Shock as Birmingham rabbi dies suddenly
TRIBUTES, LED by the Chief Rabbi, have been paid to the life and work of Birmingham Hebrew Congregation’s chief minister for 21 years, Rabbi Leonard Tann, who died suddenly at his home on Monday. He was 62.
Police broke into the family’s home together with the synagogue’s administrator after Rabbi Tann’s wife Irene, who was in hospital for a minor procedure, could not contact him after he had failed to visit her.
Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks described Rabbi Tann as “one of the most-loved rabbis in Britain, who spoke with the still, small voice of true spirituality”.
Birmingham’s chairman, Keith Rowe, said: “The whole congregation is shocked. We knew he had been suffering from heart problems and he had been in and out of hospital in the last few weeks. But his death has come out of the blue and will leave a huge hole in Birmingham’s Jewish life.
“He was a fantastic communal rabbi as well as being a leading light in the city’s interfaith work, and our hearts go out to Irene and their son Roger.”
Rabbi Tann’s community and interfaith work earned him an honorary doctorate from Birmingham’s Aston University in July, 2005. He also taught Hebrew at St Mary’s College, in Oscott.
The Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham, Vincent Nichols, said: “I am deeply saddened by the death of Rabbi Tann. It was his generous-hearted compassion that first drew together the leaders of all the different faiths in the city at the time of the World Trade Centre tragedy on 9/11.”
This summer, the synagogue’s executive decided to exchange the roles of its two rabbis. Rabbi Tann was to be the senior rabbi and Rabbi Yossi Jacobs, his assistant, would become the chief minister.
The change provoked controversy in the community, a significant portion of whom called for an extraordinary general meeting to discuss the change.
However, after talks with Rabbi Tann, no EGM was held, and, indicating that he accepted the changes, Rabbi Tann called for peace during a sermon over the High Holy Days.