Rebbetzin Amelie Jakobovits, the wife of the former Chief Rabbi of England, Lord Immanuel Jakobovits, has died at the age of 81.
'Lady J,' as she was known to British Jewry who loved and admired her, had been listed in critical condition at the Royal Free Hospital in North West London, suffering from pneumonia which finally led to kidney failure and other complications.
Burial was set to take place Sunday in Israel after a funeral service in London outside her home – named Immalie, combining the first names of its two owners, Amelie and Immanuel -- at 5:30 p.m. local time (12;30 p.m. EDT) in Shirehall Park, Hendon.
Born in Ansbach, Germany, she met her husband-to-be at the age of 19 shortly before he became the Chief Rabbi of Ireland, after she had fled the Nazi war machine by escaping to Switzerland. The eldest child of Rabbi Eliyahu Munk, author of “The Call of the Torah” and “The World of Prayer,” Rebbetzin Jakobovits was also a learned woman, and she was renowned throughout the world for her charity work.
'Lady J' remained active in numerous outreach activities until very recently. Just three years ago, Lady J was named to 30th place on The Jewish Chronicle's list of the 100 most influential Jews of Great Britain – testimony to the fact that although she deeply mourned her husband's passing in 1999, it did little to slow down her work on behalf of the Jewish world.
'A Message from our 'President Lady Jakobovits'
'Lady J''s presence is still very much a life force in the Jewish community and includes an active appeal on behalf of the Jewish Marriage Council, accompanied by an elegant photo of Rebbetzin Jakobovits. The message makes it clear that here was a powerful woman determined to ensure the continuation of the Jewish family.
The project, she explains, “is particularly close to my heart, if only because it was the brainchild of the late Lord Jakobovits even before our own marriage.” The appeal continues with a description of services, the explanation that the project receives no government funding, and an acknowledgment that it is impossible to guarantee 100 percent success in any project – but that the organization has significant achievements to its credit.
Her signature at the bottom of the brief letter is strong, legible and clear.
Dedicated to Helping Israel's Jews
'Lady J' was a Life President of the Emunah organization, a position which brought her into contact with Israel National News Editor Rochel Sylvetsky, with whom she worked during Sylvetsky's own tenure as head of Emunah Israel. “Even had her husband not been a Lord, she would have merited being called Lady Amelie in her own right,” Sylvetsky said.
“She was deeply religious and G-d-fearing, and it came out in every meeting with her,” she added. “She was learned, cultured and warmly hospitable--a real lady, caring and with a charming sense of humor, which is why she was called 'Lady J' – although she was of course also officially a Lady, as the wife of Lord Jakobovits.”
'Lady J' also served as Vice President of the Federation of Women's Zionist Organizations of Great Britain; Founder Member of Chai Cancer Care/Cancerkin, Vice President of “Youth Aliyah”, a lecturer at the Spiro Institute, and a founder and Life President of the Association of United Synagogue Women. In addition, she was involved in WIZO and the Royal Free Hospital, where there is a “Lady J” Clinic.
Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan presented Rebbetzin Jakobovits with an honorary doctorate at a ceremony in London in 2002. Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was among the 500 invited guests.
The Hazon Yeshaya Humanitarian Network in Israel is another one of the many charities that was supported by 'Lady J.' Abraham Israel, director of the organization, commented on Sunday evening, "We mourn with Anglo Jewry a great and compassionate lady. She was heartbroken to hear about the suffering of poor people in Eretz Yisrael, and she always supported us in our fundraising work in the UK."