In 2006, not that long after I started as JLGB Chief Executive, I received an invitation in the post to a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace, but this wasn’t to be your average Garden Party, this was a much-anticipated star-studded event to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.
This wasn’t an unexpected invite, as the JLGB connection with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award goes all the way back to when the award was first created in 1956, when JLGB was asked to be part of the first pilot group. Since then, with the support of the Pears Foundation, taking on the challenge of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award has become a rite of passage for over 25,000 Jewish teenagers in our community, with many receiving their Gold Award from the Duke himself.
Several JLGB representatives were invited that day, but as we queued at the gates of the Palace I suddenly noticed that my ticket was a different colour to the others, and the words printed were different, mine said: ‘Royal Tea Tent’.
As 8,000 people mingled in the gardens of Buckingham Palace, eagerly awaiting the Royal Party to arrive, I made my way to the Royal Enclosure. Still feeling it was a mistake, I flashed my ticket cautiously, but my name was on the list and I was waved straight in. There we no more than 20 people in this gigantic tent, and as I went to sample the famous tea and cucumber sandwiches, I realised I was standing next to the moon-landing astronaut, and the first man to run a mile in less than four minutes, namely Buzz Aldren and Sir Roger Bannister.
“What brings you here?” Sir Roger asked me. I started to explain all about JLGB and our work with the DofE Award, when I felt a presence, a tall figure right behind me listening to what I was saying. I turned around to include them, and to my surprise, there stood Prince Philip.
“Carry on!!” said the Duke of Edinburgh with a hurried excitement, so I continued to explain the needs of the Jewish community, and how we provide Kosher and Sabbath friendly expeditions for Jewish schools, synagogues and community centres. “Fascinating!” he said, just as Her Majesty the Queen walked into the tent. Without a moment’s hesitation, he grabbed her by the arm, and I swear I heard him say “Liz, come and listen to this, they provide Kosher expeditions!”
The next thing I know, and for the third time now I’m holding court with Buzz Aldren, Sir Roger Bannister, The Duke of Edinburgh and now the Queen, telling them about the barriers young Jewish people face in accessing every day youth provision, and that JLGB proudly provide single-gender provisions for orthodox schools and adapted expeditions for Special Educational Needs charities.
The interest Prince Philip showed that day was truly genuine, as was his support of the Jewish community his entire life. The Duke himself was of course inspired to create the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award by his mentor Dr Kurt Hahn, a German Jew who opposed and fled the Nazis, and was a key figure in the development of experiential education who felt there was a real need for a youth programme that developed the mind, body and spirit.
This translated into what would become the different sections of the Award: Skills, Volunteering, Physical and Expedition where participants choose activities they are passionate about to uniquely build their own programme of self-improvement. The Award comes at the perfect time in a teen’s adolescence to help shape and define their character and identity and give them the determination, independence and tools they need transition into adult life. Many a career path has been defined, and a life changed, by a single choice made during their Award journey, including the next generation of astronauts and record-breaking athletes, and not to mention the beneficiaries of countless volunteering hours that have been given in the Duke’s name to support local charities.
JLGB was recently privileged to announce HRH Prince of Wales as our Patron, and I hope we will now continue to honour his father’s legacy through more and more Jewish young people taking part in the world’s leading achievement award for young people. The phenomenal impact of the Duke of Edinburgh will live on through the millions of young people who have been empowered with the skills, confidence and resilience they need to realise their potential and make a positive difference in their local communities and wider society.
We send our deepest sympathies to Her Majesty The Queen, our Patron HRH The Prince of Wales and all The Royal Family.