A Cohen on his Travels – Mark Weigler
|Johnny Lorraine – fourth from left and Mark Weigler seventh from the right back row.|
As I lay in my cabin on our Cruise ship heading across the Mediterranean my memory started to recall events that occurred almost fifty years ago. Who remembers Brady Club in the East End of London? It was the largest and most successful Jewish youth club in the country. A meeting place for Jewish youth of both sexes to get together and enjoy its facilities. Among it’s many activities there was a social section and a group/choir was formed by a then young ambitious barrister called Greville Janner. Yes that’s right now the famous Lord Janner of Leicester and Baron Janner of Braunstone. I was proud to be one of its original members together with another member of our shul the wonderful Reverend Lorraine then to us just Johnnie. Under Grevilles guidance we became quite famous entertaining many Jewish charities, homes for the blind, orphanages and we even appeared on TV on a show called the Six Five Special. Ah I bet that brings back memories for some of you, we even went on to be presented to the Queen and Prince Phillip. Please don’t rush for autographs we can’t carry a pen on Shabbat.
Anyhow back to the plot. Israel was about to celebrate its 10th Anniversary of independence in 1958 and the Israeli Embassy invited 12 of our group to tour Israel as their guests as a gesture of thanks for the many charity performances we had given across the UK. We were thrilled and actually flew over to Israel on their first turbo prop EL-Al plane, a Britannia called ‘The Whispering Giant’. Where is this leading to you may ask” Well, I am now heading on my travels back to Israel on a Holy Land Cruise after a gap of 50years. Our group spent three weeks in Israel giving concerts all over the country. Israel was a young growing country and its objective was to encourage youth to come and visit in the hope they would settle and become the pioneers of the future to build this new land. In fact a few of the group did return to settle.
On the last day in Jerusalem before we were due to fly home we were told of a group from Clapton Jewish club in London had arrived. This was the first English speaking group we had encountered. A young 16 year old blonde stood out to me and we sat and chatted it was our first time away from home and being so young we missed home. Anyhow as they say the rest is history. 50 years on and that blonde, my wife, my navigator are still going strong so thank you Israel Bershet I do believe in. So now you see why the port of Ashdod is of so much importance to us both. With my interest In visiting shuls around the world on our travels I always had one burning desire to visit the Ultimate prayer site yes the ‘Wailing Wall’ in Jerusalem which of course was not in Israeli territory when we were there in 1958. So with great anticipation we awaited our ships arrival in Egypt to visit, wait for it, yes a remaining synagogue and then to return to the place where it all began for the two of us and see the enormous changes in the country I have been told about by all my friends and relatives who have since visited Israel Egypt Synagogue. – To be continued in the next issue.