Arise Sir Gerald! Philanthropist Ronson knighted in New Year’s Honours

Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, lyricist Don Black, pianist Margaret Fingerhut and football boss Tony Bloom also recognised alongside charity and communal workers


Gerald Ronson (Photo: Getty)

V One of the Jewish community’s most influential philanthropists, Gerald Ronson, has been knighted and one of its most prominent rabbis, Jonathan Wittenberg, recognised in the New Year’s Honours List announced this week.

There were honours too for the veteran Oscar-winning lyricist Don Black, who was made CBE; and Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club chairman Tony Bloom, who was made MBE.

Ronson, 84, was knighted for his services to charity and the Jewish community, having raised more £100 million and personally donated £30 million.

There is hardly a walk of Anglo-Jewish life that he and his family have not supported over many decades but he has been best known as founder of the Community Security Trust, which was set up in its current form in 1994. As an investor in Jewish schools in the UK and Israel, he was a founding sponsor of JCoSS.

His knighthood represents a remarkable comeback and a testament to his resilience after he was caught up in the Guinness share-trading scandal.

The property magnate, who received the Spanish equivalent of a knighthood in 2009, was made CBE in 2012. His wife Gail was made a Dame in 2004.

More recently, he has been chairman of the Holocaust Memorial Charitable Trust, raising funds for the government-backed memorial and learning centre, which is due to be built in Westminster.

Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Education Trust, said: “We are especially delighted to see Sir Gerald Ronson so rightfully honoured. From a young age he made it his mission to fight antisemitism and with his vision, determination and hard work, he has ensured that we have a leading body protecting the Jewish community in the CST.

“Today, he is a revered leader within our community, a respected and valued philanthropist, a pillar of integrity and strength.”

She added: “He continues to campaign for the welfare of the Jewish community and as a key member of the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation, he is the driving force in progressing plans for a permanent place for us to remember the Holocaust for generations to come. A mentor and a hero to me, I could not be more proud and delighted.”

Now 85, Don Black co-wrote the theme song to the 1966 film Born Free and to several Bond movies. After more than 60 years he is still going strong: his latest project, a musical of the Graham Greene novella The Third Man, had a West End run earlier this year.

Tony Bloom, who is honoured for services to football and to Brighton, has been a leading figure in an innovative scheme to revitalise Jewish life on the south coast. The BNJC hub, comprising housing, a synagogue, a restaurant and other facilities, which launched this year, was hailed as a “Champions League” community centre by the Chief Rabbi.

Ashley Tabor-King, the owner of the media and entertainment group Global, whose portfolio includes LBC Radio, is made CBE.

Dianne Jeffrey CBE, the founding chair of Age International, is elevated to a damehood for services to elderly people abroad and to the community in Derbyshire.

The Sheffield United Synagogue member, who lives in the Peak District, said: “It is a tremendous honour and due to all the people I’ve worked with over the years. I’ve been extremely fortunate.”

In 30 years of public service, she has been a High Sheriff and a Deputy Lieutenant of Derbyshire and been involved with the Peak District National Park and the Chatsworth House Trust.

Her late husband Nicholas had been “a driving force in all that I did”, she said, but noted that when men were knighted, their wives were given the title of Lady, but the spouses of Dames did not enjoy a similar courtesy. “I feel a campaign coming on,” she said.

Masorti’s senior rabbi, Jonathan Wittenberg, who has been at the helm of one of the community’s largest synagogues, New North London, for 36 years, has been appointed OBE.

A regular on Radio 4’s Thought for the Day, he has recently published a collection of essays on the weekly Torah portion, Listening for God in Torah & Creation, which, writing in the JC, Rabbi Howard Cooper called “a classic religious text for our disjointed times”.

His citation notes his interfaith work — he is a president of the Council of Christians and Jews and he has been one of the leaders of the Eco-Synagogue initiative.

Rabbi Wittenberg, who was sitting shivah last week for his mother Isca, said he was sorry that she didn’t know about the honour.

The chair of Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel, Gavin Stollar, a member of Western Marble Arch Synagogue, also received an OBE in the 2024 list.

Liberal leader Sir Ed Davey said: “Gavin has been a fantastic advocate for the British Jewish community and has contributed a huge amount of time to the Liberal Democrats over the past 25 years.” His work had been instrumental from the party adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism to “tying the formal link with Israeli sister party Yesh Atid,” Sir Ed said.

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid offered his gratitude to the political activist “for his service to the special relationship between the UK and Israel”.

Paul Burger, chair of Belsize Square Synaogue and founder of Soho Artists, is appointed OBE for services to the music industry and charity.

Burger, who comes from the US and manages the Israeli singer Yasmin Levy among others, said, “I must say I was completely taken by surprise when first contacted about this honour a few weeks ago.” It struck him “as particularly significant to be recognised by one’s adopted homeland. I have been fortunate to have enjoyed a career helping many British artists launch in the UK and gain wider support and success around the world. And so it seems only natural to want to give back to this great British creative community through my work with the BRIT School and the BRIT Trust as well as with the Music Managers Forum and most recently with the Hofesh Schecter Company.”

He hoped that his work with the synagogue and the New Israel Fund UK had “also allowed me to contribute in some small way to Jewish communal life here in the UK and in Israel where my professional career began”.

Also recognised for her contribution to the country’s creative industries is Josie Dobrin, co-founder and executive chair of Creative Access.

William Salomon, who describes himself as "half-Jewish" and an "ardent supporter of Jewish causes", was made OBE for services to education. The financier is president of the Young Enterprise charity founded more than 60 years by his father, Sir Walter Salomon, to equip young people with working skills and knowledge.

Josephine Segal, who belongs to Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue, and Vanessa Crocker, who is a member of Belsize Square Synagogue, are both made MBE. Spread A Smile, the charity they launched ten years ago, brings entertainers to the beds of sick children and also organises theatre and other visits.

They felt “truly humbled” by their recognition which they dedicated to “all the brave children and their families we have met over the years”.

They said: “We have seen so many children experience months or even years of gruelling hospital treatment, unfairly losing their childhoods, whilst their parents have to watch their child suffer in pain and miss out on so much not to mention the effect this has on siblings. It has been and remains our top priority to bring them all smiles and laughter and some relief from their pain and suffering.”

An MBE also goes to the pianist Margaret Fingerhut who teamed up with an Ukrainian filmmaker earlier this year to produce a short video, Ukraine Will Rise Again, and to Justin Cohen, news editor of the Jewish News, who is cited for services to the Jewish community and Holocaust remembrance.

Cohen’s “utter devotion to our cause and community deserves this recognition”, Karen Pollock said.

Mike Frankl, the Reform movement’s former director of finance and synagogue services who is a member of Beth Shalom Synagogue in Cambridge, is also made MBE for his work for the Jewish community and on behalf of the homeless.

“When we opened our new synagogue building in 2015, one of the first things I did was to get in touch with other groups working with the homeless and we opened the synagogue for the homeless,” he said. Since the pandemic, rough sleppers have been housed in a specialist building. “I work as a mealtime assistant in the evenings,” he said.

Also honoured with an MBE were Dr Benjamin Marc Ellis, one of the founding trustees of KeshetUK, which campaigns for LGBT equality, and children’s author Antony Lishak for Holocaust education.

Lishak founded the charity Learning from the Righteous, which celebrates the moral courage of those who helped others during the Holocaust. “It was a surprise, I’m very grateful,” he said. “The work in which I am involved has never been more important. We are living in precarious times. I am aware that antisemitism is the monster that has woken up and if there is anything we can do, we have to do it. That’s what fires the work.”

Ari Leaman, founder of the Boys Clubhouse, a charity dedicated to helping teenage boys overcome homelessness, addiction and mental health issues, has been recognised with an MBE for “services to young people and to the community in Hendon.”

Leaman and his team are credited with “empowering and uplifting the lives of young individuals.” A Boys Clubhouse spokesperson said the MBE serves as “a poignant acknowledgement of [Ari’s] impact on the community and not only honors an individual but also highlights the collective dedication of the staff, volunteers, and supporters who have contributed to the success of this transformative initiative.”

Daniel Herman of Manchester was honoured with a British Empire Medal for his work of Holocaust education, while Barry Flack for services to the Jewish community in Barnet.

Dr Shara Cohen also received a BEM for voluntary services to women and to cancer patients. She is a committee member of FDUK, a charity that supports families who have members with familial dysautonomia, a rare disease occurring only in Ashkenazi Jews.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive