Kabbalist takes on ghost
Wrong kind of spiritual: the Enfield shul may have an unwanted guest
A top kabbalist has been asked to help a United Synagogue rabbi whose home is reportedly being visited by the ghost of a past minister.
Website reports on the haunting referred to an unnamed London rabbi, who the JC now understands to be Rabbi Yitzchok Sufrin, the part-time minister of Enfield and Winchmore Hill Synagogue in Middlesex.
The haunted rabbi initially turned to Rabbi Levy Yitzhak Raskin, a Lubavitch dayan in London, who contacted the Jerusalem office of the Rabbinical Centre of Europe (RCE).
“In the last months he has noticed a foreign presence in his new home,” Rabbi Raskin wrote to the RCE. “Closed windows have been opened; he’s been hearing knocking, and so forth.”
Rabbi Sufrin — who declined to comment — spends the weekends in the flat above the synagogue in Wellington Road, a building said by congregants to date back to late Victorian or early
Edwardian times. He came to Enfield, a small synagogue with 180 members, a few months ago, following his retirement as rabbi of Highgate Synagogue.
According to Rabbi Raskin, congregants believed the noises to have been caused by “the ghost of a rabbi… who was the synagogue’s first rabbi and passed away 40 years ago, and is now seeking tikkun (healing) for his spirit”.
When Enfield first opened in 1950, it was led by the Reverend A I Lewin, who died 10 years later.
An RCE spokesman said that the synagogue’s members believed its former spiritual leader still liked to keep an eye on his congregation. “He comes from time to time to see what’s happening.”
But the synagogue’s warden, Henry Jacobs, played down talk of the supernatural. “It’s an old, old house and it creaks. Whenever a noise came from next door, we used to joke about it being nothing to worry about — it was just Reverend Lewin,” he said.
Mr Jacobs said that in one recent incident, a box of Pesach utensils in the flat above the synagogue was discovered in a different place from usual. But the real, more prosaic explanation for the move subsequently emerged at a board meeting. “Someone had wanted to get access to the eaves and they had moved the box and didn’t move it back,” he said.
Alan Sless, the synagogue chairman, said a visiting psychic reportedly claimed to have sensed spirits in the building around 30 years ago. But other rabbis had stayed there without interference from beyond. “It’s an old building. If it didn’t rattle, there would be something unusual,” he said.
One former Enfield rabbi, Rabbi Levi Brackman, encountered no ghosts during his residency. “If there were,” he said. “They were too scared to mess with me.”
Rabbi Raskin said this week: “The person who spoke to me is a serious person and I have great respect for him. I didn’t start thinking he was kidding himself into superstitious things. If someone comes to me with a problem, I’ll deal with it.
“It’s not an unheard-of phenomenon. In Ramsgate 30 years ago, there were a lot of stories going around on the estate of Sir Moses Montefiore.”
Just lately, he said, there had been reports of a presence at a former pub in the United States which had been converted into a Chabad House.
The RCE referred Rabbi Riskin’s inquiry to Israel’s Sephardi Chief Rabbi, Shlomo Amar, and Rabbi Yitzchak Batzri, a leading mekubal (master of Kabbalah), who have recommended the recital of special tikkun, or healing, prayers.
Unlike the Church of England, the United Synagogue does not have official exorcism rites. David Frei, registrar of the London Beth Din, asked about its policy on hauntings, said: “The Beth Din deals with practical halachah. The world of the supernatural is not our province.”
Enfield is the site of Britain’s most famous modern-day tale of visitation. The Enfield Poltergeist terrorised a family for 18 months during the 1970s and among the team of paranormal investigators was a former warden of Muswell Hill Synagogue, Maurice Grosse.
Sadly, Mr Grosse, who died two years ago, is no longer around to pursue the Enfield Polter-rabbi.