Obituary: Hyam Corney

A former JC Assistant Foreign Editor reflects on the life of a popular colleague and good friend


My dear friend Hyam Corney, who has died at the age of 83, was a kind, gentle, principled man and a considerate, helpful, human being. I worked with him for many years and during that time he never said anything harmful about anyone. If he could not say something positive about someone, he did not say anything at all. He was not at all sanctimonious or self-centred — he had too good a sense of humour for that.

Hyam was adored by his host of friends, and was also very popular with his colleagues. In all the years I knew him, I never once heard him raise his voice in anger.

He studied French and Spanish at Leeds University. When he graduated, he joined the JC as a reporter, and it was there he met Sheila, the young woman who later became his wife.

Some years later he moved to the Board of Deputies of British Jews, where he worked with the late Rabbi Isaac Levy. From there he went to the now defunct Jewish Observer and Middle East Review, known as the organ of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain, which he edited from about 1974 to 1977 until its demise, following the withdrawal of a direct subsidy by the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem,

Maurice Samuelson, a colleague and former editor of the JO, who announced the closure of the paper at the end of 1977 due to the lack of funding, said: “Too bad Hyam couldn’t save the JO. But he was a very decent guy and he did go on aliyah — and I respected him for that”.

But the pull of the JC remained strong, and Hyam returned to the paper as TV critic and rose steadily through the ranks, becoming in turn, Foreign News Editor, then Home News Editor and finally, Deputy Editor (under Ned Temko) from 1991-2002, when he retired. In his role as Foreign Editor, he also became the London correspondent of both Ma’ariv, the Israeli daily newspaper, and the Jerusalem Post, following the tradition of his predecessor Joe Finklestone.

During his time at the JC, Hyam’s knowledge about all things Israeli was acknowledged by the media and he was often interviewed on the subject by BBC News, Sky News and other TV news and current events programmes. He also knew many prominent figures, both in the UK and abroad, such as Golda Meir, Moshe Dayan, Shimon Peres, Menachem Begin, Yitzchak Rabin, Bill Clinton and King Hussein of Jordan.

Prior to that he had been executive director of the public relations, Israel and Foreign Affairs committee at the Board of Deputies. He had also been information director at the JNF.

Colleagues remember him as a man with a kindly and affable nature. Sue Greenberg, former JC editorial secretary, visited Hyam and Sheila when they lived in Borehamwood and described him as “a lovely family man with a great sense of humour”.

Born in London, Corney graduated with a BA Hons and dedicated his life to promoting Jewish causes and Jewish journalism.

In an affectionate tribute, his daughter Emma Sass described Hyam as having “probably three loves and two interests”.

His loves were: family, friends and tradition and his interests were Manchester United and the ever decreasing value of the pound. She shared memories of his self-sacrificing nature. “We only had the one car and by the time I was driving, if Dad needed the car — often just to go and be with his mother who also had Parkinson’s– he insisted that I take the car while he get the bus.

“Dad was a fiercely independent person. In fact, just before he was officially diagnosed with Parkinson’s — he’d gone to the doctor on his own, come home and just ‘carried on’ without breathing a word to any of us.

“He was extremely British like that. His move to Israel brought him great joy — in particular, Netanya and more specifically, his balcony.

“Tradition was another huge part of dad’s life. He loved the shul. From Edgware United to Borehamwood United and then finally to Young Israel here in Netanya; nothing could get in the way of Dad and shul. In fact, I remember many years ago when we lived in England when Mum wanted to move houses at one point. ‘What do you want?’ she asked Dad. ‘Just to be in walking distance from a shul and a train station’, he replied.”

Hyam is survived by Sheila, his wife of over 57 years, their son Neil, their daughter Emma, nine grandchildren, four great-grandchildren and his brother Laurence.

Hyam Corney: born May 20, 1938. Died  February 14, 2022

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