I am certain Alan Senitt would have been in the top five in our Forty Under 40 list had he but lived.
I was youth director of the Middlesex New Synagogue in 1986 when Alan’s mother Karen was part of the synagogue administration team and his dad Jack was the chair of the youth committee. My memory is of an over-energetic seven-year-old running around with his brother.
His teenage years were a story of climbing to the world summit of BBYO. At UJS conference in his first year I met him and he said he would be chair of UJS, and it gradually became obvious that he would become that.
He quietly built friendships and the loyalty and warmth of relationships that he created saw him as one of the great potential leaders of British Jewry. No one ever had a bad word about Alan.
From there he went to BICOM and became director of the Co-Existence Trust. He stood for council in Barnet for Labour and today would undoubtedly have been either in Parliament or in a significant role in the Jewish community.
I last met with Alan at one of the early meetings of the London Jewish Forum in spring 2006. He had that sparkle in his eye with ideas and aspirations for the future. He said he was going off to the states to work for senator Mark Warner’s Political Action committee.
On 9 July that year, Alan was murdered in Washington DC while taking a girlfriend home. He was fatally stabbed trying to protect her. His family and friends have continued to take forward his work through the Alan Senitt Trust, despite the untimely passing of Alan’s father at just 62.
Lee Petar, who employed him at BICOM and knew him through BBYO and UJS, says: “It is beyond doubt that Alan would have been in the top 40. He inspired so many people and touched so many lives. Even now, I think of his sunny attitude, infectious smile and ability to bring out the best of the people around him.
“He left a real gap at the heart of our community that still needs filling. He was someone who brought so many people together. He was young but a valued adviser to more experienced members of the community. He was relentlessly optimistic and always chose to see the good in people. He led by example. He was always a leader; the best of his generation.”
Two of our top 40 were very close friends, Luciana Berger MP and Danny Stone. They are the patron and former press officer of the trust set up to continue Alan’s work.
They recall: “Alan was to us a friend, a leader, the older brother we never had and a ray of sunshine in our lives. As a friend, he was solid, reliable, kind, understanding and always willing to lend the best advice. As a leader, he was gifted. Indeed, if leadership is not just about attracting followers but inspiring people to do great things, then Alan embodied leadership. He always had a vision and it is no surprise that people today still quote his mantra: ‘More Jewish students doing more Jewish things on campus’.
“Not just professionally but personally, Alan was a towering force. He was a tribute to his family and in particular a wonderful brother – but not just to his siblings Emma and James.
“He had a temperament and personality that buoyed others and made them feel valued. You were always in on the joke or part of the team when Alan was around. And everything was done with a smile and a giggle. Even having experienced defeat in a local election, he was laughing and joking with us, his election tellers and we just knew he was planning his next step.
“There is little doubt in our minds that if he were with us today, Alan would be in Parliament and fulfilling a significant role in British Jewish life. For both of us, Alan was a source of encouragement and motivation. He remains sorely missed but our memories of him continue to provide strength and inspiration.”
May his memory be for a blessing.
By Andrew Gilbert, Chairman, Forty Under 40 panel