Caron Kemp profiles the candidates for our 2014 Community Hero award. The winner will be revealed during Mitzvah Day on Sunday
Adam Cramer – Fundraiser and lifesaver
When Adam Cramer braved terrifying seas in Tenerife to save a drowning child, he didn’t stop to think of the great risk to his own life.
The 49-year-old chartered accountant from Mill Hill had only just arrived at his holiday resort in April this year with his own three children when he heard desperate cries for help as a teenager named Sanjaala was swept from the shore by a freak wave.
Conditions off Playa Paraiso on the island were “awful”, he told BBC Five Live at the time. “It was a rocky outcrop and the waves were just pounding into the rocks. “There was white water foaming everywhere and I could see there were some heads bobbing up and down in the sea.”
Two British doctors who were on holiday on Tenerife died in the same incident. Adam’s heroism was even more poignant, as just a few weeks earlier he had undergone treatment for life-threatening stomach cancer. The holiday was his post-operation treat and he has arrived at his hotel only an hour before.
A keen sportsman, Adam rowed the Channel last year to raise £33,000 for Cancer Research. “What he did, given all the circumstances, was quite remarkable,” explains lifelong friend and nominator Paul Gordon. “He saved a life at great personal risk when he had been spared just a few weeks before from life-threatening cancer. To me he is not only a great bloke but a true hero.”
Yehudis Goldsobel – Migdal Emunah, supporting sexual-abuse victims
When Yehudis Goldsobel decided to waive her right to anonymity and bravely break her silence over the sexual abuse she suffered as a child in the Orthodox community, she knew she needed also to help other victims to find the confidence to speak out.
In July this year, father-of-six Menachem Mendel Levy, 41, began a three-year jail term for two counts of sexual assault. And in the wake of his conviction, Yehudis, now 28, spoke publicly for the first time about the experience, including the lack of support she received from rabbis after approaching them for help. In an act of selfless determination, Yehudis has established Migdal Emunah, a charity providing support to Jewish sexual-abuse victims. She described herself as “walking dead for all those years”, but has found new purpose in helping more than 60 people – ranging in age from 18 to 85 – through her charity with individual and group counselling, although she acknowledged the real number of “silent victims” who have suffered abuse from the community is likely much higher.
“Her fearless and resolute perseverance as a campaigner and voice for Jews of all denominations on a voluntary basis and in dedicating herself to pursuing justice for those brave enough to come forward is truly heartfelt and inspirational,” explains Yehudis’ nominator Michelle Webb.
“This young lady considers what she does a moral duty. I believe her kindness, humility and energy is an example to our community.”
Yohanan Kupperman – Risked life to save people in blazing car
What began as a fairly normal Sunday afternoon in April, studying at Yeshiva Ahavat Torah in Tottenham, soon turned into a day that 30-year-old Yohanan Kupperman will never forget.
After hearing terrified screams from the road outside, Yohanan instinctively leapt to action to be confronted by a car moments from exploding into a ball of flame and an elderly man trapped inside.
Without a second thought, he used all his strength to pull the man to safety, ultimately saving the pensioner’s life, just before the vehicle became an all-engulfing fireball.
Hailed a ‘national hero’ by the area’s MP, David Lammy, Yohanan claims he just “did what he had to do” and all he could think about was that “I had to get him out.”
A child and two other passengers in the car had been freed moments earlier. After Yohanan’s actions, a fellow shul-goer pulled the family’s belongings from the vehicle and closed all the doors to contain the blaze.
“He risked his own safety to save people from a blazing car just minutes before it exploded,” recalls senior community leader and nominator Rabbi Avraham Pinter. “In a period where many in society only look out for their own, Yohanan, a Charedi member of the Stamford Hill community, brought out the best of British and traditional Jewish values in showing how we can all live together in a multi-cultural society and show the ultimate mutual support.”
Anita Woolf – Disabled charitable company, Maxability Ltd
When Anita and Emile Woolf’s son was born 51 years ago, deaf and severely disabled, the couple vowed to do everything they could to improve the facilities available to Carl and others like him.
Over the years the couple have opened their home to host fundraising concerts supporting a number of relevant causes, but in the past 10 years have focused their efforts on Barnet day centre Flightways via their own charitable company, Maxability Ltd.
In this guise they have raised some £30,000 which has been ploughed back into helping disabled adults in the borough. In the face of Flightways’’ potential imminent closure, Anita is now on the campaign trail to ensure disabled people “remain in the heart of our community and never feel isolated”.
“I want to leave Carl and his peers happily settled at a secure hub where they will have a choice of how to best develop their potential,” Anita says.
“They as a group have been bottom of the pile for too long.” Anita has been nominated by Ruth Goldman. “I know that Anita wants no glory for herself but for everything that she has singlehandedly done for deaf and severely disabled adults, I feel she deserves recognition,” Ruth explains. “Quietly and without any praise, she is devoting herself to a sadly-neglected section of our society.”
Levi Schapiro – Kol Boniach, helping teens at risk
Since Levi Schapiro’s father, Rabbi Osher Schapiro, set up charity Kol Boniach to help teens at risk, those who are engaged in addictive behaviours and young boys whose quality of life has diminished, he has supported the cause wholeheartedly.
Described as a “true hero” by his colleagues and nominators, the 21-year-old works tirelessly every day to support the children at the heart of the charity’s work. His efforts have included raising substantial vital funds which have been ploughed back into working with the young people concerned.
Most recently, troubled by the growing number of orphans in the community, Levi set about establishing a new division of Kol Boniach to focus on providing love, guidance and hope for bereaved children.“Levi would definitely be excited if he knew what we were doing,” admit his nominators.
“He is so hardworking and helpful and the effect of his actions is very powerful. The amount he has achieved for this charity and his big warm heart which has saved so many people are the reasons he deserves this award.”
Lyna Panas – Kisharon Day School
Her colleagues at Kisharon Day School all agree that senior teacher Lyna Panas consistently goes the extra mile for the young people in her care. But when the 33-year-old mother of two took it upon herself to raise funds for and organise a four-day trip to Paris for six school leavers with learning disabilities, all those at the Golders Green centre were in awe.
After collecting a total of £5,000 from family, friends and businesses, the determined teacher accompanied the 19-year- old boys on the trip, an important step towards supported living as they learned or reinforced the skills needed to gain more independence.
The teens, some of whom had never been abroad, stayed in a rented house on the outskirts of the Paris, went to the Eiffel Tour, enjoyed Euro Disney and a boat trip on the Seine, and visited the Jewish quarter.
Lynas was nominated by the Kisharon head office, where staff said they were “so impressed” with her determination and commitment. They added: “What makes her special is her passion to ensure that young people with special needs have amazing opportunities. She is inspirational – and this trip would not have taken place without her.”
Joyce Rothschild – Raised £97,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support
Aged just 40, Joyce Rothschild was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. But having undergone radical surgery and chemotherapy, she has dedicated the 19 years since that life-changing experience to raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support.
Every year, the 59-year-old writes themed quizzes, each comprising 100 questions, which she sells for £2 each to a captivated audience here and abroad. To date her efforts have raised £97,000 for the charity and she hopes this year’s contest will generate £100,000 alone. It is something of which her sister and nominator Sylvia Rothschild is extremely proud.
“Joyce’s active and positive response to what was a terrible and frightening experience has made a real difference to so many people after her,” she explains.
“Joyce has dedicated so much time and thought to the yearly quiz and has worked hard to distribute it, to mark it and to collect the money while working full time in a demanding job and being involved in her synagogue, in choirs, in all sorts of other things as well as bringing up a family. “Joyce has got on with this work quietly for years, and in doing so has raised a lot of money for cancer care.”
Brian Mitchell – ‘No motivation other than human kindness’
He is described by friends as a “true angel”, in recognition of the fact Brian Mitchell always goes that extra mile to help those in need.
Having worked tirelessly for many years as the honorary treasurer of Chabad in Gants Hill, 61-year-old Brian has been both the mastermind and the executor behind many of the organisation’s projects in recent years. But as well as his enormous efforts with Chabad, he has carved out a name for himself as someone who goes above and beyond the call of duty to help the numerous needy members of the community in whatever way he can.
When Marguerite Lieberman’s autistic cousin was found to be living with depression as a recluse in a one-bedroom council flat, Brian cleaned up his home, bought new items for the kitchen and bathroom and slowly started taking him out to social gatherings.
Brian even welcomed him into his home for Shabbatot and Yom Tovim. “For all the things that he has done, there is no motivation other than human kindness,” claims Mrs Lieberman.
“As well as his Trojan work for Chabad, he unremittingly goes out of his way to help others as if they were his own children. He is simply a very special person.”