After more than 250 nominations and what seems like 250 months of intense debate, the Jewish News – in association with the Jewish Leadership Council – this week begins a fascinating four-week countdown of 40 individuals, under the age of 40, who are poised to define Anglo-Jewry in the decades to come.
We kick off this intriguing process by revealing the role models occupying positions 40 to 31. Written by Gabriel Pogrund.
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Rebecca is running as a Labour Borough Council candidate for Borehamwood Brookmeadow, the Hertfordshire ward with a 20 percent Jewish population, in May’s elections. Winning that contest may not take her to the upper echelons of national politics but, aged 23, she has already acquired a wealth of experience in Israeli diplomacy and British government.
After graduating from the University of Nottingham, where she served as the campaigns officer of the Women’s Network and J-Soc, Rebecca started work at the Israeli Embassy. She negotiated the after-effects of Operation Pillar of Defence in 2012 as public affairs officer and, within a year of arriving, was appointed to the more senior position of pubic diplomacy adviser.
That role was not for the faint-hearted. Rebecca was tasked with representing Israel as public opinion rallied against the IDF’s Gaza incursion (Operation Protective Edge) in 2014 and anti-Semitic incidents skyrocketed – but life at Palace Green involved regular contact with the British government and gave her a taste for Whitehall, to where she headed next. Rebecca currently works as international and EU adviser to the Environment Agency.
Rabbi Nicky Liss
Nicky returned to London with his family in 2008 after a decade in Jerusalem, where he taught at institutions including Yeshiva Midrash Shmuel and has since served as rabbi at Highgate Synagogue.
He gave up the role of Jewish studies teacher at his alma mater Hasmonean Primary School in 2012 because the Highgate position became full-time, such was his success in transforming the synagogue and leading plans for a new state-of-the-art building on its premises.
The UCL chemistry graduate is seen to have transformed Highgate from a synagogue into a hyper-communal shtiebel, and injected the community with the energy it needed after years of steady growth. Nicky is active beyond his synagogue’s walls: he is currently vice chairman of the United Synagogue Rabbinical Council and Jewish chaplain to the Metropolitan Police in Haringey, as well as studying part-time for a master’s degree in leadership at the Institute of Education.
Nicky is the former football captain of Hasmonean and an unapologetic Arsenal fan. The father of five is known for his humour and has earned the sobriquet ‘Arsenal rabbi’ in recent years.
Ben founded the production company Fulwell 73 in 2008 with three friends from Zionist youth movement Bnei Akiva.
The company has enjoyed stratospheric success and worked with stars including Justin Bieber, James Corden, Kevin Spacey and, most famously, One Direction. Zayn Malik caused a media storm by leaving the ensemble a month ago, but Ben has been loyal to 1D since its beginnings and remains committed to its future. He has produced and directed all of the five-time Brit award winners’ music videos since 2011.
He is seen as responsible for One Direction’s philo-Semitism (frontman Harry Style is often seen sporting a Magen David) and says the band has “definitely embraced a Jewish way of life”. Ben is the executive producer of The X Factor and US-based talk show The Late Late Show With James Corden.
He also holds the record for most widely shown UK cinema documentary ever for In the Hands of the Gods” (2007), which he co-produced. Ben, the son of scientist Robert Winston, set up the UJIA’s Arsenal Gap Year Programme, which sees participants qualify as football coaches and then train children from Arab and Jewish backgrounds in Akko, Israel.
Two years ago, Michelle became the youngest chairman of any United Synagogue community when she was voted to the post at Alei Tzion Synagogue in Hendon, north-west London, aged 27. She still serves in that role and has since gone from part-time national project manager to the full-time director of operations at Mitzvah Day. Michelle’s appointment was meritocratic – her CV includes public affairs at the Board of Deputies and membership of the United Synagogue women’s executive committee – but also represented “two birds with one stone” for the charity because of her Orthodox background.
Since Michelle’s appointment, the former JFS girl has upped the status of the charity in the United Synagogue and widened the reach of its “hands-on” social action initiatives.
The Adams Science alumna’s cross-communal efforts have helped Mitzvah Day expand its reach to 37,000 people in communities nationwide. Michelle works alongside projects manager Andrea Passe and Board of Deputies’ senior vice president Laura Marks, giving Mitzvah Day one of the community’s most successful track-records of women in leadership roles.
Jamie became a member of the Jewish community centre in Redbridge aged four. He grew up there and, as a teenager, was so energetic and effective a volunteer that, in the six months prior to leaving for university, he became its paid youth worker. The former FZY madrich returned to London following a post-graduation stint at yeshiva and started work at the schools charity Youth Direct in Stamford Hill. There, Jamie won a Hackney community grant in 2007 that is still in place today and at the time landed him an ‘Excellence in Partnership’ award by Interlink Foundation, the umbrella organisation for Orthodox Jewish voluntary organisations.
He became youth and supportive communities manager at Jewish Care in 2010, trebling the number of young volunteers engaged with the organisation, and was appointed head of the Stepney Community Centre two years later.
He is now East London locality manager and oversees the teams at the Stepney and Brenner community centres. The East End has haemorrhaged Jewish members for decades, but under his leadership large parts of the community are still thriving.
Daniel grew up in Ilford, East London, and became manager of the nearby Redbridge Jewish Community Centre in 2007, aged 23. In that role, he oversaw the running of the largest Jewish community centre in Western Europe and delivered social, welfare and educational programming to more than 2,000 people.
The bagel belt may have shifted north – but in that centre lies one of British Jewry’s finest institutions. After doing a fine job at Redbridge JCC, which is run by Jewish Care, he went into fundraising at the charity and has been its director of fundraising and marketing since 2011. The task is colossal: Jewish Care employs 1,500 staff and cares for 7,000 people every week at a cost of £13 million per annum.
Daniel has largely exceeded expectations, though, maintaining annual revenue and raising £17m for the redevelopment of Betty and Asher Loftus Centre, all while helping establish the charity’s Young Patron dinners and the Great Jewish Bake Day.
It is unclear where he is heading next, having foxtrotted through Jewish Care’s internal infrastructure, but he is already shaping the community through the charity, which cares for more than two in 100 British Jews.
Rachely won the Prime Minister’s ‘Points of Light’ award for outstanding volunteers in October last year. In 1995, she and her husband Meir established the UK branch of Camp Simcha, which also operates in Israel and the US.
The charity is based in London, but has expanded to Glasgow, Gateshead, Leeds and Manchester and, per year, reaches more than 1,000 Jewish children with serious or life-threatening illnesses. Camp Simcha is principally known for helping youngsters in hospital and hospices, but it also provides family care, helping with hospital transports and giving pastoral support to parents.
Rachely and her husband, who have six children, set up the charity when they were in their early twenties, but have only received recognition for their efforts in the past few years. Meir won the Jewish Chronicle’s Mensch of the Year last month. In addition to her award by Number 10, Rachely has won plaudits from Golders Green and Finchley MP Mike Freer and been honoured as an ‘unsung hero’ by Barnet Council.
Jo is a leading lawyer who was last year appointed to a newly created role at the London Beth Din. There, the United Synagogue Women’s executive member sits on a special ‘expert advisory group’ and oversees sensitive or difficult divorce cases. The role requires extensive knowledge of both civic and Jewish law.
The Cambridge graduate has produced seminal texts in the area of international law and lectured in law at Queen Mary’s University, and was involved in the Torah track of Limmud conference. She is perfectly suited to the Beth Din role, and has interrogated the endlessly complex confluence between British and Jewish law to great effect.
Jo, who speaks fluent Hebrew as well as Spanish and French, has consulted the Israeli Beth Din in managing certain cases.
The ex-BBYO madricha herself advises the Jerusalem Arbitration Centre on disputes between Israeli and Palestinian business people and until recently worked part-time at the biggest Silver Circle law firm, Herbert Smith Freehills. Jo, who is currently on the Lead Gamechangers programme, organises extracurricular activities at Nancy Reuben Primary School, which three of her four children attend.
David is executive director of Tribe, the youth wing of the United Synagogue, which he has helped cement as a key provider for young Orthodox Jews alongside Aish and religious Zionist youth movements such as Bnei Akiva. He manages a team of 15 people and has helped expand Tribe’s roster of events, which now extends from ‘Babies & Tots’ all the way to university J-Soc ‘lunch and learn’ events.
The Scot is regarded as a kind and credible professional, and has helped transform Tribe’s perception outside the Orthodox community by integrating programmes such as Israel Tour with mainstream organisations like the UJIA.
It remains to be seen whether he can negotiate the tension that exists within the United Synagogue, with some voices pushing for Tribe to become more open and inclusive, and others suggesting it has lurched too far away from Orthodoxy in its efforts to become an all-singing, all-dancing outreach group (it aims to provide for ‘Orthodox-but-not-necessarily-observant children’).
With 1,500 children and 1,000 students participating in Tribe programmes each year, David is seen as an indispensable asset to the US.
Mekella is one of the most influential culturists in the Jewish community. She worked for Jewish Book Week for almost a decade, first as assistant director and then festival curator, and helped raise attendance at the 10-day festival to 15,000 people a year. Star guests at last year’s event included Ruby Wax, Alain de Botton and Gary Shteyngart.
With Mekella’s track record, the Sussex English Literature and Film Studies graduate was exceptionally well-suited to her current role at JW3, where she is head of arts and culture.
The £50 million centre, which is set to merge with the London Jewish Cultural Centre, was probably the only Jewish communal organisation that could compete with Book Week when it came to the glamour of guests and the overall scale of its ambition.
Mekella’s dizzying remit now includes the organisation of film screenings, live performances, cross-arts creations, literary events, talks, masterclasses and art exhibitions – her ultimate task, though, is to make JW3 a centre that oozes ‘cool’ and attracts the broadest possible cross-section of Jewish and non-Jewish Londoners interested in multimedia Yiddishkeit.