Forty Under 40: Our top 10 take a bow!

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Forty Under 40: Our top 10 take a bow!

From community leaders and political activists, to LGBT and mental health campaigners, TV hosts and top legal minds, we identify those set to shape the community for years to come!

Our top 10 for Forty Under 40
Our top 10 for Forty Under 40

After six months of nominations and exhaustive debates, we proudly reveal our top 10 – spotlighting and celebrating the community’s brightest and best.


10 Claudia Mendoza, 37

Claudia is the Director of Policy and Public Affairs at the Jewish Leadership Council. The 37-year-old leads on the JLC’s policy positions, manages the External Affairs team and has responsibility for strategic priorities.

A “well-connected and vital communal player”, Claudia has been highly effective in maintaining political and religious inclusivity across the JLC, while providing strong leadership on matters including Israel and female empowerment in the community.

Prior to joining the JLC in 2011, she was a Research Analyst at the Legatum Institute, a London-based think tank specialising in the role of capitalism and democracy in promoting prosperity.

Claudia Mendoza

There, she focused on the Middle East with a special interest in Iran and the transitioning Arab states.

Claudia has also worked for the Henry Jackson Society as an Associate Fellow- Middle East, and has MA in Middle East Studies from SOAS.

She is also a former member of the Legacy Heritage Fellowship, which supports outstanding post-graduates in Israel, the US and the UK committed to peace in the Middle East.

For over a decade, Claudia has been at the forefront of advocacy, impressing colleagues with her firm grasp of detail and extensive policy knowledge.

9 Alma Reisel, 31

Alma is the Deputy Chair of KeshetUK, an education charity working to create a world where no one is forced to choose between their LGBT+ and Jewish identity. A longstanding LGBT+ champion, she became the first “ally” (non LGBT+ member) on Keshet UK’s steering committee, and has since had an unrivalled impact in making the Jewish community a more inclusive environment for LGBT+ Jewish people. Most notably, together with Benjamin Ellis and KeshetUK staff, Alma had an instrumental role in working with the Office of the Chief Rabbi to publish the ground-breaking resource guide ‘The Wellbeing of LGBT+ Pupils: A Guide for Orthodox Jewish Schools’.

Alma Reisel

The 31-year-old has also delivered inclusion training to hundreds of Jewish volunteers, overseen numerous Chanukah receptions in Parliament, and has even spoken about KeshetUK at the South African version of Limmud. A former movement worker for RSY-Netzer (2010-11), Alma grew up in the Reform community, where her mother is a Senior Lecturer at Leo Baeck College and her father is the former senior rabbi at Edgware & District Reform Synagogue. Alma now works as a Consultant Social Worker based at Hackney Council, having previously been the Community Partnership Advisor for the City and Hackney Safeguarding Children Board supporting faith, cultural and voluntary community groups with their safeguarding practices.


8 Hannah Brady, 26

Hannah Brady

Hannah is one of the outstanding movers and shakers of her generation. A true “change-maker” and pioneer in disability rights, she established the UJS Disabled Students Network while studying at Kings College London, developing national programming to enhance accessibility and inclusion education in student Jewish communities.

After completing her MA in Jewish Studies at UCL, Hannah became the first openly disabled and first consecutive female UJS President in 2015/16. Notably, in response to anti-Zionist activist Malia Bouattia becoming NUS President, she urged members to resist cutting ties with the student body, memorably arguing that “when times get tough, we dig our heels in deeper”.

Most recently, the 26-year-old was the inspirational Co-Chair of Limmud Festival 2019, Europe’s largest Jewish educational event, where she focused on making the event more accessible for those with additional needs. Hannah currently works as Global Project Director for business intelligence firm eyeforpharma, building on her prior experience as a Partnerships Manager at Public Health England and Corporate Communications Officer at the Department for International Trade. Although she currently outside the community professionally, Hannah undoubtedly remains a trailblazing activist for inclusion and disability awareness in the Jewish community.

7 Adam Wagner, 39

Adam Wagner

A “human rights warrior” who never shies away from his Jewish background, Adam has swiftly become a leading national and communal commentator on human rights issues. The former Habonim Dror leader embeds his Jewish values throughout his professional work as a Barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, and a Visiting Professor of Law at Goldsmiths, University of London. Adam, who tweets regularly about Brexit, politics and Labour antisemitism, is also the founder of RightsInfo (formerly Each Other), a human rights website, as well as the acclaimed UK Human Rights blog.

Last year, he was appointed to the prestigious Equality and Human Rights Commission ‘A’ Panel of counsel. Most recently, the 39-year-old has also been appointed as Specialist Advisor to Parliament’s COVID-19 Human Rights Inquiry, assisting with scrutiny of the many potential human rights implications of the pandemic.

A highly sought-after legal commentator on social media, television and radio, Adam also presents the Better Human Podcast. His numerous accolades include the Plain English Campaign’s Communicator Award for his work on RightsInfo, and being shortlisted for Human Rights Junior of the Year in the 2020 Legal 500 Awards.

6 Yehudis Fletcher, 32

Yehudis Fletcher

Yehudis is a leading campaigner against extremism and abuse in the Jewish community. The 32-year-old recently co-founded Nahamu, a thinktank examining extremism in the Jewish community. Nahamu works with a variety of stakeholders inside and outside the community to gather and analyse data to advise on the causes and impacts of inward facing extremism.

This includes the cover up of child sexual abuse, forced marriage, denial of secular education, denial of personal autonomy, and coerced criminality. Yehudis also works as a qualified Independent Sexual Violence Advisor in Manchester under the auspices of Migdal Emunah, the only UK Jewish charity supporting victims of sexual abuse and sexual violence. After writing an award-winning poem describing her experiences and the Jewish community’s lack of response, Yehudis served as Ambassador of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance in 2018/19.

Last year she completed a tour promoting the organisation across the UK, which included teaching sessions at schools and campuses. A graduate of UJIA’s Manchester Leadership Programme whose bravery has undoubtedly moved the dial on tackling inward facing extremism, Yehudis is on the current cohort of the Dangoor Senior Leadership Programme and is studying social policy at Salford University.

5 Benjamin Crowne, 34

Benjamin Crowne

The go-to project manager in the Jewish community, few were surprised when Ben was recently tasked with rewriting the Board of Deputies’ constitution. A former chair of Limmud Conference, Ben is a key figure in the next stages of Limmud’s development in response to COVID-19.

As a Limmud trustee and the organisation’s representative on the Board of Deputies, the 34-year-old is always prepared to “call out anything in the community with humour and perspicacity”. Ben writes extensively about communal trends and institutions in the Jewish press and has acted as trustee and advisor for a range of charities, including JW3 Trading Ltd Charedi and Nahamu, as well as various cross-communal and non-faith-based organisations.

Ben has also taught at LSJS and numerous London synagogues with a focus on the obscure and the neglected. Highly attune to the true needs of students, while Education Officer at Cambridge University Jewish Society he developed “Commentator and Cake,” “Parsha Nuts” and other snack-based study programmes. A forensic accountant by profession, Ben is a senior manager in Quantuma’s forensics practice, where he conducts financial investigations and provides expert evidence and advise for use in disputes. Ben’s work has even been relied on by political parties, major charities and national broadcasters.

4 Peter Mason, 34

Peter Mason

As National Secretary of the Jewish Labour Movement, Peter has played an instrumental and irrepressible role in the fight against antisemitism on the Left. Most notably, the 34-year-old was one of the driving forces behind the JLM’s recent unprecedented referral of the Labour Party to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Never one to shy away from speaking his mind, under Peter’s leadership the JLM therefore made a clarion declaration that it considers the Labour Party to be institutionally racist. Yet Peter’s involvement in the Labour Party extends far beyond the JLM. An elected councillor in the London Borough of Ealing since 2014, Peter is the Cabinet Member for Housing, Planning & Transformation and serves on the London Housing Consortium.

A longstanding Labour activist, he is one of eleven members of the Party’s National Constitutional Committee, its most senior disciplinary body, as well as the North West London representative on the London Labour Regional Board. Formerly Campaigns Officer for the Union of Jewish Students and Executive Director of the London Jewish Forum, Peter’s faith and values remain an integral facet of his identity as a leading Jewish politico on the soft Left.

3 Danny Stone MBE, 39

Danny Stone

For over a decade Danny has been one of the foremost conduits between the Jewish community and the highest echelons of politics in the fight against antisemitism. A well-known face in Parliament, having worked as a top adviser to senior politicians, Danny has been Director of the Antisemitism Policy Trust since 2009. Under the 39-year-old’s leadership, the Trust has supported two major all-party parliamentary inquiries into antisemitism and electoral abuse respectively, whilst providing the secretariat to the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism.

Impressively, the charity successfully engaged with over 230 Parliamentarians last year, including the Prime Minister and Opposition party leaders, and provided policy advice to both the Home Affairs Select Committee and the Women and Equalities Select Committee. Forever unafraid of new challenges, under Danny’s leadership the Trust has expanded its international engagement, hosting a major antisemitism conference with Angela Merkel and running the first-ever international conference on antisemitism and misogyny, to shine a light on the intersectional abuse of Jewish women, which was attended by Prime Minister Theresa May and Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick. He has also helped innovate the Trust into the Digital Age, producing viral videos like ‘So, You Want To Be An Antisemite?’ hosted by Marlon Solomon.

Danny’s impressive career spans working as campaigns director for the Union of Jewish Students, serving as a Young Diplomat for the World Diplomatic Corps, and even advising the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Danny was awarded an MBE in the 2017 New Year’s Honours list for services to Combating Hate Crime, and last year collected the prestigious Sjur Lindebraekke Memorial Prize from Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg. One of the most effective anti-racism campaigners in Westminster, Danny’s relentless efforts have ensured the fight against antisemitism remains the utmost priority to every incumbent entering 10 Downing Street.

2 Rachel Riley, 34

Rachel Riley

From Countdown to Corbyn, Rachel’s journey into one of the most vocal campaigners against antisemitism has been truly extraordinary. With “chutzpah and courage”, the 34-year-old proudly raised the volume regarding her Jewish identity in early 2018 after encountering antisemitism in the Labour Party.

Undeterred by the subsequent torrent of abuse and physical threats from Labour activists in response to her criticisms of Jeremy Corbyn, the top number cruncher on Channel 4’s quiz show quickly became a leading persona in the fight against anti-Jewish hatred. Rachel has bravely raised antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment during high profile media appearances on The Jonathan Ross Show, Peston and Victoria Derbyshire, and has even addressed MPs at a Holocaust Education Trust reception. The link between fake news and rising anti-Jewish hatred has become a personal interest, and Rachel has joined the Stop Funding Fake News campaign, which seeks to persuade brands to stop advertising on news websites accused of disseminating disinformation.

Rachel Riley at the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Lord Merlyn-Rees event on 22 January 2019

The campaign has successfully convinced over 80 brands to take action, including big hitters like Macmillan Cancer Support and Chelsea FC. Rachel also recently co-launched the Don’t Feed the Trolls campaign, which advocates blocking abusive accounts to avoid fuelling their hatred. Gary Lineker, the former England football international, and Richard Osman, the co-host of Pointless on the BBC, are among those backing the campaign. Last year, alongside fellow Jewish campaigner and actress Tracy-Ann Oberman, Rachel instructed a lawyer to sue a number of people for libel or harassment after they allegedly targeted her online with abuse.

The TV star’s efforts saw her receive the Algemeiner’s prestigious ‘Warrior for Truth’ award last year, securing a place on the J100 list. Rachel’s inspiring rediscovery of her Jewish identity has seen her support an Israel charity event with The Maki Foundation UK, address the Alliance of Jewish Women’s inaugural event, and even regularly attend Friday night dinners.

1 Jonny Benjamin MBE, 32

Jonny Benjamin

Jonny has been “utterly instrumental” in transforming mental health advocacy nationally and communally. After a near suicide attempt on Waterloo Bridge in 2008, Jonny was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, a combination of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. During his long road to recovery, Jonny managed to track down the passer-by, Neil Laybourn, who helped talk him out of jumping.

This remarkable story was made into a Channel 4 documentary ‘The Stranger on the Bridge’, and Jonny subsequently published a book with the same title, which charted his journey with mental illness from childhood to the present day. Impressively, it reached the Amazon Top 10 Bestsellers and includes a foreword by The Duke of Cambridge.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with Jonny Benjamin (right) and Neil Laybourn (left)

Together, Jonny and Neil have recently launched a new mental health charity, Beyond Shame Beyond Stigma, which recently awarded a grant to help with creating emergency resources for young people struggling with their mental health during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Passionate about engraining mental health awareness within school curriculums, Jonny also launched ThinkWell, a mental health workshop for secondary schools, which has engaged thousands of pupils since 2016.

Jonny’s efforts have been recognised at the highest levels of Government, receiving a ‘Points of Light’ award from the Prime Minister in 2016 and an MBE in the Queen’s 2017 New Years Honours list.

Jonny Benjamin speaking at Jewish Care’s annual fundraising dinner in 2016

Closer to home, Jonny has also received the prestigious ‘Topland Award’ from Jewish Care to celebrate his achievements volunteering in the Jewish community to reduce the stigma of mental illness.

The 32-year-old has been a long-standing ambassador for the communal mental health service Jami, where he regularly addresses synagogues and Jewish schools to raise awareness of mental health. Looking ahead, Jonny is working on his forthcoming second book, which will be a collection of quotes, poems and stories by himself and other high-profile figures to inspire recovery and hope.




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