Three inspiring women have received awards at Jewish Care’s Women of Distinction lunch held at St. John’s Wood synagogue.
Dame Melinda Simmons DCMG, Ambassador of the United Kingdom in Ukraine, Baroness Beeban Kidron OBE, advocate for children’s rights in the digital world, and Doreen Gainsford, who set up The 35s Women’s Campaign for Soviet Jewry, were all recognised for their dedication.
180 guests at the lunch raised over £71,000 for residents at Jewish Care’s Sidney Corob House care home for people with severe, long term mental health needs.
Dame Melinda Simmons DCMG received the award in recognition for her work serving as the Ambassador of the United Kingdom in Ukraine since 2019. Born to Jewish parents in the East End of London, Melinda is of Polish, Lithuanian and Ukrainian heritage. Dame Melinda’s parents, Sylvia and Cyril Simmons and her sister, Juliette, attended and her mother accepted the award on her behalf, saying that the Ambassador was out in the field, visiting Ukrainian civilians who were living with the effects of the war and were undergoing medical care.
The UK ambassador sent a message to guests via recorded video, saying: “I’ve been here in Ukraine since before the outbreak of the war and it’s been a time of unbelievable inspiration for me to work alongside Ukrainians who are defending their country and caring for their people. It’s a source of great pride to me and my colleagues, in the embassy in Kiev, that those efforts have been recognised, seen and supported by people all over the world.
“I want to thank you so much for recognising that and also through this award, which I’m so proud to receive; it’s been an opportunity for me and other women to stand up and show what women can do when they are in leadership positions of any kind. It’s been a huge learning experience for me, to be woman leader at a time of war, but it’s also been a time of inspiration for me and the other women I’m working with, and I’m deeply grateful.”
Baroness Beeban Kidron OBE, accepting her award at the lunch, said: “I am immensely grateful for the honour. It is so important to look after older people at the later part of their life. We have an aging population and we’ll all get there, so I’m very supportive of Jewish Care who make sure that older people have the care and dignity that they deserve.”
Now a crossbench peer, Baroness Kidron worked for 30 years as a film director and has become a world-leading advocate for digital regulation and accountability, especially in relation to children and young people. She founded the 5Rights Foundation to build the digital world children and young people deserve, acknowledging the rights and needs of children.
Doreen Gainsford accepted the award on behalf of The 35s Women’s Campaign for Soviet Jewry. One of the founders of the group, she was recognised for her dedication in raising awareness of the plight of the Soviet Jews in the 60’s and campaigning for their freedom, then supporting the absorption of those who were able to get a visa to Israel.
Gainsford said: “Jewish Care represents the best of the Jewish people, caring about older people and others who need support. I think that’s in our DNA. I applaud you and all those here today, who are the generation we look to, who are the future.”
Sidney Corob House care home residents Michelle Kotler and Karen Waxman attended the awards, along with staff and Benjy, Karen’s son, who gave a moving appeal at the event: “Being at Jewish Care has energised Mum to re-engage with her own life and to push her outside of her comfort zone, but then equally knowing when too much is simply, too much. We know Mum will continue to live with her mental illness for the rest of her life. But when she falls, Jewish Care is that soft landing and for that, we are eternally grateful.”
Jewish Care’s director of fundraising and community & community engagement, Adam Overlander-Kaye, said: “Congratulations to our award winners, their work continues to inspire us all. We are very honoured to have Dame Melinda Simmons family here to represent her, even as she is going out in the field to support the Ukrainian people who are living with the effects of the war.
“I’d like to thank and the Women of Distinction committee and co-chairs for all that they have done, and our guests for donating generously to raise funds that will make a real difference to enabling and enhancing the activities at Sidney Corob House and supporting people living with severe, long-term mental health needs in the home to live meaningful, dignified lives.”
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