Dr Ephraim Jaffe, born Manchester, 26.11.1920, died 30.8.2017 aged 96
Dr Ephraim Jaffe was undoubtedly one of the best-known doctors in north Manchester, but although he had a long, distinguished and wide-ranging medical career, he was probably better known — and loved — for his communal work.
Dr Jaffe, tall, softly-spoken and usually with a twinkle in his eye, was a mainstay of Higher Crumpsall and Higher Broughton Synagogue of which he was president three times and eventually became its life president. The synagogue closed its doors for the final time only a few months after Dr Jaffe’s death, just before the High Holy Days last year.
Ephraim was the seventh of eight children born to Golda Rivka and Wolf Jaffe, immigrants from Rokiskis in northern Lithuania. The family settled in Manchester where Wolf became a fent merchant — someone who dealt in textiles and the ends of bolts of cloth.
A clever boy, Ephraim attended first the “Jews’ School” in Derby Street, Cheetham, and then Manchester Central High School, followed by a stint at the city’s yeshiva.
He was, say his family, bent on becoming a mathematician. But he was just about to take up his place at Manchester University when war broke out, and he decided that doctors would be desperately needed.
He switched disciplines in order to study medicine. By the end of the war he was tending war wounded who had been brought back to Britain from France and Italy, becoming one of the first doctors to use the then new “wonder drug”, penicillin.
Ephraim first met his beloved wife, Yetta Bernard, at a religious Zionist youth movement in Manchester, Torah v’Avodah. By the time he was studying medicine, Yetta, who died in 1994, was training at Manchester Royal Infirmary as a physiotherapist. The couple worked together for a time at the Jewish Hospital in Elizabeth Street in north Manchester, and married in 1948. They had two sons and thee daughters — and as the children grew up, Yetta continued to work for many years at the city’s Hope Hospital.
Throughout Ephraim Jaffe’s long life he combined a passionate love of Israel with an equal devotion to medicine. He specialised in geriatric medicine for more than half a century and had an extensive practice in east Manchester.
He was medical officer to an astonishing 10 retirement homes and also served as medic to institutions as varied as the Manchester Yeshiva and the Orthodox girls’ seminary, as well as the Jewish Agency. This latter post meant that Dr Jaffe examined thousands of would-be immigrants to Israel.
But although he and Yetta were keen to emigrate themselves, they decided instead to stay in Manchester, choosing to remain in the city for the sake of Yetta’s widowed mother.
Being in Manchester, however, was no hardship: Dr Jaffe met both the Queen and the Pope in the city, Her Majesty at the opening of St Mary’s Hospital, and the Pope as a result of his work for the North West National Health Council.
The central pillar of Dr Jaffe’s life was religious Zionism, beginning with Torah v’Avodah, on whose national executive he sat throughout the 1940s. He went on to play a leading role in British Mizrachi for more than 40 years.
There was scarcely a Zionist organisation in Manchester without Dr Jaffe’s input. One of his favoured groups was the Lavi Functions Committee, set up to support Kibbutz Lavi in the Galilee, which had been started by British olim.
He also worked for committees supporting Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem’s Hebrew University. He became an executive member of both the Zionist Central Council in Manchester and the community’s Jewish Representative Council.
But he was perhaps best known for his long affiliation with his synagogue, Higher Crumpsall, whose merger with Higher Broughton he oversaw while president. He first became a warden of the synagogue in 1963 and served the first of his three terms as president in 1968.
Dr Jaffe’s long, rangy figure was a familiar sight on the front row of the men’s seating in Higher Crumpsall, just on the corner in front of the bimah. For decades he was the resident ba’al tekiah, or shofar-blower, and many were the families who declared that Yom Kippur was not truly over until Dr Jaffe blew the final note at Ne’ilah, the concluding service. He often acted as “chazan sheni”, or secondary cantor, during the lengthy High Holy Day services; and his deep knowledge of religious sources meant he was frequently consulted by rabbis on medical-halachic questions.
In later years, he was to be found on the bimah giving the cues to the Cohanim who would bless the congregation.
He was a keen crossword and Scrabble fan to the end of his life, retained an interest in chess and travel, and swam every day.
Dr Jaffe’s legacy, say his family, was his ability to inspire his children and grandchildren by example. He is survived by five children (Gwen Bergin, Barry Jaffe, Victor Jaffe, Shelley Sluckis, Terry Markiewicz), 15 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren — and 12 of the second and third generation have followed in Dr Jaffe’s footsteps and work in medical or other caring professions.