Thousands mourn Jakobovits, `a prince of God'

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ABOUT 3,000 mourners paid their respects to Lord Immanuel Jakobovits, the former Chief Rabbi, at a pre-funeral service within hours of his death yesterday.

His coffin, draped in a black cloth with a candle burning on top, was placed at the centre of Hendon United Synagogue, north-west London, close to his family throughout the 50-minute service. Those who could not gain a seat inside listened via an audio link in the community centre and outside the entrance.

Afterwards the congregation, led by Lord Jakobovits' close family, walked behind the hearse for a short distance before his body was driven to Heathrow for a flight to Israel. He was to be buried on the Mount of Olives, in Jerusalem, at 9am today local time.

Lord Jakobovits, 78, died of a brain haemorrhage at 5am yesterday. He had shown no signs of ill-health when he attended the usual services on Friday and Saturday. He leaves his wife of 50 years, Amelie, two sons and four daughters, and more than 30 grandchildren.

The Chief Rabbi, Dr Jonathan Sacks, who flew to Israel for the burial, described his predecessor, with whom he worked and worshipped for 30 years, as "a prophetic voice in a secular age". He opened the service saying: "Today a prince and a great hero has fallen in Israel. As long as he was with us, we knew we had a prince of God in our midst. As long as there is Anglo-Jewry his memory will live and the great deeds he did will endure."

Fighting back tears, Lord Jakobovits' eldest son, Yoel, addressed the congregation. "He was a real rabbi's rabbi, not just a Chief Rabbi," he said. "Daddy's life made a difference especially in Jewish medical ethics, a topic which has flourished and which will forever give him a place in the academic bookshelves." But his father's greatest influence was over his own family, he said. "He was always there for us, never complaining, always showing enormous concern and always giving direction."

In an impassioned address Dayan Yitzchok Berger described how his study partner and close friend had "invoked the divine presence". In the "hundreds of thousands of private moments" he had shared with Lord Jakobovits, there was not one which did not bear public scrutiny because "there was no private Lord Jakobovits", he said.

A message of condolence from Tony Blair was read. He said: "Lord Jakobovits was a man deeply respected and widely admired through the whole of this country for his faith, his ability and his courage." A spokeswoman for Dr George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury, called Lord Jakob-ovits "a stalwart defender of the shared values based on the belief that we are God's children".

Obituary, Review, page 6