In his wisdom, vibrancy, strength and activism, Rabbi Avrohom Pinter was a man of so many parts.
He was both humble and proud. He thought so little of himself, yet he was so immensely proud of his people and confident in his cause.
Completely unique, he was widely loved among his people and well beyond. The question continues to reverberate: how will things be without him?
The breadth and scope of his activities was unbelievable. He started out 40 years ago as an elected local politician, acting for his constituents, setting the tone for his lifelong activism.
Way back then he was bringing together a mix of nationalities, ethnicities and faiths in his neighbourhood, leading to Amhurst Park Action Group to solve local problems.
His prominence grew and he became a leading member of the executive of London’s Charedi Kehilla and its umbrella body the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations. He led his beloved Yesodey Hatorah Schools, and was a leading voice for Jewish education through Chinuch UK. He also worked with coalitions of Jews, Christians and Muslims through various partnerships.
He was the go-to person for all ‘matters Charedi’ and had the wisdom, accumulated knowledge and instincts to deal with whatever was thrown his way. He knew about housing and rent, about planning regulations and processes, about crime and policing, about political parties and elections, about social care for the elderly and disabled, about charities, about welfare benefits, about public relations and so much more. But the cause that burned strongest within his chest was Torah education.
Rabbi Pinter was keenly sensitive to the importance of nurturing good relations with different groups in society. He took personal responsibility for this. He built so many bridges in his time, and through his simple outreach served his community so powerfully. He believed that coalitions are stronger than individual interest groups, and harder to dismiss. He used his good standing and the friendships he had developed to build a broader base of support for the issues that mattered deeply to Jews.
He was full of compassion for the weak and for the underdog. He served in leadership positions with many organisations including Chizuk for the mentally ill as well as Stamford Hill’s special needs school Side-by-Side, and Ezer Leyoldos, working with some of the most vulnerable in the community. To each organisation he was indispensable. He advocated valiantly for people who found themselves in desperate circumstances, and would not tolerate harms perpetrated within the community itself. He was an expert on child protection requirements and worked with Rabonim and authorities to put a stop to abuse.
When questioned directly about the secret of his popularity, Rabbi Pinter answered that it must be because he genuinely cared about people. He loved people, and they reciprocated. His genuineness and integrity were very powerful and caused people to respond to him very positively.
He had huge compassion and was exceptionally clear-eyed in understanding perspectives different to his own. He extended this understanding to people whose interests and views were diametrically opposed to him. People appreciated this and he used this to build bridges. He was also full of a very endearing humility and treated everyone with respect.
Rabbi Pinter’s hallmark was his sense of responsibility and leadership. He never shied away or said no. He took up whatever it was that needed doing and spoke up with what needed to be said.
This General’s last battle was with the illness that felled him. He worked tirelessly to protect the community from COVID-19 to the greatest extent possible, urging people to follow the directions for social distancing. He worked with Rabonim, activists and public authorities to get messages to the community and to help those who had fallen ill.
On the day he was admitted to hospital he was in video-conference with doctors and public health leaders. Within a week, he was no longer with us. He has left his troops stunned with grief and shock, wondering where to find the strength to soldier on.