Tony Shinberg - A Tribute from Fabian

Tony Shinberg

Born: 9th March 1921
Died: 25th January 2014

Tony Shinberg pictured on his 90th birthday

 

It's nearly four months now since Tony Shinberg died aged almost 93 and I have been thinking hard about how I can best describe him and the impact his life had on so many citizens of Leeds.

I first met Tony when I was selected as the Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Leeds North East in 1990. He was then in his late sixties and retired, and I was an ambitious young Leeds City Councillor who had just been selected for what was regarded as an unwinnable constituency which happened to have the biggest Jewish population in Yorkshire.

As Tony's family and friends know, he was a small but strong man, described by Rabbi Daniel Levy as "… the shortest giant I ever met". In fact it was a miracle he survived his first few weeks of life at all, because he was born thirteen weeks premature at a time when such small babies once born rarely lived. In his first few days of life he slept in a shoebox and was drip-fed with a fountain pen.

Tony never married, so never had any children, but such was his place in the community in which he grew up and lived all his life that he was loved by so many. After attending Moortown Primary and Leeds Grammar School, Tony worked in Leeds as a Civil Servant giving advice to people seeking Legal Aid - in the days when Legal Aid was still available. But his true passion was swimming.

Tony as a young man doing what he loved - swimming.

 

 

Rabbi Daniel Levy says that The Talmud encourages parents to teach their children to swim, for obvious reasons. Tony taught swimming both as a paid instructor and as a volunteer at the Judean Club, amongst other places. There's no doubt that his instruction helped to save countless lives down the generations as his students then subsequently, over time, taught their own children to swim. Rabbi Levy believes that perhaps half the citizens of Leeds owed their ability to swim to Tony, whether directly or indirectly. As an older man when I knew him, Tony had a physique of which many men half his age would have been jealous.

I remember attending Tony's 90th birthday party at his niece Janet's house in Alwoodley, and that even at this age he was still offering to deliver leaflets for the Labour Party. Tony was a lifelong Labour supporter and one of that small but powerful band of Poale Zion Members who offered me their support for my selection as candidate and subsequent election as Member of Parliament. The group included the late Gerry Brostoff and Ruby Moss, loyal, committed and hardworking for a cause they truly believed in. There aren't many left.

One of Tony's lesser known interests and abilities, however, was his commitment to and skill at Healing. Such was his ability that he kept a record of every telephone call he received and assistance that he gave to those seeking his healing powers. He became so well known for his Healing that the Leeds Healing Association - of which he was Treasurer - held a special Catholic Mass for him after he died.

I never knew a man who had more integrity, care and concern for others as Tony Shinberg. He may not have had a family of his own, but I felt - like so many others - that he was part of mine and I of his. In Rabbi Levy's eulogy he said that Tony was: "A tremendous inspiration to all who came across him". I can't add to that, but like everyone else who knew him, I miss Tony so very much.