Mitzvah Day 2014 Awards evening

‘Community Hero’ Adam with his proud children

A courageous father-of-three who dived into treacherous seas to save a teenager only weeks after life-saving surgery has been named as the Jewish News-Mitzvah Day Community Hero.

Adam Cramer had just arrived in Tenerife to recuperate from an operation to remove a 5 kilo tumour from his stomach when he leapt into action to rescue the 14-year-old.

Two other members of the girl’s family lost their lives after being swept into the water by a freak wave.

The Mill Hill shul member said it was a “huge honour” to receive the accolade during a party for Mitzvah Day volunteers on Sunday, adding:  “It’s almost a year to the day since I got diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer. To receive this award and to see the smiles on my family’s faces compared to the tears of a year ago is just amazing.” Adam Cramer (Credit Graham's Images)

He admitted he hadn’t realised just how treacherous the conditions were when he decided to go in and had never before faced such a dangerous situation. “When I got hold of her she was convinced she was going to die and by the end of it she was chatting away to me. She is an amazing and courageous girl,” he recalled. 

Cramer was selected from eight finalists by a panel of judges made up of Lee Scott MP, Jewish Blind and Disabled chief executive Hazel Kaye, Mitzvah Day Founder Laura Marks and Jewish News editor Richard Ferrer, after being nominated by friend Paul Gordon, who described him as “not only a great bloke but a true hero”. 

But the modest accountant, who also raised £33,00 by rowing the channel last year, chuckled at the label. “I find the idea slightly amusing,” he told the Jewish News. “Thankfully I love swimming and I’m a reasonably good swimmer and I just did what I felt was the right thing to do. I didn’t perceive it to be heroic in the slightest. ”

Joining the accountant at a the presentation at JW3 were some of the other finalists and his three children, who were in Tenerife with him that day in April. Paying tribute to them, he said: “They have been so grown up and so supportive over the past year. I’m probably embarrassing to them for 364 days of the year so to make them proud means the world to me.”

The judges awarded second place to Yehudis Goldsobel, who established Migdal Emunah to support those who had suffered sexual abuse as she had and Anita Woolf, who with her husband Emile has raised tens of thousands to help disabled adults in Barnet.

The other finalists were Yohanan Kupperman, Lyna Parnas, Brian Mitchell, Joyce Rothschild and Levi Schapiro.

Cramer said “My first reaction when I heard about the nomination was ‘don’t be silly’. Then when I saw the other nominees and the amazing thing they’d done over long periods of time I was humbled to be in their company. Many do heroic acts week in and week out.”

Mitzvah Day saw a record 37,000 volunteers from 20 countries participating in over 1,200 varied social action projects from visiting hospitals and care homes of society to large-scale food collections and clearing parks.

There was also a record 54 projects bringing together people of different faiths. Marks said: “it’s so uplifting to have seen participants of multi faiths and backgrounds work together with true common purpose, belief in community harmony and love thy neighbour. In a world where we often hear about the bad, tragic or sad, Mitzvah Day brings a tremendous sense of hope and healing – a belief in the goodness of humankind.  Our 37,000 + volunteers have made a true difference to the world we live in and we are so grateful.”

The day also saw the inaugural presentation of three awards honouring social action projects that have a year-round impact.

The multi-mitzvah award went to Telereal Trillium which has developed a relationship with the local St Mungos Broadway and this year volunteers from across its businesses provided basic computer training and CV guidance to service users.

Meanwhile, the interfaith gong went to Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue for working together with the Muswell Hill Soup Kitchen in the Baptist Church for approximately six years, collecting and making food, and Northwest London Jewish Day School picked up the schools gong in recognition of pupils’ regular visits to sing and chat with those helped by the Young Court Sheltered Housing Project.