I was born Ruth Cohen in Middlesbrough in 1934 to Sylvia (nee Sarah Labovitch of Leeds, sister of Jack Lamb, Gwen’s father) and Harry Cohen. Apart from a short time in Southport in 1940-41, I remained in the town until leaving to study medicine at the age of 18.
In 1963 I married Vivian Hurwitz of Leeds, where our 3 chi1dren were born and grew up. Sarah and Ann now live in Israel with their families, and Michael is in London. I have a flat in Jerusalem which we visit regularly. Of the 4 Jewish children in my class at school in M’bro, two emigrated to Israel in adulthood, as have 5 of the 6 children of the other two.
My father Harry was born in Hartlepool in 1903, one of the 6 children of Hannah and Chazan Shalom Cohen. He left school when he was 12. Early school-leavers were supposed to go and work in the munitions factories, but Harry was turned away as he was small. He never grew taller than "five foot two and a bit" and he would not let us forget "the bit". That height gave him a streak of Napoleonic (but benign) toughness, driving him to achieve against the odds and generally succeeding.
His sister Minnie taught him to sew, and by the age of 16 Harry had opened his own drapers shop in Newport Road. He and his younger brother Walter lived out their lives in M’bro. Together they built up a successful property business, which led to other ventures as well. The first bomb to fall in the area in World War II landed on a house of theirs in Port C1arence. Before the war they had started to build a housing estate which included "Carmel Gardens" and "Ruth Avenue". The latter name appeared throughout the war on the destination panel of the blue double decker buses travelling that route. My school friends found it hard to believe that the street really was named after me.
Harry was a man ahead of his time, helping with the children, doing housework and cooking. He believed that a woman should be able to earn her own living, even if married. He wanted both his son and daughter to become doctors. My younger brother Alan is a consultant radiologist in Chesterfield.
Shalom Cohen served as Chazan in M’bro, Stockton and Hartlepool. In Rabbi Epstein’s absence, he would deliver the Shabbos sermon with the aid of a book of the Rabbi’s own sermons, which he left for that purpose. (Click here for image of Rev Cohen's tombstone)
Congratulations to David and Donald on producing this Newsletter. I look forward to reading future issues.