Centenarian celebrates at shul he helped to found almost 80 years ago


Known affectionately as the “doyen of the Welwyn Garden City Jewish community”, Sam Ostro celebrated his 100th birthday at a kiddush arranged in his honour by the local United synagogue, where he has been a member for almost 80 years.

He is the last survivor of the 14 young refugees from Nazi Germany who founded the community in 1939.

It was the year Mr Ostro arrived in Welwyn, thanks to the efforts of a Dutch Jew, Wim Van Leer, who had been dispatched on a rescue mission by the Quaker community in the Hertfordshire town.

He employed Mr Ostro and his companions in the sheet metal factory he owned in Welwyn on essential war work, enabling them to avoid the internment endured by other refugees.

“I fell in love with Welwyn Garden City the first night I came here in 1939 and am still in love with it,” Mr Ostro says. He has lived in the same house for the past 59 years.

A keen horticulturalist, he became the shul’s unofficial caretaker and gardener.

In addition to a telegram from the Queen, Mr Ostro received a letter of congratulations from Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis — and one from the Mayor of Leipzig, the city of his birth.

He has been back to Leipzig just once, in 1999 to take part in a Jewish history project.

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