Dr Sydney Baigel
BORN DUBLIN MAY 13 1928. DIED MANCHESTER, NOVEMBER 15, 2015, AGED 87
THE MANCHESTER community lost one of its leading elder statesmen with the passing of Dr Sydney Baigel. Brought up in Dublin, he became involved in many communal organisations ranging from youth and student organisations including Habonim, Torah Va’Avodah, Federation of Jewish Youth Societies and the Dublin Students’ Union, where he was secretary and chairman.
A lifelong Zionist, he was a member of Dublin’s Younger JNF Commission, was honorary secretary of the Mizrachi Federation of Ireland, and was a member of the Zionist Council of Ireland.
Sydney studied medicine and was awarded his BA and MB at Trinity College, Dublin University, after which he worked at the London Jewish Hospital in the 1950s and on moving to Manchester in 1956 he worked in Manchester Royal Infirmary and served on the North West Regional Hospital Board.
He joined Manchester’s Holy Law Synagogue where he served as a member of the council, vice-president and
Dr Sydney Baigel: a lifelong Zionist and dedicated medical practitioner latterly as elderman. Sydney was the synagogue’s representative on the Board of Deputies for 21 years from 1976 until 1997, and delegate to Manchester Kashrus Authority since 1967 where he was on the executive committee.
He was the son of Latvian-born Marie Jaffe, daughter of the vicepresident of Manchester Yeshiva, and Philip Baigel, a cabinet maker born in Lithuania who had come to Dublin aged 10 with his wid- owed mother and three siblings.
Sydney grew up in the heart of the then thriving and closely-knit Dublin Jewish community which was of mainly traditional Lithuanian background and strongly Zionist. So much so that he recalled that congregations in Irish synagogues always stood for Adon Olam at the end of Shabbat morning services as it was sung to the tune of Hatikvah.
The family lived in the same street as Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog and later Chief Rabbi Lord Jakobovits whose family became close friends.
After attending Jewish Zion Primary School Sydney studied Latin and Greek at Dublin’s Protestant High School. Despite being small in physique he excelled in athletics, winning medals for 120 yards hurdles.
He was a founder member of Torah Va’Avodah the Modern Orthodox religious Zionist movement which was a constituent of the Mizrachi movement. In that role on two auspicious dates, November 29 1947, and May 13 1948, he organised major public celebrations in Dublin.
After graduating in medicine in 1953 he worked at the London Jewish Hospital in Stepney Green.
In 1956 he took up a position in anaesthetics at Manchester Royal Infirmary and later at Crumpsall Hospital. He married Madeleine Collins in 1961 but she succumbed to cancer aged 47 in 1984.
The main passions in his Manchester communal life were the Jewish Representative Council, on which he served for 48 years, and Hillel House. He seldom missed a monthly meeting of the council right up till his death and was known for his pithy comments and interventions.
He was a member of Manchester Hillel House Management Committee since 1962, and was known to three generations of Jewish students in Manchester as “Mr Hillel”. It was a sad day for him when it became inevitable that Hillel House would have to close in 2014 when it was no longer viable.
In a final accolade, Sydney was named first ever recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Community Awards ceremony in 2014.
He is survived by his daughters, Liz Tal and Melanie Werner; brother Frank, sister Pauline Clements and five grand children.