A night like no other

When I began developing the idea of a event inspired by Pride of Britain two and a half years ago, I hoped it could create a unique moment of communal pride and togetherness. I certainly didn’t, however, envisage that #NightOfHeroes would be trending on Twitter at no.1 in London, ahead of that evening’s big FA Cup tie. Or that news lines would be picked up by wider media including The Sun, Evening Standard and Huffington Post.

We certainly had come along way from seeds of an idea to the 500-strong gathering of celebrities, politicians, Jewish leaders and grassroots community members that gathered at the Marriot Grosvenor Square this week; indeed I spent well over a year looking unsuccessfully for a headline sponsor before being introduced to Teddy Sagi’s representatives.

Much changed during those years of planning; the headline acts; the realisation that short videos would play such a central role on the night; the mechanism through which the evening would support charities.

But in essence the direction remained the same. An opportunity to honour heroes in our midst in a setting befitting their inspirational actions, dedication and bravery.

No appeal, no raffle, just a celebration of our community as givers, within and outside.

It’s a particular pleasure that the charity dimension enabled many of the staff that make charities in our community tick to sit back and take their places at the dinner – something they don’t always have the chance to do at their own. Uniquely, there was a Jewish Care table alongside a Nightingale table alongside a Work Avenue table.

Even the cynics in the room couldn’t help but be inspired by this one-stop showcase of all that is best about Anglo-Jewry and its staunchest supporters.

In one room we had the mother who’s raised millions to find a cure for the devastating illness afflicting her son; the charity worker who helped bring child refugees to the UK; the rabbi enhancing ties with the Muslim community; the parents developing Coexistence projects in Israel after their daughter was murdered by an ultra-Orthodox Jew and the incredible doctor who treated her at the scene; the former MP who played a key role in the adoption of the International definition of anti-Semitism.

It’s hard to believe now that I was worried at one point – conscious of the fact Pride of Britain has a potential pool of 60 million to choose from and we had rather fewer – about what we’d do if we didn’t find enough inspirational stories to justify such a night of glitz and glamour.

But in reality, we struggled to whittle down the shortlist from hundreds of amazing nominees.

As Dermot O’Leary summed up the night: “It makes you proud to be a Londoner.”

A huge thank you to our sponsors and everyone that helped bring this event to life, particularly Energise Squared, Ben Morrison and Inspired Films.

About the Author
Justin Cohen is News Editor of the Jewish News.
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