It was in mid-2001 when I was scanning the Internet that I learned that Henry Lachs had passed away. On further investigation, I discovered that he had died a year and a half earlier.
My first meeting with him was in Jerusalem in August 1971, when he interviewed me for the post of Director of Jewish Studies at his School. All the time I was at Liverpool, I would constantly meet with him to discuss matters concerning the School, for which he would readily and unstintingly give of his time.
I could see that his views on Yiddishkeit were very close to mine. He had the unenviable task of dealing with other Governors and parents, whose views on Yiddishkeit were radically different from his. He obviously came under great pressure and could not do what he would liked to have done, had he had a free hand.
I must admit that there were a few points in the administration of the school on which his and my views differed, in particular that in his opinion only the Governors had the right to discuss matters concerning the School. Our differences in opinion were of course perfectly legitimate.
I am sure that without Henry Lachs as Chairman of the Governors, my job would have been more difficult and in all sincerity, I dedicate this book to his memory.
For nearly 7 years in the 1970s, I was Director of Jewish Studies at the King David High School in Liverpool.
While my views on Jewish education were in close agreement with those of the members of the Jewish Studies Staff and the Rabbis and Ministers in Liverpool, my outlook differed often radically, from that of the Headmaster, the Deputy Head, many of the Governors, most of the parents and the educational officers of the Zionist Federation Educational Trust. I should add immediately, that I am sure that in almost every case, these people acted and did as they believed to be in the best interests of the School. Because of these differences in viewpoints, whilst I was in Liverpool I had to fight a continual battle for Yiddishkeit.
About thirty years have now passed and I have decided to record my memories of my life in Liverpool, particularly in the School. Even though 30 years is the accepted period after which private archives are thrown open to the public, I have still tried as far as possible to avoid naming names in this book. The exceptions are the Jewish Studies Staff, the Rabbis and Ministers, and the Chairman of the Governors.
Having said that, I feel that I should write this account of my “fight” openly. I do not think that anything will be gained by mincing my words. It is obvious that in the course of a book of this sort I will make many very critical comments, but I do not want anyone to take them personally. If anyone is offended, I apologise in advance. There are certain things which I have intentionally omitted, in accordance with the dictum of Rabbi Yisrael Salanter, Founder of the Mussar Movement, that not everything that is said needs to be written.
I have also included in this book many original documents from my private archives. Since I made it my policy to avoid using many of the names of persons associated with the school, I have “censored” their names from these documents. Obviously in a book of this sort I could give only sample pages of the material in my possession. However for those doing research or interested in further details, I have placed complete and “uncensored” copies of the following materials in the Jewish National and University Library in Givat Ram, Jerusalem:
• Teach Them Torah [My Jewish Studies Educational Programme for the School]
• Amendments to Teach Them Torah
• Jewish Studies Magazines [which I co-edited]
• Jewish-Orientated Public Examinations in Britain [My public examination syllabuses and papers for the School]
• How to Answer Anti-Israel Propaganda [My guide for the School’s sixth form pupils about to enter University]
• Jewish Education in a Secondary School [A Paper I read at a Symposium]
• For the Record [Minutes of Committee Meetings, Memoranda and Correspondence in connection with Jewish Studies at the School]
• Just as Relevant Today! [Sermons I delivered at the Childwall Synagogue]
• Eretz Israel is Ours [A selection of my Articles and Letters on Jewish Rights to Eretz Israel]
• Evaluations of Audio-Visual Aids in Jewish Religious Knowledge [My B.Phil thesis]
I have now reached my retirement, having spent my entire career in the world of education, in some form or other. Looking back over the years, I can say that I see my seven years in Liverpool as some of the most productive years of my educational career.
Sadly, as I read in the Jewish newspapers, the size of the Liverpool Jewish Community is continually decreasing and I pray that what it now lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality.
JFS Jews’ Free School
JSSA Jewish Studies Staff Association
LEA Local Education Authority
NUHT National Union of Hebrew Teachers
RAC Religious Advisory Committee
ZFET Zionist Federation Educational Trust
In order to assist the reader, I have on occasion intentionally used the full name of these organisations