Lawyer Freddie was loyal servant to synagogue

MISCHIEVOUS HUMOUR: Frederick ‘Freddie’ Levine

FREDERICK ‘Freddie’ Levine, who died at the age of 89, was one of a large number of grandchildren to Rev Isaac Levine, writes his son Niall.

Among the illustrious grandchildren were: Rev Ephraim Levine; Lionel Levine; and Rachel, the first female teacher in Glasgow of what in those days were known as ‘Deaf and Dumb Children’.

Another offspring, David Levine, Freddie’s father, was a Glasgow lawyer and stalwart congregant of Garnethill Synagogue.

He married Rachel Kathleen ‘Molly’ Sergie, an early supporter of the burgeoning arts and craft movement, including the ‘Glasgow Girls’ school of artists.

Schooled in Glasgow, (interrupted by occasional childhood wartime sojourns with Belfast family), Freddie — named after Molly’s father, Abraham Fishel Sergie — followed his father’s footsteps into law and entered private practice in the 1950s, founding Frederick and Company.

Those seeking advice — frequently dispensed without any pecuniary exchange — would find Fred seated behind an enormous wooden desk, liberally heaped with a mountain of files and correspondence.

Budding assistants and apprentices found Freddie’s laissez-faire management style a febrile environment for their various careers —some became very successful in the legal profession, a few others escaped as quickly and far away as possible.

Fred was no luddite, pioneering the adoption of automated accounting and digital word processing to help systemise traditionally sluggish lawyers’ offices.

Following retirement from private practice in the late 1990s, Freddie’s well regarded legal acumen enabled him to be appointed ‘on the bench,’ sitting as a (peripatetic) temporary Scottish sheriff successfully culminating his professional career.

Growing-up in the West End of Glasgow, Fred was a regular Garnethill Shul congregant, whose legal agility and pragmatism contributed greatly to the effective governance of the synagogue, as well as continuity of the Burial Society and upkeep of the associated grounds.

Apart from being at various times the shul’s secretary, Fred was a frequent chauffeur, confidante and loyal servant to its then minister, Rev Dr Kenneth Cosgrove.

Along with other dedicated committee members and its president, Fred later assisted in the drafting of various successful funding and grant applications to help ensure Garnethill’s heritage continues long into the future — including the extensive structural renovations undertaken at the turn of the millennium.

The combined efforts of many, also enabled Garnethill Synagogue to become the proud home of the Scottish Jewish Archives Centre.

The Hebrew University in Jerusalem was also close to Freddie’s heart.

Along with the rest of the Glasgow ‘Friends’, much fun and fulfilment was gained planning, writing, calling and attending events organised in the heady days of the 1980s, 90s and noughties.

Of course the enjoyment had as much to do with the banter of the many ‘Friends’ made and retained on the committee, as well as the activities organised.

A typical Glasgow Friends meeting combined not only professionalism, but much mirth and laughter: both ‘rare’ commodities on most committees.

Considerable funds were raised through dinners, invited speakers and concert, including one by Yehudi Menuhin, all designed to attract the wider community, especially those with deep pockets.

Many of those who knew Fred both socially and professionally sought his insightful, yet empathetic advice, which was always dispensed generously, often with gravity or humour as the moment required and if one was lucky, the occasional brief impersonation of the key characters concerned.

Whatever the circumstances, Freddie’s advice and unspoken modesty were available to reassure, always delivered with innate good grace.

It was with warmth and pride that he could assist his by-then-centennian cousin, Cecil Grossman, with routine visits to the barber, bank or newsagent.

This ethos coupled to his mercurial manner and occasionally mischievous sense of humour, touched many throughout his long career.

Those lucky enough to have encountered Freddie knew well that he never wavered on principle, and that his word was his bond: no contract nor signature was ever required.

He is survived by his wife Florence, son Niall (South Africa), nephew James Goldblatt (London) and niece Pat Bayes (Vancouver).

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