‘Barmitzvah’ for Bobbie, 83

Bobbie Caplin will be reaffirming his commitment to Judaism on Shabbat at the age of 83 when he celebrates his second barmitzvah at the UHC Synagogue, writes JOHN FISHER.

The reasoning goes that 83 is 13 years into a man's second lifetime which, says Bobbie, “is as good an excuse as any to have a special simcha”.

Born in Leeds to Hymie and Rose Caplin, Bobbie is the youngest of three children.

A former Leeds Grammar School pupil, Bobbie was brought up in a traditional Jewish home.

In the First World War, his father, who served in the Royal Flying Corps, had been gassed and wounded in France.

He was shipped from Rouen hospital to Glasgow infirmary in 1919 without much hope of recovery.

“In fact, dad lived to be 76 and died in 1972 after working every day of his life,” recalled Bobbie.

At the end of 1948 Bobbie, a member of Habonim, was sent to a kibbutz-style camp in Reading for boys and girls where they were training those who wished to emigrate to Israel.

Two years later Bobbie (pictured right) did 18 months national service in the RAF, describing it as “the greatest education I ever had”.

After demob Bobbie went into the family clothing manufacturing business.

He attended Leeds Technical College for two days a week and then worked for three days in the factory.

Through a friend Bobbie was invited to organise a JNF committee in Leeds for the younger community. He helped set up The League and held an annual ball at the Queens Hotel.

The friend was already involved with the Variety Club in London and in 1963 Bobbie was invited to start the first provincial committee of Variety in Leeds, which started a long list of star-studded events featuring luminaries such as David Niven, Cary Grant and Barbara Taylor-Bradford.

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