Community honours unsung heroes

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MANCHESTER’S Jewish community volunteers were honoured on Tuesday night.

More than 300 people packed into the Hilton Suite, Prestwich, for the sixth Jewish Telegraph and Jewish Volunteering Network Manchester Jewish Community Awards.

Organised by the Manchester Jewish Representative Council, it was the perfect chance to become involved with the various charities and leading organisations which make the Manchester Jewish community tick during a volunteer fair which preceded the ceremony.

Among them were the Nicky Alliance Day Centre, Camp Simcha, WIZO UK, the Friendship Circle, CST and The Fed.

Journalist and broadcaster Angela Epstein compered the evening, with 15-year-old Marcus Gradel providing the warm-up.

The saxophonist, a Manchester Grammar School pupil, was commended for his volunteer work at Heathlands Village, Prestwich, where he entertains residents with his musical talents.

Rep Council president Sharon Bannister told how volunteers in Manchester make the community a “much better place”.

Prestwich Hebrew Congregation minister Rabbi Dovid Eisenberg read a message on behalf of Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis.

He said: “This award ceremony is an example of a Jewish community at its finest.

“Giving charity is not just about giving wealth. It is about giving one’s time and energy.

“All the nominees have given this in the spirit of righteousness, and every one serves as a source of the greatest inspiration to the Jewish community — and to the rest of the world.”

Board of Deputies’ president Jonathan Arkush, who was chairman of the judging panel, spoke about Manchester being the “fastest growing Jewish community in Europe”.

He said: “You can see evidence of it everywhere. Manchester is a community that shines.

“It is a community of vibrancy, diversity, enormous energy and is growing so substantially that people are remarking on it across Europe.

“The judging panel had an extremely difficult job — I read every nomination and it was our job to produce the recommendations for the winners.

“As I was reading the details, I realised how much wealth there was in this community — and I’m not talking about money.

“I’m talking about the assets that really count — kindness, generosity and giving of time.”

The Young Volunteer of the Year award recognises a young individual who is not only actively involved in the voluntary sector but who has also excelled in a leadership role.

Winner Charlotte Buchalter volunteers as a “buddy” for the care charity The Friendship Circle.

The charity paid tribute to her, describing her as a volunteer who “clearly stands out”.

They said: “Regardless of how important her school work is to her future, her commitment to her weekly volunteering is inspiring, and she never fails to see her ‘buddy’ on a weekly basis.

“Her ‘buddy’ is a young girl with autism, who at the beginning of their relationship would shy away from the door when Charlotte would arrive — now she runs to the door when she hears Charlotte ringing the bell and calls her ‘her best friend’.”

The family of the “buddy” described Charlotte as a “lovely, special girl” who “communicates well, is always polite and has a huge smile on her face”.

The Communal Employee of the Year award recognises an outstanding employee who is an inspiration to colleagues within a communal organisation.

Winner Stephanie Wilks, marketing and events manager for Manchester Maccabi, was praised by her nominator for being “the most amazing person to work with”.

The nominator said: “Nothing is too much trouble for her. She runs the club in a very professional manner and takes everything in her stride, never getting too stressed.

“Stephanie works long hours, is truly dedicated and gets on with everybody she comes into contact with. She also makes sure she is always on hand to offer all sorts of help.”

The Building Bridges Organisation award recognises organisations which have built bridges between the Manchester Jewish community and other faiths.

Winners The Faith Network for Manchester was praised for their work in “breaking down barriers” and “developing links between faith communities and individuals of faith in and around Manchester”. Charles Bloom, QC, collected the award on behalf of the organisation.

Host Angela Epstein said: “Through its In Your Faith programme going into schools and educating around different faiths and their shared values, plus their regular interfaith dialogues, they continue to be pioneering in this area.”

A video showed the work carried out by many of the community organisations.

The Jewish Women’s Aid team was highly commended in the Volunteer Team of the Year category.

The JWA team raised awareness of domestic violence within the Jewish community, including putting posters up in any places where Jewish women might go in order to urge them to come forward.

Winners of the award were My Voice Volunteer Project.

My Voice is a joint pilot project developed by the Association of Jewish Refugees and The Fed to record the life stories of Holocaust Survivors and refugees in Manchester, focusing on each participant’s whole life, not just their experiences of the Shoah.

The project’s purpose is to tell the lifestories of older members of our community through production of individual booklets to be kept as an educational tool for future generations.

The Friend of the Community Award is given to an individual who has helped or supported the community in an exceptional manner, but who is not of the Jewish faith.

Outgoing King David Prim ary School headteacher Nicola Nelson was highly commended.

Mrs Nelson gave an emotional address, saying: “I have never worked in a more warm and welcoming community as this one.

“You will have an ambassador in me wherever I go in the world.”

Winner was The Fed’s social work duty and referral officer Sue Lenord.

Her nominees at The Fed praised her “commitment to the organisation at all times”.

Harris Frazer received a highly commended Special Recognition award for his work with ShabbatUK, convincing the Chief Rabbi’s office to take on the country-wide annual Shabbat gathering.

Winner of the Special Recognition award was Dr Israel Mintz, who was accompanied by son Jonny and grandson David.

Host Angela said: “Israel devoted his life to the needs of the Manchester Jewish community.

“He has held many public offices and given of his time tirelessly to several councils and organisations, including the Zionist Central Council.

“He is 95 years old, living in a nursing home, and this award goes some way to recognising his fantastic voluntary work.”

The individual Building Bridges award went to Anne and Harvey Rosenfield for their voluntary work giving tours of Hale Synagogue to non-Jewish groups.

Mr Rosenfield said: “We live in the Diaspora and, while we do so, it is important to keep up good communications and a dialogue with the wider local community.”

Highly commended for the Volunteer of the Year award were baker Jack Maurer, who provides musical entertainment and transport for residents of the Nicky Alliance Day Centre, and Langdon community resident Avi Pash, who volunteers for The Friendship Circle.

Due to the overwhelming number of nominations for the award, there were two overall winners — Brocha Issler and Barbara Cohen.

Miss Issler, who could not attend the ceremony, has been a Camp Simcha “big sister” for seven years — a trained volunteer who acts as a special friend to a sick child or sibling supported by the charity.

She also organises the outings and parties that Camp Simcha provides for Manchester families throughout the year, as well as managing a play centre. Miss Issler also raised more than £11,000 during a sponsored trek through the Grand Canyon.

Mrs Cohen was praised for her willingness to be both in the limelight, as well as “quietly behind the scenes” for Jewish Women’s Aid.

Her nominee said: “It is important to recognise that JWA is just one of the many volunteering roles she has.

“She is an amazing person, and we are privileged to have her volunteer with us. It is people like Barbara who are the lifeblood of our organisation.”

The Lifetime Achievement award was presented to Zionist stalwart Joy Wolfe.

Mrs Wolfe, who received a standing ovation, started her community service more than 60 years ago when she became chairman of Brighton and Hove Maccabi, serving on the national executive.

After marrying Brian in 1959, she lived in London and later in Maidstone where she became the youngest Liberal councillor, working to improve the daily life of her constituents.

She formed Maidstone WIZO and has remained a WIZO worker ever since — she is life president of Manchester WIZO. While in Maidstone Mrs Wolfe became chairman of the Multiple Sclerosis Society, and now works with the Stockport branch, which she helped to found when she moved north in 1970.

The lifelong Manchester City supporter is a three-time president of the Zionist Central Council of Greater Manchester, as well as being its life president, and spends a vast amount of time defending Israel in the media.

Mrs Wolfe is co-vice president of the Zionist Federation and chairman of StandWithUs UK. She has been a governor of North Cheshire Jewish Primary School for 33 years and is a former chairman of governors of Langdon College.

She is also a past trustee of Manchester Jewish Museum and a magistrate on the Manchester bench for 24 years, focusing mainly on Family Court and Probation.

In 2009, she received an MBE for services to the community and, for the past 11 years, has been chairman of Friends of Or Meir and Bracha Victims of Terror Centre in Jerusalem.

Mrs Wolfe said: “Over the years that I have volunteered for various organisations, it has enriched my life beyond words. This is the culmination of that.

“My only regret is that my late husband, who was always so supportive of me, is not here. The greatest achievement is that my children and grandchildren have picked up the mantle and they all now volunteer in the community”.

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