Like many of the refugees forced to flee Europe just before the Second World War, my father, Manfred Vanson, sought to contribute to the society which had given him shelter. For most of his adult life Manfred served as an example of decency, kindness and unflagging dedication to helping those less fortunate than himself. Although his father and brother had died before the war, and his sister survived the war in France, his mother perished in Theresienstadt, to his lasting sorrow.
Manfred Vanson was born in Hamburg, in 1916, and managed to escape to England in December 1938, after Kristallnacht. In 1940, together with his young wife, Frances nee Hirsch, to whom he had become engaged while still in Hamburg, he undertook the care of twenty-five Kindertransport children in a hostel in Hampstead. At the same time he began working for the Jewish Blind Society, then a small organization providing financial assistance to blind and visually impaired Jews. After the war the JBS became Manfred’s life’s-work and vocation, and during the subsequent forty years he built it up to constitute an exemplary communal organization. He worked tirelessly to raise funds, establish residential homes, holiday homes and day-centres and to help blind members of the Jewish community in every possible way. In recognition of his efforts he was awarded the O.B.E. when he retired, in 1980.
Manfred, aided by Frances, was a mainstay of the Jewish community of Kingsbury, helping to make it one of the most vibrant and growing London congregations. His unique charm, sharp mind, and innate modesty won him the affection of a wide range of people. He dispensed charity, both overtly and covertly, and earned the undying gratitude of many people, both in England and in Israel.
After Manfred’s retirement he and Frances moved to Israel, to be near their children and grandchildren. In the 20 years until his final illness and death he continued to pursue his efforts on behalf of the community, assuming an active role in the English-speaking Bnai Brith Lodge in Jerusalem, and serving as its President for two terms.
He died on 16 September 2003, in his Jerusalem home, survived by his three daughters, Dorothea, Esther and Ruth and their husbands,18 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren.