Tributes have been paid to Jewish social justice campaigner June Jacobs after she passed away on Sunday.
A peace activist who also fought for women’s rights, she was later awarded a CBE, having served as president of the International Council for Jewish Women, representing the organisation at the United Nations.
Born in 1930, she first became active in the civil rights movement in the 1970s, chairing the National Council for Soviet Jews and risking jail to fly to the USSR to visit Jews who were refused permission to emigrate to Israel.
She later recalled how she “used to travel to the Soviet Union with a tourist group and then break away from them” on trips in which she sometimes took her 17-year old daughter, Keren.
From London, she became life president of Jewish Child’s Day and was a leading light in the fight for social justice in Israel, helping to establish the New Israel Fund in the UK and supporting the Jewish Council for Racial Equality (JCORE) as a patron.
On women’s rights she was involved with the European Women’s Lobby and Women’s International Commission, and represented the ICJW at the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York.
She was a member of the Black Jewish Asian Forum, and vice-president of the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture.
JCORE director Dr Edie Friedman said it was “with much sadness” that she learned of her friend’s passing. “June was a supporter of ours almost since we were founded, and was one of the most outstanding advocates of social justice in the Jewish community and beyond,” she said. “Her passion and wise council are today needed more than ever and she will be greatly missed.”
Adam Ognall, chief executive of New Israel Fund UK, said: “June was one of our founders and a guiding light for decades. She accomplished so much and did so with modesty, kindness and immovable values and strength.”
Board of Deputies’ president Marie van der Zyl said Jacobs was “a fearless campaigner who did great work for the causes she adopted, including Soviet Jewry, ‘chained women’ and the cause of peace in the Middle East”.
She added: “A long-time Deputy, June served as chairperson of what was then the Foreign Affairs Committee. Her energy, enthusiasm and indomitable spirit will be sorely missed.”
In the Jewish Yearbook, she was described as “a professional volunteer,” while in his book titled ‘Modern British Jewry,’ Jewish historian Professor Geoffrey Alderman said Jacobs was “one of Anglo Jewry’s most potent weapons”.
Her funeral is to be held on Tuesday.