Tributes as former JC editor dies after fall

By Dana Gloger, April 25, 2008
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Tributes poured in from senior figures in journalism and government this week, following the death of former JC editor William Frankel.

Mr Frankel, 91, who edited the newspaper from 1958 to 1977, died last Friday in Washington after a fall which led to a brain haemorrhage. He had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

In 1991 he became chairman of the JC, the only person since the paper’s founding in 1841 to have held both jobs.

During his editorship, he angered the Orthodox community by famously defending Rabbi Dr Louis Jacobs, whose appointment as chief rabbi was blocked by the Orthodox establishment because of his view that God had not dictated every word of the Torah.

Peter Halban, who published Mr Frankel’s autobiography, Tea with Einstein and Other Memories said: “William was a good friend of my family for many years. It was a great pleasure to have been able to publish his memoirs. He was a truly liberal person, loyal to his roots, to his country and Israel, to his friends and professional associates. He stood for decency, integrity and understanding and above all, tolerance of others.”

Peter Oppenheimer, president of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew studies and former JC director and chairman, said: “His company was invariably enlightening, civilised and humorous. There would always be some blend of a searching question and amusing gossip and that is something I shall miss about him.”

Lord Janner — whose parents Sir Barnet and Lady Elsie Janner — were close friends of Mr Frankel, said: “He was reliable, bright, friendly and a tremendous fighter for our community. He was always there when we needed him.”

Lord Janner’s sister, Lady Morris, who served with Mr Frankel on the executive of the Jewish Youth Fund, echoed her brother’s sentiments.

“William was one of the kindest, most caring men I have ever met. He was quite special and he will be missed.”

Sir Sigmund Sternberg, who knew Mr Frankel for more than 50 years, said: “William had a sharp mind. The JC flourished under his editorship.”

Cathy Neuman, Mr Frankel’s step-daughter, who lives in Baltimore, said: “He had a great impact on us, his three step daughters, and on our children. He was really our children’s grandfather and had an enormous impact on all of them in terms of intellectual curiosity and challenging them in a very understated way to do their best and learn about what’s really important. He believed that who you are is what’s important, and not material things. That’s how we will all remember him.”

The JC’s current chairman Peter Levy described Mr Frankel as “a man who had a passion for Judaism and an interest in everything.

“He loved being with people and he was a great friend who was always there to give advice and assistance and the benefit of his counsel. As editor and chairman, he is the man most responsible for the establishment of the JC as a newspaper of record and repute.”

Alan Rubenstein, commercial director, added: “William Frankel was ‘a gentleman editor’. You would never walk into his office without being asked and he always wore a jacket.

“He was loved by all the staff. Despite his clashes with ‘the beards’ — as he referred to the strictly Orthodox — the vast majority of the community admired his editorial stance, including his long battle over the Jacobs affair.”

Ned Temko, JC editor from 1990 to 2005, said: “William Frankel was a remarkable man and a remarkable JC editor. It was a measure of his extraordinary vitality — physical and intellectual — that the news of his death struck me not only with a sense of sadness but also of shock.

“His editorship, and particularly his role in placing it at the heart of the Louis Jacobs affair, was crucial in cementing it as a central influence.”

Geoffrey Paul, who joined the JC in 1958, before ultimately succeeding Mr Frankel as editor from 1977 to 1990, said: “William Frankel transformed the JC from the inward-looking community newspaper… into an international journal of Jewish news and opinion with global reach.

“He appointed to key positions a younger generation of journalists who shared his vision, and provided them with the inspiration, the resources and freedom to get on with producing what was widely regarded as the best Jewish newspaper in the world.”

News editor Jenni Frazer, who joined the paper in 1976, said: “He was the editor who spoke to popes and presidents. Almost certainly his finest hour was the role he played in the Louis Jacobs affair.”

Current JC editor David Rowan said: “It was an honour to have known William, one of those true journalists with an integrity that inspires. If we can pay an enduring tribute to him, it will be to keep his values alive in the newspaper as it moves forwards.”

    Last updated: 11:01am, April 24 2008