Captain Solomon Levy MBE
First non-political civic Mayor of Gibraltar who brought racial and religious harmony to the Rock
ST AL WAR TO Ft he vibrant Gibraltar Jewish community, Solomon ( Momy) Levy, who has died aged 80, was one of the Rock’s most colourful and popular personalities. He was a former Captain in the Gibraltar Regiment, chairman and later president of the Gibraltar Branch of the Royal British Legion and a respected vice-president of the Jewish Committee for HM Forces. For the past 30 years he was a regular figure at London‘s annual AJEX Parade..
Levy worked tirelessly for tolerance, religious and racial harmony. Immaculately dressed, he was instantly recognisable in Gibraltar’s Main Street. A proud loyalist who fiercely defended Gibraltar’s attachment to Great Britain, he lobbied MPs and members of the House of Lords in defence of the Rock’s interests. He was effectively an informal ambassador for Gibraltar wherever he travelled. He was also the JC’s long-term Gibraltar correspondent.
A JP since 1994, he was awarded the MBE for public services in 1999 and became the first non-political civic Mayor of Gibraltar in August 2008.
He was born in Gibraltar to Isaac S Levy and Rachel Levy (née Hassan), sister of Sir Joshua Hassan, who had been Chief Minister of Gibraltar for over 18 years. The Levy family had settled in Gibraltar since the early 1700s. With a proud ancestry of judges and rabbis in Tetuan and Gibraltar, he was the eldest of five children In July, 1940 he was evacuated with several hundred Gibraltar Jews to Madeira for the duration of the war. On his return he studied at the Talmud Torah Hebrew school, which his father had worked hard to re-establish after the war.
Following his barmitzvah he studied at Britain’s Carmel College. Its founder, Rabbi Kopul Rosen, became one of his most inspiring mentors. He completed his national service in the Gibraltar Defence Forces, serving again as an officer in the army reserves from 1960-1978, to become the first Jewish Captain in the Gibraltar Regiment. He developed very strong links with successive Governors and military commanders stationed there.
In 1956 he trained as an estate agent in London and studied at the College of Estate Management, qualifying in March, 1960. The following month he returned to Gibraltar and launched Solomon Levy Estate Agents and Auctioneers, which he continued to run for the rest of his life. He also helped found the Gibraltar Building Society. He claimed to be the longest serving agent with almost 60 years of experience.
He married Sarah Abecasis in 1969, and the couple welcomed hundreds of Jewish tourists to their Gibraltar home, which overflowed with family, guests and visitors on Shabbat.
In 1975 Solomon Levy became president of KK Abudarham Synagogue, co-founded by his ancestors in 1920, and of which he remained a devoted supporter. In the 1990s his communal roles included his presidency of the Gibraltar Jewish Community and the Talmud Torah School. He was a trustee of Yeshivat Ohr Torah, founded by his ancestors in 1872.
A Charity Commissioner, he was an active fund-raiser for such causes as cancer and blindness and war veterans, and a keen promoter of interfaith relations..
The flamboyant Mo my was a quintessential Gibraltar ian and defender of the Rock’s British status. He was particularly proud of his military connections, regularly attending the annual Armed Forces Jewish weekend. As gun troop commander, he had to fire salutes for Royal birthdays, but as an Orthodox Jew, he would not travel by Land Rover to the saluting battery high on the Rock if they fell on Shabbat. When the Rabbi told him it was OK to give the order to fire, Levy, in ceremonial uniform, would march up to the guns, followed by his loyal gun troop who refused to travel in the vehicle if he was walking. His interests included classical music and Spanish operetta, which he expressed through his ten year long chairmanship of the Gibraltar Music Centre.
Levy’s biographer Michael Freedland ( Man On The Rock, Vallentine Mitchell) adds: “He had a poster in the window of his estate agents’ office declaring, “Born British and will die British.” He walked to one of Gibraltar’s five synagogues every Shabbat, carrying a stick and wearing one of the bowler hats he bought in St. James’s Street. He was in many ways, Mr Gibraltar– certainly Mr Jewish Gibraltar. He was president of any Jewish organisation you could think of in a country with proportionately the biggest Jewish community in the world outside Israel – more than 1,000 Jews in an area of under 40,000 people.”
For the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, he paid £2,000 for a huge banner which he hung from the top floor of his building complete with a picture of Her Majesty. Solomon Levy is survived by his wife, his son, three daughters, grandchildren and four siblings. One daughter predeceased him in 2014, MARTIN NEWMAN
Capt Solomon (Momy) Levy. Born October 26, 1936. Died December 22, 2016