We look back on the past 12 months which has seen the community lose leaders like Lady Lira Winston, Holocaust survivors including Lili Pohlmann, legendary entertainers Jackie Mason and Lionel Blair and allies like HRH Prince Philip and former MP James Brokenshire.
While the community and country continues to battle the pandemic – which has now claimed more 150,000 lives including 957 UK Jews – we also take this moment to remember the 309 British Jews who have lost their fights with the disease this year.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson led tributes to one of the first British soldiers to liberate Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, Ian Forsyth following his death, aged 97.
Forsyth of South Lanarkshire, Scotland, was a tank operator who fought his way through Germany following the D Day landings. Aged just 21, he entered the camp at which an estimated 50,000 people died, in April 1945, with the 15th/19th King’s Royal Hussars in the The Royal Armoured Corps.
Speaking about his harrowing experience, he appeared in a video with Auschwitz and Belsen survivor Renee Salt, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Jewish News: “I’m extremely saddened to hear of the death of Ian Forsyth. I was fortunate enough to speak with Ian on Holocaust Memorial Day, where he shared his incredible testimony, one that shall remain with me always.
“He was a remarkable individual to whom we owe so much for his service to our country. My thoughts and condolences are with his friends and family.”
Tributes were paid to Jewish former Olympian Adam ‘AJ’ Rosen, who died aged 37 following a “ferocious” battle with cancer.
The second headmaster of Carmel College, Britain’s legendary public school, David Stamler, died at the age of 93.
Tributes were paid to one of the “brightest lights of Anglo-Jewry” Lady Lira Winston, who passed away suddenly aged 72.
Lira dedicated almost three decades of her life to Jewish education, and received a Lifetime Achievement Award presented by Rabbi Lord Sacks at the Jewish Schools Awards, held by Jewish News and the Partnerships for Jewish Schools in 2020.
The long-time education correspondent of the Daily Telegraph, John Izbicki, died aged 91. He was renowned throughout Fleet Street as an urbane journalist, always stylishly dressed and witty company.
Theatre star Sir Antony Sher died of cancer at the age of 72. The South African-born Jewish actor starred in a number of Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) productions, including a role in 2016 in King Lear, as well as playing Falstaff in the Henry IV plays and Willy Loman in Arthur Miller’s Death Of A Salesman.
He tied the knot with Gregory Doran on December 21 2005, the first day same sex couples could legally form a civil partnership in the UK.
Stephen Sondheim was hailed as one of theatre’s “greatest geniuses” following his death at the age of 91. The creator of the musical Sweeney Todd died at his home in Connecticut.
Sondheim, born in to a New York Jewish family, influenced several generations of theatre songwriters with his work, which included other musicals such as Company and Follies.
His ballad Send in the Clowns has been recorded hundreds of times, including by Frank Sinatra and Judy Collins.
Six of Sondheim’s musicals won Tony Awards for best score and he received a Pulitzer Prize for Sunday in the Park.
The composer also won an Academy Award for the song Sooner or Later from the film Dick Tracy, five Olivier Awards and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honour.
Showbusiness veteran Lionel Blair died aged 92.
Across a seven-decade career, the Jewish performer worked on television as an actor, tap dancer, presenter and choreographer.
Former Reform chair Michael Grabiner died at the age of 71 following a long illness.
Mort Sahl, a Jewish satirist who was credited with making caustic political and social satire popular in stand-up comedy, died Tuesday at 94.
Holocaust survivor Eddie Jaku, who published a best-selling memoir last year in Australia at age 100 titled “The Happiest Man on Earth,” died in October aged 101.
Jaku earned tributes from an array of Australian political figures, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, whose Jewish mother survived the Holocaust in Hungary.
Jaku was born Abraham “Adi” Jakubowiez in Leipzig, Germany. He earned a high school engineering degree that he said later helped him survive in Nazi concentration camps, since his slave labor was valuable.
He was sent to multiple camps, including Buchenwald and Auschwitz, and escaped from what he suspected was a death march in the latter as Allied soldiers approached.
Jaku married his Jewish wife Flore in Belgium in 1946 .
Ladislaus Lob – writer, translator, Holocaust survivor, scholar of the literature and drama of the German Enlightenment.
He was sent to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp as an 11-year-old boy. He was a Professor Emeritus of German, University of Sussex
Alta Fixsler , a two-year-old Jewish girl born with severe brain damage died after she was taken off life support despite her parents’ objections. She had serious natal complications that made her dependent on life support from birth.
Community leaders reacted with horror to the fatal stabbing of Conservative MP Sir David Amess. Local Jewish groups recalled his support for Israel and Holocaust education, including his speech for Holocaust Memorial Day, where he said:
“Although I myself am not a Jew but a Catholic, there is Jewish blood in each and every one of us.
“I would certainly have been proud to have been born a Jew, and I stand shoulder to shoulder with our local Jewish community”.
Jewish leaders paid tributes to former communities secretary James Brokenshire following his death aged 53.
He was remembered for his work with Charedi communities, and visiting Jewish charities. During his tenure as communities secretary from April 2018 to July 2019, he visited Buchenwald concentration camp and was a vocal supporter of the national Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre, to be built next to Parliament.
Lili Pohlmann, alongside her mother, was the only survivor in her extended family of more than 300. She died in September
She was born Lili Stern in 1930 in Lvov, then in Poland, where she had a happy upbringing until the outbreak of war.
Lili’s family were confined to the Lvov Ghetto – and her life was only saved thanks to the courage of two non-Jews, Irmgard Wieth and Orthodox Archbishop Andrey Count Sheptytsky.
Lili later arrived in London in 1946 on a transport organised by the British rabbi, Dr Solomon Schonfeld. A year later Lili was joined in the UK by her mother.
She dedicated much of her life to building bridges between the Polish – Jewish communities and was given one of Poland’s highest accolades, The Commander’s Cross of Polonia Restituta.
She was also awarded an MBE for her tireless work.
Sex And The City actor Willie Garson died aged 57.
Eric Sanders, a Jewish refugee from Austria who arrived in the UK with his family after the Nazis invaded his home country, passed away aged 101.
Sanders served in the British armed forces before becoming a teacher and later a screenplay writer and translator, passed away peacefully at home.
During World War Two Sanders served in the British Army for seven years – three in the Special Operations Executive.
He served one year as an interpreter at a German Prisoner of War camp and another in the legal division during the British Occupation of Austria.
Moving to live in London with his wife and family Sanders later received an Austrian Cross of Honour for Culture and Science.
Sanders was a long-time member of the Labour Party in Norbury and Pollard Hill – having joined over 70 years ago.
Sheila Bromberg died at the age of 92 at a hospice in Aylesbury. She was the first woman to perform on a Beatles album, having played the harp accompaniment on “She’s Leaving Home,” the agonising snapshot of the void between parents and a daughter, on the Beatles’ music-changing album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
Esther Bejarano, who was 96, passed away in a Jewish hospital in the German city of Hamburg. She lost both her parents and her sister at the hands of the Nazis in 1943.
David Mermelstein, who was 92 and based in the Miami area since the 1950s, became known for his efforts to help other Holocaust survivors get restitution. He was born in Czechoslovakia and was deported with his family to the death camp in 1944. He was the only survivor.
Holocaust survivor Rudi Leavor passed away at the age of 95.
Rudi was prominent member of the Bradford Jewish community, and came to England after the Gestapo forced their way into his home in Germany when he was aged just ten and arrested his parents.
A leader of Bradford Synagogue, Rudi was known for his work in fostering inter-faith relations. He had close links with Bradford’s Muslim community, who had rallied around in 2013 to help safeguard the future of the synagogue of which Mr Leavor was chairman.
In turn, Rudi led the way into co-opting a Muslim man to sit on Bradford Reform Synagogue’s ruling body, the first time a Muslim representative was thought to hold such a role.
Iconic Jewish comedian Jackie Mason died aged 93.
The Wisconsin-born funny funny man was surrounded by wife Jyll, family and friends when he passed away. Raised in New York on the Lower East Side, he was born Yacov Moshe Maza in 1928, as the fourth and last son of two Minsk-born Orthodox Jews – and the first child born in the US.
Coming from a long line of rabbis on his father’s side, aged 18 he became a cantor and aged 25 was ordained as a rabbi – but writing and comedy was his calling in life.
Mason married his 37-year-old manager Jyll Rosenfeld in 1991, and has a daughter, Sheba Mason, born in 1985, who is also a comedian.
Mason began writing for Jewish News in September 2020, with a Rosh Hashanah message that said the world is “run by putzes and schmucks”. He also gave his humorous take on Thanksgiving, a cure for antisemitism as the world battled Covid, and a Pesach sermon praising Donald Trump’s stance towards Israel and Jews.
Tributes were paid to war hero and dambuster pilot, Lawrence ‘Benny’ Goodman, who died aged 100.
The former 617 Squadron Leader, famous for its daring 1943 raids on dams in Germany, led 30 operations during the Second World War – including the attempted bombing of Hitler’s ‘eagle’s nest’ compound.
After his distinguished career in the Royal Air Force spanning 24 years, he dedicated his later life to educating about the conflict and the Jewish community’s contribution to victory.
Born in London in 1920, he volunteered to join the RAF aged 18 at the outbreak of war in September 1939. After training as a pilot, he was recognised for his ability and sent to Canada to train others, before returning to Britain in 1942, where he became the first pilot without operational experience to join the ‘Dambusters’ 617 squadron.
Among the operations he participated in was the demolition of the Arnsberg railway viaduct with a 22,000 lb (10,000 kg) Grand Slam bomb.
Steven Spielberg led tributes to Hollywood director Richard Donner following his death aged 91.
Auschwitz survivor Leslie Kleinman was remembered as being “deeply kind and generous” following his death aged 92.
One of ‘The Boys’, a group who came to the UK in 1945 after the liberation from the camps, he dedicated his life to teaching the next generation about the horrors he endured but “exuded warmth and compassion, always with an infectious smile”.
Born in 1929 in Ambud, Romania, Kleinman was a prisoner in Auschwitz-Birkenau, Sachsenhausen and Flossenburg concentration camps, and was on two death marches.
When he was 14, he was selected for work at Auschwitz and was separated from his family who were all murdered in the gas chambers, except his eldest sister Gitta, who was sent to Bergen-Belsen. He learned after the liberation that she had survived, but had died soon after.
After the war, he married and had two children, before settling in Canada. He later returned to the UK and is survived by his wife Miriam. He had 2 children, Rosalyn and Steve, and three three stepchildren: Ros, Martin and Les.
David Dushman, one of the last surviving Soviet tank operators to liberate the Auschwitz death camp, died at the age of 98.
Jonathan Davies – the former vice-chair of the Liberal Democrats Friends of Israel and a long-standing representative on the Board of Deputies – passed away aged 59 following a year-long illness.
Holocaust survivor and campaigner Yosef Zalman Kleinman, who testified at the trial of Adolf Eichmann, died in Jerusalem at the age of 91.
Tributes were paid to a “modest and unassuming” 22-year-old British man, Moshe Bergman, from Salford, who was killed in a stampede in Israel to mark lag B’Omer.
He was one of 45 people who died in the disaster at Mount Meron.
Faye Schulman, a Holocaust survivor who lost most of her family to the Nazis but joined a group of partisan fighters and documented their work in photographs, died April 24, age 101.
Alber Elbaz, a designer who earned the affection of his clients for not defying the natural contours of their bodies, died from Covid aged 59.
Australian activist Isi Leibler, who helped lead an international campaign to release Soviet Jews who were denied exit visas, died aged 86.
Tributes to the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Phillip, were paid by leading communal figures following the news of his death aged 99.
Marie van der Zyl, President of the Board of Deputies, paid tribute saying “Prince Philip’s life was spent in public service, from his active duty in the Navy during the Second World War to the tens of thousands of engagements which he carried out over six-and-a-half decades of royal duties”
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis sent his “profound condolences” to her Majesty, saying he “enjoyed immensely my personal conversations with the Duke of Edinburgh, during which I was deeply moved by his extraordinary sense of duty”.
Across the community, charities and Jewish leaders remembered Prince Philip’s sense of humour and intimate knowledge of the Jewish faith. Tributes were also paid to his support for Holocaust education.
His mother, Princess Alice, is recognised by Yad Vashem as a Righteous Among the Nations, for saving Jews during the Holocaust.
He was also thanked for his attendance at numerous parades held by the AJEX (Association of Jewish ex Servicemen and Women – The Jewish Military Association), honouring Jews in the armed forces.
Pictured above, Rabbi Lord Sacks, the late former chief rabbi, laughs at a joke from HRH Prince Philip during the opening of Hetsmere Jewish Primary School.
Heartfelt tributes were paid to remarkable kindertransport refugee, Herbert Haberberg, who supported survivors of Belsen in the aftermath of the Holocaust. He used his Yiddish to convince destitute victims of the Nazis to move to the young Jewish state.
Born in Germany in 1924, he arrived in the UK on the Kindertransport aged 14, with his younger brother Manfred, but the two were separated and only able to see each other every six months.
While Herbert learned English and Yiddish fluently, Manfred, aged six in 1938, forgot how to speak German.
By 1941 Herbert moved to London, before joining the British Army in 1944 as part of the Jewish Brigade, fighting the Nazis in Italy, before being moved to Brussels, and then to Hamburg.
He used his Yiddish to persuade the survivors to go to southern Europe and board the illegal ships to Mandatory Palestine. “These people were frustrated, demoralised, they felt they had no future. So going to what became the state of Israel… it was a good choice”, he said.
Herbert was advised by the Jewish Agency that he was more useful to them in Germany than Israel, and stayed there until he was demobilised in 1948. He got married and became a successful metal trader — as did his brother, Manfred, living in Cockfosters.
Emmy Award-winning actress Jessica Walter, known for roles in Arrested Development and Archer, died aged 80.
The Goldbergs star George Segal died at the age of 87
Thafer Fuad Elyahou, an Iraqi man whose friends said was the last Jewish physician in Iraq died, casting further doubt on the future of the Jewish heritage sites of Baghdad. He died aged 60.
Tributes were paid to Yaphet Kotto, who played Idi Amin in the Raid On Entebbe and starred as a James Bond villain, following his death at the age of 81. He was born to Avraham Kotto, who was Jewish and his mother, Gladys Marie, who converted to Judaism
Sir Richard Branson paid tribute to an an Israeli woman who won a business development prize, after she was killed in a road accident in Tel Aviv. Dr Shimrit Perkol-Finkel, a marine biologist, was the chief executive of ECOncrete, and died aged 46
Born in 1923, Walter Kammerling was just 14 when Nazi Germany invaded Austria. His parents sent him to Britain on the Kindertransport after the pogrom against Jewish businesses in 1938.
After the Holocaust he learned that his parents and other sister had been sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where they were murdered.
Arriving in the UK, he worked on a farm in Northern Ireland for three years, and joined the British Army in March 1944, serving in Belgium and the Netherland.
While on embarkation leave, he married Herta, who arrived in London from Vienna on the Kindertansport, with the couple moving back to Austria in 1946, having two sons, before they returned to the UK in 1957.
Vienna-born survivor Marc Schatzberger, who escaped the Nazis on the Kindertransport aged twelve died aged 94 in February.
Born in 1926, he fled in wake of Kristallnacht, and arrived in Britain where he was first cared for in a Jewish children’s hostel, and then by an uncle and aunt, who had gained entry as domestic servants.
While in England he discovered his parents and other family members had been murdered at Auschwitz during the Holocaust, and spoke about the trauma when he gave testimony.
In 1947 he gained an Honours Degree in Electrical Engineering at what is now known as the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST), and married a Viennese Jewish woman called Rosl.
He joined a large company manufacturing building materials as Assistant Chief Engineer, later becoming Group Chief Engineer and Divisional Technical Director.
Shlomo Hillel elped smuggle Iraqi Jewish immigrants into pre-state British Mandate Palestine and then brought more in in the state’s first years. He died aged 97.
Rosita Rosenberg, one of the leading figures in Liberal Judaism, died aged 86. Rosita served as executive director of Liberal Judaism from 1989-1997 and was the first woman to ever hold the role. She played a significant role in the community for many decades.
US statesman George P. Shultz, who played a leading role in US-led efforts to open the gates of the USSR to large-scale Jewish immigration to Israel, and later helped Israel weather a period of hyper-inflation that threatened its entire economy. He died at the age of 100.
Saved By The Bell actor Dustin Diamond died aged 44 three weeks after being diagnosed with cancer.
Maureen Lipman spoke of her heartbreak after her partner of 13 years Guido Castro died after contracting Covid-19. He was 84.
Walter Bernstein, a proudly “secular” Jewish screenwriter best known for his 1960s and ’70s dramas and for being blacklisted during the McCarthy era, died at 101.
Norman Golb, a pathbreaking academic who broadened scholarship on the Dead Sea Scrolls and unearthed a history of Jews in Medieval France, died at 92.
Larry King was remembered as “a giant of broadcasting” and “a masterful TV interviewer”, whose name is “synonymous with CNN”, following his death aged 87
Benjamin de Rothschild, a French-Jewish banker who donated generously to Israel, including £16m ($22 million) for the country’s effort to beat COVID-19 died aged 57.
Sylvain Sylvain, 69 – New York Dolls guitarist died from cancer.
Sheldon Adelson – 87, right-wing casino magnate and the Jewish world’s biggest and most high-profile donor died at the age of 87.
Joan Micklin Silver – 85 – A pioneering female filmmaker who directed two of Hollywood’s most Jewish films, died at 85. The cause was vascular dementia.
- Correction: This article erroneously said fashion icon Iris Apfel had died. This has been amended. She is alive-and-well aged 100.
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- News feature
- Deaths in 2021
- Leslie Kleinman
- Herbert Haberberg
- Marc Schatzberger
- Walter Kammerling
- Ian Forsyth
- Lili Pohlmann
- Rudi Leavor
- Ladislaus Lob
- Eddie Jaku
- Faye Schulman
- Eric Sanders
- Esther Bejarano
- David Mermelstein
- David Stamler
- Lady Lira Winston
- Sir Antony Sher
- Stephen Sondheim
- Lionel Blair
- Michael Grabiner
- Mort Sahl
- Alta Fixsler
- Sir David Amess
- James Brokenshire
- Willie Garson
- Iris Apfel
- Sheila Bromberg
- Jackie Mason
- Lawrence 'Benny' Goodman
- Richard Donner
- David Dushman
- Moshe Bergman
- Alber Elbaz
- bernie madoff
- Isi Leibler
- Prince Phillip
- Jessica Walter
- George Segal
- Thafer Fuad Elyahou
- Yaphet Kotto
- Dr Shimrit Perkol-Finkel
- Shlomo Hillel
- Rosita Rosenberg
- George P. Shultz
- Dustin Diamond
- Guido Castro
- Walter Bernstein
- Norman Golb
- Larry King
- Benjamin de Rothschild
- Sylvain Sylvain
- sheldon adelson
- Joan Micklin Silver
- Jonathan Davies
- Yosef Zalman Kleinman
By Joe Millis