Veteran London educator Henny Sufrin, who co-founded the Chabad-Lubavitch center in the suburb of Ilford, Essex, passed away July 15 at the age of 76. As headmaster of the city’s Lubavitch grammar school, she touched thousands of young children, while her popular adult education classes drew thousands more Londoners over the years.

Born Hena Elka Woolfson to Chanoch and Chava Mera Woolfson in 1933, Sufrin spent her childhood in Dublin, Ireland, where the country’s chief rabbi, Rabbi Lord Immanuel Jacobowitz and his wife Amilie became formative influences to the young girl. When she graduated from Wesley College, she continued her studies in the United Kingdom at Gateshead Seminary, a Jewish school for higher education, where she developed a lifelong thirst for Jewish scholarship and instruction.

In 1952, she married Rabbi Aron Dov “A.D.” Sufrin in Dublin. They spent their first few years of marriage in his hometown of Manchester, England, and Gateshead, receiving guidance from the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, through Aron Dov Sufrin’s father, Rabbi Leon Sufrin.

Among the advice the Rebbe gave the young couple was a directive to move to a part of town lacking in Jewish infrastructure so that they could run programs in addition to Aron Dov Sufrin’s daily occupation.

“I trust that both he and his bride,” the Rebbe wrote to Leon Sufrin on Oct. 31, 1952, “will not only be able to hold their own, but will be able to accomplish things in the strengthening of Judaism there. As for your apprehension that your son may not have the proper strength to carry it out, we have seen from experience that the challenge itself brings forth additional strength to cope with it.”

In the mid-1950s, the couple moved to London to assist Rabbi Bentzion Shemtov, a pioneer Chabad-Lubavitch emissary, in running the Lubavitch educational system. In London, the Sufrins were among the founders of the Lubavitch Foundation, directed the Lubavitch primary and grammar schools, and in 1960, established the local Camp Gan Israel.

For many years, Henny Sufrin served as the headmistress of the new Lubavitch Grammar Girls School, where she also taught Classical Hebrew and Biblical Texts, honing her characteristic teaching methodology of approaching her subjects with a combination of humor and direct instruction.

At the Rebbe’s behest, the Sufrins established the Ilford center in 1975, running programs for the 30,000 Jewish residents of Essex.

“They were a great team,” said community member Rosalind Shere, who continues to attend programming at the center, which is now run by Rabbi Aryeh and Devorah Sufrin. “They were quite unbelievable together.”

In Ilford, Henny Sufrin founded the local women’s Jewish burial society and bolstered Jewish education for the area’s young children through a succession of projects. She organized a Jewish religious component at the Wanstead High School and opened a Sunday teenage center under the auspices of the United Synagogue. She also became active in the Beehive Lane Synagogue, and established a series of adult education classes at formal and informal settings in the area.

Among her greatest achievements was Family and Me Education, which continues to give women opportunities to study Judaism at their own pace and according to the demands of their individual schedules. FAME drew accolades for its women’s seminary, a weekly three-hour session of intense study.

“She taught in an interesting and fun way,” remembered Shere. “She loved to learn and she loved to teach.”

“She was not only a teacher,” confirmed her son, Aryeh Sufrin. “But she was also a lifelong learner.”

A Home for Everyone

At home, Sufrin created an open and welcoming atmosphere that left guests feeling as part of the family. On Shabbat and Jewish holidays, the table was always packed.

“Everybody wants to entertain the important people,” said Shere, “bur her thing was that she also wanted to entertain the people who had nowhere else to go. Her hospitality was known everywhere.”

In a letter dated Jan. 29, 1961, the Rebbe addressed Sufrin’s deeply-entrenched will to assist the downtrodden and encouraged her to do more.

“You are quite right,” he wrote, “that one should never despair of any Jew, especially a Jew that is still young.”

Every individual “gets a second chance,” he wrote in another letter dated April 30, 1964, “to do what he may have failed to do, whether through his own fault or through the fault of circumstance. As a matter of fact, sometimes a second chance provides advantages that were lacking the first time.”

Sufrin’s grandson, Rabbi Chanoch Sufrin, a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary in Brisbane, Australia, said that her care for each and every individual was legendary.

“She had total self-sacrifice to make sure that anyone was welcome in her home all hours of the day and night.”

On Fridays, when yeshiva students from central London would fan out across the city to hand out Shabbat candles to Jewish women and assist Jewish men in donning the black prayer boxes known as tefillin, Sufrin insisted that they stop at her home to recharge their batteries with some food and inspirational words.

She “took such a keen interest in everyone she came in contact with,” said Sufrin’s granddaughter Chanchi Goldstein, a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary at the University of Michigan.

For young people, Sufrin worked night and day to help them find a partner to marry.

“If others saw that someone needed to find a suitable match, they would pray for her,” said Baila Hecht, Sufrin’s daughter. “She would not only pray for them, but she also arranged dozens of marriages through her many contacts.”

June Noah remembered Sufrin as “a very special, feisty lady.

She “tried to make us better people with more faith and belief in the Jewish religion,” she said.

Henny Sufrin is survived by her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, many of whom work as Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries in Jewish communities across the globe.