JC man Sidney celebrates his centenary

The secret to his longevity? ‘Exercise and using sweetener instead of sugar’


Sidney Lightman with his late wife Ray and the first issue of the JC that he worked on, dated February 6, 1963

He must be the only JC journalist to have made it to 100. Sidney Lightman, the paper’s former assistant foreign editor, is celebrating his centenary on April 6 at Finchley’s New North London Synagogue, where he will be called to the Torah.

Later, his three children, Susan, Joy and David, and their families, will host his birthday party. “They all decided I should have a party,” he says.

Sidney has lost none of his vivid memories of three decades on the paper. But with six grand-children, two great grandchildren and another, on the way, they come before anything else, and bring a smile to his face and a warmth to his voice.

Born in London’s Stoke Newington, Sidney joined the JC as a sub in 1963, before becoming assistant foreign editor, working under three editors, William Frankel, Geoffrey Paul and Ned Temko.

“I got on very well with Joe Finklestone, who was both home and foreign editor.” His era covered Israel’s Six Day War in 1967 and the Yom Kippur War of 1973. He retired in 1986 but freelanced for the paper as the first Palestinian intifada broke out, ending in the signing of the doomed Oslo Accords.

A dapper and spry figure in the JC’s Furnival Street newsroom, Sidney was noted for his signature handlebar moustache and for his amicable personality. “I really enjoyed my time on the paper because we covered such a vast area,” he says. “I could do all of this because of my first-class education.” He had been a scholarship boy at one of England’s prestigious public schools, Christ’s Hospital, which he wanted to join because he liked the uniform.

Sidney also edited the Jewish Travel Guide, published by the JC’s former publishing subsidiary Vallentine Mitchell.

In 1959, before the JC, Sidney joined the former Jewish Observer and Middle East Review, published by the Zionist Federation, sharing an office with the future JC editor Geoffrey Paul.

He had already spent several years in Israel, having volunteered to join the Israeli navy during the War of Independence in 1948.

Sidney also proved himself a gifted linguist and began a separate career as a translator into French, German, Ivrit and Yiddish, only retiring at the age of 99. His facility with languages was discovered during his schooldays.

Sidney met his future wife Rachel (Ray) Hajioff at a JNF event in 1955, and they married on December 31, 1957. They lived in Kingsbury for four years before moving to their spacious Golders Green flat in 1961. “We had a wonderful life together for 57 years,” he reminisces. “But sadly, Ray, who had been ill for some time, died in March 2016.”

He attributes his longevity to his upbringing and schooling at Christ’s Hospital. “It’s no secret. I did everything I should have – I hardly touched alcohol, used sweeteners instead of sugar and took plenty of exercise.”

What about a positive outlook? “Yes, but that’s less important.”

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