Kehilat Middlesbrough Newsletter No 20 July 2004 page 2 (of 4)
As I read Adam Miller's letter in your January issue some memories were stirred, which I thought had long been laid to rest in the back of my mind. As they concern both Adam's father Alan, and his grandfather Rabbi Louis, I thought I might share them with Adam and anyone else who might be interested.
My name is John Grunthal and I have lived in Middlesbrough since 1930. Alan and I were very good friends, and similarly my father had the greatest respect for Rabbi Miller. I am talking of the years leading up to the second world war. My father and Rabbi Miller would often walk part of the way home together after the final Shabbat service on Saturday evenings - no doubt deep in conversation on some religious matter. One evening my father took out his cigarette case and offered one to the Rabbi, who stopped and turned to my father and said, "Mr Grunthal, you really do disappoint me - you must have been carrying that in your pocket throughout the Sabbath" (tongue in cheek, no doubt). My father said nothing, but he opened the case and offered it - there was one cigarette there. "Go on, you have it, Rabbi Miller", he said, "I don't want one right now."
He then offered Rabbi Miller a light, thus compounding his sin by also carrying a lighter or box of matches. I somehow feel Rabbi Miller must have almost choked on that cigarette - but they continued their talk and finally went their separate ways. I seem to remember the Rabbi also tucked his handkerchief up his sleeve – he wouldn't even put that in his pocket.
One day during the school holidays, my father said to Rabbi Miller, "I am taking my son out for the day next week, would Alan like to come and keep him company?". Now Rabbi Miller was pretty strict in the upbringing of his children, but to our surprise he agreed - it would probably be the first time Alan had been anywhere for a whole day with anyone except his own family. Obviously, Rabbi Miller had great faith in my father's judgment as to what constituted a suitable day out for the Rabbi's son - aged about 11, I would say.
In the event, he took us for the day to look round Durham Cathedral - in great detail - I'm sure Alan's religious education was immeasurably broadened on that day! At lunchtime we went for a snack in a small restaurant. I remember that weeks afterwards, Alan told me he had never eaten out before, so he determined to watch my father closely and do exactly as he did. So when Dad ordered a plate of mulligatawny soup, Alan did the same, and didn't enjoy it too much!
On another occasion I was at the Millers' house for Saturday afternoon tea - Mrs Miller provided the most delicious spread, she was such a kind and generous person. As we sat down, Alan's sister Naomi, said "Oh, I haven't got a serviette". (We used to bother about such things in those days!). I said, "Never mind Naomi, you can have half of mine" and I promptly tore mine down the middle. Now it was the turn of the younger generation to upset the Rabbi, and in his own house too! One just DID NOT tear paper on the Sabbath. There was a sharp intake of breath on my left, where the Rabbi sat and a deathly hush descended on the tea table - plus a few giggles, I must say. Rabbi Miller raised his right arm, and I instinctively ducked, but he only wished to adjust his kippa! Needless to say, the bounds of friendship were more than enough to overcome such minor transgressions, and with the coming of the war we all went our separate ways. Alan and I did not meet again for over 50 years. when he came back to Middlesbrough for his mother's funera1 - what an emotional reunion that was.
To end on a lighter note, I wonder if Alan remembers in the old Brentnall Street shul (now alas a multi storey car park) we used to play at times in a back yard. There was a gate opening onto a back alley, and on the wall outside was a machine that dispensed chewing gum - you put in your penny and pulled out a drawer and there was your packet of gum. Two lads (who shall be nameless - not who you think!), worked out that if you were very careful and didn't push the drawer all the way back, then pulled it out again smartly, you got a second packet for nothing! The smart ones among you will have realized of course that this was the origin of the now ubiquitous offer "Buy one, get one free". Trust the CHILDREN OF ISRAEL to have all the best ideas and long before Mr Tesco et al came along!
It's nice to reminisce sometimes and I have enjoyed putting all this on paper. I hope you will share these few memories with me, Adam, and that they will help to put a little flesh on those photographs you saw so recently. John Grunthal Middlesbrough, England
The following letter was sent by Nan Bloom to the former members of the Middlesbrough Hebrew Congregation:
You may recall that in relation to the closure of the Synagogue, it was decided that, as part of the disposal of the assets, a donation of £10,000 should be given to the Teesside Hospice. I have now had a letter from Mr William Gould, Chairman of the Hospice, to say that after an evaluation of much-needed new beds, the money had been used to purchase five beds which have controls that can be used by patients or staff to adjust the shape and height, which makes them more comfortable for the patients and easier for the nursing staff to manage.
The gift, which is greatly appreciated, will be recorded along with other major donations, in a book which is kept for that purpose.
Mr Gould had promised John that he would let him know how the money was spent, so that the community could be informed. Hence his letter to me with the request that I should pass on the information and the Hospice's appreciation "to the benefactors". He also adds that if any of the former Congregation wish to see the book, one of the beds or the Hospice, he would be very pleased to arrange it.
With kind regards Nan Bloom Osmotherley 9th March 2004
It 's a MOST impressive website now Donald and must delight the former Middlesbrough. community, which really is a LIVING community because of the Newsletter.
I have never yet been there, I hope to go.
Perhaps, when you have time, you can change the grandfather to GREAT-grandfather in the MEMORIES page about my family. [Ed note: Done!] I know now why he was in Prison. I have the Court Report and a photo of Simon, in Durban and a gentleman once again, far from the prison stigma. Best wishes Miriam Margolyes
Heard a lovely story from David Simon. As one of the last remaining Jews on Teesside he gives a lot of talks to schools (this is the age of ecumenism). He was recently asked to talk to five year olds, and on arrival asked for a blackboard to write up the key words. Instead he was shown the large board arranged by the teacher, with all the words on, plus two kiddush cups, a tallit & kippah, seder plate etc. All real, not photos and purchased by the teacher herself. A little while later he received letters of thanks and drawings from the class, along with a cheque for charity, funded by the little ones who had had baked cakes and sold them