Rabbi takes a long walk in memory of Southgate synagogue musician

Rabbi Yuval Keren walks 100 kilometres in memory of a remarkable congregant


 A charitable north London minister walked more than 100 kilometres along the Grand Union Canal over the Bank Holiday weekend.

Rabbi Yuval Keren of Southgate Progressive Synagogue was honouring the memory of former congregant Simon Cooper, a cystic fibrosis sufferer, who died last year, aged 33.

On the first day, the rabbi covered 55 kilometres in 13 hours. On day two, he walked 48 kilometres in 11 hours.  

“I planned to end day one in Cassiobury Park in Watford,” he explained. “My wife Clare picked me up from Watford Underground station and I slept at home in Pinner. She dropped me off at Watford station the next morning.”

He enjoyed “tremendous support from members of Southgate Progressive Synagogue, family, friends and colleagues. Some joined me at various stages of the walk. For the last stretch, I had the company of 13 members of Southgate Progressive and a dog.”

Rabbi Keren trained for the challenge for 10 months, starting by walking three kilometres in the morning and gradually increasing the distance. He built up his endurance by running up to 15 kilometres on most days.

“It has been 30 years since I covered these distances as an infantry soldier in the Israel Defence Force,” he said. “I had to recall from that period that I was easily able to prepare my body. The worst part of the experience was waking up on the morning of day two knowing I had to cover almost the same distance as on day one.

“I had in mind Simon Cooper’s absolute determination to achieve his goals, often against all odds.”

The walk raised more than £2,000, half of which will go to the North London Hospice, “where Simon was wonderfully looked after”. The remainder will benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Society.

On erev Shabbat, Mr Cooper was also remembered at a Friday-night rock service at the shul. Mr Cooper was a musician and the rock service was his brainchild.

Bassist Tony Abrahams recalled Mr Cooper telling him that he had written a hard rock version of the Friday night service. “My first thought was ‘this is bonkers’. It’s a bit like doing All Things Bright And Beautiful in the style of Meat Loaf. He persuaded me to meet him and listen to the songs he had recorded.

“They were great. He was a musical genius and a remarkable character.”

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