In October 1991, a young man had his life cut tragically short by a car accident on Finchley Road in north west London. His name was Adam Science and he was just 27 years old.
Even at that age, Adam was already regarded by others as a future leader of the Anglo-Jewish community. He was a founder member and vice-Chairman of the Young Jewish Care fundraising committee. He had been the London chairman of Mili, the young leadership division of the Joint Israel Appeal.
Two months earlier, he had led a group of 80 young professionals to view the JIA’s projects in Israel, raising tens of thousands of pounds in the process. He was due to be leading another JIA trip, this time to Budapest. It was a trip he would never get to experience.
His great charisma and popularity was evident in the subsequent reaction of his friends. In an article published by the JC days after his death, a fellow young charity worker described his death as “the greatest loss to our generation”. Over 100 of his friends from London attended his funeral in Newcastle, where his family live. And his closest friends began thinking about how to honour and perpetuate his name.
Austen Science, Adam’s father, says the initial plan to set up a programme in his son’s memory, “happened very shortly after Adam died — literally within two or three weeks. So we were still very shell-shocked. But we realised there and then that there was a groundswell of support from his contemporaries.
“We never realised the extent to which Adam was involved in communal activity. It wasn’t really until we had to go through the papers in his flat that we realised what he was doing, what he was seeking to do, that opened our eyes. And obviously, particularly when you’re living apart, you don’t know what your children are doing all the time. We got an impression, but we never realised it was as involved as it turned out.
“We were naturally very comforted by the support. I remember they had a special service during the week of the shivah, at the South Hampstead synagogue, in his memory. Of course, we couldn’t go, but my brother-in-law went there. The number of young people who came up to his funeral and stayed all day — some of them through to the following day — and came up also for his stone setting, made us realise how much he was liked and supported.”
Six months later, a group of Adam’s friends launched a programme in his name, focusing on an objective very close to his heart; providing inspiration, empowerment and tools to enable young Jewish adults to make a difference in the Jewish community.
Now in its 25th year, more than 250 people have taken part in the programme. It has gone through several permutations, and was run by the UJIA for 14 years. More recently it's been taken on by Lead, a division of the Jewish Leadership Council. A Foundations course focuses on key issues within the British and global Jewish communities and voluntary sector.
In 2017 around 40 young professionals took part. Then there is the Leadership programme, redesigned in 2016 in partnership with the Cass Business School’s Centre for Charity Effectiveness. Each participant is assigned a personal mentor from within the community, helping them to build relationships and understand the inner workings of communal leadership.
“We have built a lasting legacy to a man whose life was taken away far too quickly,” says Avi Goldberg, a close friend of Adam and co-founder and chairman of the Adam Science Foundation.
Speaking at the most recent graduation ceremony he recalled their flat-sharing days “When I came home from the office every night he was having a committee meeting. Whether it was UJIA, or Jewish Care, or older versions of these things, that’s what he was doing.”
For the Science family, the Foundation has been a real comfort. “I really can’t tell you how much it meant to us,” says Austen.
“When this was started, they were talking about ‘well, five years would be a real accomplishment’. It’s not just an accomplishment now, it’s become an establishment. And we hear what these young kids have done… the foundation has in a lot of cases brought the most out of them. And that’s given us intense pride, satisfaction and support.”
Adams’s sister, Lisa, agrees. “I think one of the ironies… we learnt very sadly, through his death so much about him that we didn’t know”, she reveals.
“A group of friends came together and said: ‘We have to do something to make his name be known within a community where he was going to be one of the leaders, he had so much to give — we need to do something to remember him by, and not to let this opportunity go by.’”
For 25 years, Adam’s friends have led and supported the programme. Now they are passing on the baton.
“I’m not stepping completely away from the organisation”, says Goldberg. “But I do feel it’s time for new fresh blood without the impetus of the history, [and] the emotion.”
Anna Josse, another friend who has been there from the beginning, is among the leaving cohort. She says it’s time to focus on the Foundation’s alumni.
“Once you’ve got 260 leaders, you want to ensure that not only hopefully a large proportion of them are contributing in some way or leading in some way, but actually they’re working together as a network”, she says.
“If you look at alumni of universities such as Harvard, that’s quite a powerful concept, and so that’s… [something] we’d like to develop, putting some money and effort into building this alumni concept — you are a graduate of Adam Science and you have an exceptional stamp.”
Steven Lewis, the chairman of Jewish Care credits his friendship with Adam for getting him involved with the charity.
“I knew Adam through business and he persuaded me to go along to my first charity committee meeting of The Pentland Business Luncheon (now Topland). After this meeting, he then convinced me to become chairman and the rest is history!
"Adam was responsible for starting my journey with Jewish Care and almost 30 years later I am now chairman! Adam was a good friend, whose legacy continues to inspire me to this day.”
Nicky Goldman, chief executive of Lead,says the programme can be “transformational,” building confidence, and giving people better leadership skills and more understanding of the community. “We’re always so excited to work with people who are so committed to getting involved and playing their part in our community.
“We’re really proud to continue Adam’s legacy through our programme, and we intend to keep doing that.”
That pledge is very important to the Science family. Lisa says: “It’s the end of an era, and from a personal perspective, it’s very important for both myself and my parents to believe that it will continue, that the graduates, the alumni, will play a part in ensuring that it continues.
“Our hope is that this new generation will carry the Adam Science leadership course on for many, many more years to come.”