A daunting task: The Aliyah 100

A daunting task: The Aliyah 100

Settling on a list of the top 100 individuals who’ve made aliyah and shaped the modern state of Israel was a formidable task for the 22 people on our panel. Here’s how they reached their conclusions

The panel pouring over nominations
The panel pouring over nominations

At this time when we celebrate the moment  a non-Jewish British politician planted the seeds of the State of Israel, but what has British Jewry’s contribution been? That’s what the Jewish News-Jewish Agency Aliyah 100, in association with UJIA, seeks to celebrate.

While there have been great donors and builders, we wanted to take this moment to celebrate those who have made Aliyah Nimshechet (ongoing aliyah), a key value for  Zionist youth movements.  To quote FZY, Aliyah Nimshechet means “moving to Israel and continuing to do good for the state”. Many of those who have made aliyah spent their formative years in Zionist youth movements.

Coming up with a list of just 100 and ranking them was a tough test. 

What should be the criteria? The panel decided that both impact on Israel and also the wider world could be considered. The panel came up with a wide set of categories and challenged themselves to find people in each of those categories. You can judge how we did by looking at the sub-lists by category.


As soon as we started getting nominations, we knew we had to balance those living with those no longer with us.   We fixed on 70 living [a nod to Israel’s next birthday] and 30 no longer with us and publish them here as two individual lists. We knew they had to be Jewish, although some great nominations were made for non-Jews who played a vital part in the development of Israel  including Allenby, Wingate, Balfour himself and many modern-day Christian Zionists. They had to have left Britain for Israel (Palestine). 

They did not have to be born in the UK or Ireland but had to have lived here for a considerable time, before leaving for Israel (Palestine). Ireland was part of the UK at the time of the Balfour Declaration, so we felt it right to include Eire in our deliberations.

There are so many British Jews, who have worked tirelessly for Israel but continue to live in the UK. We decided that would not make them eligible for consideration. Panel members could be nominated but would have to withdraw before the meeting if they were to be considered for the list.  It should be noted that a number of the panel were nominated – Michael Wegier, Jane Biran, Melanie Sobell-Zaken and Sarah Mali. If they had chosen to step down they would have easily made the list.  The panel agreed, however, to include Yos Tarshish on the Next Generation list even though he was not considered for the main list.

There are many non-Brits who have impacted on UK Jewry through their work in Israel.  We decided they were not eligible. This led to us exclude Marty Davis zl among others.

People who went to study in Israel or tourists who died while there were not eligible, which led to the exclusion of the remarkable Yoni Jesner zl among others.

Those no longer with us was much easier than those living. The top three – Abba Eban, Chaim Weizmann and Chaim Herzog – were well clear.  However, the panel faced a long discussion in deciding their order. 

While the list of 30 we settled on are very strong, I have now idea how we could have omitted Louis Rabinowitz (deputy editor of Encyclopaedia Judiaca and deputy mayor of Jerusalem), Zerach Barnett (one of the founders of Petach Tikvah and Meah Shearim), Moshe Ze’ev Feldman (former Knesset member), David Saloman (Mossad spy who helped catch Adolf Eichmann), Moshe Pearlman (first military spokesman of Israel), Simcha Wilnitz (Orde Wingate’s aide and later a major in the IDF) and Charlie Nomis (builder of HaShomer Hatzair in the UK who died in the 1948 war of Independence). More than 20 British Jews fell in 1948 and, while many were nominated, only Esther Cailingold is on the final list.

In a similar way the top four of the living list divided the panel. It was very close between them before the panel finally came to an agreement.

Those in Israel were much more aware of spokespeople such as Peter Lerner while Daniel Taub being ambassador to the UK gave him much greater exposure than other similar figures. 

It is good to know that British Jews that have made aliyah continue to make a major contribution to this day and will do for years to come.

So far this is a unique project but we pass the baton to other Jewish communities to create their own list – and perhaps, ultimately, an international one.

Andrew Gilbert – Aliyah 100 panel chairman

Name and role

  • Alan Aziz  US director of development and former director of the ZF and JNF
  • Hugo Bieber – Chief executive, UK Israel Business
  • Jane Biran – Author and campaigner in UK and Israel
  • Justin Cohen  News editor and co-publisher, Jewish News
  • Sir Trevor Chinn – British Jewish community leader
  • Richard Ferrer – Editor and co-publisher, Jewish News
  • Andrew Gilbert  Panel chair. Trustee, London Jewish Forum and chair UJIA UK Programme Committee
  • Rael Goodman  Head of UK delegation, Jewish Agency
  • Alan Hoffman – CEO, Jewish Agency
  • Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner  Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism
  • Sarah Mali  Director, Leadership Portfolio at the Jewish Agency
  • Arieh Miller – Executive Director, Zionist Federation
  • Lady Ruth Morris  British Jewish community leader
  • Naomi Nevies – Chair, One Family
  • Ella Rose – Director, JLM. Former UJS president
  • Dina Shiloh  Partner, Gallant Maxwell
  • Yael Simon  Strategic adviser at the RCT
  • Raymond Simonson  Chief executive, JW3
  • Yos Tarshish – Vice President of WJC and chair of WUJS
  • Michael Wegier – Chief executive, UJIA
  • Mel Sobell-Zaken – Senior professional at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
  • Ben Crome – Aliyah 100 supplement biography writer
read more: