A familiar face to many in North Leeds, Barbara celebrated four decades of working for Leeds Jewish Welfare Board (LJWB) in 2019. After a spell as a junior member of staff in 1951, Barbara re-joined in 1979 following the death of her husband as secretary to former CEO, Heinz Skyte. She continued in this role until 1996 when she was seconded to be the administrator for the Holocaust Survivors’ Friendship Association.
As a young mum, Barbara contributed to LJWB’s Meals on Wheels and served on the Norwood Children’s Home Leeds Committee. Her passion to fight cancer has meant she has served for more than 40 years as part of the Leeds Voluntary Committee of Yorkshire Cancer Research, currently serving as honorary secretary. As well as all of this, she still finds time to volunteer for Radio JCom and helps support bereaved families through her work with the Chevra Kadisha.
In her presidency of the Leeds Ladies Lodge of B’nai B’rith, she was instrumental in lifting barriers that discouraged women to serve on religious committees. Barbara was invited by former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks to work with him on a national project, Women in the Community. As a result of her involvement, her home city of Leeds became one of the very first in the country to invite women to sit on shul committees.
Due to the pandemic, news of Barbara’s nomination wasn’t conveyed to her the usual form of a letter from the Cabinet Offer, but via email: “I studied it for quite a while, thinking it might have been a scam!” commented Barbara. “I was truly humbled to have been chosen and it’s all been incredibly exciting.
“You have to promise not to tell anybody – and it was hard keeping it a secret until the end of December. My daughter Deidre was absolutely delighted when she finally found out.” Asked when the ceremony will take place, she replies: “your guess is as good as mine. But I think it will be a long wait.”
At 85 years of age, Barbara continues to be a tour de force in the community and shows no signs of slowing down: “I don’t think about it – I just carry on doing what I do. What would I do with my feet up – fall asleep probably! I’ve been keeping busy for 70 years, so why would I stop now?”