Words spoken by Naomi Bar-Yosef at the Shivah


Last night my daughter, Noa, talked about her Zaida. Tonight I am going to talk about my Dad (rather than the Rabbi, scholar, philosopher, Talmudist…).

My mum who died less than 8 months ago always thought Dad would die before her and if she were talking tonight you would certainly realize that Dad was all her world. Her life revolved around him.  When my parents got engaged the Rosh Yeshivah told my mother that she was going to marry a genius (Ilui) and so should not let him do household tasks and thus spend maximum time with his work.  Both Mum and Dad took this very seriously and mum consequently, did everything for Dad! So first for Mum “speaking” I will quote from W.H.Auden’s famous Funeral Blues.

“Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone
…He was my North, my South, my East and West
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My Noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.”

Actually Dad also thought it would last forever.  When we recently discussed Mum’s tombstone wording he said that he had really wished the wording to be “When I fall in love it will be forever.”

We always had fun as a family.  Our friends were always welcome.  In fact, Mum and Dad told us when we had our own children that their happiest times were when our friends were over.  In school holidays Dad would take me to museums and we always had a “go” at the ball at St.Paul’s but neither of us ever conquered our fear of heights and so never made it to the ball!  I was an avid reader and many Sunday’s were spent either reading in the car at Bushey Cemetery while Dad was officiating at a funeral or stone setting) or watching a wedding from the top of the ladies gallery at the New West End Synagogue!

Our parents always trusted us and so Ivor, David and I were left for 6 weeks in 1963 (with our Bubba) while Dad, of course accompanied by Mum, gave an American lecture tour.  Ivor had just passed his driving test and so we had a great time! Phoning regularly between England and the States was unheard of then so instead we got wonderful letters from Dad.  Let me quote from just one of them dated April 7th 1963 on Beverly Wiltshire Hotel paper.

“Dear Ivor, Naomi and David,

 “Here we are staying at this absolutely fabulous hotel in Beverly Hills.  Everything is in the height of luxury including a white telephone next to the toilet.  You can imagine how Mum squeaked with delight.

 “The biggest trouble here is tipping. They expect the equivalent of 5 shillings
for carrying a couple of cases to the hotel room. The result is that I do all my own carrying.

 “On Thursday when we arrived, the Ladies Guild presented Mum with a lovely Californian Orchid.  We were taken out to lunch near where all the film stars congregate.  Naturally Mum says she saw Doris Day though I am not so sure.  We certainly saw Dave King walking near our hotel……Last night we went to a party at a ‘fabulous’ house – five bathrooms and a basketball court in the garden.  At midnight they began to cook cheese blintzes which they served at one o’ clock.  They eat the blintzes with jam. Horrible.

 “After the party at about half past one we drove over a tremendous mountain road with hairpin bends and deep chasms on either side.  As you come over the top you see spread in front of you hundreds of thousands of lights from the houses in the San Fernando valley. The cars are too wonderful for words. Every family has at least two.  When you have a haircut you sit down in a chair and someone polishes your shoes while a girl gives you a manicure.

 “The services in the Synagogues are too funny for words. On Friday night after I had spoken and the Rabbi had spoken the President went into the pulpit and began to tell jokes.  On Shabbos morning there was a Bar Mitzvah and the tables were groaning under every kind of food.  It was terrible. The food was served by coloured people wearing yarmulkes.  Since the hotel is too far to walk from we stayed at a Ranch Motel near the Shul.  It is shaped just like a ranch and the neon sign has a bucking bronco on it going on and off all the time.  The latest joke here is that a Jewish man named Mr. Lang had a neon sign. He was an old man so they called it ‘Old Lang’s sign’!

 Ta ta for now.

                All our love,
  Daddy “

Dad had, as a visitor this morning said, a “superior morality.” For example, I remember aged 5 going with my Dad to Seudah Shlishit or as we then called it Shalashudus. It was a long walk for a 5 year old and I can still smell the chopped herring and feel the taste of what was then called lemonade. When we got to where the shops were Dad would say that we must walk as fast as we could in order not to embarrass members of his Shul who might be shopping.  The idea of never embarrassing anyone was very important to Dad.  Another example was years later when we lived at the end of St. John’s Wood High Street.  Although the quickest way to the New London Synagogue was going along the High Street, Dad always refused to go the quick way on Shabbat in order not to embarrass anyone who was shopping. One Shabbat it was pelting with rain when we came out of the Synagogue and we tried to persuade Dad to go along the High Street to lessen the chance of getting totally soaked. He persistently refused to go that way but finally he gave in to my mother and our entreaties. We still got home thoroughly drenched! But without pneumonia which we might have got had we gone the longer way home.

Two days later on the Monday I went for a haircut in the High Street and Raymond the (Jewish) owner and hairdresser told me that when we had run past on Shabbat all the Jewish women who were coming out of the hairdryers quickly sat down again and pulled the hairdryer hoods down so as not to be seen! When I got home and told my Dad the story, I innocently thought he might laugh.  But he was really cross and said that we should not have persuaded him to go through the High Street and so embarrass the people.  

Up till early Shabbat morning when Dad died we all felt free to ask him all the questions we wanted and to get his advice. He always knew the right thing to say, the right anecdote. For example, last year in the School in Jerusalem where I teach I had a class of my secular pupils online with orthodox students from a Teachers Training College in Tel-Aviv. My 14 year old pupils did not meet their online student teacher till the end of course and this was at a “ceremony” to celebrate the end of the course. I wanted to be able to reach both audiences in my welcoming speech and, as usual in such circumstances, decided to phone Dad. In a split second he gave me a most appropriate part of the week’s Torah portion to quote. I later accepted all the compliments on my remarks!

Till Dad actually went “to the New London Synagogue in the sky” he kept his marvelous brain.  In fact on Thursday when he was so weak we were nevertheless joking and I told him that he had not yet reached the final stage as in Jacques' speech in Shakespeare and he answered “sans teeth, sans eyes, sans everything.” Then later on Thursday evening when the doctor warned that “it” could be tonight George Rothschild came to visit. (The only visitors we “allowed” were George and Rabbi Wittenberg.) Dad and George had been Rabbi and Chazan together for so many years and were always the best of friends. Ivor leaned over the hospital bed and asked Dad what his favourite prayer was that George sang? Dad thought for a split second and said “the marvellous Adon Olam that George sings".  We asked George to sing it but George was too choked up.

On Friday afternoon we were with Dad when he was going to have a procedure that could make him feel more comfortable.  When we were little and our children little, Dad used to sing all sorts of songs with us all.  One of his favourites was “Daisy, Daisy.” Ivor asked dad to join him in singing “Daisy, Daisy” and the two of them sang.  Dad died some 12 hours later at 2.08 am. on Shabbat morning.

For Ivor, David and me we knew the Shul was Dad’s second home. (Actually it was his first!) The Shul was so terribly important to him and the truth is the Synagogue always came first.  I was going to talk about Dad and his life as Rabbi, Philosopher, Writer, Scholar, Talmudist…..but there is so very much that I decided I just wanted you to know about him as a Dad.  He was also a wonderful and so caring grandfather to his grandchildren. They could talk to him about everything.  For example, for my parents 60th Wedding Anniversary when Mum was already sick but we did not realize how ill, the whole family was together for Pesach in Israel. Our son, Michael, was having a conversation with Dad about religion, Israel and other matters and I could see from afar that the discussion was becoming animated.  Apparently Michael then said “sorry Zaida I’m arguing with you and perhaps I am not being respectful” to which Dad replied that his greatest pleasure is to have such good discussions with his grandson.

When Dad became a great grandfather he was tickled pink - three times!  When his 4th great grand daughter (Ivor’s grand daughter) was born soon after Mummy died and named Yona Sophie (Yona Shula in Hebrew) it gave Dad immeasurable pleasure.

Dad we’ll miss you so terribly.  To whom will we turn to for advice, for a joke, for a good anecdote for a special occasion? We all love you so.

Yehi zecher zaddik livracha

Service Times

Friday night: 6:30pm
Shabbat morning: 9:15am
Sunday: 9:00am

Rosh Chodesh:

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followed by breakfast
or 8:45am Sundays

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See calendar.

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