Rabbi Harry Jacobi

Rabbi Dr Andrew Goldstein, president of Liberal Judaism, on why Rabbi Harry Jacobi is his Jewish hero…

One has many heroes, each for different reasons. Others in this column have selected those from Biblical times or people no longer with us. I choose a man who has just celebrated his 90th birthday – still going strong, taking services, giving sermons and never missing a Shabbat in one shul or another.

My hero is Rabbi Harry Jacobi.

He was born in Germany, his barmitzvah the last in the Friedenstempel Synagogue in Berlin before he was forced to flee the Nazis.

He went to Amsterdam and, after a year, was fortunate to leave for England on the last boat out of Holland. Most of his family were murdered in the Shoah.

After serving in the British army, he considered aliyah, but changed his mind when he heard the presidential address of Rabbi Leo Baeck at the World Union for Progressive Judaism conference in London in 1949.

Harry decided to become a rabbi.

He served in Aberdeen during training and after university study, was ordained a reverend in 1961. Rabbinic ordination followed 10 years later.

Harry went on to serve Southgate Progressive Synagogue, Wembley & District Liberal Synagogue and finally the Zurich Progressive community, where he could finally preach in his native German.

Retiring back in England, he continued to serve newly-formed Liberal congregations and was active in the Liberal Judaism movement, including being chair of its Rabbinic Conference and for many years the Beit Din. Throughout, Harry was loyally supported by his late wife, Rose.

His daughter Margaret and son Richard are rabbis in the Liberal movement and many of his grandchildren are also active within Judaism.

Harry’s granddaughter Abigail has written a longer biography in a Festschrift just published to mark his 90th birthday and available from Liberal Judaism.

More than 60 years as an active congregational rabbi and still going strong… ad meah v’esrim.