A religious leader "touched countless lives" and left his mark on the Romford community, according to tributes paid after his death.

Rabbi Lee Sunderland died at Queen's Hospital on May 27 after a short illness, a family member told the Recorder.

Rabbi Sunderland, 61, served the congregation of Romford Synagogue in Eastern Road for 23 years. 

He became "a pillar of (the) community", according to Romford MP candidate Andrew Rosindell, who has served the constituency since 2001.

Mr Rosindell wrote in a tribute that Rabbi Sunderland's death "marks the loss of a remarkable individual who was more than a religious leader; he was a cherished friend and a steadfast advocate for the religious freedoms we hold dear".

He added: "Rabbi Sunderland was a pillar of our community, dedicating his life to his faith and the fostering of unity amongst all people.

"His commitment to these principles has left an indelible mark on the community of Romford.

"As Honorary Vice-President of the Romford Conservative Association, Rabbi Sunderland brought not only leadership, but also his boundless energy and dedication.

"His contributions were invaluable, and his presence was a source of inspiration to us all who had the pleasure of listening to him speak.

"Rabbi Sunderland’s legacy will continue to live on in the hearts of all who knew him and in the countless lives he touched."

During his time working in the community, Rabbi Sunderland was successful in seeing Holocaust Memorial Day recognised as a multi-faith service in the borough. 

Council leader Ray Morgan also paid tribute, saying: “He was always happy to work alongside the council, other faiths and communities, and was a great champion for positive and cohesive community relations.

“Lee will be missed from our community and my heartfelt feelings go out to his family, friends and wider congregation at this difficult time.”

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Labour's candidate for Romford at the general election, Andrew Achilleos, posted on X: "Sad to hear of Rabbi Lee Sunderland’s passing. A central figure in the Romford community, always speaking of the need for peace.

"He will be greatly missed."

A funeral service was held for Rabbi Sunderland on May 30, and is believed to have been attended by around 300 people, including local politicians and the Archdeacon of Southend, Mike Power. 

Rabbi Sunderland's family were contacted to offer a tribute of their own but did not wish to comment.