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Oct 2007 Journal

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Letter from Israel: The Jewish ‘priest’

In the framework of the Israel Translators’ Association, I belong to a group of translators living in the Jerusalem area. Although we have monthly gatherings and lectures, most of our activity consists of almost daily online discussions about translating expressions, information about research resources, and offers of work. Many of the individuals involved are very knowledgeable, particularly about Jewish subjects, while sometimes the queries are more technical. Thus, when one unfortunate member suddenly lost her ‘spellcheck’ and ‘thesaurus’ functions - both essential for translators - another member told her (and the rest of the group) how to overcome the problem.

But occasionally the subject matter of the emails that pour into my mailbox deviates from the purely professional, reflecting the interests of the other members of the group (though they are careful to steer clear of politics).

This was the case with an email entitled ‘Hatikva’. Upon opening it, I found a message telling me to put my speakers on and visit the website http://genealogy.org.il/BergenBelsenHatikva.mp3 There I found a recording made in April 1945 by a British reporter in which freed Jewish prisoners from Bergen-Belsen sang Hatikva. In the prelude to the song, the reporter relates how the ‘Jewish priest’ accompanying the British troops liberating the concentration camp organised a Friday-evening service. This was the first Jewish service ever held in the camp, and the first in a decade on German soil without fear of persecution.

The recording was certainly touching. But even more touching was the following response sent by one of the members of the group, Danny Verbov, and quoted here with his permission: ‘The Jewish “priest” was actually the Jewish army chaplain, Reverend Leslie Hardman MBE, who also happens to be my grandfather. He is now 94 years old and has been married for 70 years to my grandmother, who is 96! I think he’d prefer being called a rabbi.’
Dorothea Shefer-Vanson

previous article:Reunion of refugees from Nazism who served with the British forces in the Second World War
next article:The legacy of Anna Essinger