Chief Rabbi pays tribute to Dayan Rabbi Yehuda Yaakov Refson, the most senior rabbi in Leeds, after he dies

The hugely influential figure died on Sunday night at 73


The Chief Rabbi has paid tribute to Dayan Rabbi Yehuda Yaakov Refson - the most senior rabbi in Leeds - who has died.

The dean of the regional Beth Din since 1976 and the local Chabad emissary, Rabbi Refson died on Sunday night, aged 73.

The JC has learned that the funeral will take place on Tuesday.

Rabbi Refson is understood to have developed some symptoms of coronavirus ahead of his death.

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis paid tribute to Rabbi Refson, saying he was "shocked and saddened" to learn of his death and that "it has been my privilege to work with this outstanding scholar and educator".

As rabbi of the Shomrei Hadass Synagogue and the co-director of the Leeds Menorah School with his wife, Rebbetzin Ettel, Dayan Refson was a hugely influential figure.

A prolific scholar and educator, Rabbi Refson released a four-part online course n 2018 titled "Soul Talk: The Science of Being."

Born in 1946 in Sunderland, he went on to study in Brunoy, France, at the Yeshiva Tomchei Temimim Lubavitch, under the tutelage of Rabbi Nissan Nemanov. 

At that time, he pioneered the campaign in the country to Jewish men and boys to put on tefillin. 

After completing his studies in France, he joined Yeshiva Tomchei Temimim in Brooklyn, New York.

In 1973, Rav Yehuda and his wife were selected to serve as emissaries in Glasgow, Scotland. 

After purchasing their one-way air-tickets and packing their bags, Rav Yehuda’s father suddenly died. 

In 1976, they moved to Leeds, becoming leaders in its Jewish community, eventually overseeing Jewish education and kosher supervision in Leeds, as well as serving at the pulpit in Leeds’ Shomrei Hadass shul.

Chief Rabbi Mirvis said: "I was shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of Dayan Yehuda Yaakov Refson z”l." 

"It has been my privilege to work with this outstanding scholar and educator, who, for the past 44 years, was the devoted, caring and principled head of the Leeds Jewish community.

"Dayan Refson’s humility and kind-hearted nature endeared him to his community and many well beyond Leeds.

"He leaves behind him a most wonderful legacy. Our memories of him will provide ongoing inspiration."

Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl said: "I was very saddened to hear of the untimely passing of Dayan Rabbi Refson who was such an important figure in the Leeds community. My thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time."

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