Lady Jakobovits has died

By Simon Rocker, May 7, 2010

Lady Jakobovits, 81, the widow of the former Chief Rabbi Lord Jakobovits, died in hospital on Friday.

Her family had earlier asked people to recite prayers on her behalf as she lay in intensive care in the Royal Free Hospital in North West London. An estimated 2800 mourners gathered outside her home in Hendon on Sunday afternoon to pay their respects as the cortege set off for Jerusalem, where she was due to be buried on Monday.
The family will be sitting shiva until Friday at 51 Shirehall Park NW4, from 9am until evening services at 9.30 pm.

Renowned for her charity work, Lady Jakobovits was known throughout British Jewry as Lady J.

Born Amelie Munk in Ansbach, Germany, she survived the war by escaping to Switzerland, and met Immanuel Jakobovits when she was 19, shortly before he became Chief Rabbi of Ireland.

The founder of the Association of United Synagogue Women, Lady Jakobovits was a patron and supporter of numerous causes including Emunah, Jewish Care, Chai Cancer Care and Wizo.

At a ceremony in London in 2002 to present her with honorary doctorate from Israel’s Bar Ilan University, which was attended by 500 people including former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Lord Kalms saluted her as a “blessed lady with a blessed smile”.

After her husband’s death in 1999, she maintained a busy schedule of speaking engagements and charitable activities, recognised by her 30th place in the JC’s list of 100 most influential British Jews three years ago.

Her Hendon home was called Immalie, an amalgam of Amelie and her husband’s first name.

Lord Jakobovits' biographer, Chaim Bermant, wrote of her 20 years ago: “She is...religious without being sanctimonious, prefers perfume to incense, has high standards herself without being censorious about the failings of others, and gives the impression that Judaism not only can be fun but jolly well should be.

“No one has added more to the gaiety and colour of Anglo-Jewish life. She will be a hard, if not impossible, act to follow.”

Rabbi Abraham Levy, spiritual head of the Sephardi community, said: “Lady Jakobovits was a unique woman who graced Anglo-Jewry for over 40 years. She was energetically involved in virtually all its activities. We recently celebrated her 80th birthday at Bevis Marks where we sat in the Haham’s chair and sang her praises. Anglo-Jewry will sorely miss her.”

Vivian Wineman, president of the Board of Deputies, said: "She was a woman of almost legendary warmth and kindness. Her energy was awesome, as was her concern for others. She was an outstanding support to Lord Jakobovits but more than that, a hugely admired personality in her own right."

Simon Hochhauser, the president of the United Synagogue, who is due to attend the funeral, said: "Lady Jakobovits was the life of our community. On both a personal and communal level she was unstinting in her generosity. She was so proud of the work of her late husband, Harav Lord Jakobovits, and she was meticulous in the preservation of his memory in all that she did. Her uncompromising and unshakable adherence to our religion was always coupled with a tolerant understanding of the wide spectrum of people she befriended. I cannot imagine community life without this wonderful, warm, kind and vivacious lady.”

Rabbi Yitzhak Schochet of Mill Hill synagogue said: "She believed passionately in the sanctity of the family, and remained close to her six children and more than a hundred grand- and great-grandchildren. She was a larger-than-life figure, widely known and loved. We will miss her deeply."

"She was first on the phone with warm wishes whether in good or difficult times. I have letters sent on the occasion of Mazal Tovs. She even called me a little while back just to congratulate me after a TV interview. Such was her character. Always attuned, always aware, always there.

"Her effervescent character, her legendary compassion and her keen wit and wisdom were all part of the makeup of her regal bearing. Anglo-Jewry has lost its queen."

Rabbi Alan Plancey, formerly of Borehamwood and Elstree Synagogue, said: “I consider her to be the mother of the Jewish community here. She was a very close friend of the family and always gave us words of wisdom. We loved her like our own mother.

“She was inspirational and a true example of an Eshet Chayil [heroic woman]. She was outstanding and nobody could emulate her, a real lady from the beginning of her life to the end.

“When she first came to this country, she was so shy but she blossomed. It’s a big loss to the Anglo-Jewish community.”

Simon Morris, chief executive of Jewish Care, said: “Jewish Care is greatly saddened by the news that Lady J has passed away. She has been a vice president of Jewish Care since 1994, and her warmth and passion was felt by everyone within the organisation. She provided me with support, encouragement and inspiration, and was always a great comfort to our residents and members”.

Jeremy Jacobs, Chief Executive of the United Synagogue, commented: “We are shocked and saddened at the news of Lady Jakobovits's death. Together with Lord Jakobovits, they were pillars of our community, and her passing has left a deep void. Her work on behalf of the United Synagogue and indeed the whole of Anglo Jewry, was immeasurable and she will be sorely missed. Our thoughts are with her family at this difficult time.”

A spokesman for the Board of Deputies said: "We learned of Lady Jakobovits’s passing with the most profound sadness.

"Throughout her long association with British Jewry she inspired nothing but the greatest respect and a deep and genuine love from all sections of the community. Her warmth and humanity shone through, and her good humour and generosity of spirit will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with her extensive family, whom she treasured and in whom she delighted so much."

Rabbi Bentzi Sudak, Chief Executive of Chabad Lubavitch said: "We were very sad to hear the passing of such a wonderful lady. We will cherish the memory of her very recent visit to our new Children's Centre in Stamford Hill where her encouragement and warmth towards all the children and parents she met were an inspiration.

"She was a true Eshet Chayil who we will sadly miss but her influence will remain with us for a lifetime."

Please leave your tributes here.

Last updated: 5:02pm, July 6 2010



Sat, 05/08/2010 - 18:37

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I am a member of the Reform movement. Nevertheless I, and many others of my persuasion, enjoyed a warm friendship with Amelie Jakobovits. She telephoned daily when I was ill, she visited our daughter in hospital when our first grandchild was born. I always felt that I could discuss anything with her; she was never censorious or critical and always showed sound commonsense, combined with a sparkling sense of humour. She had a remarkable talent for remembering everyone's name and the names of their husbands/wives and children.

She was a Patron and staunch support of British ORT.

I mourn the loss of a dear friend.

Claire Connick


Sat, 05/08/2010 - 22:41

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For those who think we need to ordain female Rabbis to give women an equal role, one only need have known Lady J to see how far female grace, charm, piety, kindness can succeed. Few Rabbis have won a place in our hearts comparable to Amelie Munk Jakobovits ztl.

Judith Fay Usiskin

Sat, 05/08/2010 - 23:08

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Along with many others in the community and abroad
I am shocked and very saddened by this news. The memories of an exceptional warm witty and delightful woman are shared by many. I particularly want to pay tribute to Lady J' unique ability to empathise with anyone in pain and difficulty and to do so without a hint of patronage. She really did bring healing to many who through her could feel some of the strong faith which sustained her and which she was somehow able to pass on to others
Jewish Women's Aid will be the poorer for her loss

Jewish Music In...

Tue, 05/11/2010 - 10:47

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Lady J was a Patron of the Jewish Music Institute from its inception in 1984 and we greatly appreciated her warm personal messages of support for our work in preserving the Jewish heritage in music.

We have lost one of the greatest Jewish women of our times, a special lady whose vivacious personality and incredible warmth and kindness, touched so many people’s lives.

- Geraldine Auerbach, Director, Jewish Music Institute at SOAS

Jonathan Hoffman

Tue, 05/11/2010 - 12:49

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11 May 2010 - The Board of Deputies learned of Lady Jakobovits’s passing with the most profound sadness. Throughout her long association with British Jewry she inspired nothing but the greatest respect and a deep and genuine love from all sections of the community. Her warmth and humanity shone through, and her good humour and generosity of spirit will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with her extensive family, whom she treasured and in whom she delighted so much.


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