BORN MANCHESTER, MARCH 10, 1929. DIED MANCHESTER, FEBRUARY 2, 2009, AGED 79.
AM U C H - L O V E D MINISTER in Reform communities and a f i ne Hebrew scholar, R a b b i S a muel “ S a mmy” R o d - r i g u e s - P e r e i r a c a me f r o m a Sephardi rabbinical background. His grandfather, Haham Dr Salomon Rodrigues-Pereira, Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Holland, had stood in asAshkenazi Chief Rabbi of the Hague for six years.
His father, Rev Benjamin RodriguesPereira, came to England in 1910 as junior minister, and then minister, of Manchester’s Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Congregation.
In 1929 he moved to Ramsgate Synagogue, Kent, where Sammy, the youngest of three children, was born.
Although Sammy’s father remained minister at Ramsgate until retiring in 1966, the family moved during the Second World War to Manchester, where Sammy attended Manchester Grammar School, followed by a classics degree at Cambridge.
After national service in the early 1950s, he studied at Jews’ College, London, gaining his chazan’s certificate. He took his first post as assistant chazan with the Sephardi Congregation in then Salisbury, Rhodesia.
Returning to Manchester five years later, he became part-time minister at the Sephardi Synagogue in Cheetham Hill, while teaching Jewish studies at King David School and Hebrew at Hopwood Hall, a Catholic training college.
In 1968 he married Anita Goldstone, née Priestley, a widow with three young sons, to whom he became a loving stepfather.
In 1970 he joined the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain. From Manchester Reform Synagogue, he moved to Blackpool Reform in 1976. In 1978 he came south to Radlett and Bushey Reform in Hertfordshire.
Ill health forced him to step down in 1984 but he helped out at Hampstead Reform, Middlesex New and Kol Chai, Harrow, where he became part-time minister in 1987.
He retired in 2000 as emeritus rabbi and continued teaching until again stopped by ill health. In 2007 he returned with his wife to Manchester, to be near his late brother’s and sister’s families.
His Reform career saw him use his Jewish knowledge to the full. His profound Hebrew scholarship led to his appointment by the Assembly of Reform Rabbis to proofread their new 1977 prayer book, Forms of Prayer, and the revised 2008 version. He taught rabbinical students at Leo Baeck College after being ordained there in 1981.
An inspirational teacher with an encyclopaedic knowledge of Torah, Talmud and midrash, he overcame his natural diffidence when engaged with others in teaching and, especially, when conducting a service or leading the community in song. His deep voice, allied to his extensive knowlege, made an outstanding impression.
Open-minded and approachable, he encouraged discussion with his pupils, whether for bar and batmitzvah or conversion. He also spoke at St Luke’s Church, Pinner, taught Hebrew to nuns at Sedgley Catholic College and was involved with students at the historic local Challoners School.
He is survived by his wife and her family.
Rabbi Tony Bayfield, chief executive of the Reform Movement, writes: Sammy Rodrigues-Pereira was the Reform Movement’s Encyclopaedia Judaica and the rabbis’ rabbi. Any colleague could turn to him for information and he would supply it, instantly, correctly and without ever making one feel inadequate or embarrassed. That is because he was also, supremely, a mensch.
Rabbi Samuel Rodrigues-Pereira: fine voice and deep Jewish learning