THE DEATH of Sidney Kingsley has come as a great blow to the members of Hendon Reform Synagogue, which he helped to create and to which he gave his heart, soul and might, writes Rabbi Steven Katz.
From 1949 when, together with his good friend Ben Fisher, he formed the congregation until some days before his death, Kingsley played a pivotal role, first as Chairman of the synagogue until 1970, then as its President. Kingsley did not use these positions or honours as a flag to flaunt with false pride, but brought lustre to them through his unflagging efforts, perspicacity, and single-minded determination.
In 1949 some 20 people responded to an advertisement in the local newspaper in Hendon to attend a meeting for those interested in starting a congregation embracing the beliefs and practices of Reform Judaism. Kingsley's training and experience as a solicitor helped to win planning permission to build a synagogue in Danescroft Avenue, Hendon. As Chairman, Kingsley involved himself in every nook and cranny of synagogue life, displaying a remarkable capacity for decision-making and leadership and absolutely fearless devotion to his principles.
The congregation grew so rapidly that in 1967 it became necessary to build a new, larger building in order to accommodate increasing educational, social and charitable activities. Again battles for planning permission were fought but Kingsley fought them with the same tenacity and energy with which professionally he served many of the country's leading firms and businesses.
He represented his synagogue in Anglo- Jewry both at the Board of Deputies and in the central organisation the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain, which elected him as a vice-chairman. When ill-health sapped his energy it did not diminish his interest in or efforts for his synagogue and he received much joy from the knowledge that the congregation which he started in 1949 numbered a thousand families at his death and had made a valuable contribution to both Anglo-Jewry and the local community.
His personal charm was accompanied by a frank bluntness, but all who met him and befriended him knew they had had the rare experience of dealing with a totally honest man. Indeed, his friends benefited enormously from his personal kindness and help, unobtrusively offered and painstakingly given.
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