‘Race Against Time to Save Mum’

The family of a mum-of-two from Kenton, who is undergoing last-ditch treatment for a rare form of cancer, this week made an urgent plea to young Jewish News readers to register as bone marrow donors.

The emotional appeal was issued to those aged between 16 and 30 by Jonni and Caroline Berger, whose mother Sharon has Acute Myeloid Leukaemia.

Sharon, 61, entered a hospital isolation unit on Monday to undergo six weeks of aggressive chemotherapy, at the end of which a matching bone marrow donor needs to have been found.

Jonni said: “It is now a race against time. A match for our mum is most
likely to come from someone in the Ashkenazi community.”

The situation has been exacerbated by a cruel twist of fate. The best chance of a genetic match comes from the immediate family, but while Sharon’s three
siblings all match each other, none are a suitable match for her.

However, her children were determined that their mother’s fate should not come down to a stroke of bad luck, and last month launched the ‘Spit4Mum’ campaign, so named because of the way in which tissue-type is tested.

Orchestrated online through social media networks, their campaign has already increased the number of registrations. They have attended recent community events, such as Limmud and the Juefa football tournament, and have enlisted celebrities, including singers Charlotte Church and Danni Minogue, to help encourage those within the relevant age group to sign up.

“The response from the community has been amazing,” said Caroline. “We have had offers from old friends and fellow community members, as well as people we have never met before. People have offered to set up screening clinics to enable people to join the register.”

Dr Ian Ellis, a clinical geneticist in Liverpool, reinforced the family’s call for donor registrations. He said: “Genetic matches usually come from within the family and the Ashkenazi community is essentially one big genetic family, so there is a specific need for Jewish community members to register as donors.”

Jonni and Caroline’s efforts have already had an impact, and there were signs this week that the community is mobilising. Among the organisations actively supporting the Bergers’ drive were schools, including Emanuel and JCoSS, and youth programmes, including United Synagogues’ Project Chesed and Reform’s RSY-Netzer and Jeneration.

University students across the country were also beginning to show their support, at a time when many sit their January exams. Alex Green, president of the Union of Jewish Students, said: “UJS recognises the urgency and importance of this. We will continue to do our utmost to mobilise Jewish students around
the country to maximise the likelihood of finding a match.”

Sharon’s husband Stephen, who acts a volunteer courier for the Anthony Nolan Trust delivering samples across the country, said he was delighted at the social media frenzy generated by the plight of his wife, but confirmed his family’s desperate calls for young adults to register.

“There must be a bone marrow match for Sharon out there somewhere,” said Stephen. “We just need to find them. Finding a match would be better than winning the lottery.”

Full details of the Spit4Mum campaign can be found online at http://is.gd/Spit4Mum. The Anthony Nolan Trust can be contacted on 0303 303 0303 or online at www.anthonynolan.org. If you would like to support the campaign in your community, contact Jonni Berger at jonni@thebergers.co.uk

Learn more »
Comments Off

She’s back

Tzipi Livni is set to hold talks with William Hague and community leaders in London today during the first visit to the UK by a senior Israeli official since the universal jurisdiction law was amended.

The 24-hour trip is particularly significant coming nearly two years after the Israeli opposition leader had to abandon plans to visit amid the threat of arrest, prompting pledges to change the controversial legislation by the Labour government.

But it was just three weeks ago that an amendment to the law, under which war crimes committed abroad can be prosecuted in the UK, finally reached the statute book, requiring the Director of Public Prosecutions to give the green light before a warrant can be issued.

Speaking hours before the Kadima leader was due to touch down in the capital last night, Israeli Ambassador Daniel Taub said: “This visit symbolises the end of a long, absurd period in which the vital dialogue between Israel and the UK was obstructed. No longer will extremists be able to abuse British law as a political tool. I hope this legal correction will pave the way for even deeper co-operation between the two states on strategic issues of mutual concern.”

Today’s schedule will include talks with figures from the Board of Deputies, Bicom and the Jewish Leadership Council, which led the campaign for a law change. There will also be a meeting with the UJS and youth leaders. The centrepiece of the trip, however, will be face-to-face talks with Hague at the Foreign Office. The foreign secretary is set to raise issues including the Middle East peace process and to seek the MK’s perspective on regional developments including the uprising in Syria and relations with Turkey.

On the domestic front, the wave of social protests in the Jewish state is also likely to be touched on. An FCO spokesperson said: “Ms Livni is coming to the UK at a critical moment for the Middle East. The foreign secretary is looking forward to discussing a range of issues.”

However, not everyone welcomes the visit, with demonstrators expected to protest against the trip close to Downing Street at 5pm.

The ZF last night called on its supporters to gather with Israeli flags for a counter demo. While attempts were made in the past to obtain warrants for dignitaries from other countries, several Israeli officials abandoned visits to the UK in recent years. The first, six years ago, saw former IDF southern command chief Major General Doron Almog get as far as Heathrow before flying back to Israel when it emerged he faced the threat of arrest.

The Jewish News exclusively revealed last month that Almog was to visit Britain in the coming months to address supporters of the charity Aleh.

Learn more »
Comments Off

Fire Forces Kosher Kingdom To Close

Much of Golders Green Road was shut off and local residents and shoppers evacuated last Thursday evening as fifty firefighters spent around four hours tackling a blaze at the warehouse belonging to Kosher Kingdom.

One woman was led to safety suffering from smoke inhalation, according to the London Fire Brigade.

After the flames had been under control and the traffic was again flowing in the area, it was confirmed that the fire had destroyed around three quarters of the building where items had included extensive stock for Rosh Hashanah.

And this week, in what will come as a blow to locals, a spokesman for Kosher Kingdom told the Jewish News the shop itself had suffered “water and smoke damage. We aim to be open for Yom Tov but it doesn’t look likely”.

He said: “We were totally in shock. The first thing that came to mind was what’s our customers going to do. Thank god nobody was harmed and we’d like thank community for their support, we’ve received many phonecalls and emails wishing us the best. “We’re just waiting for surveyors to come in to check the safety of the premises and how long it will take to reconstruct so that we can get back in there as soon as possible. Next week we’ll have a better idea.”

The LFB had no official update today on its statement last week that the cause of the blaze is under investigation – as is regular practise with a significant fire. However, the Kosher Kingdom spokesman said “we haven’t got official conformation but seems to be an electrical fire”.

Local resident Debby Colman, whose garden backs on to the warehouse, recalled that her first thoughts on seeing smoke was that someone might be having a barbecue. She quickly realised, however, that that wasn’t the case and dialled 999.

“They were there within five minutes,” she told TJ. “But by that time you could not breath, the smoke was that thick and the flames could be seen coming out of the building. In a short space of time, it became a major incident.”

Colman was among the residents of Russell Gardens and Alba Gardens, the roads on either side of the supermarket, to be evacuated from their homes until late evening. While the fire was under control by shortly after 9pm, firefighters remained at the scene overnight damping down.

Colman said: “One of the most scary things was looking out of the house in the middle of the afternoon and seeing everything was black, you could just see the yellow helmets of the firemen.”

Learn more »
Comments Off

NUS Condemns Galloway Over Hezbollah

Sam Lebens, a Jewish member of the NUS National Executive put forward the motion following comments the Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow made during a rally in London on 22 July.

The NUS submitted a letter voicing its views to Galloway on Wednesday.

NUS President Gemma Tumelty said: “NUS deplores the violence in the Middle East and its sympathies are with all the affected peoples, Israeli, Palestinian and Lebanese. NUS believe that support for Hezbollah…should not be equated with support for the Lebanese people.

“As a progressive union it is our duty to promote peace and understanding between peoples. We believe that some of the statements made by Mr Galloway are damaging to the peace process and ought to be condemned.”

Mitch Simmons, UJS’ Campaign Organiser said: “I applaud the stance the NUS is taking against racism and fascism. Regardless of your opinions on the Middle East and this country’s foreign policy, you can’t have people like Galloway making those comments”.

Learn more »
Comments Off