Posted: July 15th, 2020
Thanks to ROBIN PARKIN who phoned from France to let us know about the death, on July 8 , of WILLY WOLFF. He was 93. Robin and Willy both learnt their trade on the Slough Observer.
Willy Wolff was born in Berlin in 1927. He fled with his family in 1933 to Amsterdam and from there to London in 1939. While he dreamt of becoming a rabbi from an early age, post-war realities lead him to become a journalist. He rose through the ranks, becoming a parliamentary correspondent and reporter of global events for several UK national newspapers, including the Daily Mail, Daily Mirror and Reuters, over his 30+ year career.
Wolff never abandoned his dream of becoming a rabbi, though, and started his rabbinic training at Leo Baeck College at the age of 53, being ordained in 1984. Rabbi Wolff went on to hold posts at West London Synagogue, Newcastle Reform Synagogue, Brighton and Hove Reform Synagogue, Wimbledon Synagogue, and Milton Keynes and District Reform Synagogue. He was also involved in bringing the Darlington Hebrew Congregation into the Reform Judaism family and was deputy editor of the Manna magazine throughout its publication.
(Obit credit: www.reformjudaism.org.uk; photo credit: Jewish Chronicle)
Tributes and memories
Those of you who know Robin Parkin won’t be surprised to hear that his personal memoire for Willy Wolff arrived from France. By post. Handwritten.
Deborah Thomas: “Those of us old enough will remember Willy with a smile. A true eccentric.”
David Hancock: “Dear old Willy. I remember him with much affection. I worked with him for a while when he was editing the social diary on the Evening News.
“I remember him as a great journalist, a friend and, yes, a gentleman. We also met a couple of times after he became a rabbi. The first was at Victor Knight’s funeral in North Yorkshire. Willy drove three of us in time too short to catch the train from Darlington to London with speed and skill worthy of Le Mans – and we said it was divine intervention that we caught the train with three minutes to spare. The second time was a lunch – Willie had a medically very restricted diet – at the end of the 1990s in Ealing, where I was working for the council. RIP”
Plain John Smith: I shared many a late night shift on the Daily Mirror with Willy, who was a great reporter even if he bore little resemblance to your average foot-in-the-door Fleet Street hack.
“A diminutive, smiling figure who always clutched a large spiral notebook and dressed in an ancient black suit and grey pullover, he was the kindest and gentlest of men, and although his decision to pursue a career in religion came as a surprise after the rough and tumble life of a tabloid journalist, it was a path to which his caring and compassionate nature suited him admirably.
“More than 50 years on, my memories of him still burn bright.
Ray Weaver: Willy was a great fun character. One evening in the 1960s, he challenged Dan Ferrari, who was then night news editor, that he could run up the back stairs in Holborn and get to the cashiers faster than Dan taking the lift. Willy was a very fit man and easily beat Dan, much to the amusement of the newsroom staff!”
By PETER THOMPSON
© Peter Thompson 2021. Extracted from Cudlipp’s Circus by Peter Thompson, Kindle Edition.
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