, enhancing Holocaust education and showing where hate can lead. These honours are very much deserved.”
Rabbi Warren Elf, who received an MBE for “services to the community in Manchester”, is the rabbi of the Southend and District Reform Synagogue. A prominent member of the Faith Network for Manchester and the city’s Challenging Hate Forum, he was a key figure in bringing together different communities in Manchester — Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Sikh — in the wake of the 2017 attack on Manchester Arena, helping organise interviews, over 20 faith vigils and, a year later, a joint commemoration event.
Speaking to the JC, Rabbi Elf clarified that, having worked for many years with interfaith groups in Manchester, it seemed he was seen as something of a “natural conduit” for communal outreach in the wake of both the Manchester Arena attack and prior to that, at the Salford Quays Bridge, where Mancunians gathered in solidarity with London after the Westminster Bridge attack.
He stressed that “many people” had worked together across the communities to “fight hatred” and promote unity.
Alan Levine, chairman of the welfare division of Ajex (the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women), received the BEM “for voluntary service to Ex-Service Personnel”.
Doreen Lee, a member of Bournemouth Hebrew Congregation, received a BEM “for services to the community in Bournemouth”, having worked for the town’s Citizens Advice Bureau for the last 34 years.
“I feel very honoured — it’s a surprise, obviously, that they appreciated what I did,” she said.
“You don’t do these things because you have to — you do them because you want to do them, don’t you. It’s a voluntary thing, you don’t get paid for it, you do it because you want to.”
Mrs Lee, who is 88, confirmed that she had retired from the role early last year.
“Nothing’s more rewarding than when you give somebody advice and they say ‘I feel better for coming in, I feel so much better when I walk out of here’,” she said.
“You feel you have helped people.” Dame Rosalyn Higgins, the Jewish former president of the International Court of Justice, received a GBE (Dame Grand Cross, the highest class of the Order of the British Empire) for “services to international law and justice”.
David Berglas with young contestants in the Daily Express’s ‘Spoon Bending’ contest in May 1975
Dame Rosalyn Higgins