Luciana Berger and Baroness Neuberger honoured at mental health fundraiser
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Luciana Berger and Baroness Neuberger honoured at mental health fundraiser

Liverpool MP handed Women of Distinction gong as progressive rabbi handed Lifetime Achievement award at Jewish Care event which raised £80,000

Francine Wolfisz is the Features Editor for Jewish News.

Luciana Berger MP and Baroness Rabbi Julia Neuberger receiving their award.

Credit: Yakir Zur
Luciana Berger MP and Baroness Rabbi Julia Neuberger receiving their award. Credit: Yakir Zur

Luciana Berger and Rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger were honoured this week at an annual Jewish Care lunch, which raised £80,000 for adults with mental health needs.

Ms Berger, former Labour and now Independent Group Liverpool Wavertree MP, was the recipient of the Women of Distinction award, while Baroness Neuberger was handed the Lifetime Achievement Award.

More than 200 guests attended the prestigious event at the Institute of Directors in London, which raised funds for Jewish Care’s Sidney Corob House, a residential care home in West Hampstead.

Ms Berger said she was “touched and honoured” to receive the award in recognition of her efforts to confront antisemitism.

The 38-year-old MP, who attended with her 11-week-old son, Zion, paid tribute to a supportive network around her, adding “when I have been targeted by people that expound hate and by neo-Nazis, on my social media, my inbox, my postbag, which is filled with racial abuse, when the political debate turns dark and nasty, I’m fortunate to have an incredible network of family, friends and supporters.
“I’m also privileged to have a platform that I can speak out and report anything that is criminal.”

The audience clapped as she revealed her actions have led to the conviction of seven people for threats directed towards her, with five currently serving prison sentences.

Luciana Berger speaking at Jewish Care’s lunch. Credit: Yakir Zur

Meanwhile, Rabbi Baroness Neuberger, whose new book, Antisemitism, is released later this month, said she was “proud” of her achievements within the community.

She said: “I’m very pleased the position of women has changed and that the relationship between the Orthodox and non-Orthodox has improved so enormously and I hope I’ve been a part of that”, before adding, “there are still some things I want to do, so I haven’t stopped yet.”

Specifically, the Senior Rabbi of West London Synagogue, who has also just been appointed chair of University College Hospital said she would like society to “rethink how we treat people with mental illness.”

She said: “It’s a national question, but also a community question. I’m still convinced there’s more we can do in an interfaith way with campaigning, rather than just talking to each other. We need to be more outspoken. We should be the lead on this.”

Guests were also treated to Deborah Davis, award-winning screenwriter and executive producer of The Favourite talking to journalist Samantha Simmonds about waiting 20 years before her film finally went into production and credited her Jewish background for her tenacity on the project.

To much amusement, she told the audience: “People came up to me and said how extraordinary to even think of this story of women in power – I just want to say it was not extraordinary to me, because as a Jewish woman I was brought up in a matriarchy. I have three sisters and was brought up by the most dominant grandmothers who I worshipped and had the most wonderful mother.

“The men had to work, but we ran the show! As such, there was a lot in my background, as a Jewish woman, that fed naturally into a story about three women.”

Rounding off the event, Sidney Corob House resident Michael Yaghoubi, who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 2011, spoke about how the support of Jewish Care had helped turn his life around after he struggled to take care of himself.

He said: “No amount of words can express my gratitude to Jewish Care and the Sidney Corob House team for making me who I am today.”

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