Kehilat Middlesbrough Newsletter No 5 January 2000 page 2
On 28 June 1939 I arrived towards evening at Liverpool Street Station together with my parents. I was immediately separated from them to spend a few weeks in a convent before being sent on to M’bro , to stay with the Freemans. Their daughter, Beryl (Babs), took me under her wing and into her heart. I was desperately lost and confused. We had survived Vienna and Nazi Austrian persecution and all the horrible scenes which were enacted against the Jews were very vivid in my mind.
I started school in Ayresome Street but, being unable to speak English, was bullied and beaten. I instinctively knew that my survival depended upon my learning English very quickly. Within six weeks I had learned to speak English. Thankfully the beatings then stopped and I was accepted.
To this day I remember the warmth and kindness of Wolfy and Hindy, Babs’ parents. They treated me with equality. On the rare occasions my parents came to visit, I would go afterwards to find their footprints where they had walked.
The terrible trauma of separation from my parents and being alone so often, has never quite left me. To this day, I guard my children, old and young, with that special attention practised only by a Holocaust survivor. Babs Freeman took the place of my mother. She nursed me when I was sick and spent much time being part of my sad life.
I found only warmth and caring from the M’bro Kehila, especially Rabbi Miller and his wonderful children. Rabbi Miller taught me the Aleph Bet with great patience. Jewish education was non-existent in Vienna at that time, as the Nazis had closed all Jewish institutions.
In retrospect, it was Rabbi Miller’s tuition that kept my Jewish identity intact during those evacuation years after I left M’bro, when I was sent to non-Jewish schools and church services on Sundays.
Although I view that period of my life as horrendous, there is no doubt that the M’bro Kehila was instrumental in holding me to my people. The dedication of Babs Freeman and her parents will remain with me always. I have a fine wife and five wonderful children, all following the ways of Torah and mitzvot.
A little four year old lost refugee, who was given such love and kindness at a critical stage of his life, is now by the grace of God a 65 year old man, now feeling safe. Meir (Martin) Fleischer London, England
I am Ruth Sherwin, nee Israel. I am sorry that I haven’t written before, but all your wonderful letters have spurred me into action.
I was born in 1942, the youngest daughter of Dr Joseph Israel and Dorothy (nee Lazarus). My father was in general practice in Southfield Road. I had two sisters, Eleanore and Judith. My uncle David Israel, aged 92 and married to Charlotte, still lives in Nunthorpe.
We lived at 24 Eastbourne Road, Linthorpe. On one side lived Geoffrey and Rita Benjamin and on the other, someone who was my best friend—both at school and later—Rochelle Selwyn (Schmulewitsch). We still see each other regularly. She is now Mrs Specter and lives in Northwood, London. When we were 15 years old Rochelle and I would travel to Newcastle on the small two carriage diesel train to join in with the Jewish Students Society, coming home on the last train arriving after midnight. The train was full of soldiers returning from leave and Rochelle and I had a great time as they "chatted us up". So different from school the next morning!
Some of my contemporaries were (apart from Rochelle) Pamela Cohen, Gwen Lamb, Ruth Saville, Helen Simons, Estelle Levy, Wendy Fleischmann, Melvyn Kersh, Alan Cohen, Donald Wiseman, Bernard Vyner, Michael and David Saville, and the Bharier family.
I have fond memories of walking with friends to shul in Park Road South and queuing up after the service to shake hands with Rev Kersh, a kindly, lively man with a real sense of humour. On Yom Kippur we would creep out of shul and wander round the park opposite to gossip about the boys who sat downstairs, taking our minds off our pangs of righteous hunger.
My home was always full of classical music. Dad played the violin and had a beautiful singing voice. My mother played piano and took lessons in composition, eventually writing a biblical opera.
We girls all had regular piano and singing lessons; as a little girl I was often entered for Festival Competitions and was usually expected to win! I would travel on my own on the little diesel train to Newcastle, feeling very grown up, to have my regular piano lesson with Dr Reginald Cooper, the organist at Hexham Abbey.
During the war my two sisters were evacuated to the village of Swainby out in the country. My parents had a love of the countryside around M’bro and I recall many excursions and incidents, including having to push our little Austin 7, driven by my mum, up the exceedingly steep Sheepscar Hill above Swainby.
When I was 17 I won a place at The Royal Academy of Music in London to study piano and singing and following my degree I went off to teach at the British Embassy School in Teheran in "Persia" - still during the time of the Shah. On my return I went to teach in Docklands, which was a pretty tough experience.
I eventually came to Leeds to study piano with Fanny Waterman, met Jeffrey, a GP and married in 1968. We have two sons Jonathan and Adam.
In retrospect we must have been considered a slightly unconventional family, although we certainly enjoyed playing a part in the community. Ruth Sherwin Leeds, England
Many thanks for all the Newsletters, which I have read with interest. I commend your initiative, energy and enthusiasm.
I came to M’bro in 1962 with my husband Morris Gordon. He had been appointed principal lecturer in chemistry at Constantine College. Our years in M’bro are particularly memorable, as my children Helen and Daniel were born there. The community was very friendly and supportive. Many of your readers will recall Morris’s beautiful chazanut. One of the greatest pleasures was the friendship of the other young families. It is good to hear of them through your Newsletter. We left M’bro in 1968 to teach at Carmel College. We subsequently spent some time in Australia, before returning to London where, after only a year and a half, he died suddenly.
We always liked to think that, of all our travels, our years at Birchgate Road (off Harrow Road) were the happiest. Joyce Gordon London, England