I was born on 11 November 1942 at the Maxwell House Nursing Home in Edgware. Today, mothers who have given birth are made to get out of bed and move around just hours after giving birth. A few days later they are sent home from the hospital. This was not the case in 1942. My mother had to remain in bed in the Nursing Home for two full weeks and was not even allowed out of bed.
Therefore my brit milah had to be in the nursing home and I understand the Maxwell House Nursing Home only allowed a certain number of people to attend. This was during the Second World War when there was scarcity in all foods and almost everything was rationed or almost unobtainable. At the time, my father who was an accountant, voluntarily did the accounts for a shtibel (small synagogue) in Finsbury Park. The person who ran the shtibel sold alcoholic drinks. I am told that my father asked him for a bottle of wine and of whiskey for the brit, (I am sure my father did not want it for nothing), but this person at first did not want to supply him. Only after my father reminded him that when he wanted his shtibel’s accounts to be done gratuitously he knew where to go, did he supply him with these drinks.
Unlike today when one takes literally hundreds of photographs of children when they are babies, in the days when I was very young, very few were taken. We have only a few of me as a baby. There was a photographic studio in Edgware and there are two photograph of me, one aged probably under a year and another aged two and a half taken at this studio.
Although the Hebrew date of the daytime of 11 November 1942 (the day I was born) was 2 Kislev 5703, I was born after nightfall, which made my Hebrew birthday 3 Kislev.
My being born after nightfall took on a particular significance when I took out Israeli citizenship and received a “teudat zehut” – an identity card, which is issued by the Israeli Ministry of the Interior. The information given on the main part of this identity card is the holder’s identity number, surname, forename(s), father’s name, mother’s name, date of birth in both the Hebrew and the Gregorian calendars, country of birth, sex and religion. In tiny letters, which one almost needs a magnifying glass to read, it states that according to the law all the information on this card, with the exception of religion, marital status and name of spouse (the last two appear on an annex to this identity card), is a proof of its accuracy.
I filled up the application form for this identity card including that my Hebrew date of birth was 3 Kislev 5703, but when I received the card it said 2 Kislev. My Hebrew date of birth was certainly not accurate as they proudly claimed in their miniscule letters on this identity card!) I immediately questioned this and they answered that for people born in the Diaspora, they use the daytime equivalent date and only for people born in Israel would they look at the hour that they were born.
I asked them that if I got my mother to certify at what time I was born, would they then then change the date to 3 Kislev, but they informed me that I had to bring an official certificate.
I therefore immediately wrote to the Registrar General in England on 19 August 1993. Where I got his address from, I do not remember, since I was not using the internet at that period. I wrote where and when I was born and enclosed a copy of my birth certificate. I then continued, “I understand that the time of my birth was about 7.00 p.m. However, since I am not a twin, this time is not recorded on my birth certificate. I require a document certifying the time of day of my birth. Do you keep such records and if so could you please let me have such a certificate. In the event of your not keeping such records, could you suggest where I might obtain such information?” I concluded by pointing out that the nursing home where I had been born had closed soon after my birth and I asked where its birth records would have been deposited. (The Maxwell House Nursing Home had closed a few years after my birth, since as I understand, the senior nurse had died. When my brother was born in 1951, my mother had to go to a different nursing home.)
Incidentally the writing of the times when each child in multiple birth was born could have solved a mystery in my family. My father was a twin and he never knew whether he or his twin brother was the older twin. Obviously he did not know that by looking at the two birth certificates, this mystery could have been solved.
I very promptly received a reply from the office of the Registrar. The letter stated that the office kept the birth, death and marriage records but “unfortunately, we do not hold any records of the time of birth of any children except if it’s a multiple birth and the time of birth is shown on the birth certificate.” In connection with the nursing home where I was born having closed down, they said I could write to the Local Council to ask when it had closed, but this would of been of no help to solve my particular problem. They concluded, “Records are normally held by the hospitals/health authorities for a period of ten years approximately and then destroyed.”
There was therefore no visible solution to my problem. The Israeli Interior Ministry “consoled” me by saying that I could observe two birthdays!!