Mark Kosky

The Jewish Chronicle - - Social -

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.

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