Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

“They Know I Stick To My Guns”

Shoshana R. Meiri

Joe Lobenstein — former borough councilor, mayor, Agudah and kehillah activist, long-time askan and journalist — still remains a canny communal campaigner, and his political acuity, age notwithstanding, is as sharp as ever. One of the first frum Jews to receive the monarchy’s coveted MBE honor, he’s spent the better part of the century advocating for his community within a borough council which, before he entered politics, was virtually oblivious to the needs of the Jewish community.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

In 1939, as a twelve-year-old refugee, Joe Lobenstein arrived in England with his parents and sister, carrying a single suitcase and a dismal ten marks each. Now, more than seventy years later, Mr. Lobenstein — former borough councilor, mayor, Agudah and kehillah activist, long-time askan and journalist — remains an astute communal campaigner, and his political acuity, age notwithstanding, appears to have dulled not a whit. He is, by turns, both inviting and steely. His face, with his clipped gray mustache, is vibrant; his sharp blue eyes and arched brow reveal his rich past.

Mr. Lobenstein is particularly renowned for his election as mayor of the London borough of Hackney for an unprecedented four terms, and for having been one of the first frum Jews honored by the Queen with the MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire). The royal award hangs in pride of place on his dining-room wall, with the Queen’s strong, black signature — Elizabeth R — across the top. Three other awards flank it — his “Chaver” title from London’s Adass Yisroel Shul; an elegant “Guest of Honour” plaque in black and gold, from Ponevezh Yeshivah; and the “Freedom of the Borough”, an honor bestowed by Hackney Borough Council in recognition of his lengthy service.

A forest of photographs — both personal and official — crowds walls, tables, and bookcases. In one, he greets the Queen, resplendent in his golden mayoral chain, at the opening of a local hospital wing. In another, he and his wife smile proudly outside the gates of Buckingham Palace, after receiving his MBE. And alongside are the photographs with gedolim: a handclasp with Rav Shach, ztz”l; a smile shared with Rav Shmuel Wosner, shlita; hearing Havdalah on Motzaei Yom Kippur from an ethereal, white-clad Manchester Rosh Yeshivah. 


To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription.

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

Weekly Struggle
Shoshana Friedman Cover text: promise big and deliver what we promise
Only Through You
Rabbi Moshe Grylak A response to last week’s letter, “Waiting in Passaic”
Are You Making a Kiddush Hashem?
Yonoson Rosenblum In communal affairs, “one bad apple…” often applies
Chance of a Lifetime
Eytan Kobre I identify with the urge to shout, “No, don’t do it!”
Work / Life Solutions with Bunim Laskin
Moe Mernick "You only get every day once"
Seeking a Truly Meaningful Blessing
Dovid Zaidman We want to get married. Help us want to date
Shivah Meditations
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman Equivalence between two such polar opposites is puzzling
Magnet Moment
Jacob L. Freedman Everyone’s fighting a battle we know nothing about
Secrets and Surprises
Riki Goldstein Top-secret suits Eli Gerstner just fine
Blasts of Warmth
Riki Goldstein Keeping the chuppah music upbeat in low temperatures
Behind the Scenes
Faigy Peritzman The intrinsic value of each mitzvah
Good Vision
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Good or bad, nice or not? What you see is what you get
Day of Peace
Mrs. Elana Moskowitz On Shabbos we celebrate peace within and without