Rev. Saul (Shlomo Zalman) Beck

by his children, Myrna and Mordechai Beck

Reverend Saul (Shlomo Zalman) Beck was born in London in 1906 to Moshe and Hannah Beck, the oldest male of eight children. He went to a regular school in the East End of London, where he learned English for the first time since his home was Yiddish-speaking only. Amazingly he spoke a beautiful English with no trace of his Lithuanian-Yiddish background. He also studied in yeshivat Etz Haim for ten years, where he was considered an ilui. At seventeen he was offered a rabbinic diploma which he declined owing to the fact that his heart was set on being a businessman.

Finishing yeshiva he worked as a business man. Eventually he had a shop in Brick Lane where as a stone mason he made head stones for Jewish tombs. When World War II started he was 33, nevertheless he was conscripted immediately and became a gunner, eventually participating in the Normandy landings. He was severely wounded and spent over a year in hospital, undergoing some ten operations. In 1941, he married Fay Josephs (Slobodnik). They had two children, Myrna and Mordechai, both of whom made aliyah, a testament to his own love of Zionism.

After his release from the army (where he also served as a chaplain as well as earning four medals), his business was bombed to the ground. He eventually decided to return to teaching Torah. He taught in schools in the East End of London, in cheders in Manor Park, West Ham and Hainault where he was the headmaster. He also worked on the burial grounds arranging services for those who did not have their own minister. He was then asked to be the minister of a young, growing community in Romford, Essex where he worked tirelessly to bring Judaism to both children and adults. His cheder eventually attracted some 150 pupils, who remember him with great affection.

On retiring from Romford, he became the Rabbi at the West Ham synagogue for a couple of years till his demise in June 1983.

Throughout his life he retained his critical Lithuanian wit, often using it to correct others if they made a mistake quoting sources. He also had a marvellous sense of humour, peppering his speeches with timely jokes in English and Yiddish. When asked about his occupation he jokingly replied "I'm a part- time Rabbi for part-time Jews, some of whom could barely distinguish between an aleph and a swastika."

Myrna and Mordechai Beck, Jerusalem

Link to Rev. Beck's profile on JCR-UK

Page created: 15 April 2021
Latest revision or update: 15 April 2021




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