June Jacobs, leading campaigner for peace and human rights, dies at 88

The Londoner was awarded a CBE in 2009 for services to human rights and inter-faith relations


June Jacobs, known in the Jewish community as a leading campaigner for peace and women’s rights, has died.

Mrs Jacobs, 88, made headlines in 1989 when, as the Board of Deputies’ foreign affairs spokesperson, she met with PLO representative Bassam Abu Sharif caused a rift among British Jews.

She was the first woman to hold the position, and as the founder of the National Council for Soviet Jewry, she travelled to the Soviet Union to meet and campaign for "refuseniks", who had been denied permission to emigrate.

The long list of the organisations with which she was associated also includes the International Council of Jewish Women, the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, the Jewish Council for Racial Equality (Jcore), the National Alliance of Women’s Organisations and the New Israel Fund.

Jcore announced her death "with much sadness" on Twitter on Monday.



Mrs Jacobs died on Sunday shortly after suffering a stroke.

Mrs Jacobs, who lived in Kentish Town in north London, was awarded a CBE in 2009 for services to human rights and inter-faith relations.

In an interview with the JC after receiving her CBE, Mrs Jacobs said of her meeting with Mr Abu Sharif: "It was the right thing to do. How else can we attempt to bring peace if we don’t talk?

"That’s how you start the process going. I would speak to Hamas now if they would speak to us."

Edie Friedman, the executive director of Jcore, told the JC that Mrs Jacobs was one of the first volunteers to sign up after JCORE was founded in 1976.

Dr Friedman said: “People forget but to fight for social justice as a woman in the 1970s and ‘80s was a tricky thing. The position of women – and people’s willingness to listen to us – has changed.

“She was always concerned about issues of social justice – especially Israel and Palestine, Soviet Jewry and women’s rights.

“She was one of the fiercest fighters for human rights and asylum seekers. She was a fearless advocate and the community needs more people like her.”

Dr Friedman also paid tribute to Mrs Jacobs’ “intelligence and quick wit”, saying she possessed a “lovely sense of humour”.

Marie van der Zyl, the President of the Board of Deputies President, added: "June Jacobs was a fearless campaigner who did great work for the causes she adopted, including Soviet Jewry, ‘chained women’ and the cause of peace in the Middle East.

"A long-time Deputy, June served as chairperson of what was then the foreign affairs committee. Her energy, enthusiasm and indomitable spirit will be sorely missed.”

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