Rabbi Yaakov Grunewald is at the centre of things with family members at Sunday’s farewell party
More than 600 people gathered at Pinner Synagogue on Sunday for a reception marking the retirement of Rabbi Yaakov Grunewald after 34 years.
Shul chair Howard Lewis told them that the turnout showed "the high esteem in which our rabbi is held in both the Pinner community and throughout the United Synagogue".
Addressing the minister, he added: "Your attention to pastoral care has been a major plank in your armoury as a rabbi and I know many people who receive your phone calls and visits will miss you. You have been an outstanding spiritual leader of the community without at any time seeking personal honour for your achievements."
In recognition of his "unparalleled leadership", Rabbi Grunewald has been appointed emeritus minister. He was presented with a computer as a farewell gift. A testimonial fund will remain open until the end of November.
Tributes were also paid by US president Simon Hochhauser, Harrow Mayor Councillor Asad Omar and veteran Pinner member Ian Abraham.
Responding, Rabbi Grunewald said he was leaving "with very many happy memories of the wonderful time I spent here as rabbi and spiritual leader.
"For a rabbi, retirement does not mean merely leaving a job - it means leaving behind a large family, a home that I love and many loyal friends." He urged congregants to continue the educational and welfare activities he had encouraged.
Formerly assistant minister at St John's Wood Synagogue, Rabbi Grunewald received his semichah on the same day as Lord Sacks. When he arrived in Pinner, the community comprised 100 families. There are now 660. It was Pinner members' initiative which led to the establishment in the area of the Moriah Jewish Primary.
"I am very proud of the way that Pinner has grown during my rabbinate," he said afterwards. "Not just in terms of numbers or buildings, but also because people have become more religious and their children more observant."
His retirement at 65 is in accordance with US policy and he feels he still has "plenty to give", teaching from his new base in Golders Green. "I regard this as the beginning of another era in which I shall continue to care for the members of the community and teach them Torah."
The shul hopes to have a successor in place by next year's High Holy Days.