Rabbi Baroness Neuberger and Luciana Berger Women of Distinction 2019

24 May 2019

200 guests attended Jewish Care’s Women of Distinction Lunch at the Institute of Directors on Thursday 23 May, to celebrate women who have made a significant contribution to industry and society. The annual lunch raised £80,000 for Jewish Care’s Sidney Corob House in West Hampstead, one of the organisation’s residential homes for people with mental health needs.   

This year, Rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger DBE, Senior Rabbi of the West London Synagogue received the Lifetime Achievement Award for her lifetime commitment to the immediate and wider community. For her courage in confronting anti-Semitism head on, Luciana Berger MP received the Women of Distinction Award 2019.

Luciana Berger has served as MP for Liverpool Wavertree since 2010. She has held several Shadow Ministerial posts, including Energy and Climate Change, Public Health, and she was the first ever Shadow Cabinet Minister for Mental Health. In February, Luciana resigned from the Labour Party and now represents Change UK – The Independent group. She currently serves as their spokesperson for Health, Home Affairs and Digital and Culture. Luciana has campaigned hard against antisemitism and for parity of esteem between physical and mental health.

Accepting her award from Deborah Davis who called her a 21st Century heroine, Luciana Berger MP said, “I am touched and honoured to receive this special award from Jewish Care; it really means a lot. Jewish Care are part of our family and help thousands of people in our community.

The organisations that merged to become Jewish Care tell a rich story about the charity’s health and social care services, which were formed on the basis that no one should go without the support or the care they need. It grew from compassion, reaching out the hand of friendship to those who need it, so no one gets left behind. That’s why we should do all that we can to support Jewish Care, not just here today, but every day.

I am thrilled that the proceeds of this lunch are going to Sidney Corob House. I am passionate about improving mental health care in our country. Facilities like this provide safe, therapeutic spaces for people with mental health conditions to access the care they need whilst maintaining their independence. I commend Jewish Care for the restorative environment they have cultivated at Sidney Corob House, and all the hard work of dedicated staff in this and other Jewish Care facilities.”

The MP also spoke about her experiences fighting antisemitism, saying, “We’ve seen the language of hate and violent images becoming more prevalent. It seems a long time ago since we came together to celebrate the Olympics in 2012; since we lost Jo Cox and said it can never happen again; since we took to Parliament Square to say Enough is Enough. I’m lucky to have this platform and I’m fortunate to have an incredible network of friends, family and colleagues to support me when times are dark. I’m resilient, but my mind turns to those who are being abused at work, online or on their way to worship.

I accept the award on behalf of those whose names we don’t hear.”

Luciana presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to Rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger DBE, Senior Rabbi of the West London Synagogue, cross bench Peer in the House of Lords, former CEO of the King's Fund. A former Jewish Care Trustee, she has been a lifelong supportive friend of Jewish Care, a mental health campaigner and a passionate advocate of volunteers and the added value they bring. Her professional life has often brought her in direct contact with Jewish Care as CEO at the Kings Fund and in her current role as Rabbi for West London Synagogue.  She was Vice Chair of the Mental Health Act Independent Review and chairs University College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

At the awards lunch, Rabbi Baroness Neuberger DBE, said, “I'm so proud to be here and grateful to be given this award by Jewish Care. This organisation is amazing, breaking down barriers across the community and between people of all different backgrounds to create change and transform the lives of people in our community. In my time as Jewish Care Trustee, we worked together to help change the lives of older people and people who were living with long term mental illness.

"I want to pay tribute to so many other named and unnamed tough women who have led the community, running organisations to make a difference and support others"

Rabbi Baroness Neuberger also paid tribute to Luciana Berger MP, saying, "I have the greatest admiration for her in her fight against anti-Semitism. I don't go on social media much but when I did in research for my book, I found that what she'd had to face was so shocking."

The funds raised from the lunch will go to support Sidney Corob House, the specialist care home for adults with moderate to severe mental health needs, where dedicated staff ensure that residents have access to care 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Every one of its residents are provided with a dedicated personal key worker who ensures that the care is tailored to meet their individual needs.

Michael Yaghoubi, who has lived at Sidney Corob House for three years, made an appeal at the lunch and spoke about what the home means to him.  Michael, who has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, said, “Upon moving to Sidney Corob House, I was introduced to a gentle man as my key worker. He sat with me and together we drew up a plan of care. I grew in confidence enabling me to follow this plan without any problem. No amount of words can express my gratitude to Jewish Care and the Sidney Corob House Team for making me who I am today. I hope that by hearing my story you have gained a greater understanding of why your support is so important.”

After the appeal, guest speaker and Bafta Award winner, Deborah Davis, screen writer and Executive Producer of the Oscar-nominated film, The Favourite was in conversation with journalist and TV presenter, Samantha Simmonds. They talked about how Deborah Davis discovered the story and her inspiration for writing the screenplay with three strong female lead actors, Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz.

Deborah Davis credited the Director with the film’s success for his vision in making it.  She also said, “As a Jewish woman it came naturally to write a script about women in power, I was bought up in a strong matriarchy, the men to went to work but we ran the show.  Ladies that lunch have always been looked down upon but what were all the men doing at the gentlemen’s clubs? We should be working together and networking together at events like today.”

Responding to whether the promise of women being able to have it all is a myth, the screen writer replied, “In my own experience, you can have it all, but not always at the same time.”

At the lunch, Co-chairs of the Women of Distinction Committee, Danielle Hess and Danielle Lipton, said, “Luciana Berger MP and Rabbi Baroness Neuberger DBE continue to inspire us, making their own unique stamp on their professions, our community and greater society and we are delighted to recognise their commitment and dedication today.

“We would like to thank them both, along with Samantha Simmonds and Deborah Davis for being with us at the lunch. We would also like to thank Michael Yaghoubi for sharing his story with us today and the Woman of Distinction Committee and our guests for their much needed support so that Jewish Care can continue to provide services to all the members of our community so that they can live dignified and meaningful lives.”