Part 53: Sunday, 13th March 1960, 8.35p.m.

Mr Balin died, after much suffering and hospitalisation. The internment at Marlow Rd. cemetery. Mick and Sam comported themselves very well; Mick tall, thin, Roman-ascetic, in regulation bowler; Sam more rounded. Newman, the G/G synagogue minister said it was not permitted to deliver a hesped [eulogy] on Purim, but gave a short hesped (a zchiss [honour] which the deceased earned by virtue of Mick’s wardenship of the G/G synagogue.

Dined with E. yesterday at Gennaro’s [?] & saw Irma La Douce; our wedding anniversary celebration. E. enjoyed the lights and the general living it up; Leicester Square on a Saturday night is a fine place to be away from.

Am teaching French Monday evening’s at Church St, English for foreigners (mostly middle-aged Hungarian Jewesses) at Woodberry Down on Tuesday evenings, and E. for F. (mostly German/Austrian domestics) at Southgate on Wednesdays. Will carry on this term, but must drop at least one class for the summer term, when I am due to teach at a secondary school.

Received a letter asking me to do a light article on “Mechutanship” [mechutan =Yiddish term for your child’s parent-in-law] or something similar for a J.C. “Brides and Homes” supplement. Concocted a “Letter to a Baal Simcha” which duly appeared; “rotten she-b’rotten” said my mother. I agree, but I have a family to feed, and cannot afford any never-publish-anything-beneath-his-own-highest-level nonsense.


Witriol Unpublished

Joseph Witriol kept his articles, both published and unpublished. In some cases, I have to admit, it’s understandable that his submissions were rejected. Let’s Dabber Ivrit, from 1983, being a case in point.

Like the wonderful Julie Burchill, who was on Desert island Discs today, sharing with the audience her enthusiasm for Hebrew (this choice refers), my father was a lover of, and indeed an expert in, the language. But his opportunities to talk or listen to normal, conversational Modern Hebrew were very limited. I seem to remember one of his Israeli cousins described his spoken Hebrew as Ivrit shel Shabbat, presumably suggesting a punctilious formality and grammatical precision.

Acknowledging in its subtitle, Miles Kingston’s Let’s Parler Franglaisthe article was rejected by the Jewish Chronicle’s features editor:

 …I personally was greatly amused by it but I fear that it will be lost on the bulk of our readers…

My cynical interpretation of this being

I personally was able to understand the Hebrew, unlike the bulk of our readers…

The piece is a conversation, almost exclusively in Hebrew (albeit with “Heblish/Engrew(?) elements) between two fathers, one of whom is ruefully talking about his children. This character is clearly based on my dad. There is the odd line or two that can raise a chuckle, assuming you know Hebrew, but it lacks the wit and sparkle that much of his writing had.

But then, I struggle to see the humour of the Franglais pieces dans le premier place; C’est a un-truc poney, ÀMHA.

Lid Off Hasmonean

This article has already been referred to in connection with Journal entries relating to Hasmonean.

Lid off Hasmonean was published in The Jewish Chronicle, dated 4th November 1977 and under that date he added to his cuttings book:

Twelve years since the last feature article in the J.C; 5½ years since my last review in the J.C. In the meantime I had submitted an article – Jewish Forenames – which was accepted, but which I then asked them not to publish because, or rather unless, they printed G-d, which they declined to do.

I also submitted, unsuccessfully, two articles “lifted” from my (unpublished) book on Yiddish, and more recently an article on “Neologisms in Modern Hebrew” which, too, was rejected by the Features Editor Meir Persoff.

My title for the attached article was Hasmo, I wrote Hasmonean Secondary School (not Grammar) and the parenthesis about my retirement was added by the J.C. sub – good (I had mentioned the fact of my retirement in a covering letter).

Both this article and the one on Jewish forenames are mentioned in Part V of The Witriol Dairies as featured on melchettmike’s blog.

Sketches by Edith, Words by Joseph

“The Spring Bride”, a 24 page supplement published with The Jewish Chronicle of March 4, 1960 included Letter to a Baal Simcha by my father.

In his cuttings book he added a note:

13/3/59.  I was asked to do “an article in lighter vein” on “Mechutanship” or “On Being a Mechutan” for a J.C. “Brides and Homes” supplement. This was the best I could do. The best thing I can say in favour is that the whole process from insemination to parturition [did my very recent birth influence his choice of metaphor!?] took only a week or so; the actual writing of the first draft only a few hours. Edith’s sketches, too, took only an hour or so; though rejected for publication they stay here [i.e. in his cuttings book] to testify to a happy collaboration.

My mother’s sketches for the wedding article

In 1951, my father had written an article on Machmanship for The JC. Clearly the paper by now had him down as Anglo-Jewry’s Stephen Potter.


Who is a Jew?

Here is the link to the article  Who is a Jew? published in The Jewish Chronicle, 15th May 1959.

From my father’s Journal dated 3rd May:

I gained second prize – 25 guineas – in the J.C. Essay Competition. They rang up for me to give them some dope, and a photograph, for their “Incidentally” column. Rather depressing to think this is the nearest to fame I shall ever get. The essay itself was a feeble affair; the lucid analysis, firm grasp of all the problems raised, are conspicuously absent. A few Hebrew and Yiddish phrases and – perhaps it is not unfair to say – a general readability – gained it the prize, I suppose.

He told The Jewish Chronicle’s diarist that, at present,

my translation work and eleven-week-old son, Philip Israel, occupy all my time.

The diary piece also referred to his many “scholarly and witty articles” for the paper and that he was involved in the Ajex out-door speaking campaign sponsored by the Defence Committee of The Board of Deputies.

Twenty-one years later, in what I think was his sole appearance in The Times Letters To The Editor page, he gave a terse rejoinder to a letter from Leo Abse, both published under the heading of Who is a Jew?

The winner of The Jewish Chronicle competition, incidentally, was Rabbi Ira Eisenstein a major figure in the Reconstructionist movement of American Judaism.

The Young Tchernichovski

Published in The Jewish Chronicle of September 25, 1953, this article, on The Young Tchernichovski,  by my father is an example of his erudition and philological expertise.

The Israeli “hymn” referred to in the article is still part of the Israeli dancing repertoire usually, dafka, in an instrumental version. Just as dafkaesque, Rav Youtube’s seemingly unique video for this Zionist anthem (albeit with its “universalist aspirations”) features an Arab-Jewish choir. Dayan Google also led me to this version of the song which however schmaltzy is somewhat more appropriate.

As mentioned before, for technical reasons –  foremost of which being my technical inexpertise – the link is to a pdf file which may require some manipulation (zooming etc) in order to read satisfactorily.

The Hebrew of the Bible

This is the link to an article for The Jewish Chronicle dated September 12, 1947, The Hebrew of The Bible.

It opens, possibly somewhat lethargically, as a pdf file and may need manipulation to read clearly. He notes in his cuttings scrapbook that he was paid three guineas. Based on his preserved cuttings, this was his second published JC article, the first being an article on Yiddish, the previous post on this site.

First Jewish Chronicle article

This is my father’s first article in The Jewish Chronicle. At least, it is the first one in the cuttings book in which he preserved his published articles and reviews. He noted that he was paid three guineas for it.

I have uploaded it in this post as a pdf file from the JC archives which may take a little while to open.

It summarises some of the key points he makes at greater length in Mumme Loohshen – an Anatomy of the Yiddish Language I note he used a different transcription in the article, namely mamme lushen.

Hasmonean – the final chapter

The final part of the diary entries from my father’s journal as it relates to his time at Hasmonean is  here on the excellent melchettmike blog.

Post-retirement, the occasional reference to Hasmonean or contact with ex-colleagues came up. Here are two examples, transcribed from the hand-written entry with my additions in square brackets:

Sunday 28th January 1979, 1850

E J Frank came round on Wednesday. At 70+ he is fit, though constantly blinking. He knew nothing of my “Hasmo” article in the J.C., here , so that my fears that he might have been “broighiss” with me on a/c of it, were groundless….

…The story [E J Frank told] in the name of Mendel Block, who succeeded Rev. Rosenbaum at our  [i.e. dad’s family synagogue, when growing up]old Borough Synagogue, was of a discussion in the Hasmo staffroom, when MB was on the staff, as to whether a Jew could watch opera or ballet. “Certainly not ballet,” said MB, “Al tistakel lakankan (can-can)”. This was off the cuff, and as such first-rate, in my view. [my brother had to explain to me the wordplay – “Al tistakel bekankan” from Pirkei Avos, Ethics of the Fathers, meaning “Don’t look at the container”(continuing with”…rather, (look) at what’s inside”.)]

Monday 21st May 1979, 1218

Y’day to reception to Moishe Ellman [pictured in this photo on melchettmike] at Page Street, Hasmo Girls’ School. Very enjoyable. Had been a little surprised to receive invite in 1st place – thought was persona non grata. However Mr Baddiel [see melchettmike’s hasmo-legends-xiv]  was cordiality itself. Cd it be that he had not read my JC article in which he was obviously the target of my criticism of the ultra-O elements at Hasmo? Doubt it. Probably had forgotten it, or just thought it was shtuss and not worth bothering with. WWS [“Willy” Stanton, headmaster], too, was very amiable, though he hadn’t emerged all that well from my article. Albert Myer came over ostentatiously to Sam Balin and ostentatiously ignored me. I don’t quite know what I did to him. He saw me once on the bus with bare head. It’s hardly worth the bother of commenting on.

The whole thing was very well done. Moishe was presented with an illuminated address by a distinguished OB, a Ph D mathematician and, of course, ex yeshiva bachur. Moishe spoke quite well, said he’d been setting himself a multiple choice question as to the reasons why he had gone on so long past retirement age. Of the five possible answers (loved teaching maths so much, couldn’t tear himself away from such a fine bunch of colleagues, needed the money, was dreading his retirement speech and wanted to put it off as long as possible, had come to the conclusion that the last was the right answer. (I have forgotten the fifth choice).

March 4 2018

Going through my dad’s papers recently, I found a letter and a postcard from pupils as well as his retirement card from 1977.