Leading British Zionist killed in Jerusalem crash

By Jennifer Lipman, October 22, 2012

One of the leading figures in British Zionist history has been killed in a car accident at the age of 97.

Jack Sklan, who had lived in Israel for nearly 40 years, was crossing King George Street not far from the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem on Shabbat morning when he was hit by a car.

Despite the best efforts of a volunteer medic from the aid group United Hatzalah – a man who interrupted a Shabbat service honouring his own forthcoming wedding – Mr Sklan's injuries were too severe.

Mr Sklan, who came from a family of devoted Zionists in Stamford Hill, was the first chairman and founder of the British Aliyah Movement. In 1987, after making aliyah himself in 1973, he received the Israeli President's award for volunteers for his work as chair of Keren Yaldenu Tikvatenu, a social action organisation working to help children.

In 1934 he helped create a Zionist youth group called Kinneret, which later became known as Young Mizrahi. Two years after that, his brother Cecil and other friends arranged the first meeting of Bnei Akiva UK in their family home. Mr Sklan subsequently helped widen the movement's membership and reach, even as he served in the army during the Second World War.

"Jack Sklan was one of the pioneers of Bnei Akiva, and we will forever be indebted to him for all he gave to our movement," said BA national director Jonny Sherman. "Jack knew what it was to be a leader. He led by example, and he inspired thousands. He dedicated his life to the Jewish state and the Jewish people, and we look up to him as a hero of Bnei Akiva."

Michael Rainsbury, a former national director for BA, said that Mr Sklan, "through his humble and behind-the-scenes work, played a major role in the creation of Bnei Akiva UK".

He added: "A tireless worker for religious Zionism in the UK and Israel, Jack personified the ideology and passion which characterised so many in his era."

Last updated: 11:17am, October 23 2012