Volunteers who are the heart of Anglo-Jewry

Twenty more men and women, presented in alphabetical order, who have been selected as winners of the JC Mensch awards


Sam Baumal
Hebrew teacher

Eighteen-year-old Sam Baumal works as a teaching assistant every Sunday at Edgware and District Reform Synagogue's Hebrew school where, friends say, his kindness and patience endears him to his students and other staff members. He also gives up a considerable amount of his free time during the year to train to look after a severely disabled young adult.

Mr Baumal says he is motivated "by the desire to help young people to progress and grow in terms of their Jewish studies and Hebrew reading".

Last summer the Merchant Taylors' pupil became a supporter of the school's Phab Week - where sixth formers run a holiday camp at the school for 20 disabled teenagers.

"It's an incredible opportunity to help give a young person an amazing week that they'll never forget, full of fun, friendship and new experiences. It's also a great opportunity to allow the carers and parents of our guests to take a break," he said.

Mr Baumal lives in Watford and is studying for A Levels in maths, further maths, chemistry and physics and hopes to attend Durham University to read natural sciences.

Pamela Bertschinger
Cafe manager

Pamela Bertschinger works with dementia sufferers in Jewish Care homes and day centres, often putting in more than 20 hours of volunteering a week.

She leads the Memory Way Cafe in Golders Green each week for couples for whom dementia is a daily challenge. The project has created a network of people who are going through similar experiences and provides access to professional support.

"I give my time because it's the best thing I've ever done in my life," she said.

Graham Calvert
Fundraiser and blood donor

Described by his nominator as "a shining representation of a shem tov [a good name]", Graham Calvert is a committee member and trustee of the Hospital Kosher Meals Service.

He has also been a regular blood donor since 1976, taking part in a special interval study, which means giving blood more frequently than the normal three-month period.

An enthusiastic cyclist, the 60-year-old from north-west London has also raised tens of thousands of pounds on charity bike rides for Norwood and Kisharon. His nominators say Mr Calvert does not seek the limelight or attention. "My family think I do a lot for different parts of the community," is all he will say about his work.

Stanley Comras
Care home visitor

Eighty nine-year-old Stanley Comras volunteers several times a week at Jewish Care's Clore Manor care home and Lady Sarah Cohen house in north-west London in order, as he said, "to help with the old people".

He added: "My mother used to live at Clore Manor and, when she passed away, the residents asked me to keep visiting. This was 20 years ago. I used to do the gardening and odd jobs, but I can't go up ladders any more. Now I talk to the residents, I cheer them up by talking and listening to them. I see if they want something but can't get it due to their limited mobility.

"It's refreshing and fulfilling. My wife, Myrtle, comes with me once a week and she also sits and talks to them. I also visit several local people who are confined to their homes. I enjoy it."

Mr Comras, is a member of Palmers Green and Southgate Synagogue, and continues to take an active part in Shabbat services. "I like to help out," he said.

Emma Cravitz
School founder

The part-time educational psychologist has worked with children in many London schools in her role at the Westminster education authority. In a voluntary capacity she has been a co-founder of two Jewish schools in Haringey - Yeladanu pre-school and Eden primary, where she now serves as a governor. She was also one of the first governors at JCoSS, in East Barnet, and still sits on the secondary school's governing body.

Ms Cravitz, who is a mother of three and lives in north London, said helping to start the schools was very fulfilling.

"I love the idea of inclusive schools open to all kids who want a Jewish education. We wanted to create a tolerant, accepting environment for everybody."

Simon Davies
Volunteer and fundraiser

Thirty eight-year-old Simon Davies was born with cerebral palsy. In 1996 he moved into Jewish Care's Rela Goldhill Lodge in Golders Green. As a way of thanking the carers who have looked after him, he works as a full-time volunteer in the campaign department at Jewish Care's Stuart Young House.

He also runs a gift-card business with all profits going to the lodge. He recently raised over £7,000 in a sky-dive challenge.

Mr Davies said he volunteers because he wants "to be like any man my age who works. Helping others gives me a purpose in life".

Nicole Duke
Synagogue worker

Nicole Duke co-ordinates Edgware Cares, Edgware United Synagogue's ladies committee, is the shul's vice-chair and is a member of the United Synagogue's ladies Chevra Kadisha. She also helps run the US burial society's 24-hour helpline, which means she can be answering calls from bereaved families at all times of the day and night. She also serves on the shul's events and welfare committees.

Mrs Duke, 65, said she devotes five hours a day "for my synagogue. It's a wonderful shul. It has been so supportive to me since my husband died. We all help one another and we all get on well together".

Earlier this month Mrs Duke was awarded a 2015 London Borough of Barnet Civic Award "in recognition of her dedication and tireless voluntary work for the Jewish community in Barnet".

Asher Finchas
Simcha photographer

Asher Finchas has been taking pictures of simcha celebrations for the past 25 years without charge.

A jeweller by trade, the Israel-born grandfather of eight from Edgware, who attends the local Sephardi congregation, says it started off as a hobby. Now, he reckons he has taken pictures of more than 500 weddings, barmitzvahs, batmitzvahs and family occasions, in the UK and Israel. "I'm not trying to be a photographer, it is just about capturing a unique moment in the chupah, catching a look," said Mr Finchas. "It's a lifetime gift."

David Godfrey
Food parcel deliverer

David Godfrey has driven thousands of miles to make food parcel deliveries on behalf of the Gift charity.

He regularly tops up parcels with his own contributions such as fruit, vegetables and toiletries, before driving for hours to collect and drop off food all over Essex.

His efforts assist community members struggling to make ends meet because of illness, bereavement or divorce.

"There is so much heartache in the world and to be able to help out local families in my own community makes me very happy," he said.

"There's nothing better than knowing that the small amount of effort I put in each week can make a real instant difference to people who need a little helping hand."

Ronnie Harris
Volunteer and fundraiser

It is almost impossible to measure Ronnie Harris's contribution to the Jewish community.

Endless hours have been devoted to causes including Norwood, the Teenage Cancer Trust, London's Jewish Museum, and philanthropic projects in South Africa and Israel.

In senior roles with Norwood he is credited with raising millions of pounds, and has additionally brought in funds by running marathons and undertaking cycling challenges.

Those who nominated him described him as having "a big heart". His efforts have made him "much-loved, admired and respected by all those who come into contact with him".

Adrian Jacobs
Volunteer and charity runner

Adrian Jacobs has just got back from Jerusalem where he completed the city half-marathon with his daughter Natalie, raising £10,000 for Kisharon.

The charity is one of several this father of four finds time to help.

He is chairman of Sage Nursing Home, a trustee for Menorah Foundation School, a local police liaison officer, and volunteers with CST and Hendon Adass Synagogue.

Mr Jacobs, who works in property, said: "I just must be mad. I try to juggle and hope I can keep all the balls in the air. I've been volunteering since my barmitzvah. I was brought up in a household where tzedaka and volunteering were important.

"I think it is important for young people to get involved in the community and put back what we get out."

David Katz

well-known as an emeritus professor of immunopathology at University College London, the South African-born scientist spends his spare time campaigning for the protection of Jewish religious practices.

He is a senior adviser to both Shechita UK and Milah UK, and campaigns on issues such as death certification and organ donation.

Prof Katz has volunteered since he was a teenager, campaigning against apartheid and encouraging other medical students to volunteer in underprivileged areas.

The 59-year-old, a member of South Hampstead Synagogue, said: "I have tried to use my experience as a doctor to benefit the community. I have not collected money, or done social care for people, but I have volunteered in an area where I've got expertise."

He added: "Zionism is a very major part of what I do. I use my medical connections to take major figures in British medicine to Israel once a year for the past seven years with the Jewish Medical Association."

Nettie Keene
Volunteer hairdresser

Nettie Keene has been volunteering at Jewish Care's community centre in Redbridge for 43 years. As well as co-ordinating other volunteers and running fundraising committees, her presence is best felt in the centre's hairdressing salon.

Her efforts are estimated to be worth the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of pounds of hairdos, and at the age of 81 she still wields her scissors twice a week.

She explained: "I'm totally involved. I love doing it and I love the people. I feel like I'm giving something back - I've had a lot of help myself down the years and this gives me some pleasure.

"Doing people's hair is great, they feel good at the end of it. I love doing what I can. I hope it will be for many more years."

Selina Marks and
Elaine Jankel

Lunch-club organisers

For these two grandmothers a love of their community has led to years of volunteering.Together they run the Berkeley Lunch Club - every Tuesday they welcome the older members of the community into West London Synagogue for a hot three-course kosher meal, lively discussion, and entertainment.

Mrs Marks, 59, has done voluntary work for over 20 years. She said: "I love WLS and when my children were at school I had time and wanted to do something for the shul. It's a community I'm very proud to be a part of."

Mrs Jankel, who also volunteers one day a week at Jewish Care, said: "The lunch is incredibly important because it gives elderly members who might otherwise be sitting at home feeling isolated and depressed a really nice day out. We see them flourish. We don't know why or how but something we are doing must
be right."

Rosalind Ordman
Office volunteer

Thousands of hours over seven years - that is the time Rosalind Ordman has devoted to Jewish Childs Day.

Mrs Ordman, from Pinner, north-west London, helps out in the office of the charity, which aids Jewish children who suffer from a range of hardships, including neglect and abuse.

She supports the charity's small team of six employees by carrying out administration tasks and occasionally helping at the charity's events.

"Ros has the biggest heart of anyone we know," said one member of staff. For Mrs Ordman, the satisfaction comes from just being involved. "Jewish Childs Day supports wonderful projects that help children in need. I'm really proud to be a part of it and the impact it makes," she said.

Stephen Rabin
Ticket man

Stephen Rabin volunteers for the Emunah Entertains charity ticketing agency, which is run by his wife, Tina. The agency provides tickets to Emunah events, and has raised more than £200,000 for the charity, which aids Israeli children, in the past 12 years.

Mr Rabin, who is 67 and lives in Hampstead Garden Suburb, makes sure the tickets get to the right place.

"This was started as a personal service, so I try and hand-deliver people's tickets. My wife gets very worried that the tickets might get lost in the post, so I help her by dropping the tickets to people's doors."

Mr Rabin spends up to 10 hours a week couriering the tickets, saving the charity a small fortune in postage and petrol costs. He has also helped to raise Emunah's profile among the agency's 1,400 customers.

Lisa Renak
Charity founder

Afamily bereavement motivated Lisa Renak to establish the Joely Bear Appeal.

Mrs Renak's four-year-old son, Joel, died in 1995 from a rare form of liver cancer.

She said: "I wanted to help families in similar situations to me and raise awareness of blood donations.

"We've had thousands of blood donations via the charity, in conjunction with the NHS Blood and Transplant service."

The appeal - run by Mrs Renak and her husband, Leigh - has also raised over £200,000 for soft-play areas in hospitals for children undergoing treatment, and facilities to allow parents to stay with them.

Gary Sakol
Charity worker

Gary Sakol was one of the founding members of Mitzvah Day UK, the cross-communal project that sees thousands of people raising money for charities, and remains on its advisory committe. He was a senior supporter and fundraiser for Habonim before becoming their chief executive.

He has volunteered regularly for the Community Security Trust and has helped in the running of the annual Limmud conference.

As former Zionist Federation deputy director, he went far beyond the job description, training hundreds of people in Israel advocacy.

Mr Sakol said: "Being brought up through Habonim Dror instilled in me the values of tzedek and tikun olam.

"If we have the capacity to help make life better for others, we must grasp the opportunity with both hands."

Edna Terret
JLGB volunteer

Edna Terret's childhood experience of being a member of the Jewish Lads and Girls Brigade had such an impact that she stayed on as a volunteer and last year celebrated 40 years' service with the organisation.

Mrs Terret is now manager of around 200 adult volunteers at JLGB. The 120-year-old organisation runs weekly meetings, holiday camps and Duke of Edinburgh activites for children aged eight to 18.

Mrs Terret said: "I started off as a leader to try and give back something to the organisation that I got so much out of as a child.

"I love to see young people develop. I have seen people grow up and develop and like to think part of it is because of the effect JLGB has had on them."

Jonathan Turner
Battling barrister

At the end of the working day barrister Jonathan Turner does not hang up his wig, but continues working, using his professional skills to defend the country he loves - Israel.

The father of three played a major role in setting up charity organisation UK Lawyers for Israel, a group of lawyers who work for free in support of pro-Israel causes.

Since the organisation was founded he has been instrumental in stopping the 2011 Gaza flotilla and persuading the Royal Institute of British Architects to reverse its anti-Israel resolution. He also advises students on countering anti-Israel motions on campus.

Mr Turner said: "I cut my teeth fighting 'Zionism is racism' motions as a student at Cambridge University in the 1970s. Ever since university I have been a very strong supporter of Israel."

The member of South Hampstead and South Netanya Ashkenazi
Congregation in Israel added: "As
a lawyer, your objective is fighting for justice and truth. I feel strongly that Israel is a victim of injustice and I am trying to get a degree of truth into its treatment."

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