(JTA) — British Jews are mourning Rabbi Abraham Levy, who led London’s historic Spanish and Portuguese community for decades, building up multiple institutions serving Sephardic Jews in the process.
Levy died Dec. 24 at age 83, a decade after becoming emeritus spiritual head of the S&P Sephardi Community in London, following a 32-year period serving as the head rabbi.
“He was a man of God. A leader of religious life. And he did it with a great deal of conviction. He was a leader who was courageous and had integrity,” his successor, Rabbi Joseph Dweck, said during a special session held to memorialize Levy during the annual Limmud Festival of Jewish learning in Birmingham, England, which was underway when he died.
Levy had played a role in building the annual festival to its current status when, in its early days in the 1980s, his participation was unusual among Orthodox rabbis. Now, the festival is seen as an exemplar of pluralism.
“It is a huge loss for the whole of Anglo Jewry — he built our collective Judaism,” Dweck said. “He represented the Jewish community with such grace and eloquence. I am not sure how we replace that. When we were not sure what the Spanish and Portuguese custom was there was only one person we would ask — and that was him.”
Born in Gibraltar to an Orthodox family, Levy trained as a rabbi at London’s Jews’ College and also completed a doctorate at London University. He ascended to the top spot in London’s Spanish and Portuguese community in 1980.
During his tenure, Levy was responsible for opening Naima Jewish Preparatory School, the first Sephardi school in London since the early 20th century. He remained until his death the honorary principal of the school, which was located in London’s West End and enrolled a mixture of Anglo-Sephardi Jews, Ashkenazi Jews, and burgeoning numbers of Jews from Iran, Iraq and France in the late 1980s.
Levy is also credited with retaining Orthodox rabbinic ordination in England under the auspices of the Montefiore Endowment, after the body that had ordained him stopped minting new rabbis. He additionally created a leadership program for young Jews whose early graduates included Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Britain’s chief rabbi for 22 decades and a towering figure in contemporary Judaism.
Rabbi Raphael Zarum, a graduate of the Montefiore rabbinic training program who is now dean of the London School of Jewish Studies, said Levy was gifted at integrating religious and secular ideas. There was, Zarum said, “a natural overlap for him… He would say, ‘We Sephardim do our jobs, we are part of the world and we are also close to our faith.’”
Levy took a lead role in Sepharad 92, the effort by the World Sephardi Federation to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Jewish expulsion from Spain and Portugal. His role included meeting heads of state and visiting Sephardic communities in Spain and Portugal.
As a member of England’s Council of Christians and Jews, Levy helped to foster positive relations between the faiths. Queen Elizabeth awarded him the OBE, Britain’s second-highest national award, for his interfaith relations work in 2004.
“Rabbi Levy will be profoundly missed, but his message of tolerance and his work toward interfaith dialogue hold enduring lessons for us all,” King Charles said in a statement. He said Levy had been his host when Charles visited the Bevis Marks Synagogue, the largest associated with the Sephardic community, for its 300th anniversary in 2o01.
“I knew him both as a kind and towering figure in his community and as a greatly respected and admired teacher across communities,” the king said in his statement.
Tributes also poured in from elsewhere in England, from British Jews of all backgrounds and even from the deputy mayor of Jerusalem, Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, who was a cousin. Hassan-Nahoum tweeted that Levy was “a great and proud Sefardi leader — who will be greatly missed.”
“Our community mourns the sad loss of Rabbi Dr Abraham Levy,” said the United Kingdom’s chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, in a statement. He “made his mark well beyond the Sephardi community. A committed rabbinic leader and outstanding scholar, he made a deep impact in interfaith relations and education.”
Levy was buried Dec. 26 in a cemetery in Golders Green, a predominantly Jewish neighborhood of London, after a funeral procession that included stops at the Naima school and the Lauderdale Road Synagogue, also part of the Sephardi community. He is survived by a son and four grandchildren.
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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