The aim of Rabbi Rosen when he established Carmel College was to create a public school run in accordance with Jewish practice - a synthesis of the Lithuanian Yeshivah and the British Public school, or, in other words a “Jewish Eton.” He also considered it a solemn obligation to give Jewish boys who were living in far-flung communities the opportunity to live in a Jewish environment. Carmel was thus comprised of a mixture of boys, some of whom came from traditional homes, some from homes where they had no Yiddishkeit and yet others from those in the middle of the spectrum. Rabbi Rosen also wanted to make a uniform framework of Yiddishkeit in the school. This, one must admit, was difficult at first for boys coming from the traditional homes and those whom Yiddishkeit was new in their lives.
The saying goes “A Jewish home is a Kosher home.”
The kitchens in Carmel were of course strictly Kosher. This is not such an easy thing to implement when one is living a long way from an established Jewish community. Meat and other products had to be brought in from a long distance. The bread had to be baked specially at a Wallingford baker.
The large kitchens were divided into two sections - for meat and for milk respectively. One needed a duplication of all the pots and pans, utensils and dish-washers in the kitchen. The kitchens were joined to the dining room by two hatches, clearly marked “MEAT” and “MILK.” When I first went to Carmel, many of the meat plates had a large blob of red paint on them to distinguish them from the milk ones. I hope this blob didn’t add special flavour to the meat! Eventually these were replaced by plates of a different pattern from those of the milk ones.
After I had been in Carmel for a few years, they began to serve Snowcrest ice cream on Friday night for the dessert. On the first occasion when they were served, Rabbi Rosen explained to the school that ice creams such as Walls or Lyons were not Kosher and they were thus buying Snowcrest.
The timing of the meals was based on the Anglo-Jewish custom (which originated in Germany) of waiting three hours between meat and milk. I never heard any complaint on this from any of the pupils. When Rabbi Young, who waited six hours, joined the staff, he had a problem with eating milk at supper-time. He said that his timetable permitted him to eat the meat dinner on Sunday with the prep school who ate earlier than the senior school. In this way, he could eat a milk supper that day. However, he added, that often on Sundays there was a meat supper!
In the months following the removal to Mongewell, a vestibule was built outside the dining room. It wasn’t just to protect us from the rain whilst we were waiting impatiently for the doors to open for our “grub up.” It was also to hold a long water trough with numerous taps. The water only came out them as long as one pressed on these taps. In addition to saving on water bills, this can also have a religious significance in the laws of netillat yadayim (washing the hands). At first one dried ones hands on cloth towels which were hung there. At a later date, they was replaced by interleaved paper towels. When they were first installed, Mr. Stamler asked the boys how much they thought each paper towel cost. I don’t remember his answer. He then said that on the first day or so, boys would keep going in and out to wash and dry their hands, since these paper towels were a novelty but he hoped that within a day or so, the novelty would wear off and they would only be used for genuine washing of the hands.
Before going into the meals, the pupils were supposed to do “netillat yadayim” and then they would go to their places and stand by them in silence. The master on duty would then ring the bell on the top table or would say “Baruch” - sometimes even a non-Jewish master would say “Baruch” - and the pupils would then say the blessing over the bread. At the end of the blessing, the master would again ring the bell, the pupils would take a piece of bread and sit down and eat it.
During the course of the meal, a senior boy would go around the dining hall and would choose a boy to lead Birchat Hamazon (grace after meals). He would write his name on a slip of paper which he would hand to the master on duty. When the end of the meal arrived, the master would either say “Birchat Hamazon" or would read the name from the slip of paper. Mr. Coles who was on duty every dinner-time, would do the latter.
The boy leading grace would then say the “zimun,” with the other boys answering him. The grace which was recited on ordinary weekdays was the “Shorter Form of Grace.” The boys would recite together until “hazon et hakol” and then the boy leading Grace would repeat “Baruch ata HaShem, hazan et hakol.” The boys would say “amen” and then continue “nodeh lecha” until the end of that berachah and the boy leading grace would say “Baruch ata HaShem al ha’aretz v’al hamazon.” Then the boys would say “amen” and continue with “rachem” until the end of the grace.
When I joined the school, I (as well as some other boys who had joined at the same time) were used to the full grace and this shortened version muddled us up. We were sitting near Dr. Tobias on one of our first meals and he tried to point out the words in the shortened version which didn’t appear in the full version. Rabbi Rosen was also present at a meal at this period. When he saw that some boys were puzzled by this short version, he explained that on weekdays they said this version. [I should mention that this shortened version is not some invention by the Reform movement. It already appeared in the writings of our Rabbis several hundred years ago.]
There was time to say the usual version of grace whilst the school was reciting together the shortened version. It was a bit more difficult if one was leading the grace, since one then had to say the two paragraphs beginning “nodeh” whilst the school was reciting together just a few lines. As with most things in life, with practice, this could be accomplished.
On weekdays, which was also Rosh Chodesh, there were additions to the grace, and as a result, the procedure was different,. The person leading grace, would after the zimun, read aloud until “hazan et hakol” and then continue the full grace silently until “ya’aleh v’yavo” which he would read aloud and he would then continue silently until the end. [The disadvantage with this method, was that many boys did not say grace at all on these days.]
When I first joined the school all the services - three times a day were compulsory for all the pupils. After some years, Rabbi Rosen made Minchah voluntary. About 20 boys attended. At the time Rabbi Rosen commented that the pupils may think I have made it easier for them now that Minchah is voluntary. In fact it is harder for them. Now they have to decide themselves whether or not to attend.
For at least the first term at Carmel, the members of my class would assemble in Rabbi Rosen’s study every morning and would recite the prayers in unison. The next stage, as I recollect it, was that there were two separate services - one was for those living on the first floor of the main building - Mr. Carmel’s house - and this took place in the lecture hall. The other service for the more senior boys took place in the hall. For a year or more, Mordell Klein and myself were the gabaim at Mr. Carmel’s service. Anyone who has ever been a gabai will tell you it’s a thankless task - “Why didn’t I get an Aliyah today, since it’s my birthday?”
All boys over Barmitzvah had to put on Tephillin every weekday morning. They all had Tephillin and I never saw any objection by any of them to putting them on, to even the most senior boys in the school.
The weekday morning service began with all the Berachot, then Baruch Sheamar, Ashrei, Yishtabach and from then on the complete service with the exception of Tachanun. [One could find a certain basis in Shulchan Aruch for having such an abbreviated “pesukei dezimrah” (the prayers of praise). The Shulchan Aruch gives this abbreviated form as the order of service for a person arriving late in Shul. I once heard the late Dayan Morris Swift of the London Beth Din saying that if a person hasn’t time to say all the service he should the “pesukei dezimrah” in this abbreviated form. In addition, we must also remember that we were dealing here with many many pupils where davening was new to them.]
Often when there was the Mussaf, such as on Rosh Chodesh, and also at the daily week-day Minchah they did a “hoiche kedushah” (a shortened repetition of the Amidah). [There are Rabbinical sources to support this.]
The boys were encouraged and sometimes even forced to be the Chazan and do the leining.
On one occasion Rabbi Rosen saw that the boys, especially of the lowest class were not saying the Alenu prayer. He called them out and told them to say it aloud together by heart. The only boy who was able to do so was his son Mickey. He told him to be silent but then the other boys were unable to continue. From then on, he said that the whole school would say the Alenu prayer aloud together.
As I have already said, after I had been in the school for a few years, Rabbi Rosen made the Minchah service voluntary. This was then held immediately after dinner every day in the loggia where about twenty or so boys attended. On fast days, those who were fasting (even half a day) would assemble in the library at the earliest time possible for Minchah and have the fast day Minchah service, which included leining and a haftarah.
There were number of boys who wanted a full morning service without the omissions made in the regular school service. Rabbi Rosen was away for some months, probably fund raising or lecturing outside England. I, together with a few other boys used this opportunity to try and persuade Mr. Stamler to agree to the establishment of such a minyan. This occurred in about my fourth year at the school. We spoke to Mr. Stamler but he argued that the presence of the boys who wanted this separate minyan, had a positive effect on the other boys in the school.
We decided to check out this assertion. We asked the school office for a list of the boys in the school and, armed with this list, went round all the pupils asking them whether this assertion was correct. The majority said it was not correct and we wrote out the results of our survey and handed it to Mr. Stamler. There are lies, lies and statistics - but these were “statistics scientifically obtained.”
A few of us then had a further meeting with him and he agreed that we could establish this minyan. At the time of this meeting, the school was in the dining hall, and when I returned I gave the “thumbs-up” signal to other boys interested in this minyan, who were waiting expectantly for the answer. We held this minyan in one of the classrooms. When there was leining we took in a Sefer Torah from the school and we made an improvised Ark from a school desk.
Several months later there was Chanukah and Mr. Stamler informed us that for the week of Chanukah we had to daven with the rest of the school. The Hagaddah for Chanukah asks, “Why are these days of Chanukah different from all other days?” I don’t know the answer! I think it was in the following term that Rabbi Rosen closed down this minyan. His policy was that all the boys had to be in the same framework.
For some years the school was in session during the Selichot period before and after Rosh Hashanah. The school did not have a Selichot minyan. One year it was Dr. Tobias who said he wanted to arrange a Selichot service for erev Rosh Hashanah - on that day the Selichot are very long indeed. The service was to be held in the prep school synagogue before their service. He told us what time he wanted to start but until we actually got a minyan that morning it was considerably later. It is rare that a person likes rising from his bed earlier, especially with school boys!. We omitted quite a number of the Selichot and even so, the prep school had to begin their service before we had finished. That year he also arranged a Selichot service on a few other occasions including erev Yom Kippur.
On another year, we arranged the Selichot services in the loggia every morning. On erev Rosh Hashanah, one opens the Ark a number of times during the course of the recitation of the Selichot, and so we wheeled the Ark into the loggia.
For some short period when we were first in Mongewell, the Shul was in some hut. The hut was then required for some other purpose and the Shul was then moved to the main hall. The Ark was kept in an alcove of the hall and before every Shabbat was wheeled to the centre of the hall.
In the senior school there was one big Sefer Torah which required a strong boy to do hagba’ah. There were also a few smaller ones and we used one of these in the junior minyan. There was an occasion when the stitching between two sections of one of these smaller Sifrei Torah became undone and I borrowed a needle and managed to resew the “gidim” and thus repair the Torah. At a later date whilst I was at the school, a Mr. Gletzer, who was the parent of one of the boys, donated a Sefer Torah to Carmel.
Due to the regular use of Siddurim, Chumashim and other religious books, they would eventually reach a state where they can no longer be used. Unlike secular books, they cannot be thrown in the dustbin - they have to be buried. These holy pages which are being buried are known as “Shemos” - from the plural of the word Shem (name) - since they contain many times the Divine Name. On at least one occasion, I together with some friends did this burial. We dug a “grave” near to the wall by the outhouse where the trunks were kept and buried them. We then found a marble type stone in the school and we scratched on it a suitable poem we composed, and then filled in the scratches with ink. I still remember our poem:
The Shemos which we bury here,
Were to us precious and dear.
Outwardly they may wither and die,
But up to Heaven they will fly.
To ensure that the non-Jewish ground staff, not knowing what “Shemos” were, might have removed the stone or worse still, plough up the area, we added at the top of the stone “HOLY.”
On Shabbat the whole school davened together, with the entire service and the leining being done by the boys. Before the end of each Shabbat, Rabbi Rosen would give out the leining for the following Shabbat. I think he wanted that every boy in the school would sometimes lein, although I don’t think this objective was every reached. When there was a short portion in the leining - say, about 5 verses - he would usually give it to a person who had never leined before.
I was one of the more regular leiners amongst the boys. One year, Rabbi Rosen was giving out leining for the double Sidrot Matot-Masei, when he reached the fourth portion and offered it to me. I asked him how long it was and he thereupon turned over page after page after page in his Chumash and then answered 72 verses - (this is the longest portion in the Torah). I politely declined his offer! I think I did instead the fifth portion which is much shorter. At my last Shabbat at the school, we also read Matot-Masei and I asked to be able to lein this fourth portion, which I did.
There were occasions when a boy failed to do the leining he was given. This did not just pass off without comment or should I say action. He was likely to receive a summary punishment from Rabbi Rosen. The leining in such cases would be done by Rabbi Rosen or one of the masters, such as Mr. Epstein, and without any preparation or warning.
The prep school had its own minyan and since the boys there were not Barmitzvah, a number of boys from the senior school davened there on Shabbat. The leining was done by Dr. Tobias who was an expert leiner and in fact knew the whole Torah by heart. Sometimes boys would test him by beginning a verse and asking him to finish it. One could never catch out Dr. Tobias on this!
For one Shabbat he went away from the school for a Barmitzvah. It was the Shabbat when one read the double Sidrot Vayakhel-Pekudai - which together are very long indeed. (Why are do all these things happen when there is a long or double Sidra? It is probably one of Murphy’s many law in action!) He asked Rabbi Rosen to suggest some senior boys to do the leining and my name was one of those given. I leined three portions that week.
Let us now look at the timetable for Shabbat at Carmel College.
At the start of Shabbat, we would go to the Synagogue for davening. As I have already said that for almost all the time I was in Carmel, the Synagogue was in the main hall. The boys' seats were in a large block extending from the front to the back of the hall and a smaller block in the alcove in the southern side of the hall. The masters sat in a row at the front facing the pupils. Those who regularly attended the services on Shabbat were Rabbi Rosen, Mr. Stamler, Dr. Friedmann, Mr. Carmel and Mr. Epstein. In my last year at the school there was Rabbi Young and Mr. Alexander. There was an occasion when Mr. Alexander preferred to sit amongst the boys, rather than in the masters’ row.
On Shabbat the Ark which during the week, was kept in an alcove of the hall was moved to the centre of the hall at the front. As at that period, in many Shuls in England, the leining was done and also the Chazan took the service from the front of the Shul. This was also followed in Carmel. On the two sides of the fireplace at the front of the hall were two faces which had been carved into the stone. To accord with the Jewish law regarding idols, their noses had been chipped off and also during the services they were covered up with a small flag shaped cloth.
Before each service, Rabbi Rosen would ask if any boy would like to be the Chazan. I sometimes volunteered for this. Although at that period, it was rare to find a Shul in England who used the modern Hebrew pronunciation for davening, Rabbi Rosen had instituted this at Carmel.
In the Kabbalat Shabbat service, the entire congregation sung the whole of “Lecha Dodi” together. In my first year, after the Friday night service, the school would sing “Shalom Aleichem” although only twice (instead of the usual thrice) for each verse. When the days became longer that summer, this was stopped and it was never restarted.
Dinner on Friday nights in the winter months was at six o’clock. The boys would do netillat yadayim, enter the dining hall and stand in silence by their places. Rabbi Rosen would make Kiddush and after drinking some wine himself, would call out the names of a few boys to come out and drink the wine. I recollect that on one occasion during my first year at the school, Mr. Carmel made the kiddush, even though Rabbi Rosen was present. Rabbi Rosen would then go into the kitchen. He once told us that a boy asked him why he goes into the kitchen after making Kiddush each week. The reason of course was to do netillat yadayim.
Meanwhile Dr. Friedmann would make Hamotzi on the two challot on the top table. On the boys’ table was only sliced challah. On the top table were seated the staff together with their wives. Sometimes there were also some non-Jewish staff at the table. One of them, Mr. Cox, the art master, would often wear a capel when at the table on Shabbat.
There was no fish course, (oy vei! Shabbat without gefillte fish!), and the meal would begin with lockshen and soup. In the early days at Mongewell, a member of the kitchen staff would come round with the soup saucepan on a trolley and would dish out plate by plate. However, this method was soon changed and each table was given a soup tureen - this was certainly much quicker. The next course was meat, roast potatoes and gravy. It was much simpler to prepare meat than chicken when catering for hundreds of people. However, in my last years at Carmel, chicken started to occasionally appear on the menu.
The dessert course was in my first years at the school, fruit salad. Afterwards the school began to buy Snowcrest ice cream. We first got a cup each but afterwards they would put a block of ice cream, already cut up according to the number of boys on the table. On one occasion, when I was head of a table, there were two slices missing. The kitchen staff refused to remedy this. Maybe they thought we had secretly gobbled it up. I thus went up to Rabbi Rosen and he gave me two slices from the head table’s plate.
There was also a jug of water on the table. For some reason which I don’t know, Rabbi Rosen refused to let the boys go into the vestibule to refill it. As Samuel Coleridge wrote in his “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” “Water, water, everywhere, Not any drop to drink.”
During the meal, we sung zemirot. Not anybody could start a zemirah. It was rigorously controlled by Rabbi Rosen. He would clap to silence the school, begin to sing a zemirah, stop, say achat, shtayim, shalosh and everyone would start singing together. He once related to us that one of the non-Jewish teachers had asked him why all our songs begin with “shlosh”!
Rabbi Rosen had a wonderful voice and Carmel had a large selection of zemirot in their repertoire. [To this day, I often sing in my home zemirot I learned in Carmel.] On some occasions, he would ask the boys for suggestions of what zemirah to sing but whether to accept the suggestion was his alone.
In some of the zemirot, individual pupils would sing the verses as solos, with the school joining in for the chorus. Examples of this included, “Yom ze l’Yisrael, and “Tzur mishelo.” For one tune of “D'ror yikra,” boys in the prep school would sing, “lei lelei lelei” after each phrase.
When I first came to Carmel, on the last Shabbat of the term we would sing amongst the zemirot, the song “hayamim holchim.” After a time this was stopped. The reason was that one of the words was “hamanginah” and some boys changed this word to “ha-monkey nuts”!
After I had been in Carmel for just over two years, the school brought out a zemirot book “Beshir Vekol Todah,” edited by Dr. Tobias. The boys were required to bring this book into each Shabbat meal.
Included in this book were the various zemirot sung at the school together with short notes on their authorship. It also included Kiddush and Birchat Hamazon. Its last page consisted of about 18 items under the heading “Miscellaneous” and were verses from the Tenach or Siddur, which were used as religious songs. These “Miscellanea” regularly formed part of our zemirot sung at Carmel on Shabbat. I have heard that the first one on this list “V’nisgav HaShem levado” was sung at Mir Yeshivah, with the tune beginning “Ahoi.”
As with almost all books, there were misprints. Even printers are human. Before bringing out the second edition, the boys were asked to report the errors in printing that they had noticed. They were then corrected using a whitener and black ink by Shifrin the librarian. He also in his own beautiful handwriting wrote in a few additions.
On one occasion during the meal on Friday night there was a power cut and we were in complete darkness. The non-Jewish kitchen staff started bringing in lighted candles to put on each table. Some boys then went into the kitchen to help them. When Rabbi Rosen saw what was happening, he clapped his hands to silence the school and said, “What sort of Jewish homes do you come from? Don’t you know that you mustn’t carry lighted candles on Shabbat?”
On Shabbat, the entire birchat hamazon was recited. After singing Shir hama’alot, Rabbi Rosen would call out the name of a boy to lead the grace. Since often, the names of two boys sounded similar, there were occasions, where a boy, not intended by Rabbi Rosen, led the grace. The boy leading would say the grace out loud and in numerous places, the school would join in singing. Towards the end of my stay at Carmel, I had learned a tune for “bamarom” and when I led the grace I incorporated it. Afterwards Rabbi Rosen made some humorous remark about it.
In the summer, Shabbat in England can come in as late as after nine o’ clock. As a result of the lateness, many places would bring in Shabbat at about eight o’clock. Even this was too late for Carmel and so in the summer, they brought in Shabbat soon after six o’clock and the meal was at quarter to seven.
This was, according to the Halachah, very questionable, although one could easily understand why this was done in Carmel. It was in my last year at Carmel that a number of us decided to make our own minyan after eight o’clock on Friday night. We had to attend the regular school service and there we davened just Minchah for erev Shabbat. We then went to the school dinner and afterwards to my study for our service. We had bought wine, something to make hamotzi on (I don’t remember what) and a few other things to eat. We had nearly a minyan of boys participating and the number was made up by a few other boys who received a share in the food as a “reward’ for their participation. After our service, we made kiddush, hamotzi and had our small “meal.”
Rabbi Young, who then had a room on that floor, also brought in Shabbat at the same time as us and had a small meal in his room. He used Ryvita for hamotzi. We asked him if he would join us but he declined, since he felt it was against the school rules. I feel that if Rabbi Rosen would have come in during our service, I don’t think he would have been pleased, since he liked uniform religious activities. However, this situation never arose.
There was an occasion when Rabbi Rosen asked me to lead the grace on one of these Friday nights when I had not yet brought in Shabbat. However, since by that time it was already possible to bring in Shabbat, I could say the grace, including the parts added in on Shabbat.
When our bedtimes came on Friday night, we went up to our dormitories. On one of my first Shabbatot in Carmel, I heard a boy ask Mr. Carmel whether he could turn on the light. “Of course you can’t,” he answered him. A non-Jewish master would be on duty on Friday night and he would go round the dormitories switching off the lights.
On Shabbat morning we could sleep in late. Reveille was at half past eight. One got dressed and went down to the dining hall for tea and cake. [In this context I might mention that some Chassidim eat before davening on Shabbat morning, since their davening ends late and they say that one can concentrate better if one has already eaten.]
The boys then went to the Shul for the morning service. The Chazan began at “shochen ad” and boys who wanted to say the “pesukei dezimrah” would say them before the scheduled time for the start of the service. Towards the end of my stay at Carmel, a “pesukei dezimrah” service was organised in the loggia.
After the morning service amidah comes the leining. As I have already explained, this had been given out the previous week by Rabbi Rosen and woe betide a boy who had not prepared it! Padded trousers might be recommended.
On one Shabbat, when they opened the Ark, a Sefer Torah fell out on to the ground. After the service, Rabbi Rosen said he would talk about that after Shabbat. Immediately after Shabbat, he said that the following day would be a fast day and that a collection of money would be made for Yeshivot. He also said that any boy who was at the prep school minyan, or was not yet Barmitzvah or didn’t want to fast would not have to fast. I understand most of the school fasted at least part of the day. I heard that some boys stopped their fasting at mid-morning break. At the morning and afternoon services we did the leining for fast days with the addition of the haftarah at Minchah. After Minchah which was held at about the earliest time possible, Rabbi Rosen said he felt that people had fasted enough. A number of pupils fasted the whole day. Since this occurred in January, the days were short.
I remember two occasions when there was a Barmitzvah during the service. One was Rabbi Rosen’s son Mickey - (his eldest son, Jeremy’s Barmitzvah was during the summer holidays). The other case was of a boy who did not have a father. His mother came down to the school for that Shabbat and both the boy and his mother sat on the masters’ table. Rabbi Rosen gave an address during the service on having one’s Barmitzvah at the school.
Let us now return to the Shabbat morning service. Following the haftarah, one comes to the prayer for the Queen. Unlike most Anglo-Jewish Synagogues, where it is recited in English, in Carmel it was said in Hebrew. The Queen was even given a Hebrew name in Carmel: “Hamalchah Elisheva hasheniyah”!
After the Mussaf service which finished at about twelve clock, everyone went to the dining room for Kiddush and the meal. I cannot remember what the menu was on Shabbat dinner.
At one period, Rabbi Rosen instituted a “sha’a limud.” This was for an hour on Shabbat afternoon, when the boys were supposed to learn a Torah subject of their choice by themselves. I heard it called by one boy “Charlie Mood.” He would have a Torah book open and some novel. As long as there was no-one to check up, the novel was open - when a teacher appeared, the novel miraculously disappeared! On one occasion, Rabbi Rosen asked boys what they had learned. One boy answered that he had read a book on the Holocaust but Rabbi Rosen did not feel that that was the intention of this hour.
Somewhere during Shabbat afternoon, there was Minchah, but I cannot remember exactly when.
In the summer, Shabbat went out as late as half past ten at night and so there was supper at about six o’clock on Shabbat afternoon - namely a seudah shlishit. During the course of the meal, Rabbi Rosen would start to sing “Mizmor Ledavid” without his usual clap and "achat, shtayim, shalosh." Gradually the boys would hear it, stop eating and join in.
All good things come to an end and one of them is Shabbat each week. At the end of Shabbat the school would assemble in the hall for Ma’ariv and Rabbi Rosen would give out the following week’s leining. After Ma’ariv he made Havdalah.
One boy was called out to hold the candle and another boy the spice box. The lights were then turned off. The only light one could see was that from the Havdalah candle. After Havdalah, the boys would sing “hamavdil bein kodesh lechol” and “Eliyahu hanavi.” Sometimes we would also sing another tune for “Hamavdil” which went “tumbuy, tumbuy, tumbuy, hamavdil bein kodesh lechol....”
Shabbat in Carmel was certainly an enjoyable and instructive experience and I trust that it made a great impression on the boys, especially those who came from homes where Shabbat was observed more in the breach than in the observance.
With the exception of Pesach, we were in school for all the Festivals, at least for some of the years. This was very good, since had they been at home, many of the boys would not have celebrated the Festivals in the traditional manner. Certain events concerning these Festivals still remain in my mind, although I cannot always remember to which year they appertain. On at least one Lag B’Omer, we made a bonfire and I remember the school giving to each of the boys an orange as an extra dessert on Tu BiShvat. I shall now go through the Festivals one at a time.
When Rosh Hashanah occurred at the end of September or the beginning of October, we were often in school. On my first Rosh Hashanah in the school, we were only given a few minutes to gobble down the morning tea and cake (unlike a Shabbat when it could be eaten at leisure!). Due to the extra long service, Rabbi Rosen wanted to start as quickly as possible in order to finish in time for dinner at 12 o’clock. In later years, the boys were not hurried with their tea and cake, since dinner time was moved to one o’clock.
Although normally on a Shabbat the Chazan would begin at “shochen ad”, on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a pupil led the full pesukei dezimrah. Rabbi Rosen took most of the services and also blew the shofar superbly. Many of the piutim recited in many Shuls during the service were omitted.
Before my first Yom Kippur at the school, Rabbi Rosen called together all the boys in the senior school who were not yet Barmitzvah and said he thought that they should fast the whole day. However, some of them went into the dining hall to eat with the prep school.
Since many of the piutim were omitted, each year there was a break of several hours between Mussaf and Minchah. On one of the years, I asked Rabbi Rosen to give a shiur during part of this break and to the few boys who attended, the subject was on the laws and customs concerning Minchah and Neilah on Yom Kippur.
Carmel College was not exempt from epidemics and one struck just before Yom Kippur. Several rooms in the school were turned into a sanatorium. Some boys thought that if they were admitted to the sanatorium they would be exempt from fasting. Rabbi Rosen therefore announced to the school that he was going to the sanatorium to tell the boys that they must fast. However on the morning of Yom Kippur, he sent a boy to the sanatorium to tell those who were ill, that the school matron could be considered as a doctor and if she thought a boy should not fast, they must listen to her. Also that even if fifty doctors think that a sick person can fast, but the patient thinks otherwise, then he must eat. I heard that in fact all the boys in the sanatorium fasted.
During the summer holidays before my last year at the school, Rabbi Rosen slipped whilst jumping from a boat on to the landing stage and broke his leg, his arm and some of his ribs. For that Rosh Hashanah he was confined to his house. Before the service on Yom Kippur, a big armchair and a small chair were set up in front of the Chazan’s desk. Just before Kol Nidrei, Rabbi Rosen arrived in a wheel chair, used his crutches to reach the armchair, sat on it and put his broken leg up on the other chair. He then conducted Kol Nidrei, although his voice was weaker than usual.
He came again for Neilah, which he conducted from the armchair. When he reached “Shema Yisrael” at the end of the service, he asked for his crutches, and stood up to recite it.
There were still some moments until the end of Yom Kippur and he utilised them to relate a story regarding Rabbi Israel Salanter. At the end of one Yom Kippur, he told one of his students in his Yeshivah to take all the bread and not give it to the other students. They were all eager to eat after the fast and they started squabbling. Rabbi Salanter entered the Yeshivah dining room and reprimanded them saying that Yom Kippur has just ended and you are already arguing with each other!
Rabbi Rosen then said to us that Yom Kippur for fasting was ending now, but Yom Kippur for repentance goes on the whole year.
My first Sukkot in Carmel was in 1954. That year the Sukkah was built on the western side of the dining hall and was rather primitive. Part of it was problematic since there was an overhanging tree. (When building a Sukkah, trees always seem to be in the most inconvenient places!) On the whole, all the boys who wanted to eat in the Sukkah could do so. On Yom Tov it was full and the numbers thinned out during Chol Hamoed.
Rabbi Rosen brought the entire school into the Sukkah for Kiddush and then those who wanted to eat in the dining hall went there for their meal. That year, Rabbi Rosen was not well and thus ate his meal indoors. [Even a slightly ill person is exempt from eating the Sukkah.]
The following year the Sukkah was built far more professionally and was at the eastern side of the dining room. Again the numbers of those eating in the Sukkah decreased as Chol Hamoed progressed. Since a number of the boys eating there were younger and thus smaller, (perhaps more accurately in this context “thinner”!), four of these boys sat on each side of the table instead of the usual three.
Food had to be brought from the kitchens into the Sukkah and after the meals, the dirty crockery dishes had to be returned to the kitchen. Who would be the “waiters’ for these jobs? Rabbi Rosen had the original idea of making the “Ushpizin” for that particular day do these tasks. [Ushpizin are the various Biblical personalities who traditionally visit our Sulkkot on each day of the Festival.] For example on the First Day of Sukkot it is Avraham. Therefore all boys whose Hebrew name was Avraham found themselves as waiters that day and if there were not enough boys with that name, they would be supplemented with boys whose English name began with the letter “A”, such as Anthony or Andrew.
For one of my years at Carmel, it was originally planned that the term would begin during Chol Hamoed. However, during the summer holidays, the parents received a letter stating that it was not desirable to return during Chol Hamoed and the beginning of the term was delayed a week.
Later, however, there was a year when the school did return during Chol Hamoed. After the first night of the Festival that year there been continual torrential rain (Remember! It was England!) and by the time the school had reassembled, the Sukkah there was not in a state for use.
I should mention that after a few years on the eastern side of the dining hall, the Sukkah returned to the western side, and it was built at a site where there was no overhanging tree.
At my last year at Carmel, Rabbi Young and Mr. Alexander were on the staff and they ate in the school Sukkah throughout the Festival. For about four days, the weather was nice but on the following day there was a change and it rained most of the day. After the rain had stopped, one of the boys tried to sweep out all the rain from the Sukkah but even after that it was still very wet and Rabbi Young said that to eat in it that evening, a person would be a “chassid shoteh” (a pious fool). By the following day it was dry and we continued eating in it until the end of Sukkot.
Every year Rabbi Rosen would buy two sets of Arba’at Haminim for the school. One year I met him as he arrived back with them and I helped him assemble the sets. He then said that I could be the first boy to use them after he had performed the Mitzvah.
Before Hallel on the days of Yom Tov, Rabbi Rosen would stop the service and all the boys would line up to fulfill the Mitzvah on the Arba’at Haminim. This took a long time to complete, but the entire school observed this Mitzvah.
Carmel College was next to the Thames and on its banks were many willow trees. On a number of occasions on the day before Hoshanna Rabba, I went with a number of other boys to pick willows for the following day’s service. As far as possible we tried to tie them into small bundles for each boy. Towards the end of the service on the following morning, the boys would give the willows a good bashing.
On Simchat Torah one dances and sings with the Sifrei Torah both in the evening and in the morning. In Carmel they had a custom I have never seen anywhere else. There was a candelabrum, which had seven branches, and I understood it was found when they took over the premises at Mongewell. Seven lighted candles were put in it and a person would hold it walking backwards in front of the Sifrei Torah during each hakafah.
Before each hakafah, Rabbi Rosen would announce who would hold the Sifrei Torah and who would go with the lights. For each hakafah there would be singing and dancing and each hakafah would end when Rabbi Rosen would call out “tzon kedoshim.”
Simchat Torah is the day when everybody is called up to the Torah - even boys who are not yet Barmitzvah. To call up each boy individually in Carmel was well nigh impossible. The service wouldn’t then finish until about three o’clock and the pangs of hunger would be ghastly. To avoid these pangs, Rabbi Rosen organised the boys into groups and then all those in a particular group were called up together.
One year Mr. Stamler was one of the Chatanim and I said to him jokingly that he must make a party for the school. He answered that he was making one for a particular form - a form which was below mine. I jokingly added that it should be for the whole school. He replied that it would be for that class plus myself. I felt rather embarrassed at this invitation, since I had not intended to beg for an invitation. When I originally approached him, I had no idea that he was even making any party at all. I was in a quandary - having been invited I had to go and on the other hand I felt uncomfortable to be the only one in my class at that party.
At the time Mr. Stamler lived in the building known as the lodge and which was situated at the entrance to the outer gate of the school. It was quite a walk from the main building to his dwelling. At least it was good exercise! I went to this party, which was very enjoyable and once I got there I ceased feeling uncomfortable.
As I have already mentioned, just before my last year at the school, Rabbi Rosen as a result of his accident was in a wheel chair. That Simchat Torah, he could not get to the service, although his wheelchair did. Mr. Stamler jokingly announced that there was an old custom to wheel a wheel chair in front of the Sifrei Torah before each hakafah and he each time he called out a boy to do so. I think that some of the boys even swallowed what Mr. Stamler was saying!
On every evening during Chanukah, the whole school would assemble in the main hall for the lighting of Chanukah candles. At least on the first year when I was in Carmel, the school used the seven branched candelabrum which they had found at Mongewell. At one end was placed the shamash and from the other end the Chanukah candles. I don’t remember what they did on the last two nights.
There were a number of boys who had brought to school their own chanukiot and after the school lighting , they would light them on a table near the window. Some used candles and others oil. Some boys made their own chanukiot by simple improvisation, in one case with eight drawing pins on the lid of a metal geometry box. One friend of mine, went to Wallingford, where he bought some small candle holders which he attached to a piece of coloured cardboard I had given him, and on it he wrote “l'hadlik ner shel Chanukah.” At that period they were selling coloured Christmas candles, which were about the same size as Chanukah candles and he bought a sufficient supply. Later he discovered that he could have bought a box of Chanukah candles at a far cheaper price.
One year Rabbi Rosen managed to obtain, I believe free of charge, a large supply of miniature plastic chanukiot. He had wanted to be able to give them out to each pupil free of charge but the British customs had demanded customs duty on them, even though he tried to tell them that they were religious appurtenances. He therefore had to make a small charge for boys who wanted one. Some however had arrived broken and Rabbi Rosen said that pupils could have these for nothing and maybe they could repair them by heating the plastic. The candles were like birthday candles and did not last half an hour and the boys were therefore told not to make the Berachah when lighting these candles. Several tables were set aside in the hall for these miniature chanukiot.
There was an occasion when Mr. Coles’ Chemistry class was in the middle of a Chemistry exam, when they were called to go to the hall for the lighting of the candles. Mr. Coles’ afterwards sadly commented to me that his Jewish calendar had let him down that time, (by not writing that candles were to be lit a particular time).
On the Chanukah that I was in the lower fifth form, the boys were set a Chanukah essay competition. For it, the school was divided into three groups, the fifth and sixth forms being in the top group. I entered for this competition, extensively researching my essay, which included the background history and laws and customs connected with Chanukah. On the last night of the Festival, the results were announced and I won in my group. The prize was the book “The Synagogue Treasures of Bohemia and Moravia.”
For most of the years I was in Carmel, the Megillah was read by Dr. Tobias. The banging at Haman’s name was very strictly controlled by Rabbi Rosen. Before each reading, he said that banging could only take place when one read “Haman ben Hamdata.” On one occasion, the boys started banging at a different Haman. This didn’t just pass over. (I can’t complete this sentence with the customary words “in silence,” since I was never taught how to bang “in silence”!) Rabbi Rosen immediately stood up and reminded the school when they were allowed to bang.
One year, Dr. Tobias taught one of the boys how to read the Megillah and he read it that year. On my last year at the school, Rabbi Young read the Megillah. He stood facing the school, holding up the Megillah as if it was a letter he was reading to the school - (which indeed it is!). He told me afterwards that he only knew the notes for the first two chapters and from then on, he had to try working out the notes as he proceeded.
One year, on Purim night, a group from Israel, who were in England at the time - I think that they were a Yemenite group - came to the school and gave a very enjoyable performance. They succeeded in getting the whole school to join in with them in singing. Unfortunately, the performance had to be cut short, since they had to be rushed back to Reading station to catch a return train to London.
Each year I made small packets of two items of confectionary which I gave to the various Jewish masters for Mishloach Manot. One year one of the masters, gave Mordell Klein a raw egg as one of the items of the Mishloach Manot, but he told me that someone had then bust this egg! I hope it didn’t make too big a mess!
Each Purim the school had an excellent programme. It began with a fancy dress competition and was followed by what they called a “social” in which both teachers and pupils could put on acts. This was followed by the Purim meal.
The fancy dress parade would take place in the hall and Rabbi Rosen would call out the title of each contestant or contestants and they would then walk down the wooden staircase in view of the judges and the school. Rabbi Rosen would choose the judges. One year at least they were composed of teachers and teachers’ wives.
On my first year I dressed up as a pirate. I think I called myself “Captain Blood.” Don’t ask me why I chose that name! My neighbours in my home town hurried up to finish a box of cereal on which was the mask of a pirate and then quickly sent it to me.
The winners that year were three boys from Gibraltar, who had hired three fancy dresses of monkeys and they called themselves, I believe, the “Saviours of Gibraltar.” (It has been said that as long as monkeys are found in Gibraltar, the colony will remain British.) One of these “monkeys” even slid down the banister. They easily won the first prize.
During the next school holidays, I was telephoned at home by the editor of the Carmel magazine and asked to write an article on that Purim in Carmel. I did so and sent it off to him. However he afterwards told me that due to lack of space they wouldn’t be able to include it.
During the following year, a speaker, I think from ORT, came to the school and spoke on the Falashas - the black Jews of Ethiopia. During his talk, he showed a film of the Falasha boys before and after this organisation took them into their school. In this film we saw a Falasha boy selling shoelaces and he was calling out “shoelaces, shoelaces.” For that next Purim I dressed up as this boy.
Another year, which was during the “arms race” between America and Russia, I arranged with another boy that we would dress up as the “Rabbinical race” and would be introduced as “You have heard of the arms’ race, but there is also a Rabbinical race.” I was to be dressed up as a traditional bearded East European (Russian) Rabbi and my friend as an American reform minister. At the last moment my friend decided to drop out and I had to improvise by myself. To add to the problems, I had left in my dormitory one of the essential items for my fancy dress and I was then sleeping in the long dorm. I rushed back for it and when I arrived Rabbi Rosen told me I was too late, since he had written down all the contestants. However I managed to persuade him to include me. As I came down the stairs singing a piece of gemara, I apologised for the absence of my American counterpart, since he was now busy eating a ham sandwich!
In my last year at the school, a number of us in the sixth form did as this fancy dress a short skit. There were other skits by sixth formers and the judges decided that the size of the applause would determine the winner. The winners, which were not my group, received an applause well in excess of the other groups.
Generally the winners in such a competition are not on the magnificence of their fancy dress but on how it is put over. One year the winner was a boy holding a guitar and as he came down the stairs, he said the following ditty:
My name is [the name of a then current pop singer],
I am just an ordinary kid,
But wouldn’t you all be
For fifty thousand quid.
In my second year at the school, I did a skit at the social together with Michael Bharier. I don’t remember the context except that the word “Hottentotic” appeared somewhere in it. A popular act by the boys in these socials was an imitation of the masters.
In my last year at the school, a number of the boys in the sixth form, including myself, did a presentation of the Book of Esther with the characters modelled on the masters at the school. Mr. Rafael Loewe was designated as Rafael Haman and he was going to be hanged but at the last moment reprieved. Rabbi Rosen said he wanted to see our play before we did it in front of the school. When he saw that Mr. Loewe was going to be hanged, he told us you can’t hang a master, even if it’s not carried out. We therefore realised that some change had to be made, but we hadn’t time to plan out this change.
In our play Vashti was Mishti. Mich was the wife of Mr. Stamler. Vashti/Mishti entered saying, “I’m all behind today.” Mordechai was Alexander Mordechais namely Dr. Alexander Tobias, but here the audience didn’t catch on. When it came to punish Rafael Haman, (and here Rabbi Rosen had demanded a change), Rafael Haman ran off the stage saying “it’s not my fault, it’s my dog Sharia’s.” This change was made on the spur of the moment by the boy acting Rafael Haman. I don’t remember any further details of the play. I do know that the audience, including Mr. Loewe were in fits of laughter, and it was very successful.
On my last year at Carmel, the Purim meal was more of a post-Purim meal. Rabbi Young had tried to have it advanced by a quarter of an hour but for some reason this was not possible. There were also Governors present and at the meal they sat not on the masters’ table but on tables amongst the boys. I think the reason was that there was no room on the masters’ table for them. Rabbi Rosen, who was an expert in dealing with such situations said, “We have put you on tables with the boys so that you can eat their food and not our food!”
During about my second year at Carmel, I got the idea from a fellow pupil, to write a Megillat Esther on paper with ink. Obviously, because of the materials and the style of my writing, it wasn’t a kosher Megillah that one could use on Purim, but it was an interesting exercise. I cut sheets of exercise book paper in two, which gave a page of about ten lines and on them I wrote a complete Megillah and I then stuck the pages together with glue in the traditional form of a roll. Soon after, I wrote another Megillah but this time on whole sheets of exercise book paper. I still have these two Megillot.
Shavuot occurs after counting 49 complete days of the Omer. This means that one cannot bring in Shavuot before nightfall. Therefore on the night of Shavuot we davened late and then went into the dining room for kiddush and cake and to do some learning. Rabbi Rosen said that boys can deliver “divrei Torah” at this gathering.
At my first year at Carmel, I decided that I would read some lines of “Akdomut” (the poem recited immediately before Reading the Torah on the first day of Shavuot) and then give the English translation. At the time there was no English translation of it. [Incidentally, a few years later, a translation of it was made by Mr. Rafael Loewe.] On the afternoon before Shavuot, I went to speak to Mr. Gertner about this and he picked out about ten lines. He then wrote a note to Dr. Tobias asking him to translate these lines into English. I searched for Dr. Tobias, but that day was the British General Election, and he had gone to vote.
I therefore had to change my plans. I found in the Routledge Machzor, one of the piutim for Shavuot which had been translated and that evening I read out the Hebrew followed by the English.
One year, during this gathering, Rabbi Rosen said that any boys who wanted to go to bed could do so. Quite a number left and after they had gone Rabbi Rosen said that he had let them go, since he wanted to give out a packet of crisps to each boy but he did not have enough packets!
It is customary to decorate the Shul with flowers for Shavuot. On one occasion, I, together with some other boys, collected together flower petals of various different colours, and with them we made a number of different pictures on the floor at the front of the Shul. One of them was the school crest.
During the morning service one Shavuot, boy after boy asked to be allowed to attend the wants of nature. After a time Rabbi Rosen thought this was some sort of lark by the pupils. Later it was brought to his attention that the delicious Shavuot fare or maybe some virus, (it was never determined which), had reacted in some unpleasant way with many boys digestive systems.