The popular South Africa-born rabbi of Central Synagogue in Great Portland Street is to retire from pastoral duties after a quarter of a century at the iconic shul.
Rabbi Barry Marcus, who was awarded an MBE in 2015 for his work in Holocaust education, is well-known to a generation of non-Jewish schoolchildren for leading over 200 trips to Auschwitz, describing to 30,000 students the horrors of the Shoah.
Central Synagogue chair Barry Townsley said Marcus’s leadership “has established our community as one of the key central London shuls for mainstream UK Jewry. He will be sorely missed by many people whose lives he has positively impacted on”.
Michael Goldstein, president of The United Synagogue, said: “Great rabbis lie at the heart of The US… The respect and affection that abound for Rabbi Marcus, both within the Jewish Community and far beyond, are a real testimony to his stature. Replacing him will be an enormous task.”
Marcus is due to step down from his shul role in November, becoming emeritus rabbi, but will continue leading the Holocaust Education Trust’s Lessons from Auschwitz trips, 20 years after he pioneered the model.
Speaking to Jewish News this week, Marcus said he felt the weight of history on his shoulders at the shul – the last of the five original United Synagogues established by an Act of Parliament in 1870 that is still operating today.
“It’s been an honour and a privilege to be here at Central Synagogue with its long history,” he said. “There’s a lot of history there that I’m mindful of. It’s been a fruitful and harmonious time.”
With 700 members, he said he was leaving the congregation “in a much better state than I found it,” adding: “The remit was to make sure this place doesn’t close and I think I’ve done a lot more than that.”
Among Marcus’s more notable achievements at Central Synagogue was the development of the morning minyan, which is a regular point of prayer for West End and City Professionals.