TRIBUTE: While Alan may be long gone – his legend goes from strength to strength

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TRIBUTE: While Alan may be long gone – his legend goes from strength to strength

15 years after Alan Senitt was murdered, his close friend Marc Goldberg reflects on his legacy within and outside of the community

Alan Senitt
Alan Senitt

It has been 15 years since Alan was killed. He died in Georgetown, the swankiest neighborhood in Washington DC while working on a political campaign. He died 18 months after I had returned from fighting in the al Aqsa Intifada. I had never gotten a scratch.

That fact haunted me for a long time after his death. Now we mark 15 years since the death of the man that everyone thought was going to become Prime Minister. Dismiss those words as the hyperbolic compliments of a man grieving his friend at your peril. No one who knew him doubted the scale of his ambition or his talent.

I knew him from the age of 14 and we stayed friends throughout our time in the B’nai Brith Youth Organisation, which he came to lead. I knew him through our 18th year which we spent in Israel on the Machon programme and I knew him through university where he took Birmingham University Jewish Society and made it a stepping stone on his way to the top of the UJS tree.

This was typical of him, Alan liked a ladder to climb. Even when he worked at McDonalds in Pinner he bragged about getting five stars to add to his name tag.

Marc and Alan together

The man became his causes, it was difficult to see where he ended and his job started. He worked hard but never seemed phased by the hours he put in. He never seemed to be too busy to answer the phone to a friend nor too important to introduce his friends to the VIPs in whose company he increasingly found himself. I remember meeting him for drinks after work and he introduced me to Danny Shek, then head of Bicom, soon to become Israeli ambassador to France.

He introduced me  as if I was every bit as important as any other bigshot. For him it’s because I was. This is how he made me and so many other people feel and one of many reasons why, 15 years after his passing, we still remember him.

Looking back I wonder how it was that he was able to make such an impression on so many people. His phone was filled with the numbers of Lords and Ladies, Peers and politicians, Israeli and Palestinian leaders. He spoke without pretension and yet still bragged…to which you could tell him to shut up and he’d just grin.

After university I left for Israel just as he took over UJS. I wasn’t there when he spoke to 60,000 Jews in Trafalgar Sq who had come together to show their support for Israel at a time when bombs were exploding on buses but my parents were. Standing there in the crowd shlepping nachas that the boy who used to stay over at their home was now leading the community they were a part of. He spoke alongside then Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks and other community bigshots.

With 15 years gone so soon I try to remember all the times we had but I can’t see all the memories anymore. I have had time to grow, to live, to marry, to have children, he hasn’t. I can’t help but feel sadness about the fact that I don’t get to spend any time with my friend, to watch the football with him and have BBQ’s with our families, to talk rubbish and pass the time. I’m sad that he wasn’t here to offer our community the benefit of his leadership now and over the past years when we needed it so. He would have relished the Corbyn years, he would have seen opportunity in the challenge, he would have organized rallies and lord knows what else. He would have turned the tough times into his own personal platform to see off antisemitism and to take over as leader of the party.

Marc and Alan celebrating together

Ultimately Alan died too young to grow into his full potential but those of us lucky enough to have been able to call him friend can still honour him by growing into ours.

By chasing our own dreams with the same reckless abandon that he chased his.

By remaining unafraid of failure and seizing opportunities, even hunting for them as he did.

In the end people die but legends live forever. 15 years on from his death it’s good to see that while he may be long gone his legend goes from strength to strength.


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