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The Retirement of Evelyn Friedlander and Ruth Fainlight

EJby Jonathan Magonet

 


With much sorrow we record the retirement of two extraordinarily gifted women who have been members of the editorial board of European Judaism for many years, the book review editor Evelyn Friedlander and poetry editor Ruth Fainlight. Evelyn is the widow of Rabbi Dr. Albert Friedlander who was editor of the journal from the late 1970s until his death in 2004. Indeed Evelyn was the mainstay of the journal during those early years, soliciting subscriptions, posting out individual copies, storing back issues in their flat and generally ensuring the continued existence of the journal. German-born, a gifted pianist, Evelyn also pursued her own academic interests studying the Jewish life and culture of small pre-war village Jewish synagogues in Germany and mounting exhibitions under the auspices of the Hidden Legacy Foundation. Her publications in the field include ‘Mappot ..blessed be he who comes’, the bilingual comprehensive catalogue of an exhibition of Torah binders (1997) and ’The Jews of Devon and Cornwall’ (2000). From 2004 until 2015 she was chair of the Czech Memorial Scrolls Trust and Director of its Museum. Here are housed 1564 Torah Scrolls and 400 Torah binders from Bohemia and Moravia that were collected in Prague during the war and subsequently came to London in 1964. Most of those that could be repaired have been sent on long-term loan to communities throughout the world. As Evelyn wrote: ‘As soon as I saw the scrolls, I knew that I wanted to be a part of the Trust. In those early days, the racks of scrolls lay as if in a morgue and no one could view them without weeping. And yet my immediate response was that the work of the Trust was the most perfect response to the Holocaust I had ever encountered. Yes, it had come out of the Holocaust but something positive and practical had emerged from that terrible history. In their quiet way the scrolls are a living proof of survival and continuity.

 

Ruth Fainlight was born in New York but has lived in England since the age of 15. The widow of the writer Alan Sillitoe, Ruth is an award winning poet, writer, translator and opera librettist. Her collections of poems, starting with ‘Cages’ in 1966, have covered five decades, her most recent being New and Collected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2010). From its inception European Judaism has included poetry, part of the desire to capture the many dimensions of postwar European Jewish life, artistic as well as intellectual, theological, literary and political. Ruth contributed a poem, Miriam’s Well, to the Winter 1981 issue, edited by Evelyn, and succeeded Edouard Roditi as poetry editor in 1992. European Judaism is not a conventional outlet for poetry, but Ruth’s network of fellow poets and the respect in which she is held by them have ensured that the journal has managed to maintain this special feature. A remark she once made about the process of creating a poem works equally well for the production of a journal like European Judaism: ‘Like every other living organism, its development is a unique combination of unassailable laws and the entirely unexpected.’

 

 

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