Natasha Kaplinsky and Len Blavatnik recognised in Queen's Birthday honours

Awards also go to Holocaust survivors, communal workers and philanthropists


A newsreader, one of Britain’s wealthiest men and a prominent philanthropist have each been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday honours list.

Natasha Kaplinsky, who has presented news programmes for the BBC, Channel 5 and ITN for 15 years, has been appointed an OBE for her services to Holocaust commemoration.

Over 15 months Ms Kaplinsky, whose paternal grandparents migrated from Poland to South Africa in 1929, has interviewed 112 Holocaust survivors and concentration camp liberators as part of a commemoration project for the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation.

Ms Kaplinsky said there was a sense of urgency to complete the “extremely emotional” project, so the lessons from the genocide can be learned by future generations.

She said: “It’s a huge honour, obviously, but it gives me an opportunity to shine a light on the most extraordinary people who came forward in the testimony project – 112 of them in total.

“I started each interview by asking why they had never recorded their story before. And their answer really shocked me. They mainly said it was because nobody had asked.

“Nobody had asked, in terms of their relatives, because they were protecting their parents or their grandparents, and equally, they were protecting the generations that followed from the huge horrors they had witnessed and experienced.”

She added: “We must learn from the darkest hour of humanity. And we must use their pain and suffering to change our attitudes. We live in a world now where there’s a lot of conflict, and if we can’t learn from Holocaust survivors, who can we learn from?”

Len Blavatnik, named as Britain’s second-richest person with an estimated wealth of £13billion, has received a knighthood for services to philanthropy.

Born in the Ukrainian city of Odessa in 1957, the investor and businessman is best known as the owner of Warner Music, and his conglomerate company, Access Industries, has interests in natural resources and chemicals, media and telecommunications.

The Blavatnik Family Foundation has supported a range of cultural and philanthropic institutions, including the British Museum, the Tate Modern, the Royal Opera House, the National Portrait Gallery and the Museum of Modern Art.

It also donated £75 million to the University of Oxford to establish a new school of government, named after Mr Blavatnik.

It was announced last month that the Tate Modern’s new extension, previously called Switch House, would also be named in the businessman’s honour. He is one of the Tate’s largest-ever donors, with the size of his contribution to the new building thought to be more than £50 million.

Mr Blavatnik also sponsors a Colel Chabad-run food bank and warehouse in Kiryat Malakhi in Israel, which sends monthly shipments of food to 5,000 poor families in 25 Israeli cities.

Trevor Pears, the Hampstead-based businessman who established the Pears Foundation with two of his brothers, has been given a knighthood under the Foreign Office honours list, for his overseas philanthropy.

Mr Pears said: “I feel both humbled and excited to receive this honour. I am immensely appreciative and grateful to my brothers Mark and David, to my wife Daniela and to all of my family for their tremendous support; likewise to our fantastic foundation team and all of our partners.”

The Pears Foundation, an independent charitable body “rooted in Jewish values”, works with 250 partner organisations to fund projects involving Holocaust education and antisemitism awareness, the Duke of Edinburgh Award, the Darfur crisis and the Britain Israel Research and Academic Exchange Partnership, which is one of the mainstays of the UK-Israel bilateral relationship.

Mr Pears said: “Through philanthropy I have been privileged to meet and work with many exceptional people. I look forward to growing and deepening these relationships in the future.”

The foundation has donated £100 million in the last decade and Mr Pears dedicates himself full time to its management.

Lord Stern of Brentford has been appointed a Companion of Honour for services to economics, international relations and tackling climate change.

The peer is the IG Patel professor of economics and government at the London School of Economics, and chair of the prestigious Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, also at the LSE.

He is also president of the British Academy, the UK’s national body for the humanities and the social sciences. 

Lord Stern said: "I am delighted and deeply honoured."

Professor Julia Black, Interim Director of the LSE, said: "This is richly deserved. Time and time again Nick has shown himself to be an outstanding public servant, an inspiring academic colleague and a dedicated member of LSE's global community. The achievement is even more remarkable when you consider he is only the fourth ever academic economist to be awarded the Companion of Honour."                                                                             

Richard Benson, the former head of the Community Security Trust (CST) has been made an OBE for services to the Jewish community.

Mr Benson stepped down from the CST after 12 years at the helm, during which the charity received recognition for its work in Britain and abroad.

He is now president of Tell MAMA, the organisation that monitors anti-Muslim hate.

He said: “Having devoted over 20 years of my professional and private life to combating antisemitism and all forms of hate crimes and having worked with amazing people and organisations who are at the sharp end of countering the same issues, I am proud that my work has been honoured in this way, and I will continue to carry out this important work for the benefit of victims.”

On top of his role at Tell MAMA, Mr Benson is still on the CST’s board. He is also chair of the 2017 Anti-Hate Crimes Awards, a board member of Maccabi GB, a trustee of the London Jewish Forum, chair of the Hillingdon Safer Neighbourhood Board and special adviser to the Rutgers University Safer Cities Programme. 

Edward Ziff said he was “humbled and excited” to be made an OBE for services to the economy and community in Leeds.

The 57-year-old is the former president of the Leeds Jewish Welfare Board, and remains involved with the communal organisation. For the past two years he has been chairman of the Leeds Teaching Hospital Charitable Foundation, while heading up the Leeds-based property company Town Centre Securities, which was started by his father.

He said: “I am very fortunate to work with some very talented people in all different parts of my life. I’m very appreciative of that, which gives me the time and space to do the extra-curricular stuff.

“The people I work with, whether in business or the voluntary stuff all help me look much better than I really am!”

Former barrister Lady Ritblat has been made an OBE for services to art philanthropy.

Jill Ritblat is a patron of the arts and former Turner Prize judge who has been purchasing selected highlights from couture and ready-to-wear collections since the 1960s. In 1997 she donated much of this wardrobe to the Victoria and Albert Museum, including pieces by Giorgio Armani, Celia Birtwell, Ossie Clark, Hermès, Yves Saint Laurent and Bellville Sassoon.

She also donated more than 400 similar items to the Design Museum, of which she is a trustee.

Cathy Ashley has been appointed an OBE for services to Holocaust commemoration and awareness.

She completed two terms as chair of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, the charity that promotes and supports the annual commemoration day and the thousands of events associated with it, from 2010 to 2016.

On taking the post she said: ‘I had been in the past involved, and attended various local HMD events, and I have a family background, which both involves family members dying in the Holocaust, and my father came over from Germany as a boy because of being Jewish and escaping what was going on there at the time.

But also, on the other side of the world, my sister-in-law’s family was – died under the Pol Pot regime, and the organisation of Holocaust Memorial Day Trust seemed to me to both reflect the lessons and horrors of the Holocaust but also in relation to more recent genocides, that really reflected my own personal family experience.’

During her tenure, the number of commemorative HMD activities rose from 758 to 5,590, and she oversaw HMDT’s organisation of the commemorations to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau in January 2015.

At the end of her time there, she said: "There has never been a more important time to commemorate the Holocaust and subsequent genocides – it is critical that not only do we not forget, but that we reflect on the consequences of what happens when hatred, discrimination and intolerance are unleashed against sections of our society."

Professor Malcom Mason has been made an OBE for his contribution to the NHS and cancer research.

Prof Mason’s pioneering work on combining radiotherapy and hormone therapy to treat prostate cancer was recognised with a major scientific award, the William Farr medal, four years ago.

Prof Mason, a member of Cardiff Reform Synagogue, has served as the chairman of the UK National Cancer Research Institute’s prostate cancer clinical studies group.

Peggy Sherwood has been made an MBE for her 15 years as chair of the Jewish Gay and Lesbian Group (JGLG) up until 2015.

The retired paediatric nurse, who lives in north-west London, said: “I’m really excited. It came as a total surprise and is a real honour.”

Ms Sherwood, 63, said that the JGLG was “male dominated” when she first joined, but under her leadership diversified to include more women and also people from the transgender and Charedi community.

“I was very proud of that,” she said, adding that she had been invited to visit Downing Street three times during her tenure.

She has also worked tirelessly alongside the Muslim LGBT community and said she had received “wonderful support and encouragement from all the Progressive and Reform rabbis”.

Also appointed an OBE is Ashley Tabor, the founder and executive president of media company Global, which owns a host of radio stations, including LBC, Capital FM and Radio X.

Mr Tabor, who is the son of bookmaking mogul Michael Tabor, received the honour for his services to the media industry.

Keith Simons was made an MBE for services to Jewish prisoners and to the Jewish community in Pinner, north-west London.

“It’s lovely - a thrill. I came home and saw the envelope marked Cabinet Office and thought, oh no. what have I done. Parking tickets aren’t dealt with by the Cabinet, are they?”

Mr Simons has been on the United Synagogue’s visitation committee, now part of the US Chesed department, since 1988. He visits Jewish prisoners in four jails outside London.

“I’ve always been interested in social work and prisons fascinated me,” he said.

The 71-year-old retired financial adviser has also been involved in the running of Pinner Synagogue since the early 1980s, and it a former member of the Board of Deputies.

Stuart Nagler has been made an MBE for his voluntary service in Hertfordshire.

A former partner in a Radlett firm of chartered accountants, he has held around 40 different voluntary roles in the county over 50 years, including running a Jewish youth club and participating in interfaith work.

He is a Deputy Lieutenant of Hertfordshire and an assistant police and crime commissioner. He is also a former mayor of Hertsmere.

“You don’t volunteer expecting to get honours, but this is wonderful,” he said.

His most satisfying role had been as chair of the Peace Hospice in Watford. “Caring for people in their last days is very special,” he said.

The 70-year-old, who is a member of Radlett United Synagogue, said he hoped he had shown Jewish people could reach out to others outside the community.

He added: “I get so much out of volunteering. My motto is: go on for as long as you can, doing all the good you can, for as many as you can.”

A British Empire Medal been awarded to Iby Knill, a 93-year-old Auschwitz survivor, for her services to Holocaust education and interfaith cohesion.

Born in Czechoslovakia in 1923, Mrs Knill fought in the resistance against the Nazis and survived the death camp before settling in Britain after the war. For years, she kept her wartime experience secret until a chance conversation with a student persuaded her to talk about it.

She has since written a book, appeared on television and spoken to more than 50,000 young people about her experiences.

Speaking from her home in Leeds, Mrs Knill said that she was “chuffed” and added: “You just carry on in your life and do what you consider is appropriate and what you think, but it’s very nice to be recognised. “

Over the coming weeks Mrs Knill will be travelling up and down the country to continue with her speaking engagements. She said: “Religion, gender or colour doesn’t matter. It’s up to each individual to try to make the world a better place.”

Also awarded a BEM for Holocaust education and interfaith cohesion is Sabina Miller, a survivor of the Warsaw ghetto.

Born in the Polish capital in 1922, she arrived in Britain after the war having lost her parents in the Holocaust.

Mrs Miller, who has two children, six grandchildren and a great-grand child, said: “I’m happy I survived and I have achieved a lot. I have beautiful children and lovely people around me”.

Karen Pollock, the chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, welcomed the awards to Mrs Knill and Mrs Miller.

She said: “We are delighted that Iby and Sabina have received this well-deserved recognition. They -  and other Holocaust survivors - willingly volunteer to relive their most horrific moments for the sake of the future. Elie Wiesel said that ‘when you hear from a witness you become a witness’; there will be thousands more witnesses across the UK as a result of these determined survivors.

“Sadly, survivors of the Holocaust are becoming fewer and frailer, and in the passage of time they will no longer be able to share their testimonies. That is why I am absolutely thrilled that Natasha Kaplinsky – who has gone above and beyond – has been recognised for her efforts in securing these testimonies on film so that their stories will be preserved for generations to come.”

Olivia Marks-Woldman, Chief Executive of HMDT, said: "These honours are a mark of the respect and admiration for survivors and educators held by those at the highest levels of British society. They remind us that people who dedicate so much time and effort to furthering education and commemoration about the Holocaust and genocide are respected, honoured and valued."

Dr Rudi Leavor, a German-Jewish refugee, has received a BEM for services to the Jewish community and interfaith relations in Bradford.

Dr Leavor, 91, who fled from his home in Berlin to Britain with his family in 1937, has held a variety of roles at Bradford Synagogue over the years. He has spent the last decade as chairman, but has also previously been treasurer and held the posts of burial secretary and marriage secretary.

Key to his involvement with the synagogue, which has only 45 members, is his work on interfaith relations.

The retired dentist said: “I have been involved in interfaith work with the Christian and Muslim communities of Bradford and the leaders of both of those have become friends of mine.”

Acknowledging the award, he said: “I’m very, very pleased. It’s a great honour for me and for the refugee community who have demonstrated that they have contributed to the wellbeing of this country.”

Rachel Ehrentreu has been recognised with a BEM for services to the vulnerable and elderly members of the Jewish community in north-west London.

A great-grandmother who turns 84 this month, Mrs Ehrentreu is a chaplain at the Royal Free Hospital and also works tirelessly for the Chevra Kadisha and an organisation supporting the elderly and Holocaust survivors called Neshei.

She is married to Dayan Chanoch Ehrentreu, former head of the London Beth Din.

Mrs Ehrentreu said the honour came as a “big surprise.

“I feel that it’s an honour for the Jewish community and I fell unworthy of it but I’m grateful.

“Believe me, giving is living and I really enjoy the work.”

A total of 1,109 people were honoured by the Queen, with 74 per cent of the recipients recognised for voluntary or paid communal work.

Reporting by Lianne Kolirin and Ben Weich 


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