Les­lie Hard­man

The Jewish Chronicle - - Obituaries -

An Ad­mired and much loved United Syn­a­gogue min­is­ter, the rev Les­lie Hard­man made his mark on the wider com­mu­nity by virtue of his Ber­genBelsen ex­pe­ri­ences. The fact that he went into the nazi con­cen­tra­tion camp in Ger­many with the lib­er­at­ing Bri­tish Army and was able to re­port di­rectly, through ra­dio and film, on the unimag­in­ably ter­ri­ble sit­u­a­tion he wit­nessed, made an in­deli­ble im­pres­sion on pub­lic opin­ion.

His con­tri­bu­tion to al­le­vi­at­ing the tragedy of the dead, through say­ing kad­dish at the mass buri­als of 20,000 vic­tims, and to re­solv­ing prob­lems of the liv­ing, through con­duct­ing mar­riages and en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to trace rel­a­tives, had a last­ing im­pact on the skele­tal sur­vivors.

His pur­pose­ful ac­tiv­ity and elo­quence in english and Yid­dish meant that he reached two dis­tinct and ap­pre­cia­tive con­stituen­cies.

His 1958 mem­oir, The Sur­vivors, be­came an archival source for later re­searchand­doc­u­men­tarypro­grammes, lead­ing to ma­jor obit­u­ar­ies in the na­tional press and on BBC ra­dio.

Yet the deep­est im­pres­sion was prob­a­bly etched on him­self. Though he never lost faith, he con­fessed to feel­ing un­der se­vere strain as he ques­tioned how God could al­low such atroc­i­ties to hap­pen, es­pe­cially when the per­pe­tra­tors ex­pressed no re­morse or com­punc­tion. His unswerv­ing Or­tho­doxy was al­lied to a strong moral pur­pose.

Be­fore he en­listed as an army chap­lain in 1942, Les­lie Hard­man spent his early years first in the South Wales val- leys, where im­mi­grant Jews be­came shop­keep­ers to the min­ing com­mu­ni­ties, and then Liver­pool, whose strong in­ter-war Jewish com­mu­nity ran a flour­ish­ing ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem.

He stud­ied at yeshivah in Liver­pool and manch­ester, while tak­ing BA and mA de­grees in He­brew and Semitics at Leeds Uni­ver­sity. His first min­is­te­rial posts were in Liver­pool and St Anne’son-Sea. He mar­ried in 1936, on be­ing ap­pointed to the Chapel­town He­brew Con­gre­ga­tion in Leeds.

His long mar­riage to Josi Co­hen, un­til her death in 2007, was a part­ner­ship in pas­toral care. rev Hard­man knew his Jewish law and prac­tice but he was far more con­cerned with peo­ple, in­side and out­side his own con­gre­ga­tion.

His main post was as min­is­ter of Hen­don (United) Syn­a­gogue from 1946-82, when he re­tired as emer­i­tus min­is­ter and stayed liv­ing nearby. He was renowned in his north West Lon­don com­mu­nity for his firm au­thor­ity, cour­tesy, com­mon sense and de­cency.

Al­ways his own man, he was a Zion­ist from his youth as the first chair­man of Liver­pool Young mizrachi So­ci­ety, and be­came vice-pres­i­dent of Herut in Bri­tain. Ac­tive in the Soviet Jewry cam­paign of the 1970s-80s, he re­fused to fol­low ev­ery lat­est Or­tho­dox fash­ion in dress or man­ners.

His sym­pa­thy for rabbi dr Louis Ja­cobs in the long-runnning schism in the 1960s prob­a­bly cost him the ti­tle of rabbi, through he stayed firmly within the United Syn­a­gogue fold.

in re­tire­ment he was busy with Holo­caust ed­u­ca­tion, for which he was ap­pointed mBe in 1998. He re­ceived the BBC Hearts of Gold award in 1993 and an award from the Si­mon Wiesen­thal mu­seum of Tol­er­ance in 1993.

An honorary chap­lain to the Forces, he was pres­i­dent of Ajex north West Lon­don and served as chap­lain to edg­ware Hospi­tal’s psy­chi­atric unit

He had four daugh­ters. Aviva, the youngest, died in a road ac­ci­dent in is­rael in 1971. Hi­larie, the old­est, died in 2007, nine months be­fore her mother. Hazel and devo­rah sur­vive their par­ents, who also had seven grand­chil­dren and 26 great-grand­chil­dren.

The Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks, writes: rev Les­lie Hard­man was a great man, a good man, a man who ded­i­cated his long life to the ser­vice of oth­ers and of God. His calm courage and un­shake­able good na­ture made him an out­stand­ing spir­i­tual leader and pas­tor. Un­til his last few months, he seemed age­less.

The loss of two of his daugh­ters and his beloved wife made him long to be re­united with them, but not be­fore he ad­dressed the na­tional Holo­caust memo­rial day in Liver­pool ear­lier this year. He spoke firmly and mov­ingly without a note, a liv­ing proof of the power of the hu­man spirit.

Rev Les­lie Hard­man: marked by Belsen

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