Jo Wagerman dies at 85: Tributes to first female Board president and ex-JFS head

Jo Wagerman dies at 85: Tributes to first female Board president and ex-JFS head

Current head of JFS pays respects to 'formidable' and trailblazing community leader who 'transformed' the school in eight years

Jo Wagerman
Jo Wagerman

The current headteacher of JFS has led tributes to her predecessor Jo Wagerman who passed away on Tuesday, aged 85.

Wagerman was an accomplished educator who was headteacher between 1985 and 1993, when the school was based in Camden Town. She was made OBE.

She was the first female president of the Board of Deputies, serving between 2000 and 2003, having previously been its senior vice-president.

Current JFS headteacher Rachel Fink paid tribute to Jo Wagerman, as having “transformed the school and developed its reputation as an outstanding learning institution.”

Anyone who knew her will recall her as a formidable personality who was deeply respected and admired.”

“I had a very close relationship with her having been the first head girl appointed under her headship.”

Rachel Fink, current JFS Headteacher

In more recent years she became a friend and adviser. Today the school has lost a close friend and former leader and I have lost one of my role models.”

Board of Deputies’ president, Marie van der Zyl, who is the second woman to lead it following Wagerman, paid respects to her predecessor.  She said: “Jo Wagerman was a pioneer. She made an immense contribution to our Jewish community and she will be sadly missed.

Jo Wagerman alongside her husband Peter, and JFS President Lord Levy behind

Henry Grunwald, who succeeded Wagerman as Board president, said she was “a truly great woman. Others can speak of her meaningful involvement in education and UJIA and many other areas of communal life. I know at first hand her activities at the Board of Deputies.”

“I served alongside her as her Senior Vice-President and saw her great commitment to her position. I had, and have, nothing but admiration for her. It was not an easy time for her because she became ill during her Presidency but her strong will and truly indomitable spirit saw her through. I and many others will miss her deeply”.

Simon Johnson, Chief Executive of the Jewish Leadership Council said:  “We are sad to hear of Jo Wagerman’s passing, her dedication to our community is an inspiration and she will be sorely missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends at this time.”

Paul Edlin, a Board vice president from 2006 to 2012, and current chair of a regional council, said she was a “listening president who worked tirelessly for the community, but really had her work cut out”. 

 As well as being “very strong on Israel, an ardent religious Zionist”, he said, she “expanded the Board’s education department, after retiring from teaching, and oversaw the implementing of a reorganisation of the body”.

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