Brian Kerner

By Louis Abrahams

Community leaders have paid tribute to former UJIA chairman and Zionist Federation vice president Brian Kerner following his death.

As chair of the United Israel Appeal, Brian led the merger with Jewish Continuity that created UJIA.

And at the start of the second Intifada, he brought together different Jewish and pro-Israel organisations in a Cross-Community Coordination Group to plan for the crisis.

He ended establishing and helping to lead BICOM.

As chair of the CCG, Brian was also involved in setting up the Jewish Leadership Council itself.

JLC chair Jonathan Goldstein said Brian was driven by a love and commitment to British Jews and Israel, but also a passion for getting things done efficiently.

“He would always dryly observe that there were thousands of Jewish organisations in Britain, all replicating each other’s work,” Mr Goldstein recalled. “Brian’s lifelong push for cooperation and collaboration led him to have a hand in the creation of many of the institutions of UK Jewish life.

“Brian was one of the first Jewish leaders to recognise the threat of the anti-Israel boycott movement”. Brian also founded the Fair Play Campaign, the Jewish world’s first standing anti-boycott umbrella group, and acted as its co-chairman.

“Anyone who worked with Brian will also remember his sharp wit, his occasionally-risqué sense of humour and his love of Arsenal football club,” said Mr Goldstein.

“Brian was a dedicated fundraiser who was always willing to lend support of his time, his resources, his connections and his passion.

“The British Jewish community was immensely enriched by Brian’s work, and is poorer for his passing.”

Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl was saddened by his passing, recalling Brian as part of the Board’s “extended family” with past presidents Henry Grunwald, Vivian Wineman and Jonathan Arkush, having worked closely with them.

“Amongst many communal roles, he chaired the Fair Play Campaign Group until 2016,” she said. “He was a great advocate for Israel and Jewish causes.

“We wish his family health and strength in the coming days and beyond.”
Michael Wegier, UJIA chief executive noted that Brian was the organisation’s first former chairman to die and would be much missed.