Tributes Pour in After Leading UK Rabbi Dies of Coronavirus
by Benjamin Kerstein
Tributes poured in on Tuesday at the news that a leading UK rabbi had died of coronavirus.
Dayan Rabbi Yehuda Yaakov Refson, the senior rabbi of the Leeds Jewish community, passed away on Sunday at the age of 73.
Britain’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis called Refson an “outstanding scholar and educator” and “devoted, caring, and principled.”
According to Chabad.org, Refson served as a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary in Leeds, rabbi of the Shomrei Hadass Synagogue and director of the Leeds Menorah School. He was also the head of the regional Beit Din.
He was born into a small Jewish community in Sunderland in the UK, studied in France and served as a judge and yeshiva head in Brooklyn before returning to England in 1973.
Refson relocated to Leeds in 1976 and became one of the leaders of the Jewish community there. He is survived by his wife and eight children.
At the news of his death, Mirvis said, “I was shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of Dayan Yehuda Yaakov Refson z”l. It has been my privilege to work with this outstanding scholar and educator, who, for the past 44 years, was the devoted, caring and principled head of the Leeds Jewish community.”
“Dayan Refson’s humility and kind-hearted nature endeared him to his community and many well beyond Leeds,” he said. “He leaves behind him a most wonderful legacy. Our memories of him will provide ongoing inspiration.”
The Community Security Trust also weighed in, extending condolences to Refson’s family and calling his death “a very sad and difficult loss for the Leeds Jewish Community.
Board of Deputies of British Jews President Marie van der Zyl said she was “very saddened to hear of the untimely passing of Dayan Rabbi Refson, who was such an important figure in the Leeds community. My thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time.”