BBC news presenter Jonathan Charles was among 100 BBYO alumni who gathered in central London on Monday for the first of the youth movement’s 70th birthday events.
Those with the longest links to the organisation included north Londoner Felix Franks, 83, who met his wife Hedy, 80, after joining BBYO in 1948.
“I had been in the British Army and didn’t know many Jewish people and so joined to meet new people,” he recalled. “I met a very beautiful girl and asked her out for a date.” They married in 1950 and now have five grandchildren.
National director Phil Peters said “BBYO’s mission is about building the future leadership for the community and throughout our history we have inspired, developed and empowered an incredible number of Jewish youth to take on this responsibility.”
Maureen Lipman, Tracy-Ann Oberman, Tory MP Grant Shapps and the Football Association’s Simon Johnson are other familiar names from the BBYO ranks.
In America, famous graduates include Leonard Nimoy and Henry Winkler. It is even rumoured that Simon and Garfunkel met through the organisation.
Youth commission chair Joe Ellison said the celebrations should not deflect from difficult issues. “Youth movements and charities need to be aware of their finances in these times. We also need to adapt to the way young society changes.”
Another challenge was ensuring that members were not lost to the community after they left BBYO.