My Father, and His Father:
Rabbi in Scotland
I always found it next to impossible to imagine my father as a child. In his black frock coat, stiff shirtfront, and bow tie, and his rather precise 18th-century English, and in his role as the Rabbi of Edinburgh and official spokesman of the Jewish people to all Scotland—a role which he played superbly—he had a dignity and formality of manner and public presence infinitely removed from the world of childhood.
But also it was because I knew so little of the circumstances of his childhood that I found it impossible to visualize them. I am not even sure where he was born. It was in 1880, somewhere in Poland (then under Russian rule): at one time I thought Vilna was the place, and on other occasions my father would mention the village of Neustadt (Neistodt in Yiddish pronunciation) as if it was his birthplace. But he disliked talking about it, and I don’t think he made more than half a dozen references to his childhood in Poland during all the years that I knew him.
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