Orielensis Rachel Riley (2004, Mathematics) has been awarded an MBE for services to Holocaust Education in the New Year Honours List, announced on 30 December 2022.
Rachel Riley is a well-known British presenter and has appeared on many of the UK’s favourite television shows over the years. She has been co-presenter of Countdown since 2009, and has appeared on and co-presented programmes such as The Gadget Show, 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown and Strictly Come Dancing.
Rachel has used her public platform to become a prominent campaigner against antisemitism, and to educate others on the horrors of the holocaust. In 2018, Rachel spoke out on the issue of antisemitism in the UK Labour Party, following which she received a wave of online abuse. Rachel took this as an opportunity to expand her work on anti-semitism and she began working as an ambassador for the Center for Countering Digital Hate on their mission to hold social media companies accountable for the way their platforms enable identity-based hate to fester and spread.
As part of her work to raise awareness of antisemitism and holocaust education, Rachel has visited Auschwitz and has met with Holocaust survivors and Jewish leadership groups. Around Holocaust Memorial Day in 2019, Rachel gave a speech in the Houses of Parliament on modern-day antisemitism for The Holocaust Educational Trust (HET) alongside survivors and volunteers. She has also spoken at a number of their events. Rachel says that her motivation for becoming so vocal on this issue was: “due to the knowledge of what happens when people stay silent or look the other way, which was ingrained in me through Holocaust education from my family as a child.”
This was also a big motivator for her taking in Ukrainian refugees in the Homes for Ukraine scheme following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
Rachel described the experience of receiving this award as “a proud moment”.