Obituary: Rabbi Mordechai Moshe Baddiel

From Checking cheese to meeting President Kennedy - a versatile, popular and peripatetic rabbi


Popularly known as Moshe, Rabbi Mordechai Moshe Baddiel, who has died aged 89, devoted his life to congregations in Newcastle, Leicester and Cork. Born in Gateshead, Moshe was the youngest of the seven children of Sarah and Dovid Baddiel, a founder of the Gateshead Jewish community. 

When he was 12, Moshe was evacuated to study in Staines Yeshiva, of which he had fond memories. Moshe continued his Jewish studies in Manchester. He met Leila Wolfson of Plymouth, a minister’s daughter, and they married in 1956. His first job was as Assistant Minister to Rabbi Shlomo Pesach Toperoff in Leazes Park shul in Newcastle, before moving to Cork, Ireland, where he served as reverend and shochet. The couple had three children, Sharon, Jonathan and Miriam. 

Moshe’s duties included checking  Dublin’s kosher cheese production. As the rabbi of Cork he formally met John F Kennedy during the 1963 Presidential visit to Ireland. He had a strong memory of the many characters of the Cork Jewish community.

The young Baddiel family moved to Leicester in 1963, where he served as minister and is still highly regarded by congregants who also recall him playing football with the cheder boys.

Six years later the family returned to Moshe’s North East roots, settling in Gosforth, Newcastle where he served as reverend, but was encouraged to study for the rabbinate. He gained semicha aged 40. Leazes Park, Jesmond and Gosforth synagogues merged to form the Newcastle United Hebrew Congregtion, of which he was appointed rabbi. 

During the Shabbat services, he gave the sermon but also read the Torah portion and led the prayers. He knew the Torah by heart. He was also Principal of the Newcastle Jewish Day School and head of the synagogue cheder. 

Moshe influenced many members of the community, including children who grew up under his watch. One, now a rabbi,himself, wrote: “One of the factors that influenced my decision was Rabbi Baddiel and the life lessons that I had learnt from him about what being a rabbi truly meant. It was not just about learning Halacha, but it was about being a kind person who always had time for others”. 

A keen golfer and an ardent Newcastle United fan Moshe would often go with members of the community. Moshe and Leila were very much part of the Newcastle Jewish community who appreciated a rabbi who shared their happy and sad times and to whom they could relate. They also maintained close personal contacts with many families in the nearby Sunderland community. Moshe retired at 65 and moved with Leila to Manchester, where he assisted with Torah and Megillah readings, leading services in Stenecourt synagogue. Retirement offered more time to listen to his beloved chazanut. Moshe is survived by his three children, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Leila predeceased him in 2013.


Rabbi Mordechai Moshe Baddiel: born March 8, 1930. Died April 22, 2019

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