Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dear Mum - 1

{Read this. It's good stuff. Very English and Temimus'dik. There's a lot more of these letters, and I'd like to know if this interests the oylem out there. Otherwise I won't bother with the rest of the letters, some of which are very telling about the mindset of frum Jews in those days...}

The London Jewish Tribune this week started publishing a series of letters I wrote home some 55 years ago from Jerusalem. I flatter myself that they may be of interest to some of my family, friends and acquaintances, who would not normally see the Newspaper.The first article published in the 10 Sep '09 edition is addended below.

Good Shabbos
Elozor Reich

From the London Jewish Tribune: "In August 1953 Elozor Reich, then aged 21 years old, left his comfortable family home in Manchester to learn in the famous Chevron Yeshivah in Yerusholayim, after having earlier learned in Staines and Gateshead Yeshivos. His correspondence with his parents is a veritable historical treasure. The letters are reproduced (with some omissions) as written. Any clarifying additions are in square brackets.

Home from Home

24 August, 1953

Somewhere between Greece and Eretz Hakodesh on S.S. Grimani

Dear Parents AMV"S

I am now aboard ship and I intend just starting this letter and adding to it later.

Since I left Manchester exactly one week ago today I have seen so many people and received so many impressions that it seems like a month already. Well, I think the best thing is to start at the beginning and describe in short my journey so far. The first thing I would like to say is that if you think of coming to EY, do so by air or alternatively as second best, travel first class and only take as much luggage as you can easily carry without assistance. As I do not belong to either category I have had a pretty rough time. It is difficult to describe a worse feeling than being utterly at the mercy of horrible porters.

Well to start – when I arrived in London I got my seven pieces to the Left Luggage Office at Liverpool St. Station and went to 121 [Manor Rd, N16] to find [R'] Moshe [Sternbuch] [his sister was married to my brother Yudel] in sole charge. He was controlling a traffic of endless meshulochim and other bearded and clean-shaven Jews. Some came in to sleep and some just to eat sardines from the tin and various other unwashed vegetables. Immediately when I arrived [R'] Moshe pounced on me and led me in and introduced me to all present and invited me to join in and share the sustenance. After that he found me a vacant bed and I managed to get to sleep after digesting a long list of people to whom to give his regards and a lot of general information about Yeshivah life in EY. I boarded the train at Liverpool St [for Harwich] next morning and the trip across to the Hook [of Holland] was very enjoyable. So far so good.

On arrival at Holland my troubles started. Since I had no train reservation my plan was to get off the boat first and grab a seat. Wishful thinking. My seven pieces of luggage made all my plans miscarry. Firstly, the was a great paucity of porters portering in this particular port. Secondly, they were all lazy. Thirdly, my luggage was all on the wrong deck. Eventually, I got off the boat about third last and found the platform where stood an immensely long giant train. But after asking three porters, two Cooks’ officials and one interpreter it transpired by majority vote that only one sole carriage was to Italy [where I had to catch my boat]. The rest were to be shed at diverse junctions across Europe; where exactly there was no clear majority. One porter who said the whole train was Rome-bound quickly lost his deposit. The train was due to leave in ten minutes so there was no time for a recount. My porter had deserted me and my seven pieces at the bottom of the platform (that did not prevent another angrily claiming the Union rate). The only thing to do was to get into the carriage marked Ventimiglia. Now, besides the normal people for their wagon there were a whole crowd like myself who had been diverted from France, so it was a rugby scrum. Three quarters of the seats were reserved and the odd quarter was taken long before I approached the battlefield. The only thing was to get on somehow. Having had some practice at various tishen I picked up the heaviest case, held it like a bayonet and charged. This operation I repeated several times and beyond being near a state of collapse, I was O.K.

My seven luggage pieces were littered at intervals along the corridor and I found myself in a vice between a Scottish priest and an aristocratic Italian student who could talk any language you can think of in less than ten seconds and knew everything about anything. Compared to us sardines in a tin were as far apart as the Poles. It was absolutely unimaginable. So started the journey across the Continent at 6.40 p.m. Monday. I was right at the back and at every second station officials would enter. Their entry necessitated lifting out a whole pile of luggage and a few bodies. At a frontier, and we crossed three, each time before and after, four officials would bother us, one to examine passports and ask questions, another to stamp them, a third to dish out forms asking silly questions and the fourth just stam a nosy parker. Not understanding Dutch and Italian and pretending not to understand German saved some bother. I did not get any sleep at all, firstly because of the oppressive conditions we were in and secondly because of the above officials and ticket collectors of whom there is a plethora right across Europe.

We arrived in Basel early in the morning and relief came. They tagged some coaches on and half the people got off. From then on I had a seat but the magnificent Swiss scenery, which I beheld for the first time, kept me awake. At 3 p.m. Tuesday we arrive in Milan over an hour late in broiling sun. There was no porter in sight and so again out with seven pieces on to the platform. After resting several minutes I hunted out a porter and managed to get him to understand that I wanted the stuff in the Left Luggage Office. This accomplished I mastered the intricacies of a strange telephone system and got through to Jose T [son of an Milan family, friends of my parents]. He immediately came round, showed me where to have a bath, took me to the flat where I met Mr & Mrs T, and where I had a bite. After that we went to see the shipping company, who treat you quite decently if you speak English and were informed that I would still have to register in Genoa. J. then showed me the sights of Milan including the smart shops and a brand new Bays Haknesses which looks like an opera house. After oversleeping the night in a hotel it was a big rush to catch the 7.35 a.m. train for Genoa. On getting there, again trouble with the porters (never will I take so much luggage again). I took a taxi to the port. There was not much bother there, just the formalities of the ticket and the Customs. The ship immediately looked rotten and so it proved. A cabin shared with fifteen others, no chairs, towels, air or room. There is only a small space of deck allotted to the third class and deck chairs cost 4/- [shillings]for the journey and every time you want your paid-for chair you have to eject someone. The food situation is not so bad but rather monotonous. I am living on hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, tinned salmon and sardines, and bread. So far the sea has been smooth and we have had only pleasant weather.

Immediately on boarding I looked round for Shoimray Shabbos etc. and found two; a Melamed and a very old Bochur from Venezuela going to join relatives. On Thursday we arrive in Naples and I joined a tour by bus. We saw Vesuvius and celebrated the ruins of Pompeii. It was very expensive but well worth it....... On returning I found two Bachurim from New York who were going to the Belzer Yeshiva and had boarded. This was already their third week at sea. Friday night there was a whole to-do about a Minyan. One Mechalel Shabbos who liked the Bretel scraped together a Minyan. Of course, the Belzer boys did not want to join in and there was a row. Shabbos afternoon we docked in Greece, Ve'Iyanti Besforim VeRo'isi SheMutar Loredes Min Hasphinoh, but the trouble was one had to carry a [reboarding permit] paper. I tried to avoid this but failed ignominiously and so had to stay on board.

Today is Sunday. We arrive tomorrow in Cyprus where I hope to go ashore and Tuesday Be'Ezer Hashem Nizkeh Laylach BoEretz SheAfilu Moshe Lo Zochoh Laylach Bo. On the boat there is a mixture of British, Americans (mostly 1st class), French, Italians, Greeks and Cypriots. There are also a few Sabras Mumrim LeHachis RCH"L . Never have I met Shekutzim as low. I have made friends with a few English people including one from Manchester! I spend the time learning, sunbathing, playing chess and talking to various people. Taking everything into consideration the ship journey could have been far worse.

Well, I shall leave off here until later.


AK said...

Tzig - Great stuff. Please put my vote in to post the rest of the letters.

Where were these printed?

Friendly Anonymous said...

Wow!!! does anyone even right letters anymore?

Great stuff. Keep them coming.

Gershy said...

Very good!Want to see more
The writer is the uncle of R'Uren Reich of Lakewood son-in-law of R'Schneour Kotler.
The letters were published in the Jewish Tribune the Agudah newspaper in England.Hamodia is privately owned and has a British owner and edition

סתם said...

very interesting. Loved how they fought over the mechaleli shabbos for the minyan...

berl said...

Lozi Reich published theseletters in the JT quite some time ago

Snag Jr. said...

How did the Sabra mumr lechachis get past the censcor