The founder of the UK Jewish Film Festival and a former Norwood chief were among the Jewish figures recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
Judith Ironside and Norma Brier can now look forward to visiting Buckingham Palace to collect their OBEs after featuring on the 120-page list of recipients that included leading lights from the worlds of broadcasting, the arts, business and charity.
UK Jewish Film started life as the Brighton Jewish Film Festival in 1997 but today spans an annual national festival attracting leading industry names as well as an all-year programme of educational ventures and screenings including for interfaith audiences. Ironside told the Jewish News of her “pride and excitement” at the accolade but added: “UK Jewish Film is far more than just me. There are many fantastic people I’ve worked with and I hope this gives everyone a boost. The award is for them as well.”
Before establishing the organisation, the 67-year-old spent a decade working as a drama therapist helping youngsters with special needs in schools. And while the award is for services to drama broadly, she insists that her greatest achievements have been with UK Jewish Film, whose credits also include assisting in the establishment of other Jewish festivals around the world.
The grandmother-of-seven said: “I believe strongly that through film and drama we can promote communication between people. People share their stories and in that way we grow respect for others.” Honoured for services to children and people with learning disabilities, Brier spent 22 years at Norwood including 15 as chief executive before stepping down in 2011. She continues to be a member of the charity’s advisory council and serves as a trustee with Children England.
From the arts world, former Haberdashers’ head boy Sir Nicholas Serota, the director of the Tate who oversaw the creation of Tate Modern, becomes a Companion of Honour – a rare accolade conferred on just 65 people at any one time. Meanwhile, acclaimed sculptor Anish Kapoor becomes Sir Anish. The artist – whose Jewish mother was born in Iraq and who studied in Israel in the early 1970s – said: “I am honoured and humbled to receive this honour and I want to thank all the people who have helped me during my career.” His most famous creations include the Orbit at the Olympic Park in Stratford, while he also produced the Shoah memorial at the entrance to the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in St John’s Wood.
Communal figures are once again well represented among those recognised for philanthropy. Janet Wolfson de Botton is one of just nine new dames for charitable services to the arts, having donated to the Tate and and other cultural institutions as well as to aid research in to neurological diseases, through the Wolfson Foundation. Awarded a CBE is Hansard Global founder Dr Leonard Polonsky, who is trustee of the London-based Polonsky foundation which supports causes in America, Israel and the UK. In the Jewish state, Dr Polonsky serves as a governor of both the Hebrew University and the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design and provides scholarships at various institutions for students of Ethiopian descent.
Also making an impact in the field of higher education is Ben Gurion University’s David Newman. He picks up an OBE which in part recognises his efforts in promoting academic links between Britain and Israel, while Gibraltar Jewish community president Haim Levy QC, who founded Gibraltar Community Care, picked up a KBE for services to the economy and community on the island.
Picking up an OBE is Stepney-born billionaire Laurence Graff, who founded Graff Diamonds more than 60 years ago. Best known as a supplier of rare jewels, the company is a four-time winner of the Queen’s Award to Industry and has opened stores across the globe. The 75-year-old, who five years ago established a charity supporting disadvantaged children in Africa, reportedly set the record for the highest price paid at auction for a jewel when he forked out £29m for a pink diamond in 2010. He is joined on the list by Angela Cox, who is recognised with an OBE for voluntary service to people affected by breast cancer in Hertfordshire, Max Steinberg (CBE) for services to business and the community in Liverpool and Finchley-born actress Claire Bloom (CBE), who has featured on the small and big screens over six decades. her credits include a number of woody Allen films and more recently starred in The King’s Speech.