Minn-imum of fuss please


There is long service - and then there is the service notched up by Alex Minn who has recently stepped down after 55 years as the secretary of one of British Jewry's oldest organisations, the Initiation Society, which regulates Orthodox mohelim.

"They didn't want me to go," said the 90-year old communal servant. "But I thought in all fairness it was time to hand over. I am not looking for another job."

In fact, his record of service stretches back even further since he joined the administration of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation back in 1953.

He had previously worked since the age of 16 for the Union of Tailors and Garment Workers, fighting for better conditions in the rag trade. "It wasn't the good old days in the East End," he recalled. "The workers got paid by the piece. When the work ran out, there was no question of being given notice. The union first got hourly work, so you got an hour's notice, then daily work, then weekly work - then finally holidays with pay."

He returned to the union after service with the air force during the Second World War. When he started with the Initiation Society, the medical officer at the time was Dr Leonard Snowman, whose father Dr Jacob Snowman had circumcised Prince Charles.

After retiring as senior administrator for the Sephardim in the 1980s, Mr Minn continued with his part-time role in the Initiation Society, fielding calls from parents seeking a mohel or helping to organise training for circumcisions.

One of his key roles was arranging insurance. "After 9/11, insurance premiums went so high that some mohelim couldn't afford it," he said. "The society met the shortfall. "

Generally, mohelim do not charge for their services although they do invite charitable contributions. "I once saw a hat passed around at a brit for people to give money to charity," Mr Minn said. "I was told it was a Manchester custom."

Twice-bereaved, he still plays bridge at Hendon Synagogue and goes to Jacs meetings.

"I remember once a mohel told me he had a call from a mother who wanted the foreskin put back. That doesn't happen," he said.

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