Woman of Distinction 2017

01 Feb 2017

Woman of Distinction 2017

Anne Webber and Dame Esther Rantzen DBE were the recipients of awards at the 26th Jewish Care Women of Distinction Lunch which took place at the Institute of Directors on Monday 30th January. Previous winners include Oona King MP, Ruby Wax and Dame Stephanie Shirley. The event, which was attended by 180 women, raised £55,000 to help fund services and activities for residents of Jewish Care’s Sidney Corob House and was organised by the Women of Distinction Committee, co-chaired by Philipa Mintz and Danielle Lipton. 

The first award was given to Anne Webber, the Founder and Co-Chair of the Commission for Looted Art in Europe, in recognition of her work in the restitution programme reuniting Holocaust refugees and survivors with their family’s possessions seized by the Nazis. 

The story has since inspired the film Woman In Gold, starring Helen Mirren. On accepting the award from Susan Schlaen, Sidney Corob House resident, the art historian said, “Thank you so much, I’m immensely flattered to be in the company of all those remarkable women who have received the award in the past. It’s pretty special and I’m very honoured. It is a huge source of encouragement to receive this award from you and means a great deal.”

Leah Phillips, a resident of Sidney Corob home, presented the second award to Dame Esther Rantzen DBE in celebrating her successful career and especially the creation of ChildLine 30 years ago and The Silver Line charity which launched in 2013. 

Talking about the formation of the charity, she said, “After my husband died, when I down-sized from my house to a flat, I was living alone for the first time and I was lonely, there was nobody to talk to when I closed the door at night, no one to sit on the sofa with, and no one to ask me about my day. So I did what I always, do, I wrote

to The Daily Mail, this time about the issue of loneliness and The Silver Line charity was born out of the response from the public.” 

She went on to say, “Thank you for giving me this wonderful award, really I’m shining in the reflected glory of all the people whose skill, talent and dedication I’ve depended on, and that, ladies and gentleman includes you, because you’re here today celebrating and supporting a fantastically important cause. So thank you Jewish Care and thank you for listening, and more power to you!”

After the awards were presented, Sandra Saintus, Manager of Sidney Corob House in West Hampstead, said: “As women who talk about mental health to local people in our community, it meant a lot to Susan and Leah to present awards to other women whose work for their community is being recognised. The money raised from the Women of Distinction lunch will help us to ensure we continue to provide the vital care and meaningful activities for our residents that empower them to fulfil their potential and connect with their local community.”

Susan Schlaen, a former PE teacher, who made an appeal at the lunch in 2014 when the then Rt Hon Prime Minister Theresa May, then Home Secretary was guest speaker. She is living with bipolar disorder and has recovered from lung cancer. Susan spoke movingly when she presented Anne Webber with the award. ”I am honoured to be chosen to present this award to this wonderful woman. Jewish Care and the Women of Distinction have shown me much love and I’m want to relay that love with you for all that you have done for Holocaust survivors, thank you so much.”

On presenting the award to Anne Webber, Leah said, “I love Sidney Corob House, bless all the staff there and everyone there, they’ve been marvellous to me and they’ve helped me through my problems.” 

Leah first spoke publicly quite recently to members of the community at the home’s local Shomrei Hadath Synagogue when she shared stories about her parents and of her appreciation of the staff and volunteers at Sidney Corob, which has been her home for the past three years. 

Jonny Benjamin MBE who made the appeal at the lunch, shared his experiences of mental illness which has led him to form his charity Heads Together and become an ambassador for Jewish mental health charity Jami – an organisation who have a formal partnership with Jewish Care to deliver community based mental health service for the Jewish Community.

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