Dr Leo Hep­ner



THE RENOWNED sci­en­tist and tech­nol­o­gist Dr Leo Hep­ner launched a man­age­ment con­sul­tancy or­gan­i­sa­tion, in 1970, which won plau­dits through­out the world for its busi­ness and tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vice. He was the go-to man in his field, lec­tur­ing, writ­ing and ad­vis­ing on the emerg­ing area of biotech­nol­ogy and fer­men­ta­tion and its im­pact on hu­man and an­i­mal health­care.

He cre­ated and edited Process Bio­chem­istry, the first tech­ni­cal jour­nal re­lated to biotech­nol­ogy and bio­chem­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing. Though he of­fi­cially re­tired some years ago, peo­ple still came to him seek­ing his knowl­edge and the fruits of his ex­pe­ri­ence. Even just a cou­ple of weeks be­fore his death, he was busy an­swer­ing ques­tions from the food in­dus­try. He was a true pi­o­neer in an im­por­tant field.

How­ever, chem­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing was not Dr Hep­ner’s only field of ex­per­tise. He was a poly­math who ex­celled in many dif­fer­ent ar­eas. He de­vel­oped a deep knowl­edge and ap­pre­ci­a­tion of art and ar­chi­tec­ture. He ac­tively led neigh­bour­hood con­cerns. He trea­sured read­ing, vis­it­ing art ex­hi­bi­tions,walk­ing, trav­el­ling and spoke sev­eral lan­guages. He was also a su­perb cook.

What­ever he un­der­took, he learned about the back­ground, did due dili­gence on the sub­ject, and then spoke and acted with in­tel­lec­tual in­tegrity.

Leo Hep­ner was born to tra­di­tion­ally ob­ser­vant par­ents, Max and Mar­got Hep­ner, née Sil­ber­stein, and brought up in Leipzig, where his father ran a fur com­pany. Its in­ter­na­tional con­nec­tions helped the fam­ily es­cape, days be­fore the out­break of the Se­cond World War, to Lon­don.

Dr Hep­ner ob­tained a B.Sc in en­gi­neer­ing fol­lowed, in 1955 with a Ph.D in chem­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing from Im­pe­rial Col­lege, Lon­don. He first worked in Is­rael as an en­gi­neer but re­turned to Lon­don where in time, he be­came both a Fel­low of the In­sti­tu­tion of Chem­i­cal En­gi­neers and a Fel­low of the In­sti­tute of Food Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy.

Deeply in­volved in mu­sic from his child­hood, he set up the Pro-Bio Foun­da­tion in 1977 (later re-named the Hep­ner Foun­da­tion) to cre­ate a plat­form for avant-garde cham­ber mu­sic. He was him­self a skilled vi­ola player with a spe­cial pas­sion for con­tem­po­rary mu­sic which in­volved close study of the vi­ola works of Bar­tok, Hin­demith and Shostakovich.

In 2006, he and his wife Regina Hep­ner-Ne­u­pert, founded a sum­mer academy at the Hin­demith Mu­sic Cen­tre in Blonay, Switzer­land, of­fer­ing young com­posers the op­por­tu­nity to study the par­tic­u­lar skills in­volved in com­po­si­tion for string quar­tets. Many over the years have ac­knowl­edged that his help and in­spi­ra­tion en­abled them to reach the at­ten­tion of the mu­sic world.

A com­mit­ted ad­vo­cate of an open, lib­eral Ju­daism, he was com­mit­ted to

Dr Leo Hep­ner: biotech­nol­ogy’s go-to man who fronted Lib­eral Ju­daism the re-es­tab­lish­ment of the Lib­eral Jewish com­mu­ni­ties right across Europe that had been shat­tered by the war and then by the spread of com­mu­nism. He served both as chair and vice-pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Union for Pro­gres­sive Ju­daism. He helped new com­muni- ties from as far afield as Den­mark, Ger­many, East­ern Europe and Spain with prac­ti­cal ad­vice on how com­mu­ni­ties should be run and how they might find rab­binic help. In hon­our of his ster­ling work, he was awarded the Is­rael Jacobson Preis of the Union of Pro­gres­sive Jews in Ger­many in 2012.

The West Cen­tral Lib­eral Syn­a­gogue in Maple Street in cen­tral Lon­don ben­e­fited from his lead­er­ship for more than 20 years. Dr Hep­ner was a vi­sion­ary, but also a real­ist whose in­tel­lect, en­ergy, love of hu­man­ity and at­ten­tion to the small­est de­tail brought those vi­sions to re­al­ity.

West Cen­tral Lib­eral Syn­a­gogue was an equal ben­e­fi­ciary of th­ese prac­ti­cal qual­i­ties. With his wide knowl­edge of Ju­daism, orig­i­nally gained in his youth, but al­ways re­newed and widened, and with his rad­i­cal ap­proach to re­li­gion that was tem­pered by his love of tra­di­tion, Dr Hep­ner led from the front as a beloved and re­spected lay leader. His ded­i­ca­tion could be seen in the metic­u­lous way he pre­pared his ser­mons, with Mai­monides and Rashi open be­fore him, and in the im­mense gen­eros­ity of spirit with which he an­swered ques­tions. He al­ways en­sured that the Sifrei To­rah and their sil­ver adorn­ments were cared for in a fit­ting man­ner, saw to it that the com­mu­nal Seder would draw in the com­mu­nity’s di­verse mem­ber­ship, and in ev­ery way de­voted his thor­ough at­ten­tion to all com­mu­nity mat­ters. All of th­ese were achieved with a gen­tle sense of hu­mour hid­den be­hind that in­tel­lec­tual front.

He is sur­vived by his wife Regina; his three sib­lings and their fam­i­lies, Es­ther Goshen-Gottstein in Jerusalem, Rita Pell in Lon­don and Ger­shon Hep­ner in Los An­ge­les.

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