BORN LONDON, JANUARY 5, 1923. DIED LONDON, AUGUST 28, 2008, AGED 85.
ALONG-SERVING communal leader in the United Synagogue and associated bodies, Mark Kosky promoted accountability and education in these organisations. He was born into a staunchly religious traditional family in Dalston, London. His father, Abraham, was a tailor who arrived penniless to the UK from Poland on the eve of the First World War and his mother, Hilda, was British-born.
At 13 he was among the crowds in the “battle of Cable Street”. His education at Etz Chayim yeshivah was interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War.
Although under-age, he volunteered as a navigator in the RAF, and completed two tours of duty in Lancaster bombers, when surviving even one was statistically unlikely.
Before every flight, he recited Psalm 16, which starts: “Guard me, God, for I have sought refuge in You.” Eventually his crew refused to fly until they knew he had said the prayer.
In 1945 he volunteered for Operation Manna, in which bombers flew dangerously low in order to drop food parcels to Dutch civilians.
Sixty-three years later, a Dutch diplomat heard him describe the mission after a screening of Jewish War Heroes of the British Armed Forces, in which he featured. Earlier this year he was awarded a medal from the Dutch government.
He married his childhood sweetheart, Lillah Sietta, in 1947 and volunteered for the Israeli Air Force in 1948, although he was never called upon to serve.
He built up his own advertising and publishing business and threw himself into communal activity, particularly in the US, which he saw as the engine of the community.
A member of Willesden and Brondesbury Synagogue until moving to St John’s Wood in 1970, he pioneered the concept of youth services, training a cadre of youngsters to daven and leyn in a pioneering model for the US.
This was his proudest legacy. He served the shul as chairman of its education committee in the 1950s, and warden and chairman in the 1960s.
As joint treasurer of the US burial society from 1972-80, he was responsible for the extension of Bushey cemetery and the building of its two ohels or chapels. A plaque at the entrance to Bushey marks his contribution. He was also US joint treasurer from 1980-84.
As president of the London Board of Shechita and Vice-President of the National Shechita Council in the 1970s, he fought to keep shechitah fees as low as possible so that kosher meat remained affordable, and promoted heavy regulation to keep the industry accountable.
At the London Board of Religious Education, where he was honorary treasurer from 1968-78, he encouraged small cheders to merge, despite local opposition, in order to raise educational standards.
He also served as governor of JFS School and vice-chairman of Mizrachi. In 1972 he was appointed JP and a commissioner of income tax.
In addition, he was a staunch supporter of his wife in her own com- munal activities as the first woman member of the United Synagogue Council and founder of the Jewish Bereavement Counselling Service. In 1983 he told the JC: “My wife holds as many communal posts as I do.”
In 1984, the Koskys made aliyah, but Lillah’s ill-health brought the couple back to the UK in 1996 and she died soon after. In 2000 he married Susan Sperber and resumed his communal activity, including the shechitah board.
He became a member of the national executive of Ajex and chaired its Westminster branch. Concerned at the ignorance of today’s young people about the Second World War, he spent increasing time speaking at schools around the country on the role of Jewish servicemen.
Mark was known for his interest in art and history and his eye for antique pieces.
He is survived by second wife, Susan; son, David; daughters, Judith and Ruth; 14 grandchildren and 10 greatgrandchildren.