Westonbirt alumna, June Jacobs was a fearless campaigner who did great work for the causes she adopted, including the rights of women and oppressed minorities around the world, and the cause of peace in the Middle East. She was the founder of the National Council for Soviet Jewry and travelled frequently to the Soviet Union in the 1970s to meet and campaign for “refuseniks”, who had been denied permission to emigrate.
The list of organisations with which she was associated includes the International Council of Jewish Women; Jewish Council for Racial Equality (JCORE); National Alliance of Women’s Organisations; Next Century Foundation; New Israel Fund and Jewish Child’s Day.
In 1989, as the Board of Deputies of British Jews foreign affairs spokesperson, she controversially met with PLO representative Bassam Abu Sharif. In 2009 she was awarded a CBE for services to human rights and inter-faith relations. In a newspaper interview after receiving her CBE, she said of her meeting with Mr Abu Sharif: “It was the right thing to do, how else can we attempt to bring peace if we don’t talk?”
June, who was also a dearly loved mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, sadly passed away in 2018 at the age of 88. Her family have generously endowed The June Jacobs Social Justice Awards and Grant to Westonbirt School in her memory. June was born in 1930 and went to America with her mother and brothers during the war to live with relatives and attend school. The family returned in 1944 and June was sent to Westonbirt, as a boarder, where her father was keen for her to lose her American accent!
The June Jacobs Awards will take the form of two awards, presented at Speech Day, to a pupil in Key Stage 3 and a student in Key Stage 4 who have made a stand through their actions to fight for the equal rights of minority groups.
The June Jacobs Grant will be awarded annually to establish a social justice project by a student or students in Year 9 which must involve action taken to fight for the rights of overlooked and minority groups. All students in Year 9 will be tasked to submit an idea for this project with the most compelling proposals presented to a judging panel, and the winning student/s held accountable for the action they undertake and how they use the grant money.