Few community leaders could receive the praise of Rabbi Lord Sacks, international pop star Harry Styles and comedian James Cordon – all within five minutes!
Yet this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Lira Winston, managed just that for her substantial 25-year contribution to Jewish education.
Lira has worked at Partnerships for Jewish Schools (PaJeS) since 2012 as Assistant Director, working alongside the Director on the strategy and management of the organisation. She is responsible for leadership programmes for Heads and Governors and runs an annual residential seminar, as well as other training days and networking opportunities.
Leading the tributes to her, Lord Sacks described Lira as the “most modest, kindest and wisest person” he knows, who “richly deserves” the award but would “least expect it”.
“Lira has been at the very heart of the spectacular growth in Jewish day schools over the last 25 years, a friend and mentor to us all. She is respected by everyone because she respects everyone,” he added.
Lira was a history researcher and moved to work in the Jewish community in 1991 as Director of the Sinclair Charitable Trust and for Jewish Continuity. From 2000 she ran the UJIA Ashdown Fellowship, a leadership programme for education professionals.
In January 2008 Lira became Project Manager of the Jewish Leadership Council report, ‘The Future of Jewish Schools’.
Accepting the award, Lira was characteristically humble in feeling “completely overwhelmed.” She praised the “absolutely fantastic people from who I’ve learned something all the time” and thanked her “most incredible colleagues” in the PaJeS team.
“Their dedication to doing everything in the best possible way is truly amazing,” she added.
In a touching video broadcast from Los Angeles, her son Ben Winston described Lira as “always focused on making life better for others”. James Cordon added his congratulations, and Harry Styles wished her a hearty Mazel Tov.
The global songwriter added: “By being welcomed so many times into your home and feeling like family, I’ve learnt what the Jewish community stands for and what a wonderful person you are.”
— HSD (@hsdaily) February 11, 2020