Rabbi Avrohom Pinter, a leading Jewish figure in London and the first rabbi in England to serve as a town council member, passed away on April 13 after succumbing to COVID-19.

Pinter was born into community activism.

His father, Rabbi Shmelke Pinter, arrived at just 18 years old in London in 1938, fleeing the rise of Nazism in his native Vienna, Austria. There, he met and married Gittel Margulies, the daughter of the Premishlan Rebbe. They became parents of six children: four sons and two daughters.

Shmelke led efforts to rescue Jews from Nazi death camps together with Rabbi Dr. Solomon Schonfeld and established hostels for young refugees fleeing the Holocaust. In 1940, he was appointed principal of the Yesodey Hatorah schools, which under his watch became one of England’s largest Jewish schools. In 1952, it numbered around 200 students; by the time of his passing in 1994, it enrolled more than 1,000 students.

Avrohom was born in 1949 in his parents’ Stamford Hill home on 61 Heathland Road. Growing up, Stamford Hill was very different from the Chassidic bastion it became in the next few decades. “ ... My earliest memory in Stamford Hill ... I still remember getting, we used to get kosher milk,” he recalled in an oral history interview for Hackney Museum. “It wasn’t actually from a kosher dairy. There were two companies, one was called United Dairies and one was called Expresso Dairies, but what was interesting was that they used to deliver milk to everybody’s door, but it would actually come by a horse drawn cart, so that’s one of my earliest memories when I used to tease the horses.”

But slowly, the Jewish community of Stamford Hill grew, partly driven by refugees arriving after the war and an influx of Hungarian Jews in 1956 after the Hungarian revolution.

In 1971, after completing his schooling in London, Pinter married Gittel Rochel Beck, and they settled in Israel. After some time, they returned to London, where they both joined the leadership of Yesodey HaTorah. Gittel would go on to receive an Order of the British Empire award from the Queen in recognition of her service to Jewish education.

In 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands in a battle between the United Kingdom and Argentina, and the United States was in the midst of a deep recession. At the same time, in London’s Stamford Hill neighborhood—now home to Europe’s largest concentration of Chassidic Jews—Pinter was also making history. He became the first rabbi in England to be elected to a local council—Hackney Borough Council, which represents many thousands of London’s Jews—running against Tony Blair, who would go on to become prime minister in 1997.

For Pinter, running for the local council was just one of the many ways he could give back to the Jewish community and the broader Hackney community.

In addition to his school duties, Pinter was extremely active in the community. He was a leader of Agudas Yisroel, the Orthodox social-services organization, and represented the wider London Orthodox community on many fronts. He joined with local Muslim and Christian associations around shared concerns for kosher and halal ritual slaughter, religious education and joint representation on medical boards concerning autopsies.

“ ... For many years, [Pinter] was trusted by the different Chasidic groups and represented them on the Kedassia board, in the Union of Independent Orthodox Congregations and to the outside world,” wrote Baron Maurice Glasman in The Jewish Chronicle. “To me, they all looked the same but when I stood with him, the differences between the Beltz, the Satmar, the Bobov and the Vishnitz were enormous.”

In 2014, he was ranked by The Jewish Chronicle as No. 32 on their list of influential British Jews.

After his passing, tributes came flooding in from all sectors of British life—from politicians to rabbis to schoolchildren.

Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom Ephraim Mirvis wrote: “Rabbi Pinter was known to many as a tireless representative of the Jewish community in Stamford Hill, as a local councillor and as the Principal of Yesoday Hatorah Girls’ School. I will remember him as an eved Hashem [servant of G‑d] with a kind heart and an unwavering commitment to his community. His loss will be widely felt across Anglo Jewry and beyond. Yehi zichro baruch.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said, “He did so much to help community relations in London and will be missed by so many. May his memory be a blessing.”

Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy said: “A true leader of the haredi Orthodox Community in Stamford hill, he was clever, erudite and inclusive. This is a huge loss. I will miss his counsel and good humour immensely.”

“Anglo Jewry has gone darker tonight. Every part of it,” wrote Rabbi Bentzi Sudak, chief executive of Chabad-Lubavitch U.K. “A bright light has been lost. In addition to his institutions, Rabbi Pinter reached every segment of the community with sensitivity, wisdom, humor and love. A call from Rabbi Pinter was a call you wanted to take. It was either to help you (sometimes a vital ‘heads-up,’ ‘I’ve got your back,’ etc. ) or to enlist your help for the greater good or to help someone in need—many times not even from his community. His character lit up the room, while his wisdom and sensitivity navigated difficult pathways and forged unifying bonds across the spectrum of Jewish life.”

Pinter is survived by seven children and many grandchildren. He was predeceased by his wife in 2014.

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