Members of the Jewish community from across the religious spectrum have been named in the latest Queen’s Birthday Honours List, with services to Holocaust education being highlighted this year.
Broadcaster Natasha Kaplinsky has been awarded an OBE for her work with Holocaust survivors through the Holocaust Commission. Two survivors, Ibolya Knill, who lives in Leeds, and Sabina Miller, who lives in London, have been named Medallists of the Order of the British Empire; while Catherine Ashley, the former chair of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, has been made an OBE for her services to Holocaust education. And two high-profile philanthropists, Trevor Pears and Frank Lowy, have been knighted.
Speaking about the survivors’ honours, Karen Pollock MBE, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: “We are delighted that Iby and Sabina have received this well-deserved recognition. They — and other Holocaust survivors — willingly volunteer to relive their most horrific moments for the sake of the future. Elie Wiesel said that ‘when you hear from a witness you become a witness’; there will be thousands more witnesses across the UK as a result of these determined survivors.
“Sadly, survivors of the Holocaust are becoming fewer and frailer, and in the passage of time they will no longer be able to share their testimonies. That is why I am absolutely thrilled that Natasha Kaplinsky — who has gone above and beyond — has been recognised for her efforts in securing these testimonies on film so that their stories will be preserved for generations to come”.
Mrs Knill, now 94, spent her early childhood in Bratislava, in the former Czechoslovakia. Although her parents were Jewish, she was baptised in her teens and felt herself to be Christian. However, she was still seen as a Jew by the Nazis and was deported to Auschwitz after working for the resistance in Hungary. Her war ended on the way to Belsen on April 1 1945. After a period of recovery in hospital following liberation, Iby became an interpreter for the British Military Government. There she met Bert Knill, a major in the British army. They went on to marry in Bratislava in December 1946, before she came to England in March 1947.
Mrs Knill published a book about her experiences, The Woman Without a Number, and is an active speaker about the Holocaust to young people.
Sabina Miller, 95 and a great-grandmother, spent the war years on the run in a variety of hiding places, under assumed names. She came to Britain in 1947.
Olivia Marks-Woldman, chief executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust said: “These honours are a mark of the respect and admiration for survivors and educators held by those at the highest levels of British society. They remind us that people who dedicate so much time and effort to furthering education and commemoration about the Holocaust and genocide are respected, honoured and valued”.
Dame Steve Shirley, who arrived in Britain on the Kindertransport and became a leading entrepreneur and philanthropist, has been made a Companion of Honour for her services to the IT industry and philanthropy. Lord Stern of Brentford, whose father came to Britain after Kristallnacht, has also been made a Companion of Honour.
Trevor Pears, whose knighthood was announced in the Overseas List, receives his honour for his philanthropy as executive chairman of the Pears Family Charitable Foundation. He said: “I feel both humbled and excited to receive this honour.
“I am immensely appreciative and grateful to my brothers Mark and David, my wife Daniela. and to all of my family for their tremendous support — and likewise to our fantastic foundation team and all of our partners.
“Through philanthropy I have been privileged to meet and work with many exceptional people, I look forward to growing and deepening these relationships in the future”.
The newly-knighted Frank Lowy, chairman of the Westfield Corporation, which builds shopping centres all over the world. is a Czech-born Holocaust survivor who settled in Australia where he started his business. Immediately after the war he fought in the Haganah in Israel’s War of Independence and today holds joint Australian-Israeli citizenship.
A knighthood also goes to Ukranian-born American Len Blavatnik for his philanthropic work; while the former executive director of the Community Security Trust, Richard Benson, has been given an OBE. Mr Benson, who is now president of the counterpart Muslim charity, Tell MAMA, and serves on the CST board, said: “Having devoted over 20 years of my professional and private life to combating anti-semitism and all forms of hate crimes and worked with amazing people and organisations who are at the sharp end of countering the same issues, I am proud that my work has been honoured in this way”.
Edward Ziff of Leeds has been made OBE for his services to the community. He told Jewish News: “I am absolutely thrilled to have been given this honour.
“I have been extremely fortunate to have been able to do all the things I have. I love my work, charitable efforts and I endeavour to make a difference to other people’s lives. I had great teachers in my parents and have been encouraged at all times to achieve and aim high by my wife Dee, my children and my siblings”.
Mr Ziff, whose father received an OBE and whose mother received an MBE, is a member of the United Hebrew Congregation in Shadwell Lane and comes from a strong tradition of communal service. He has mainly worked with the Leeds Jewish Welfare Board and before that with the city’s Jewish Blind Society, which he incorporated into the LJWB.
Though he said he was looking forward to celebrating his honour with his family this Shabbat, the businessman confessed to a certain ambivalence. He said: “This honour comes at a time when in the UK we have seen some tragic events unfold. It is with mixed feelings that I celebrate this honour as I am incredibly aware of the pain and suffering that the people caught up in those tragedies are having to endure”.
Two more OBEs go to Lady Ritblat, the former Jillian Slotover, for her contribution to arts philanthropy, and to Ashley Tabor, the head of the Global radio empire for his services to media.
Nottingham’s Liberal Jewish leader David Lipman is honoured with an MBE, as are Stuart Nagler and Keith Simons, Mr Nagler for his voluntary work in Hertfordshire and Mr Simons for his work with Jewish prisoners and with the community in Pinner.
Peggy Sherwood gets a MBE for her work with the Jewish Gay and Lesbian movement, while Dr Rudolf Leavor was made a medallist of the Order of the British Empire (BEM) for his interfaith work in Bradford and his services to its Jewish community.
Rachel — known near universally as Ruchie — Ehrentreu, the wife of the former head of the London Beth Din, Dayan Chanoch Ehrentreu, has been made BEM for her work with vulnerable elderly in north-west London. For 32 years, Mrs Ehrentreu, who turns 84 this month, has been chaplain and hospital visitor at the Royal Free Hospital, running the Chevra Kadisha and helping to train women in its work.
She also launched an organisation called Neshei for elderly people, helping to keep them active. Her response to her award? “First I feel I don’t deserve it. But it is an honour for the Jewish people, and I always say that giving is living.”
Professor Jonathan Gershuny of Nuffield College, Oxford, has been awarded a CBE. Professor Gershuny is a social scientist and economic historian who is director of the Centre for Time Use Research. He has amassed data from nearly 25 countries, including Israel, as to how people spend their days. The results of the research can be used to help shape national policy on a variety of issues, including public health and the gender pay gap. London-born Professor Gershuny, whose daughter is a rabbi in Boulder, Colorado, says “it is really nice to be recognised for this work”.