Communal leader Leonie Lewis dies, weeks after lymphoma diagnosis

Mrs Lewis helped increase the role of women within the United Synagogue and founded the Jewish Volunteering Network


Long-time communal leader Leonie Lewis has died, six weeks after being diagnosed with lymphoma.

Mrs Lewis was a key figure within the United Synagogue. After becoming co-chair of US Women in 2013, she helped to push through changes that led to women being able to become chairs of US shuls. She was additionally one of the US's first female trustees.

Paying tribute, United Synagogue president Michael Goldstein remembered her as "a powerhouse, a tour de force, a connector of people and organisations who used her vast experience to improve our community.

"Her impact on our organisation was immense. Following a strategic review in the 1990s, she was invited to work for the United Synagogue to head up a new programme designed to re-energise the organisation and our communities.

"Leonie, of course, excelled in the role and what she created became our community division, which continues to provide support to our shuls and beyond, becoming, as she called it, “the engine room of the United Synagogue”.

Mrs Lewis was also heavily involved in interfaith activity and was the founding director of the Jewish Volunteering Network, whose CEO Nicky Goldman was “devastated” by the news, describing her as “everyone’s friend”.

In the words of her family, “she loved everyone and worked for every good cause”.

After being awarded an MBE for services to the Jewish community in 2018, Mrs Lewis said the honour meant the world to her.

“It justifies all the hours and commitment I’ve spent at meetings and activities encouraging all who know me to engage and or volunteer with their community. It’s very touching to know that in some small way I really am making a difference.”

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