British Friends of the Hebrew University

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The British Friends of the Hebrew University (BFHU) is a British charity set up to support and promote the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. It allows the University to support students and academics, to fund research projects and promote opportunities to study at the University.[1]


The charity was established in 1926, and is the oldest established Jewish charity in support of higher education in the UK. It was started Sir Philip Hartog and Sir Herbert Samuel who initiated book collections for the University’s library, founded the first scholarships and organised guest lectures. Amongst the earliest financial contributors were the families of Ernest Franklin, Richard Gregory, James de Rothschild, Redcliffe Salaman, Charles Singer and Chaim Weizmann.[2]


According to BFHU website, the Friends help fund scientific, medical and engineering research for the ‘improvement of people’s lives in Israel and worldwide’, as well as providing scholarships to British students studying at the HU. They have also carried on the early work of Samuel and Hartog, organising HU speakers and ambassadorial students to the UK.'[2] In 2014 the BFHU sponsored seven HU professors to participate in the Limmud Conference, four ambassadorial students at the Leeds Festival for Peace and seven other professors to lectures and events around the UK.[2]

Carmi Gillon and torture

In 2007 The criminologist Stan Cohen denounced the appointment of former Shin Bet chief Carmi Gillon as vice president for external affairs at the Hebrew University:[3]

A rather special academic will be visiting London this week. The current brochure of the British Friends of the Hebrew University (BFHU) announces that Vice President Week 2007 starts this Thursday, November 22. The university's new vice president for external relations, Carmi Gillon, will be here for a keynote lecture, a patron's dinner at the Athenaeum and a young professional's breakfast. This is no ordinary academic drafted into a hack fund-raising job. The BFHU's description of Gillon, however - as ex-Shin Bet chief, past Israeli ambassador to Denmark and a speaker with a "colourful past" - hardly conveys why he is so special.
The real Gillon joined Shin Bet (or Shabak) - the internal Israeli general security service (GSS) - in the mid 1970s. He worked in the ranks until 1988, when he was promoted to head of the training branch and then the northern region branch. In 1993, he became chief of the headquarters branch, and in 1995 was named overall head of the GSS. He was forced out a year later (for the security failure of not preventing the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.)
The period in which Gillon occupied the most senior positions in the service was the high point in Shin Bet's policy of torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian detainees. Until the Israel high court of justice ruled against such methods in 1999, GSS interrogators were officially allowed to use "moderate physical pressure" on detainees. These methods were listed only in secret government guidelines, but became well known from many sources (including court testimonies of GSS officials themselves). They included sensory and sleep deprivation; prolonged shackling in painful positions (like the "banana tie"); hooding - near suffocation - with filthy sacks; being forced to squat like a frog and violent shaking.
During Gillon's period of office, such methods of interrogation were used - routinely if rather cursorily - against hundreds of Palestinians every year. A standard estimate for 1987-1994 was 23,000 detainees - most of whom were later released without charge. More intense and brutal ("augmented") combinations were used against hardcore suspects and authorised by Gillon. In April 1995, one detainee was literally shaken to death in the police compound in Jerusalem. For detailed information on interrogation methods during Gillon's tenure of senior positions in the GSS, see Torture During Interrogations, November 1994 and other reports of B'tselem, the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.
After leaving the service, Gillon spent time in various business and public enterprises (including the directorship of the Centre of Peace, a project of his political patron, Shimon Peres). In July 2001, he was nominated as the Israeli ambassador to Denmark. There was some outcry in the international human rights community and calls were made for the Danish government to reject Gillon's appointment or for Israel to withdraw his nomination. "Diplomatic service," wrote Human Rights Watch, "should not be the source of job and travel opportunities for persons responsible for committing or sanctioning torture". Amnesty International requested that the Danish government arrest Gillon under the UN convention against torture. These calls were dismissed (the Danish government claimed - incorrectly - that he was protected by diplomatic immunity) and he took up his posting in Copenhagen.
Gillon gave a number of interviews to the Danish media in which he explicitly defended his past record. He admitted to at least 100 personal authorisations of torture interrogations. He also suggested that practices designated as illegal by the high court in 1999, might now have to be legalised because of new threats of terror.



In 2014:[4] | Jenny Arwas, non-executive director of Employment Opportunities, board member of the Prince's Trust London Council][5][6] | Graham Edwards, a director at a number of companies and charities including OneVoice Europe,[7] which trie to build bridges between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian communities in Europe and support the work of OneVoice Israel, OneVoice Palestine and OneVoice US[8] | Isaac Kaye, a donor to the Labour Party, member of Labour Friends of Israel and a key-backer to Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre | Jonathan Marks | Tony Page | Alan Philipp (treasurer), former treasurer of Jewish Care, chairman of the Jewish Care Pension Fund[9] and sits on the board of the Anglo-Jewish Association[10] | Marc Polonsky, a partner of law firm White & Case, trustee of the Polonsky Foundation, member of the board of the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute and governor of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies[11][12] | Margo Schwartz | Elad Shraga, the global head of credit solutions group Deutsche Bank[13] | Joe Smouha QC


In 2014:[14] | Bernard Myers, a special adviser and former managing director of N M Rothschild & Sons Limited, director of Rothschild Bank AG, an associate governor of the Hebrew University and member of the Jewish Leadership Council[15] | Isaac Kaye | Jonathan Marks | Margo Schwartz | Alan Philipp | Howard Shore, a director of Shore Capital Limited, UK Group of Hotels Plc and Puma Nominees Limited and a director of The Weizmann Institute Foundation[16][17] Henry Gabay | Jonathan Paisner, former solicitor at family company Berwin Leighton Paisner, founder of LMN Capital Partners, director of Puma Investments and member of Shore Investments.

Former trustees

Geoffrey Simmonds, resigned from his role in 2005. In 2008 he called for the Charity Commission to investigate the BFHU's handling of millions of pounds worth of donor funds. Simmonds claimed the university had been missing out on funds because the charity had been deducting money for management costs.[18] The charity's chairman Brent Isaacs defended the policy and added that the president of the university, the Friends' trustees and the Charity Commission have expressed themselves comfortable with the arrangements.[19]

President and vice-presidents

Circa 2014

John Sacher, president. [20] | Rabbi Tony Bayfield, vice-president. Head of the Movement for Reform Judaism[21] | Rabbi Dr Abraham Levy, vice-president | Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks, vice-president | Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg | HE Israeli Ambassador

Council of patrons

HH Judge Clive Callman [22] | Lady Collins | Lord Dyson | Michael J Gee, director of The Oxford Institute for Yiddish Studies and former director at The London Jewish Cultural Centre and The Spiro Institute for the Study of Jewish History and Culture[23] | Sir Martin Gilbert | Isaac Kaye | Dr Lionel Kopelowitz, former president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews[24] | Stella Lucas | Norman Naftalin | Lord David Pannick QC | Suzanne Perlman-Sternberg | Wendy Pollecoff, trustee and treasurer to the Jewish Youth Fund, trustee to the Wiener Library and the Jewish Chronicle Trust and a former trustee to the BFHU for ten years[25] | Dr Leonard Polonsky, founder and president of Hansard Global plc[26] | Felix Posen, founder of The Posen Foundation, which aims to make Jewish education easily accessible[27] | Warren Roiter | Dr Leonard Slotover | Anthony Spitz | Professor Stuart Stanton | Sir Sigmund Sternberg, life president of Movement for Reform Judaism, former sole patron of the International Council of Christians and Jews, co-founder of the Three Faiths Forum, vice president of the World Congress of Faiths and co-ordinator of the religious component of the World Economic Forum[28] | Lady Wolfson of Marylebone, one of the UK's leading philanthropists and a trustee of the Lord Leonard and Lady Estelle Wolfson Foundation[29] | Lord Woolf | Fred Worms

Resources, contact, notes


  • Stan Cohen A 'colourful past' indeed Carmi Gillon's sinister history of torture means he is no ordinary academic visiting London to lecture and be wined and dined Comment is Free, The Guardian, Thursday 22 November 2007 13.00 GMT Last modified on Monday 9 February 2009 15.10 GMT.



  1. British Friends of the Hebrew University Mission Statement. Accessed 16 December 2014.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 British Friends of the Hebrew University History of the British Friends. Accessed 16 December 2014.
  3. Stan Cohen A 'colourful past' indeed Carmi Gillon's sinister history of torture means he is no ordinary academic visiting London to lecture and be wined and dined Comment is Free, The Guardian, Thursday 22 November 2007 13.00 GMT Last modified on Monday 9 February 2009 15.10 GMT.
  4. Board British Friends of the Hebrew University, accessed 16 December 2014
  5. Elizabeth Pears Hendon charity worker is 'wonderful choice' for MBE Hendon Times, 2 January 2009, accessed 16 December 2014
  6. Marcus Dysch How community fared honours list The Jewish Chronicle, 31 December 2008, accessed 16 December 2014
  7. Graham Edwards Companies in the UK, 15 December 2014
  8. Where One Voice Movement, accessed 15 December 2014
  9. Alan Philipp Linkedin, accessed 15 December 2014
  10. Candice Krieger Alan Philipp recognised as a doyen of data publishing The Jewish Chronicle, 10 February 2010, accessed 15 December 2014
  11. Marc Polonsky Bloomberg Businessweek, accessed 15 December 2014
  12. Charity details – Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies Charity Performance, accessed 15 December 2014
  13. Elad Shraga Milken Institute, accessed 15 December 2014
  14. British Friends of the Hebrew University] Open Charity, accessed 16 December 2014
  15. Bernie Myers Jewish Leadership Council, accessed 15 December 2014
  16. Howard Paul Shore Company Check, accessed 15 December 2014
  17. Weizmann Institute Foundation, Final Trustees Report & Annual Accounts 2008 accessed 15 December 2014
  18. Simon Rocker Ex-trustee turns on Friends of Hebrew U The Jewish Chronicle, 29 May 2008, accessed 15 December 2014
  19. Simon Rocker Hebrew U donors protest at charges Jewish Chronicle, 6 June 2008, accessed 6 June 2015.
  20. Presidents and vice-presidents British Friends of the Hebrew University, accessed 16 December 2014
  21. Rabbi Dr Tony Bayfield Reform Juddaism, accessed 16 December 2014
  22. Council of patrons British Friends of the Hebrew University, accessed 16 December 2014
  23. Michael Joseph Gee Company Check, accessed 16 December 2014
  24. London diners raise £350k for the Board of Deputies The Jewish Chronicle, 26 November 2010, accessed 16 December 2014
  25. Meet the team British Friends of the Hebrew University, accessed 16 December 2014
  26. Leonard S Polonsky Bloomberg Businessweek, accessed 16 December 2014
  27. About us Posen Foundation, accessed 16 December 2014
  28. Sir Sigmund Sternberg Reform Judaism, accessed 16 December 2014
  29. Trustees Lord and Lady Wolfson, accessed 16 December 2014