Kehilat Middlesbrough Newsletter No 31 July 2014 (Page 2)
David Saville – some recollections
David and I grew up in Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire from early childhood. Our families were friends. Our fathers went out weekly to watch the dog races and drink cocoa. We bought our kosher groceries at the Savilles’ shop. We sat near each other in shul. On Shabbat afternoons we would visit each other and often throw a ball around. We would eat in each other’s homes. Later we both went to the Jewish boarding school, Carmel College, between Oxford and Reading. We would often travel there together. In school our academic paths diverged. David went into the humanities then law. I went into the sciences then medicine. After college David moved to Israel and I moved to the United States. We stayed in contact but, over time, it became more intermittent. I visited David, Myriam and their small baby, Benjamin, in 1971 in Jerusalem. I also saw his sister Ruth there at that time. After that I didn’t see him until 1995, by which time his family was much larger. His mother, Rose, was still living at that time and we had a nice chat with her too, as we walked her through the quiet streets of Katamon late at night back to her flat. David had already had a stroke. I saw him again at the closing of the Middlesbrough shul, with his son Benny, in 1998. After that I saw him only one more time, at his office just before Rosh Hashanah in 2007. By then, I could see his health problems were taking their toll, although he retained his sense of humor and activities. Since I heard of his passing, I’ve been thinking about little incidents we shared, and especially about his distinct sense of humor. I cannot think about that without also remembering the warmth and cheerful hospitality of his parents, Morris (Maishe) and Rose, and his brother and sister, Michael and Ruth.
The Saville family was a glue in the Middlesbrough Jewish community. Rose and Morris (“Maishe”) ran a kosher delicatessen. Not only was it our local source of kosher groceries but it served as an information exchange. If there was any news in town - births, deaths, engagements, newcomers to town - you could hear it there, and you usually heard it there first. Morris would deliver the groceries right to people’s homes. Later his sons would do this too. They were one of the few religiously observant families (apart from the clergy) in the town. They made sure their children received a thorough Jewish education and each of them went on to contribute to the Jewish community at large. Morris also functioned as Hazzan Sheini (Second Cantor) at the shul, leading major services like Shaharit, the morning service, on the High Holidays. He did so with an insight and warmth that never failed to move. Services were a very personal event for him. At times he would cry. Eventually they moved to Israel, where their children David and Ruth had settled. Morris, after a couple of happy years, died there quite young. Rose lived there to old age and got to watch many of her grandchildren grow up.
I started writing this as a series of incidents involving David. Inevitably this led to recollections of the rest of his family.
- David and I were hitch-hiking home near Middlesbrough and we got a ride into the neighboring town of Stockton from a man in a car with Dutch license plates. His English was borderline. He was obviously unfamiliar with the area and needed directions. He asked us “Are you known in Stockton?” Without missing a beat, David replied “Notorious”.
- One year, David’s father, Maishe, formed a small choir to assist him in the RoshHashanah and Yom Kippur services. It consisted of Michael, David and me. He said it gave him strength to lead the services. When we went up there, the old man, Morris Pinto, my grandfather’s friend, turned to my father, Louis Bharier, and said “What’s this?”. My father told him it was a choir. He got upset and said to my father “Why weren’t my boys asked? I object!” His “boys” were the age of Maishe and my father. My father responded “So object!”
- The whole Saville family loved music, of all kinds. They had a fund of Jewish melodies and Maishe led the High Holiday services beautifully. Michael later founded and led a choir in Leeds. I remember eating home made tomato rice soup with them listening to Tchaikovsky’s 4th Symphony. Maishe was singing along and physically acting out the instrumental parts with the orchestra. David asked me if I liked the 5th Symphony. I said I didn’t know it. He praised it highly and told me how he had got to know it. He had sent Maishe to the classical record dealer in town, Austin Kyme, and asked him to buy the 4th Symphony. At the time Austin was out of stock of the 4th but told Maishe he had the 5th in stock. Maishe - the story goes – said “4th! 5th! What’s the difference!” and came home with the 5th.
- David studied the classic languages of Latin and Greek at Carmel College with Mr. Toalster, who was a Catholic scholar originally from Huddersfield at the opposite end of Yorkshire from Middlesbrough. He retained his Yorkshire accent. During a prolonged hospital stay he had taught himself Hebrew. One day, David told me, he came into the classroom and said he was getting tired of the texts on which they were working and said “Let’s do a little Mishna”.
- On another occasion Toalster came into the classroom singing the Yiddish song “Shikker iz a goy”, probably the most anti-Gentile song in Yiddish folklore. He told David he thought it was not a bad song but added “it’s a bit anti-Goy, don’t you think?”
- On one occasion, a stranger wandered into the Savilles’ deli in Middlesbrough and bought a pack of cigarettes. He then asked “How’s David?”. It was Toalster. He proceeded to identify himself to Rose and Morris and had a nice chat with them.
- David also worked closely at an advanced level in Hebrew with Raphael Loewe (whose wife was named Chloe), a real scholar, Hebrew purist and expert in medieval Spanish Hebrew writings. Loewe was not thrilled about what he viewed as the corruption of the Hebrew language in the modern State of Israel. One day he came across the unusual Hebrew phrase “Kol od” in a biblical text. He told David he was not aware of the occurrence of that phrase elsewhere in the Bible but remarked that it did occur in “some Zionist hymn” that started “Kol od b’levav”, the opening of Hatikvah, the Israeli national anthem!
- After an interval of close to 40 years, I visited David in Jerusalem in 2007. One of the first things he said to me was “ADC 182”. He had to explain. It was the license plate number of my father’s Morris 7 car, bought when I was 7 or younger. I replied “PXG 77”. He didn’t get it at first either. It was the license plate number of his father’s Morris van, of similar vintage. (The reason that number stuck in my memory was that his father, Maishe Saville’s favorite show at the time was “77 Sunset Strip” and he would point out the connection with his license plate number.)
- “Killed a cat (with the car) in Sunderland the other day. Messy business. Don’t advise you to try it”.
- A few of us, including David, were stuck in a train that was heavily delayed, by fog I think, from King’s Cross to northeast England. One of the train’s attendants came by and we questioned him about the projected length of the delay. He said “Don’t worry, you’ll be home in time for Rosh Hashonoh”. He had seen the Jewish emblems on our school blazers. We spent a while playing Jewish geography with him after that, trying to figure who he was related to that we knew.
- We boarded an overnight train to London with David one time (“We” usually meant David, his cousin Mayer Cohen from Sunderland, Leslie Nussbaum from Newcastle and me). David was recovering from having had an abscess drained that day. For our bedtime story he told us about the procedure in lurid detail, especially the various Technicolor shades of pus that came out, yellow, red, green and blue.
- In the Middlesbrough shul one Shabbat I saw an unfamiliar face in the ladies gallery and I asked David if he knew who she was. He replied “That’s Sheyna” then added slightly mischievously in Yiddish “Du hast nisht gehert fun Sheyna?” (You haven’t heard of Sheyna?) Sheyna was a recent convert to Judaism who had married one of our members. Converts are encouraged to take on a Jewish name. (I changed the name. I think “Sheyna” is still with us.)
- There was a Jewish family in the Middlesbrough area who did not desire any ties with the Jewish community. The father, a doctor, was from Germany and had survived the Holocaust. He felt that religion was the source of many of mankind’s problems and he did not want his children to grow up with religion of any kind. He did, however, retain his taste for Jewish food. One day his daughter came into the Savilles’ deli to buy stuff. She talked about coming back the following week, to be told by Rose that they would be closed for a Jewish holiday. Rose told me she then said “That’s right. You are the people who killed Christ”. Rose was not shy about calling the father and telling him what his daughter had said, being sure to ask him if that is what growing up in England with no religion meant. He apologized profusely and after that started to identify more with Jewish causes, including volunteering to dig at the archeological site of Massada in Israel.
- On another train ride from London, David returned from walking along the train and told me that my aunt was on the train. I asked which aunt. Instead of saying her name he said her address “75 Roman”. He had memorized the addresses of pretty much the entire Middlesbrough Jewish community from doing home deliveries from his parents’ deli.
- David told me that he was crossing the English Channel in a boat returning from a vacation in Europe. He was wearing his kippah, as he always did. Someone on the boat asked him if this would be his first time in England. He replied “The second time actually. The first time I was there for 22 years”.
These are some of my memories of David and his family. I am filled with sadness that he is no longer with us. My first instinct was to think of picking up the phone and talking to him about it! May his memory be for a blessing.