This week we finally reach the dizzy summit of the Jewish News and Jewish Leadership Council’s Forty Under 40 top 10!
They include the community’s most successful job creator, an influential and innovative female rabbi and a Labour politician destined for high office.
Profiles written by Gabriel Pogrund
Shraga is the CEO of TranE-TraidE, the charity tackling unemployment in the Jewish community. As a member of the Charedi community he might be seen to represent a delightful irony: helping predominantly secular Jews find long-term employment and build their own businesses (as a case in point, 80% of the students in the charity’s internship people are not religious).
Shraga spent two years at Gateshead Yeshiva and a further three at the prestigious Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem, the largest in Israel, before acquiring a BA in management from the Jerusalem College of Technology in 2002 and an MBA from Bar Ilan University. Having worked in managerial positions at British American Tobacco and later Nokia, Shraga has business know-how and an eye-watering portfolio of contacts.
Since starting at TranE-TraidE in 2007 he has expanded the charity’s number of clients from a few hundred to around two thousand every year. Shraga, who was born in South Africa, has earmarked students and women in leadership as key strategic areas for TrainE-TradE, which is set to relocate to a new state-of-the art facility later this year, part funded by the Wohl Charitable Foundation.
Simi is executive director of Shaare Zedek UK , the charity which raises funds for the 600,000 inpatients-per-year hospital in Jerusalem.
She spent seven years representing the Community Security Trust to British Jews and Government as its public affairs manager (2006-2013).
That role included campaigning on behalf of British Jews in the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead, which resulted in the highest number of anti-Semitic incidents ever recorded in a single year, and serving on the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism.
Simi is trustee and former-chair of the Adam Science leadership programme for young Jewish professionals, having previously been a participant. She has a fine pedigree in student politics and served on the National Union of Students’ Steering Committee whilst studying for a law degree.
Simi also established the University of Sussex Jewish Society and opposed anti-Israel motions in a hostile union during that time, and was awarded lifetime membership of the Union of Jewish Students upon graduating. She now holds numerous voluntary positions, sitting on the BBYO Youth Commission and the JLC’s Commission on Women in Jewish Leadership.
Adam set up Etz Chaim Jewish Primary School, the very first government free school. Four years on he remains chair of the governing body of the school, which comes under the umbrella of the Chief Rabbi’s office.
He is generally considered a pioneer and key player in Jewish schools nationwide, and served on the Board of Deputies-Jewish Leadership Council joint-review into that sector.
The barrister later co-chaired a liaison committee between the two organisations and shepherded their traditionally warring administrations towards plans for an eventual merger, which have admittedly lost momentum but remain in the balance in the long-term.
Adam has served on the Board of Deputies in various capacities since he was 17 years old and currently represents Mill Hill United Synagogue. He is a former chairperson of the Union of Jewish Students (1998-1999, before the role was renamed president) and remains invested in campus life as an executive of the Anglo-Jewish Association, which provides financial assistance to Jewish students in further education.
Adam is trustee of the DBL Trust, which raises money for cancer charities, and the London Jewish Forum.
Miriam is principal rabbi at Finchley Reform Synagogue, where she has developed one of British Jewry’s most influential and innovate communities.
The success of FRS lies not in Miriam’s individual flair – although the rabbi is a gifted public speaker and regularly appears on TV – but instead her extraordinary ability to empower and support others.
Through the work of Cantor Zöe Jacobs, Finchley Reform has become the most musically vibrant progressive community in Britain and an incubator of new American-Jewish liturgy.
With the tireless activism of member and Citizens UK organiser Charlotte Fischer, the shul became the first congregation in the country to pay its lowest-paid staff the higher voluntary rate of the London Living Wage, and hosted Ramadan for the local Somali Bravanese community when its local hall was firebombed.
The shul has experienced precipitous growth in recent years and is a magnet for the unaffiliated. Miriam, whose father Rabbi Tony Bayfield is president of the Movement for Reform Judaism, has fostered a warm and democratic community.
The University of Bristol theology graduate is married to Jonni Berger, who founded a cross-communal campaign, #Spit4Mum, encouraging Askhenazim to register as stem cell donors.
Hannah is the director and founder of Yachad, the pro-Israel, pro-peace NGO which campaigns for a two-state solution. She has developed a reputation as one of the community’s most compelling advocates of liberal Zionism and someone who will make her case in practically any forum, including Israel Apartheid Week talks and sometimes hostile Jewish societies.
Under her leadership, Yachad has won membership of the Board of Deputies, built a working relationship with the Zionist Federation and dramatically expanded its programmes, which now includes day trips in East Jerusalem with Israel tour participants. Yachad is still relentlessly defamed by elements to the right of the community, but Hannah has secured its status as a household name in British Jewry and galvanised a generation of students activists, who are some of its most effective ambassadors and fundraisers.
The former Habonim Dror education director holds a BA in English literature from Sussex University (where Yachad activists recently defeated union BDS motions) and an MSc in global politics from the London School of Economics.
She is a trustee of Guy’s Trust, a young people’s charity with projects in Cambodia, Nepal and Indonesia and on the board of Masambiro, which supports a secondary school in Malawi.
Amy is director of the Pears Foundation, which gives millions to Jewish and non-Jewish causes in Britain, Israel and across the world.
She manages the Foundation’s overall strategy and operations, and works with a range of partners including the UK Task Force (a non-partisan NGO which produces research on Arab citizens of Israel) and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Under her leadership, the Pears Foundation has upped its investment charities promoting civil rights and democracy in Israel, and Holocaust education.
The Foundation is a key donor to the Centre for Holocaust Education. The Bloomsbury centre provides teacher training which will have directly impacted 1.5 million students by the end of this year.
Amy was deputy director of the before taking up her current post in 2012. She previously served as deputy director of Parliamentary Committee against Anti-Semitism and worked for the Deputy Mayor of London. She has recently been on maternity leave.
Joseph was elected senior rabbi of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Congregations of the United Kingdom in 2013 with a landslide 270-4 victory, a margin believed to be the largest in UK synagogue history.
He represents a fresh face for the organisation and makes the explosive broiges that came a year before his appointment, where a candidate for post resigned amid bitter divides in the community, look trivial. With Jewish unity in mind, Joseph has made key overtures to the United Synagogue and other mainstream communal organisations in the last two years. He impressed thousands with his oratorial abilities at the Zero Tolerance to Anti-Semitism rally last summer.
Joseph’s active Twitter persona is a particularly novel development within the Sephardi community, whose self-image he has helped radically modernise. Born in LA to parents of Syrian origin, Joseph received his ordination under the towering Sephardic Talmudic scholar Ovadia Yosef (z”l), also his grandfather-in-law.
He proceeded to lead the Shaarei Shalom Congregation in New York for over a decade (1999-2013), increasing its membership from a few score members to almost a thousand. Joseph also served as chazan and head of the Barkai Yeshivah school from 2010 to 2014. He and wife, Margalit, have five children.
Neil is CEO of the Jewish Lads’ and Girls’ Brigade, which he has transformed into one of the most dynamic youth organisations in Britain in the last 10 years.
The group is the oldest Jewish youth movement in Britain and celebrated its 120th anniversary this year at an event in the House of Lords, attended by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles and the Chief Rabbi. The grandeur of that occasion was slightly out of step with the outdoor hiking activities JLGB specialises in but it encapsulated its importance within the community.
A particular success has been Neil’s work to make the Duke of Edinburgh Award more “faith friendly” for Jewish and Muslim students. JLGB now delivers a kosher version of the programme to every mainstream Jewish school in Britain and works with other organisations to provide for charedi and disabled students.
For its work in making the programme more accessible, JLGB won a Children & Young People Now Award in 2013. It also won a Charity Award the same year for removing barriers to participation in the National Citizens Service and enabling thousands of young Jews and Muslims to take part.
Neil chairs Yom HaShoah UK and played a central role in staging last month’s historic record-breaking commemoration at Allianz Park.
When Elliot ranked number one on this list five years ago, many wondered where he would turn next. The former Limmud chair had made a name for himself as one of the community’s brightest and most impactful lay leaders and helped transform the conference into the widely-recognised “jewel in the crown” of British Jewry.
His cap was full of Jewish communal feathers – Elliot had been influential in the growth of the London School of Jewish Studies, co-chaired a 3,000 people-strong UJIA programme and was serving as a trustee of Norwood – but he had significant interests elsewhere. Did the Oxford graduate maintain his involvement in the Jewish community or focus on his professional career? Did he stick or twist? Neither.
Having served as CEO of an international fashion house, Elliot is now a partner at the north London-based headhunting firm MBS Group and has remained steeped in Jewish communal life.
He recently became chair of the Strategic Planning Group of Norwood and is helping develop a long-term vision for the £36million-a-year Jewish special education needs charity. He also heads fundraising at the LSJS and chairs programming at JW3. Elliot is peerless as a cross-communal lay leader and is set to spur and shape the direction of British Jewry for years to come.
When a newspaper like ours mentions “cabinet material”, silver candle sticks and kitsch Judaica might automatically spring to mind. But the phrase assumes an entirely different meaning in today’s special issue of the Jewish News. Just a few weeks ago, we held a Q&A session between our readers and Ed Balls. He answered some prickly questions on his party’s relationship with Israel and suggested he would not want to be part of Labour if it wasn’t “unequivocal” in its support for the Jewish state. What followed did not draw the same level of applause from the audience, but a pride that was palpable across their faces. Discussing the possibility of a Labour-led government, Balls said the Jewish MP for Liverpool Wavertree and current shadow public health minister, Luciana Berger, was ‘absolutely cabinet material’.
Luciana, who grew up in Wembley, did not have an easy start to life in Merseyside. She was unable to answer questions on Liverpool’s contemporary football and music history and was then tricked into taking part in a radio interview with the former editor of The Sun, Kelvin Mackenzie, who is a persona non grata in that city for his reporting of the Hillsborough disaster.
Despite those initial challenges, Luciana has won widespread favour among her constituents and fought tirelessly on behalf of Liverpool, pressing the coalition for its perceived lack of investment in the city.
In Westminster, Luciana has developed a reputation as a fiery and forthright MP. Recently, she has called for improved mental health provision in the NHS, worked to end loopholes allowing corporations to dodge health and safety responsibilities, and successfully campaigned to outlaw drivers smoking with child passengers in the car (government passed legislation to that effect last October).
Luciana is also one of Parliament’s most prominent voices on food poverty and in 2012 produced and directed a film, Breadline Britain, about food banks.
She spent three years as a shadow minister for Energy and Climate Change (a position once held in government by co-religionist Ed Miliband) and was handed her current portfolio over public health in 2013.
Luciana, a Haberdashers’ Aske’s alumnus, is the daughter of a businessman and an NHS Palliative Care worker, but politics runs in her blood. She is the great niece of Emmanuel “Manny” Shinwell, an East End Jew who was a Labour MP for decades and served as Minister of Defence in the post-war Attlee government.
There is poetry in Luciana’s activism against food poverty: in 1940 Manny in fact turned down a position in Churchill’s wartime coalition as Minister of Food.
If only the job still existed, it would surely be on her wish-list. Manny died aged 101 in 1986, when his great niece was just five years old. Luciana showed signs of following uncle’s footsteps into politics as a student; while studying for a part-time masters in government, politics and policy at Birkbeck, University of London, she served on the National Executive Committee of the Nation Union of Students, a renowned incubator of left-wing politicians.
After graduating, she worked in the Government Strategy Unit of management consultancy firm Accenture, advising the then Labour government, and later headed for the NHS Confederation, campaigning on behalf of the heath service in Whitehall. The rest is history (in the making).
Luciana, a former member of youth movements BBYO and RSY-Netzer, has faced ugly anti-Semitism across her political career, starting when she represented the UJS and NUS. She resigned from the National Executive a month before finishing her term, accusing the committee of failing to tackle anti-Semitism.
The abuse has not abated as MP either. Last year, a man was imprisoned for four weeks for sending anti-Semitic tweets to Luciana online. Police reported that in the space of 72 hours in December 2014, she had been subject to 2,500 messages on Twitter using the same anti-Semitic hashtag.
The abuse has clearly been impossible to ignore for Luciana, who was director of Labour Friends of Israel for three years and a member and former trustee of the London Jewish Forum. She has never attempted to conceal her Jewish roots, though, and proudly declares coming from a “close, Jewish family” on her constituency website.
Luciana represents Liverpool Reform Synagogue at the Board of Deputies and is also a patron of the Jewish AIDS Trust.
Luciana foxtrotted to first place on our list.
She is likeable and intensely ambitious for herself, her party and her vision for social justice in Britain.
Presuming Luciana is re-elected, she will remain at the forefront of Labour politics, and quite possibly the party’s front bench, for many years.