POETIC JUSTICE, OR IS IT WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND ?
Back in the 1930s living in London where I was at school we had a pupil called Lesley Richfield…He was a bright and spirited pupil and I think two years my senior. In the days when the Yoyo was a craze he excelled and became one of its "Champions" ; whereupon he was engaged to demonstrate his prowess (for pay.!) at Selfridges in Oxford Street.
This he did at risk during school hours until it came to the attention of the headmaster. He was called to order and severely reprimanded with a warning. A year later he got caught up in the craze of the Diabollo, which was a shaped reel which was balanced on a string suspended between two sticks and by dexterous manipulation of the sticks the reel was tossed up in the air and caught in various different
Once again he became one of the champions and was again invited by Selfridges to demonstrate and promote this new product. Needless to say, his independent venture once again into the commercial world was viewed with serious consequences by the school head and he was asked not to reappear again at the school.! Many years later after the war I came across Lesley in S.Africa where he had become a well known personality in the Broadcasting world.
Lesley had a sister (Cissy) who was a friend of my two sisters and attended the girls' school across the road to mine, and eventually married my Hebrew teacher. We all belonged to the same Synagogue which had a Cheder (Hebrew School) and where we used to celebrate the various festivals and other activities.
The time arrived when I had reached my BarMitzah, and my mother wished that I continue with my Hebrew and Judaica studies. Unfortunately there was no higher class and I found myself back in the same class doing the same course all over again with the same Hebrew teacher. What does a young impish boy of thirteen do finding himself in a boring situation ?
Mischief. ! The Hebrew teacher Martin Bloch had a habit of walking up and down between the rows of desks in his academic gown. Coming to class one day I had filled my pockets with clothes pegs and each time he passed me by, another clothes peg was duly clipped on to his gown.
The giggling soon grew until Moshe discovered that he was the butt of the amusement and demanded to know who was the perpetrator of this prank ! Silence prevailed until he threatened to hold the class back for another hour. This was my downfall and I was hauled before the Headmaster Mr Davidson and given a severe warning.
A few weeks later teacher set up a test on the blackboard in which we had to translate an English passage into Hebrew. Break time arrived and the class withdrew except for yours truly who thought it would be fun to change some of the words in the passage to give it new meaning ! The class returned to continue and soon complained about the changes which they could not comprehend. Once again the threat was directed at the class. “ Own up whoever or else…etc”.
The chopper came down and once again I found myself facing Mr Davidson . Martin Bloch had finally claimed Victory and I was 'asked' to take my leave of the
When I had finished Matric and left school our family relocated to Johannesburg where I attended college qualifying as a pharmacist. With World War ll in progress, and after qualifying I then proceeded to S.Rhodesia (where I was born) to join the army. While posted there I fell in love with the country and the people.
After the war and after having established a successful pharmacy in Johannesburg I decided on an extensive travel overseas and met my future wife Aliza,(aSabra), during a stopover in Tel Aviv. And we became engaged within 48 hours of meeting I had to return home but two months later eturned to Israel to marry Aliza and took her back toJohannesburg A couple of years later we decided to move on to S. Rhodesia.
Some time after we had settled down, Aliza was approached by the chairman of the Board of Hebrew Education and asked if she could 'help out' at the Hebrew School for a term or two, or until they could find a replacement teacher,(The contract for the incumbent Hebrew teacher had not been renewed. This 'help out' period resulted in her taking on the main role in the teaching of Hebrew and Judaica in Salisbury (Harare) for the next 30 years until we came on
The irony in all this was when I discovered that the Hebrew teacher who Aliza was replacing was no other than the same Martin Bloch who had claimed his victory over me at the Cheder which I had attended in London some twenty years previously, and who had somehow followed me some 4000 miles to take up a Hebrew teachers position in Salisbury .
In a strange way the two stories of how Lesley and I were both “expelled” from our respective ‘schools’, and the way in which our lives resurfaced through his sister) and became connected some 20 years later is a source of wonder to me to this day.
When I look back on my involvement in Jewish communal affairs and especially in Jewish education in Rhodesia I have wondered over how, if at all, I was influenced by my experience as a youngster. ! No doubt however some of it through my wife, as we had many discussions over the problems which confronted her as Headmistress of the afternoon Hebrew School in Salisbury. Pupils were missing classes due to other activities, and all the other logistics necessary in providing a comprehensive Jewish education.
As a result Aliza and I started lobbying and agitating for and eventually succeeded in persuading the Zionist Organisation and Jewish Board of Deputies to sponsor and appoint a steering committee for the establishment of the Sharon Jewish Day School,
I am proud of the part that Aliza and I were able to play in our endeavours for Jewish education. In Salisbury *Harare)