Birthday honours for top activists

By Marcus Dysch and Sasha Brenner, June 18, 2009
OBE: Henry Grunwald

OBE: Henry Grunwald

Communal activists feature prominently in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, with accolades for former Board of Deputies’ president Henry Grunwald, human rights campaigner June Jacobs, Lubavitch rabbi Aryeh Sufrin and Manchester leader Joy Wolfe.

Mr Grunwald described his OBE for services to the Jewish community and interfaith relations as “a wonderful surprise. When I became president, the first new-start appointment we made was of an interfaith officer. I always made it a priority that we build and maintain the good relations we enjoy with other communities.”

Mrs Jacobs, whose CBE acknowledges interfaith and human rights activities, explained: “I have done a lot of work for Soviet Jewry and women’s rights. I suppose it is recognition of lots of issues.”

For Rabbi Sufrin, an MBE for services to Jewish community relations and the East London-based Drugsline charity, his honour reflected a group effort. “A person is only as good as their team and I’m supported by very good colleagues and community workers,” he said. Also an MBE, Mrs Wolfe, a Zionist Federation leader, was “very happy the citation was for the Greater Manchester area, as it not only recognises work within the Jewish community.”

Dovid Segelman becomes an MBE for services to north London Jewry. The Leeds-born mental health outreach worker is an active member of the Stamford Hill community. His voluntary involvements include bereavement counselling and the Hatzolah emergency medical service.

An educational OBE is Barbara Hamnett, who left her role as deputy JFS headteacher last year, having worked at the school since 1970. “This is a tribute to my colleagues and the wonderful staff I worked with,” she said. “My passion has always been trying to maximise the potential of children.”

Ilana Tahan, head of the British Library’s Hebrew collections, is an OBE for contributions to scholarship. She said it was important to bring the library’s significant collection of Judaic manuscripts to a general audience.

In the wider sphere, hairdresser Vidal Sassoon gets a CBE for services to his profession. In his youth Mr Sassoon was one of the 43 Group which countered the fascists in London’s East End and he fought for Israel in the War of Independence. In 1982, he set up the Vidal Sassoon International Centre for the Study of Antisemitism in Jerusalem.

“People come to Britain from all over the world for hairdressing training and if I have had something to do with that I’m very happy,” Mr Sassoon said this week. “There’s an enormous sense of pride of belonging to a small group of people who have given so much to our world. I’m very proud to have contributed something as a Jew.”

Random House chair Gail Rebuck is appointed a Dame. She has turned the company into the UK’s second largest publisher and is the co-founder of the World Book Day charity. She said the honour “reflects the achievements” of everyone at the company.

Leeds-born playwright Kay Mellor said her OBE for services to drama “proves you can still be noticed outside London. I really thought I’d be overlooked.” Former Leo Baeck College chair Professor Graham Zellick receives a CBE for services to justice and MBEs go to Deborah Cohen, BBC Radio Science editor and to Daniel Taubman, for services to adult and further education.

Last updated: 7:12pm, June 18 2009