CYRIL MITCHELL WAX
BORN LONDON, OCTOBER 7, 1930
DIED EDGWARE, MARCH 13, 2016
Mitch was known to many, many people in a variety of guises, as a teacher, a master craftsman, a showman and songwriter, an artist, a long-standing leader in one of the largest synagogues in Europe, and above all, a lifelong volunteer. How could just one person fill all those roles and more ?
Born in 1930 he grew up in Edgware where his large family were members of the local United Synagogue, and where, even before his barmitzvah, he was helping to run children’s Services. Love of Judaism played a big part in his family’s life and it became the driving force of many of the activities he subsequently took on board. Although he enjoyed study, he had left school at 14 to work in his father’s tailoring business, where he learned to become a master cutter. At 17, a few days after the declaration of the State of Israel, Mitch and two friends went out there hoping to help, but as he was under 18 and still a minor he had to return. Nevertheless, his love for Israel remained constant for the rest of his life.
Mitch was multi-talented, and this in conjunction with his warm personality led him to become well-known and loved . His musical ability (and a fine and powerful bass voice) led him to produce countless shows and songs which helped to raise charitable funds, and to provide entertainment e.g. at Purim spiels. He was also an accomplished artist and gave talks on the subject. But his greatest gift was the ability to teach children, and in particular to transfer to them his own love of Judaism. This aspect came to the fore when in 1959 he and his family joined Edgware Reform Synagogue (EDRS).
He was a member for 57 years during which time he served on practically every committee (other than the Ladies Guild!) and was a member of Council for 20 years from 1966, five of them as Vice Chairman then Chairman. In 1987 he was appointed as a Vice-President, and in 2009 as President for 5 years, during which time he celebrated his 2nd barmitzvah.
At EDRS he helped to run Services on Shabbat and the High Holydays, and was part of a small team of lay readers who conducted shiva prayers. For over 25 years, strongly supported by his wife Myrna, he held Shabbat lunch and learning sessions in his home for pre and post bnei mitzvah children, several of whom went on to become teachers, rabbis or community leaders. In 2006 he started a Chevra Kadisha at EDRS which looks after the deceased prior to burial, and went on to help set up several Chevrei Kadisha in other Reform and Masorti communities. When he was not engaged on religious matters he was writing, performing and telling jokes in musical shows.
He was a regular volunteer at Ravenswood Village, where he led Shabbat Services and created prayer books for Shabbat and Festivals. He served for many years on the Zionist Federation of Great Britain, and the Board of Deputies and British Jews. He recently won the Jack Petchey Award for his work inspiring young people, and the Lady Jacobovitz Volunteer of the Year Award. He was also Grand Master of his lodge and held a senior position within freemasonry.
He will be sadly missed by many, both young, old and in-between. He is survived by his wife Myrna, by his three children, Rabbi Lee Wax, Jo Sigalov and Steve Wax, all of whom are active in the Jewish community, and 7 grandchildren.