After hundreds of nominations and months of intense debate, Jewish News – in association with the Jewish Leadership Council – this week begins a fascinating countdown of individuals, under the age of 25, who are set to define Anglo-Jewry in the decades to come.
We begin this intriguing process by revealing the young stars in the making occupying positions 25 to 11. Written by Gabriel Pogrund
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It is little known that more than 850,000 people voted in the most recent elections for UK Youth Parliament. Zak Wagman is one of its 600 elected representatives and serves as member for Harrow, speaking to government authorities on behalf of his peers.
The former Bnei Akiva camper, whose campaign was based on increasing mental health awareness among teens, regularly meets councillors, police chiefs and MPs. His responsibilities include commissioning Harrow Council’s summer holiday activities and interviewing senior education officials. Zak is a compelling public speaker and has debated at the Oxford and Cambridge unions. No prize for guessing what the Model Westminster ambassador aspires to do in the future.
The Hasmonean High School student established the campaign as a barmitzvah project last year and has since sent thousands of pairs of shoes to homeless people in Barnet, refugees and asylum seekers in Manchester and impoverished Jews in Belarus and Israel, as well as charities as far afield as Africa and South America.
Noah has also collaborated with Mitzvah Day, youth movements including Habonim Dror and a whole host of local Jewish charities as part of his definitively cross-communal efforts.
Zoom, a JCoSS student, is the artist and editor of The Zoom! comic.
Published twice a year, it has received plaudits from national publications including The Guardian and the London Evening Standard, while one of its characters, Skanky Pigeon, graces the page of the Beano every month.
Regarded as modest and likeable, Zoom was named one of the top 10 most influential people in British publishing in a Hospital Club 100 list alongside JK Rowling and Caitlin Moran, and the London Evening Standard Power List of top under 25-year-olds in the capital.
He created a special social media mini-strip for a project by the Mayor of London and was a speaker at this year’s Jewish Book Week.
Joe chairs Hanhala, the national executive committee of B’nei Akiva, an elected position where he monitors the progress of movement workers and helps determine the ideological direction of Britain’s biggest Zionist youth movement, which has more than 1,000 paying members.
Joe served as head of the Stanmore United branch of B’nei Akiva, a core constituency in its national infrastructure and was also deputy head at nearby Belmont. The Yavneh College old boy studied at the prestigious Yeshivat Eretz HaTzvi in Jerusalem, whose roster of rabbis boasts degrees from universities including Columbia, Harvard and NYU.
He has led school trips to Israel for his alma mater and overseen countless events and camps for B’nei Akiva.
Matt is widely seen as the finest movement worker of his generation. He was at the helm of B’nai B’rith Youth Organisation as president for two years (2012-2014) and guided the tough ship through choppy waters.
The history graduate, served as president of Israel Society at Oxford, arrested falling membership numbers, reintegrated BBYO UK with its worldwide organisation and implemented a new five-year strategy.
During that time, Matt was also elected chair of the Zionist Youth Council and hence served on the Jewish Leadership Council. His CV in Jewish community life includes representing Northwood United Synagogue on the Board of Deputies.
Ben was developing J-Socs officer at the UJS for two years (2012-2014), where his remit included nurturing Jewish life on campuses where it was lacking or practically non-existent, all the way to medium-sized J-socs.
Ben was suited to the role with his experience as a member of Cardiff Reform Synagogue, a small community numbering 250, and president of Exeter University’s Jewish Society.
The history graduate helped to launch many new J-socs and relaunch others, and prioritised visiting often-neglected campus communities in Wales, Ireland and Scotland.
Ben spent four months in Ghana running the ‘Go Global’ volunteer programme for Tzedek, and is now its educational programme co-ordinator.
Nat approached the Forum for Jewish Leadership with a relatively thin CV in Jewish communal involvement last year. Colleagues recall him as unassuming and modest, but driven to do good in the community.
The Forum linked him up with Jewish Care, and he was soon a key volunteer at its Stepney Day Centre. Nat is a regular at Sunday socials and helps to fundraise for activities for older members in what remains of the East End’s dwindling Jewish community.
He has also helped to transform Jewish Care’s nationwide provision for young adult volunteers and fundraisers; the charity is rolling out a programme for that demographic this year. Nat works for Jones Lang LaSalle, a London property company.
Joe was a president of the Nottingham J-Soc, vastly expanding its range of events with more Friday night dinners and charitable initiatives.
He helped establish the first kosher restaurant on a UK campus and united Orthodox and progressive students with plans for a new Jewish student centre.
His energy was said to be just what J-soc students at Nottingham needed after years of precipitous growth. His contribution was duly recognised when he won the prestigious Alan Senitt Award for Outstanding Contribution to Jewish Life at the UJS awards last year.
The former B’nei Akiva leader represented Nottingham at the NUS. After a year with Deloitte in Buenos Aires he now works for the firm in London.
Rhea is the only Scottish contender on this list, although she has long dwelt within range of the M25, first at the University of Oxford, where she studied law, and then in London as a movement worker for RSY-Netzer, where she served from 2011-2012.
She is now communications and outreach manager for the New Israel Fund, the liberal Zionist group that fundraises for social justice initiatives, where she has greatly expanded the offering for young adults.
First and foremost a politico, Wolfson serves as a London Young Labour Executive and spends much of her time campaigning for the party.
She seems destined for the UK Parliament, either as a representative or in a key behind-the-scenes role.
Like many on this list, Liron Vellerman straddles the divide between Jewish parochialism and national student politics. He is campaigns officer for Leeds J-Soc, and an NUS delegate representing Leeds’ 30,000 students.
Firmly in the Liberal Zionist camp ideologically, he is a key Yachad activist. The former Noam madrich was part of its Sign on the Green Line campaign, which petitioned synagogues and schools to use maps of Israel that included the 1967 ceasefire line, and is involved in raising funds for a lawyer for Palestinian children in West Bank military courts.
A Citizens UK volunteer who grew up at New North London Synagogue, he is dedicated to achieving change at grassroots leve and is running as the Leeds union’s Communities Officer.
Michael Rubin founded his student union’s Living Wage Campaign, a cause célèbre of young Labour Party activists in recent years, and convinced the University of Leicester to pay a fairer salary to its lowest-paid staff.
The Politics & Economics undergraduate received the award for student campaigner of the year and held a host of positions, including head of the anti-fascist Hope not Hate Society, before standing for president of the Students’ Union for 2014-2015.
He also sits on the Block of 15 (see Charlie Agran, no.15) and is seen as a friend of Jewish students at the NUS’ National Executive Council: firm and fair, although less interested in Israel-Palestine than some of his co-religionists may wish him to be.
Sarah is the only person on our list living in Israel, although the Oxford Hebrew graduate has only temporarily traded London for Jerusalem, where she is studying to be a cantor.
As a leader in RSY-Netzer, she founded the ‘Musical Revolution’, now an annual event which, when launched, replaced traditional synagogue tunes with a fresher, America-influenced liturgical score. After finishing university, she became a movement worker for RSY-Netzer and also worked at Finchley Reform Synagogue as ‘music sabbatical worker’.
She is cast in a similar mould to Zoe Jacobs, the cantor who mentored her there, placing music at the heart of Jewish life and adopting an expansive and innovative interpretation of the cantor’s role.
Last year she ran for the Block of 15, which sits on the National Union of Students’ Executive Council. She based her campaign on a policy commitment against £9,000 fees and a passion for fusing faith with LGBT+ and feminist liberation campaigns, and was elected on the Block for 2014-2015.
At the NUS, the Politics undergraduate sits on committees on anti-racism and anti-fascism, and student welfare. She has fought against BDS motions with fellow Jewish representative Dario Celaschi and is at the forefront of protecting and representing Jewish students.
Rob is one of Britain’s foremost young climate activists. He catapulted divestment from fossil fuels to the forefront of the political agenda at the University of Swansea, where he served as the student union’s environment and ethics officer, and now campaigns on a similar platform at SOAS, which has frozen future investment in coal, oil and gas.
The Arabic linguistics student has not ring-fenced his activism to British universities: he founded ‘Oil Vey! Jewish Climate Action UK’, which lobbies synagogues and communal organisations, and last year raised thousands for Save the Children’s Gaza Appeal.
He grew up in the Masorti movement at New North London Synagogue but is ideologically at home as a regular at Jewdas.
Miriam was one of three campaigners who defeated a BDS motion at the Sussex students’ union last year.
It was no ordinary campaign – joining Yachad-affiliated activists on campus, Miriam adopted what she describes as a “variation in tactics” by highlighting the adverse effect a boycott would have on existing peace projects and ending Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.
Beyond BDS, the Philosophy, Politics and Economics student experiences walking difficulties and has fought tirelessly for improved accessibility on campus. Miriam founded the “Access Sussex” campaign last year and has brought her struggle to a national audience since then, appearing on the BBC and blogging for the Huffington Post.
The former JFS student, a seasoned Union ‘hack’, won a landslide victory on a ticket for democratisation, becoming the third Jew in a row to hold the prestigious position.
His tenure (January to March 2013) saw talks from A-list guests including Friends star Lisa Kudrow and Cambridge alumnus Lily Cole, as well as debates on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Joel graduated in Social and Political Sciences and is now movement worker and Mazkir for Noam, Masorti Youth. He says he is free thinker, keen to challenge what he seees as Zionist establishment diktats on how to run Jewish youth.
Abigail self-identifies as a “Limmud junkie”, although the conference needs her as much as she needs it. She co-ordinated the first Limmud L’Am, a now-annual programme for participants with learning disabilities and other special needs, created in partnership with Norwood, the Judith Trust and Kisharon in 2011.
The conference would be nothing like as comprehensive and cutting-edge a Jewish educational space were it not for her efforts: a testament to her legacy is the fact that this year, 30 people with special needs stayed on the campus with their carers for the first time. Abigail co-chaired programming at the last conference. She is currently outreach co-ordinator for Liberal Judaism.