Rabbi Abraham Levy, who oversaw London’s historic Spanish and Portuguese community for many years and helped establish several institutions that cater to Sephardic Jews, is mourned by British Jews.
Levy passed away on December 24 at 83, after 32 years as the chief rabbi of the S&P Sephardi Community in London and a decade as its emeritus spiritual leader.
He was a godly man. a figurehead in religious life.
He did it with tremendous conviction, too. His successor, Rabbi Joseph Dweck, spoke at a special session held to honor Levy during the yearly Limmud Festival of Jewish learning in Birmingham, England, which was going on when he passed away.
Levy was a leader who had guts and honesty.
Levy had contributed to the yearly festival’s development because, in the 1980s, when it first began, it was uncommon for Orthodox rabbis to participate. The event is now seen as a model of pluralism.
He developed our collective Judaism; thus, it’s a significant loss for the entire Anglo-Jewish community, according to Dweck.
He spoke eloquently and with such grace when he represented the Jewish community.
I’m not sure how we can do it instead. There was only one person we would consult when we were unsure of the Spanish and Portuguese customs, and that was him.
Levy, raised in an Orthodox family and born in Gibraltar, received his degree from London University and his rabbinical training at Jews’ College in London.
Levy oversaw the opening of Naima Jewish Preparatory School, the city’s first Sephardi school since the early 20th century.
He continued to serve as the school’s honorary principal until his passing.
The school in London’s West End had a mix of Anglo-Sephardi and Ashkenazi students and increasing numbers of Jews from Iran, Iraq, and France in the late 1980s.
After the organization that had ordained him ceased ordaining new rabbis, Levy is also credited with maintaining Orthodox rabbinic ordination in England under the supervision of the Montefiore Endowment.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Britain’s chief rabbi for 22 years and a significant figure in modern Judaism, was among the early graduates of the leadership program he established for young Jews.
Additionally, tributes came from all around England, including Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, the cousin of the deputy mayor of Jerusalem, and British Jews of different backgrounds.
Levy was “a great and proud Sefardi leader — who will be sorely missed,” Hassan-Nahoum wrote in a tweet.
Ephraim Mirvis, the chief rabbi of the United Kingdom, released a statement in which he expressed his community’s sorrow at Rabbi Dr. Abraham Levy’s passing. Far outside the Sephardi group, he “made his mark.”
After a funeral procession that made stops at the Naima school and the Lauderdale Road Synagogue, which is also a part of the Sephardi community, Levy was buried on Dec. 26 in a cemetery in London’s predominately Jewish Golders Green.
His son and four grandchildren are still alive.