Political and religious figures around the UK have paid tributes to an Orthodox leader and “bridge builder” after the loss of senior Charedi spokesman and former Labour councillor Rabbi Avroham Pinter, who died from Covid-19 on Monday.
The longstanding Principal at Yesoday HaTorah Senior Girls School and a director of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, Pinter was an influential figure in the Charedi world and beyond, having mentored many of today’s community leaders.
Pinter’s mother, who came from a famous Belzer family, was living in the East End when she met Pinter’s father, a Viennese Holocaust survivor. Shmuel Pinter took over the running of Yesodeh HaTorah two years after it was established by Rabbi Avroham Pardes, when it had just six students. There are now more than 300.
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said he was “deeply saddened,” saying: “I will remember him as an eved Hashem with a kind heart and an unwavering commitment to his community. His loss will be widely felt across Anglo Jewry and beyond.”
In 1982 Pinter became the first rabbi elected as a councillor to Hackney Council, and Hackney mayor Phil Glanville said he was “devastated,” adding: “His leadership did so much for Hackney and the Charedi community.”
Local MP Diane Abbott knew Pinter for 30 years and described him as “a giant of community politics…He had so much to be proud of: his beautiful family; his work amongst the people and above all Yesodey Hatorah. He will be mourned by all”.
London mayor Sadiq Khan said Pinter “did so much to help community relations in London and will be missed by so many” while former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn tweeted: “So sad… a wonderful caring rabbi, educator and community activist and a great friend to all communities. I always enjoyed his company.”
Lord Mann, the government’s antisemitism adviser, said he worked with Pinter for 15 years, adding: “He became a trusted ally and friend as well as a major community leader. His advice and perspective has always been significant.”
Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl said Pinter was “a much loved figure across the community, building bridges between different groups of Jews, government and wider UK society”.
She said he was “always wise and often humorous… I considered him a mentor and friend. He will be deeply missed by all of us who had the privilege to know him.”
Joel Friedman of the Charedi umbrella group Interlink, who has set up an Orthodox community in Canvey Island in recent years, said: “He was my mentor, as close as a father. Not a day would pass where we wouldn’t speak. He was so humble.
“He would often ask my opinion about what to do in any given situation. I would tell him that ‘I would ask Rabbi Pinter’ which made him laugh. What a man he was.”
Ella Rose, the former president of the Union of Jewish Students, said Pinter was “an exceptionally kind soul and a mensch”.
Holocaust Educational Trust chief executive Karen Pollock said he was “always so warm, kind and interested in whoever he met”. She added: “His willingness and ability to fiercely represent his community while also reaching out across the wider community was unique.”
United Synagogue president Michael Goldstein said Pinter was “a dear friend” and “a unique figure who worked for the benefit of the whole Jewish people… He was a great support to a number of our rabbis and communities”.
Momentum founder Jon Lansman said he was “extremely sorry” to hear of Pinter’s death at UCL in London, adding that he was “warm, kind, very clear about what he though, and had a great sense of humour”.
Former Board president Jonathan Arkush said Pinter was “a force for good in our community and well beyond,” adding: “He exemplified leadership, courage, kindness, modesty and humour… A truly towering figure.”
Theo Bibelman, chair of the Governors of Yesoday HaTorah, reflected the shock and grief felt across Jewish denominations, saying: “It is only now slowly dawning on all of us the tremendous loss we have sustained.”
Bibelman described Pinter as “our Principal, driver and inspiration, a giant amongst us, an outstanding leader upon whom we could always rely and count on”.
He said: “His influence, far beyond our own school and community, was legendary and it is due to his efforts that Heimische Chinuch in this country is strong and thriving. He is irreplaceable and it will be difficult for the Heimische Kehilo to bear this tremendous loss, which will be felt throughout Klal Yisroel.”
Jewish Leadership Council chair Jonathan Goldstein said he was “devastated,” adding that Pinter was “an undoubted leader of exceptional talent and a strong advocate for his community with a broad sympathy for, and understanding of, the needs of Jews from across religious observance”.