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Amy Winehouse: a frail little girl on course of self destruction

North London says goodbye to Amy Winehouse, 27

    Amy visiting Carmelli, Blooms & Yarden in Golders Green, July 2008
    Amy visiting Carmelli, Blooms & Yarden in Golders Green, July 2008

    The rabbi who conducted Amy Winehouse's funeral service spoke for the first time this week of the trauma for her parents who lost their singer-sognwriter daughter.

    Former Finchley Progressive Synagogue minister Rabbi Frank Hellner was asked to conduct the funeral service after a friend of Amy's father, who works with the rabbi's wife at Hendon Reform Synagogue, suggested him.

    "I was quite surprised to get the call," Rabbi Hellner said. He immediately contacted Mitch Winehouse and his former wife, Janis, and visited them in East Barnet on Monday. "They were very stoic," he said. "It's the worst thing to have to bury your child. I think they knew this was a strong possibility. She was on a course of self-destruction. Although she was fighting at the end and thought she had prevailed, it had gone too far. She was a frail little girl, and I think it was too much for her body and she succumbed."

    "There was no feeling of guilt that they should or could have done more. They tried to do their best, but she was a grown-up with her own mind."

    He said they knew what funeral arrangements they wanted and that Amy had said she wanted to be cremated. "They felt they would have a public service for all the friends and fans at Edgwarebury Lane and then a private, intimate service at Hoop Lane."

    Rabbi Hellner said: "In the Liberal movement, cremation is well accepted. I think it was because her grandmother was cremated and they wanted their ashes together."

    He addressed mourners at the funeral and told them: "It is a great loss, not just for us, but for people around the world who know her by her music and her passion. She belonged not just to us but to the world." He led prayers in Hebrew and English and Mitch Winehouse and her brother, Alex, said kaddish. Mr Winehouse told the mourners: "Amy was the greatest daughter, family member and friend you could ever have." He said he spoke to her three times a day and that she had just completed three weeks of abstinence from drinking.

    He added that he had decided to set up the Amy Winehouse Foundation, to support those struggling with substance abuse.

    His daughter once attended Cockfosters Synagogue nursery and was involved with the Jewish Lads' and Girls' Brigade when younger.

    After the ceremony, about 100 close family and friends travelled to Golders Green crematorium in Hoop Lane. Jewish music producer, Marc Ronson, who described Ms Winehouse as "like a sister" to him, was among the mourners.

    Mitch Winehouse, wearing a white kippah, greeted mourners. Amy's brother Alex looked physically exhausted, and was helped into the service by a friend who had his arm around him.

    Her mother, Janis, a member of Southgate Progressive Synagogue, wore, like her famous daughter, a large magen David necklace.

    The family observed three nights of shivah at Southgate Progressive Synagogue. Rabbi Danny Rich, chief executive of Liberal Judaism, led the service on the first night at what he called "Amy's shul, where Alex celebrated his barmitzvah and Amy was brought up".

    In an announcement in the JC, her parents, brother and step-parents said: "Our darling Amy, in our hearts forever. Love conquers all."

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