Maurice Kaye, an inspiration to the Jewish community of Bournemouth, England, for decades, whose marriage of 84 years was believed to be the longest in Britain, passed away last week at the age of 106.
An unforgettable fixture at his local Chabad House, he would come every week on Saturday morning to pray and learn Chassidic discourses before prayer—and usually was the first one there, says Rabbi Yosef Alperowitz, who co-directs Chabad Lubavitch of Bournemouth with his wife, Chanie.
Kaye, he recalls, would come early and stay for the kiddush to talk with everybody. “He’s a person who was very devoted to his emunah, very determined to cling to his faith,” says the rabbi, who knew Kaye for some three decades since arriving to the area as a Chabad emissary in 1989.
In addition to their connection at the synagogue, Alperowitz used to teach Torah to two of Kaye’s grandchildren, Lara and Avi Son, and Kaye later dedicated a book of those lessons, called Pearls for the Shabbos Table, in their honor.
Larry Kaye, his son, tells Chabad.org that through triumphs or in the face of adversity, his father often alluded to the fact that G‑d was watching him, that Hashem was on his shoulder. “He was an extraordinary man,” says Larry Kaye of his father.
Though they lost two children—a son in 1949 and daughter in 1991—Larry Kaye says his father believed that he was here for a reason. “And why have they lived so long? Because they always had a target, a wedding anniversary, a bar mitzvah, a bat mitzvah,” says Larry Kaye of his parents. “They always had a target to get to—my nephew was married five weeks ago in London, and my parents schlepped with us to be there, and that’s how they’ve been.”
His passing is a loss for the community, says Alperowitz, who remembers Kaye as a kind and charitable man. “People loved him. Visitors would come to Bournemouth, they would come to Chabad, because they wanted to meet this guy.”
Kaye and his wife, Helen, 105, were married in 1934 and have two surviving children, seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
In 2009, on their 75th wedding anniversary, Maurice and Helen Kaye donated a Torah to Chabad in the name of two of their children who passed away. “At the age of 97, he was running around the Chabad House with a Torah held high above his head,” recalls Larry Kaye. “He was a strong man in every way.” A few years before, at the age of 90, he requested a flying lesson for his birthday.
“People can learn from his example,” says Alperowitz, whose community includes many older adults. “You could be in your 70s, even in your 80s and 90s and 100s, and you can still come [to Chabad], and you can still be involved.”
Born in the East End of London, Maurice Kaye had three brothers and three sisters, and was the second youngest. He served as a physical training instructor in the army during the World War II, and was court-martialed for striking an anti-Semitic senior officer, his son recalls. In 1945, he and his wife started a fashion business that went on to be very successful.
A Grandfather Figure to Many
Roger Rossano, who knows the Kaye family as a friend of Larry Kaye’s and through attending minyan with Maurice Kaye as well, says he was impressed with how the elder Kaye would take an interest in Rossano’s children. “Every time they came back from university, he’d always spend the time with them, asking them what they were doing, what courses they were taking,” says Rossano. “And several months later, he’d remember everything.”
Kaye set an example by how he treated his family, adds Rossano. “I said, ‘Seeing how you behave with your children, your grandchildren and your great-grandchildren, this is the kind of zaydie [grandfather] I’d like to be, but until, then I’d like to adopt you as my grandfather.’ He really liked that.”
They’d meet on Shabbat at services, he recalls. “I always had a good word to say to him, and he always had a good word to say to me.”
Alperowitz’s son, Rabbi Bentzion Alperowitz, who also serves at the Chabad center, remembers Maurice Kaye as a much-loved member of the community.
“He was a grandfather figure to a lot of people,” he says. “People loved him very much. He had a very good sense of humor, always had a good joke to say, and he’d give everyone a very, very strong handshake. He very much loved attending Chabad, and on my last visit to him on his 106th birthday a few short weeks ago, although very weak already, he told me: ‘I hope to see you next time at Chabad.'”