Charity luminary passes away at 107

Stella Lucas was founder of All Aboard charity and a matriarch at St John’s Wood Synagogue


Stella Lucas photographed at the age of 105, two years ago

Founder of the All Aboard charity, Stella Lucas MBE, has passed away peacefully in her St John’s Wood home at the age of 107.

Stella was awarded an MBE in 2002 for services to the Jewish community in London.

As life president of the British Women Friends of the Hebrew University and of the Association of United Synagogue Women, as well as assistant grandmaster of the Women’s Freemasonry movement, Stella led an incredibly full life.

Her daughter, Susan Starr, said her mother “did a vast number of things and giving back to the community was what drove her. It was the way I was brought up.”

Born in Hackney in 1916 to Bloema and Michael Waldman, Stella was just 14 years old when she started to fundraise to send children from Whitechapel on seaside holidays. Since then, her charitable efforts dominated her long life.

In the 1980s, Stella noticed that there was a huge need for charity in the UK and told the JC: “If Oxfam can do it for the non-Jewish community, I can do it for the Jewish community.” In 1987, she founded All Aboard and opened her first charity shop in Swiss Cottage.

The charity, which initially raised funds for Jewish Care, AJEX and Great Ormond Street Hospital, now has 21 shops in London and Manchester and supports UK-based Jewish and non-Jewish charities.

After leading the charity for 30 years, still attending board meetings into her 100th year, Stella left in 2017,

The charity said on its website: “Thank you Stella for all of your outstanding voluntary service to All Aboard Charity Shops and the many other worthy causes you supported. You will never be forgotten.”

Stella was thrilled to receive a card from the King and Queen consort for her 107th birthday in July. As recently as November, she attended a Freemasons meeting.

Known as Aunty Stella in St John’s Wood Synagogue, she spent the last 50 years of her life in a flat close by, attending shul every Shabbat. She was at her home when she passed away on Shabbat morning.

Her grandson recalled the “vitality in her voice and how young she always looked”. He remembered how people would ask her: “’What is your secret?’ And she would say: ‘Read a lot and get involved. Don’t sit around waiting for something to happen. Get it done even when it is hard.’”

A key player in several community institutions, Stella was heavily involved in the United Synagogue and helped to appoint Lord Sacks and Lord Jakobovits as chief rabbis.

Her daughter said that when Stella was awarded an MBE in 2002, she had a long conversation with the Queen. Stella had been present when the Queen Mother opened a community centre in Stepney and the curtain fell down. “Everyone laughed,” said her daughter, “and she recounted this as she was awarded her MBE.”

At her funeral on Sunday, her daughter said that “everyone was smiling and we celebrated her life”.

She added: “It all came very quickly at the end, but we have lovely memories and wonderful stories that we will cherish.”

Dayan Binstock, senior rabbi of St John’s Wood United Synagogue, conducted Stella’s funeral. He said: “Stella will be sorely missed by the St John’s Wood community and United Synagogue family. The last three weeks, when she wasn’t in shul, was the longest period of time outside of Covid when she hadn’t attended shul.

"When asked for her secret she would say: ‘Keep busy! There’s always something that needs doing and you could be the one to do it!’ She threw herself into all areas of community life, being the first to sign on for educational and social events. At the age of 101, she resigned from All Aboard in protest at their decision to open some of their shops on Shabbat. May her memory be for a blessing.”

Daniel Carmel-Brown, CEO of Jewish Care, said: “We are immensely grateful to Stella for her ingenuity and dedication, which led her, along with other volunteers, to create All Aboard. The shops raised incredible funds over the years to support Jewish charities and Jewish values. She leaves behind an incredible legacy and her work continues on.”

Stella is survived by her daughter, Susan, two grandchildren, Richard and Juliette and five great-grandchildren. Her husband, Victor, a former president of the United Synagogue, died in 1997.

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