Rabbi Rodney Mariner officially retired as minister of Belsize Square Synagogue on the weekend of his 70th birthday.
A packed Shabbat congregation heard Reform Judaism president Rabbi Tony Bayfield confess to "genuine envy" at how his colleague personified "the strong and authoritative but kind and approachable image that a rabbi needs in our time.
"Rabbi Mariner is deeply empathetic, which is why he's been able to get inside the spirit and culture of the community, understand it, respect it and take on its deep sense of loyalty to a particular past whilst renewing and changing to meet the different needs of the future."
Former Belsize Square chairman Harry Davies paid tribute to Rabbi Mariner for his 29 years of energising and inspiring the community - founded by refugees from Nazi oppression.
Rabbi Mariner now becomes Belsize Square's emeritus minister.
His successor, Rabbi Dr Stuart Altshuler, has been leading services since January.