Friday, 26 February 2016

Jewish Care

I had one of the most moving occasions in my Rabbinic career on Thursday. I went to the opening of a new Jewish Care home offering world class dementia care. Here's the story.

Lippe was a survivor of the genocide of Hungarian Jewry. He survived three Nazi labour camps, one liquidated only days after his escape. Zuzie, also born in Hungary, survived the Holocaust hidden by a Catholic Priest. They met in post war Budapest at a gathering for young Zionists. Together, with nothing but what they could carry, they left Hungary for Israel where they married. Lippe worked as a bricklayer, selling yo-yos on the beach on the side to make a living in difficult times. Eventually, now with two children, the family moved to England, again, arriving with nothing. Again Lippe worked heroically; as a comis waiter, mini-cab driver, scissor exporter ... whatever it took. His determination and acumen brought professional success. Together with Zuzie they enjoyed tremendous happiness. In the mid 1960s they joined New London Synagogue, drawn by the magnetism of our founder Rabbi and the message Louis preached for so many years.
By the time I met the family Zuzie had declined. She needed a specific kind of care the family found it impossible to access, and she passed away soon after. Following Zuzie's death Lippe, with characteristic boldness and determination, suggested that he should found a nursing home to allow others to access the sort of care he had to work so hard to provide for his own wife. At this point I get to play a small walk-on part in this story.

I suggested to Lippe and his daughter, our member Dorit, that they might want to have a conversation with the the pre-eminent care-giving charity in the Jewish community, Jewish Care. I was able to join Lippe and Dorit at the first of what became many meetings with the team at Jewish Care, but shortly afterwards, Lippe himself passed away and it was Dorit and her son Alex who took forward Lippe's desires and supported what has now become an extraordinary state-of-the-art provision in the newly named Betty & Asher Loftus Centre where Jewish Care's Lady Sarah Cohen home is situated. The home bears the names of Lippe and Zuzie's fathers, murdered by the Nazis. May the memories of Kun Mor and George Kiss be forever a blessing. And on Thursday, among a collection of the great and good, the Minister for Social Care, Alistair Burt MP attended the opening ceremony.

For me it's a story in three parts. The first about the refusal to be defeated, the drive and determination it took to build a life out of the ashes of Nazi devastation. Secondly this is a story about a, very Jewish, sense that the accumulation of financial success is not an ultimate goal, rather an opportunity to do good for others - a responsibility nobly borne by the family. Finally it is a story of love and respect shown by Lippe and Zuzie's descendants, Dorit and her son Alex, who followed through on the last great wish of their father and grandfather and helped bring to fruition such a stunning testament to the determination and the kindness of their ancestors.

I salute all of the family, across four generations and also the entire team at Jewish Care led with great distinction by Simon Morris. I'm proud that New London comes to be associated with this tremendous story. I hope, in each of its parts that it can inspire us all, to live lives marked by acts of determination and kindness, and to leave legacies for those who follow us.

One final note. I only found out on Thursday that Alex, grandson of Lippe and Zuzie, now resident in Australia, has celebrated his marriage. It's the sort of Mazal Tov that deserves a note in our Weekly Words. Mazal Tov to Alex and Tami and our member, their mother, Dorit.

Shabbat shalom

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