Celebrity names from the world of film and television helped boost an “absolutely essential” fundraising drive for UK Jewish Film (UKJF) this week, writes Francine Wolfisz.

They joined 350 guests and raised more than £160,000 at the organisation’s inaugural Celebration of Film Dinner on Monday night.

Judy Ironside, who has overseen the growth of UKJF from a small festival in Brighton 18 years ago to one that organises festivals and screenings here and abroad, education programmes and support for emerging filmmakers, said: “The power of film is amazing, for Jewish and non-Jewish audiences alike, so it is absolutely essential to keep it going.”

UK Jewish Film

Amy Rosenthal, Maureen Lipman and Sarah Solemani at the UKJF Celebration of Film Dinner

Actor Steven Berkoff described the evening as “very worthy”, while Bad Education star Sarah Solemani pointed to UKJF’s ability to “understand we are part of the political landscape and to have those conversations, even if they are difficult.”

Comedian David Schneider was equally praiseworthy of UKJF’s “strong and bold choices.”

Schneider, who hosted the evening, added: “UK Jewish Film is not just a festival. It also hosts screenings throughout the year and they do great work with education. It’s not just about coming to the Odeon and seeing the biggest film that happens to have a Jew in it – there’s a lot more to it than that. They show niche films and films that might not get screenings at all. I saw a Yiddish language film through UKJF and it was one of the most amazing evenings out I’ve enjoyed.”

Maureen Lipman was equally supportive of the organisation and its promotion of Jewish identity and culture.

The veteran actress of stage and screen, who will from next week appear in Daytona at Theatre Royal Haymarket, said: “We need to say, this is our contribution. We have a lot of fire in our belly and a lot of talent, a lot of ideas. We never relegate culture to the bottom of the drawer, because we know that culture is what keeps civilisation together.”

Meanwhile her playwright daughter Amy Rosenthal said UKJF “is keeping alive the voice of a community.”

She added: “I think telling stories is important, but it’s often hard to fundraise for the arts because people don’t think a lack of the arts is life threatening – but maybe it is and these things do need funding.”

Other attendees at the glittering evening included Andrew Sachs, Greta Scacchi, Henry Goodman and Oscar-winning producer Gareth Ellis-Unwin.

The UK Jewish Film Festival 2014 opens in November.