Sadiq Khan has hailed the long-time chief executive of the Jewish Lads’ and Girls’ Brigade after he become one of the youngest recipients of the OBE in the Queen in the Birthday Honours List.
Neil Martin, Holocaust survivor Anita Laskar Wallfisch and theatre producer Sonia Friedman can look forward to a visit to Buckingham Palace after being included alongside celebrities, politicians and community activists in the list, which coincides with Her Majesty’s 90th birthday.
Martin, chief executive of the Jewish Lads’ and Girls’ Brigade for the past 11 years, said he was “truly humbled” and “still can’t believe it” after being awarded an OBE for services to young people and interfaith relations. “I keep thinking of all the people who supported me throughout my journey and I’m so grateful to them all, especially everyone at JLGB and, of course, my family,” he added.
The 37-year-old – who said joining the group at the age of 14 helped develop his confidence – has revolutionised the 120-year-old organisation including expanding kosher Duke of Edinburgh’s Award provision and pioneering the charity’s Interfaith National Citizen Service programme. He also chairs the Interfaith Youth Trust and Yom HaShoah UK, playing an instrumental role in growing the community’s annual commemoration into an event that over the past two years has brought thousands to Copthall Stadium to honour the six million murdered.
Khan told the Jewish News: “I’m thrilled that Neil Martin has been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. His work as Chief Executive of the Jewish Lads’ and Girls’ Brigade, and Interfaith Youth Trust has made a dramatic difference to the lives of many young people.
“In my first official engagement as Mayor of London, it was an honour to attend Yom HaShoah, the Jewish community’s annual Holocaust commemoration event, organised by Neil. He is someone who has made it his mission to find innovative and proactive ways to encourage social integration amongst Londoners and it is fantastic to see him recognised in this way.”
Martin, who was number three on Jewish News’ 2015 Forty Under 40 list of those shaping the future of Anglo-Jewry, added: “I am so proud of the achievements of the entire JLGB team as we strive to help thousands more young people be prepared and succeed in a global digital world by helping them to reach their individual potential and become the best possible versions of themselves.”
Anita Laskar-Wallfisch survived the most notorious concentration camp with the help of her musical prowess and has spent decades passing on the lessons of those dark years to young people in this country as well as in Germany and Austria. She is honoured with an MBE for services to Holocaust education.
Stephen Fry meets Holocaust survivor Anita Lasker-Wallfisch
After meeting her as part of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust’s Memory Makers initiative marking the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, broadcaster Stephen Fry said he had learnt three life lessons including that “a lack of self-pity is among the noblest of human attributes”. The world must also remain alert to “the mad language that allows pitiless killing, the language that dehumanises both the victim and perpetrator,” he wrote in an essay inspired by that meeting.
Offering her congratulations, Olivia Marks-Woldman, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust – which has worked extensively with Anita – said she “continues to work tirelessly to counter Holocaust denial by speaking publicly about her experiences at Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. Her integrity, wisdom and strength inspire people around the world”.
The Holocaust Educational Trust’s Karen Pollock, herself an MBE, added: “As a cellist in the Auschwitz camp orchestra, Anita Lasker-Wallfisch was an eyewitness to one of the Nazis most cynical ploys- the playing of music in a death camp. After the Holocaust she dedicated her time to ensuring her story, and that of millions of others, is never forgotten. We congratulate her on this richly deserved honour.”
Producer Sonia Friedman, whose theatre credits include The Book of Mormon and Hamlet, picks up an OBE for services to theatre, while the same honour went to LoveFilm co-founder Saul Klein for services to business.
Seventy percent of all awards went to people who had undertaken outstanding work in or for their local community, either in a voluntary or paid capacity. Among them is Mohammed Amin, founder and co-chair of the Muslim-Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester.
He told the Jewish News: “Muslims and Jews in Britain have so much in common as minorities for whom religion is an important part of their lives, and with shared religious practices such as circumcision and religious slaughter that are often misunderstood by the majority population. We have so much to share, and so much to learn from each other. Bringing us together has been my passion for the last decade, and I am delighted it has been recognised.”
Also among those recognised is Malcolm Livingstone for services to the Jewish community in Glasgow and Michael Simons, senior application support officer at the parliamentary digital service. He picks up an MBE for parliamentary service and service to the Jewish community in Sutton.
In the world of business, Zoopla founder Alex Chesterman is awarded an OBE for services to digital entrepreneurship.