Community heroes honoured at Jewish Volunteering Network awards night
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Community heroes honoured at Jewish Volunteering Network awards night

Among those honoured was Kindertransport refugee and former optician Harry Heber, who produced over 60,000 prescription glasses for vulnerable Jewish people across the world

  • Harry Heber with Henry Grunwald (Emma Ziff Photography)
    Harry Heber with Henry Grunwald (Emma Ziff Photography)
  • Jewish Women's Aid chief executive Naomi Dickson with Mildred Leveson ( (Emma Ziff Photography)
    Jewish Women's Aid chief executive Naomi Dickson with Mildred Leveson ( (Emma Ziff Photography)
  • Host Samantha Simmonds and JVN chief executive Nicky Goldman  (Emma Ziff Photography)
    Host Samantha Simmonds and JVN chief executive Nicky Goldman (Emma Ziff Photography)
  • Dimitry Raziev, GIFT volunteer, with rabbi Sandor Milun (Emma Ziff Photography)
    Dimitry Raziev, GIFT volunteer, with rabbi Sandor Milun (Emma Ziff Photography)

Dozens of Jewish volunteers who gave up their time to help others were honoured at the Jewish Volunteering Network’s annual awards night in London last week.

Fifty volunteers and individual teams received trophies during a ceremony at Allianz Park on 4 December hosted by BBC World News broadcaster Samantha Simmonds.

“It’s important to fully understand the power of volunteering and that is why we decided to celebrate it in an evening of simcha,” said JVN chief executive Nicky Goldman.

“Volunteering makes people happy and is an essential part of the Jewish and wider community … All our winners are inspiring and we wanted to show the whole community how much we appreciate them,” she added.

Among those honoured was Kindertransport refugee Harry Heber, who received the Edwards Outstanding Lifetime Achievement in Volunteering award and a standing ovation from guests. 

The retired optician spent over 8,500 hours producing over 60,000 prescription glasses for vulnerable Jewish people across the world. He volunteered for World Jewish Relief for over two decades after discovering the organisation had helped rescue him and his family from Nazi-occupied Europe.

“I saw an opportunity to help and to give something back and I would recommend that to everyone. It gives great satisfaction to know you’re helping people in a much worse situation,” he said.

Retired optician and Kindertransport refugee Harry Heber
Presenting the trophy to Heber was World Jewish Relief president Henry Grunwald, who hailed him as a source of inspiration.

“He richly deserved [the award], as was shown by the standing ovation he received from everyone present at the ceremony,” Grunwald said.

“Harry inspires all those who meet him and has shown that no matter what hardships you face in life, it is possible to overcome them and give back to your community.

Meanwhile, the volunteer Hilary Castle, who supervised a group of students at Kisharon School during lunch, once a week for the past six years, won the Volunteer of the Year award for her work at the special needs school.

“Working in the Rainbow Class is especially difficult because you cannot have a conversation with the children – they can’t communicate back,” said the school’s administrator Bhavna Adatia who nominated Castle for the award.

“But I know Hilary really enjoys it. She is always smiling and happy and I can tell she enjoys her time here. She is reliable, consistent, positive and dynamic,” she added.

Other award recipients included Dimitri Raziev, of GIFT, who won the Maurice Wohl Charitable Foundation Outstanding Volunteer of The Year award, for running the charity’s tutoring club over seven years.

Meanwhile, the team of 50 volunteers running Jewish Women’s Aid’s helpline, which supports women experiencing domestic abuse, won the Edwards Outstanding Volunteer Team of the Year award.

Naomi Dickson, the charity’s chief executive, said: “This amazing group of 50 women volunteer regularly and are the first point of contact for women experiencing domestic abuse who have nowhere else to turn.

“They and their predecessors have kept the helpline running for almost 30 years, supporting thousands of women and have truly been a lifeline.  It was a joy to celebrate their hard work with the ‘Volunteering Team of the Year’ award. ”

Volunteer of Year award winners included Charlotte Balazs, of the Association of Jewish Refugees, Yael Chana Unsdorfer, of camp simcha, Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, of the Israel Guide Dog Centre, and Sidney Austin, from Jewish Care.

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