Wednesday, 29 June 2011


Looking in the diary, I noticed that a year ago (or to be precise 52 weeks ago on Sunday) we attended the wedding of the daughter of close friends.

The wedding ceremony (Chupa) took place in an Orthodox Synagogue in North West London. The Chupa was a wonderful occasion and the Rabbi in his speech to the newlyweds managed to bring in the disappointment the whole country felt at England being knocked out of the World Cup by Germany.

After the Chupa we then had to drive to the outskirts of North London to a restaurant where the reception and dinner and dance were being held.

It was a very hot day and the reception was held in the open air.

Following the reception we all (about 120) went to the function room which was above the restaurant. 
We were seated at round tables of 10, and all those on our table were friends we had known for over 30 years. Unfortunately one couple couldn’t make it because of illness so the table was only set for 8.

We were having our starter, when the head waiter came over and asked my wife Diane if she minded if they put someone next her as we had room on our table. Obviously Diane said to was ok.

We were then joined by, to me, a young woman in her early 40’s named Lisa. She explained to Diane that she lived in Brighton, and that a friend of hers, who was a friend of the bridegroom, had been invited with her son. The son couldn’t make it, and she had asked Lisa to go with her so that she wouldn’t have to travel on her own. It so happened that the son was supposed to sit on the children’s table and that’s why Lisa ended up next to Diane.

My wife, always on the look out to matchmake, although our 3 sons are all married, asked Lisa about herself. She said that she was a widow with 2 teenage daughters and found it very hard to meet Jewish men in Brighton. She stayed in Brighton only because her parents lived there.

Hearing part of the conversation, a sudden thought passed my mind. I leaned across and asked Lisa what her surname was. The answer she gave meant nothing to me. I then asked what her maiden name was. The answer was Feinson, and I replied that her dad Paul was my first cousin and that Paul’s dad and my mum were brother and sister. Lisa immediately phoned her dad, who I hadn’t seen for a few years.

I  know it’s a long story, but the amazing think is that she could have been put on any table and anywhere on our table.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

On this day – 21st June

In 1857 Joshua Bittan was born in Stepney to Abraham Bittan and Miriam Solomons. He was a Cigar Maker and later a General Dealer in Clothing.

Joshua married Esther Martin at Bevis Marks Synagogue on 8th August 1876.

In 1883 Joshua and his family moved to New York and 2 of his 8 children were born in New York. By 1901 the family was back in London.

Joshua’s uncle Benjamin is Diane’s Great Grandfather on her mother’s maternal side.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

On this day – 16th June

In 1819 Eve Joshua married John Isaacs at the Hambro Synagogue, London. They had 3 children, Isaac, Elizabeth and Leah.

I believe that Eve and John were Diane’s 2 x great grandparents on her mother’s paternal side.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

On this day – 8th June

In 1891 Dora Godalski was born, at home at 44 Brick Lane, Mile End, to Solomon Godalski and Yetta Miller. She was one of eleven children.

In the 1901 census she is shown living with her parents and her 10 brothers and sisters at 106 Brownlow Hill, Liverpool..

In the 1911 census she was back in Whitechapel, London with her mother and 2 brothers and 3 sisters. Her father died in 1910 and 2 brothers and 3 sisters were married.

She married Harry Belson on 25th April 1925. Their first child Simon was my father. They had 5 children in total.

My grandfather Harry died in 1947 and my grandmother remarried. She died about 1955.

In 1941 my brother Michael Jeffrey Belson died of TB aged 10 months. I was 4 years old at the time and have no recollection of him and my parents never ever mentioned him to me, or my sister.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

We are the Survivors

This is a blog for those born before 1940 in the UK and was passed to me by a friend. A lot has changed since this was originally written.

We were born before television, before penicillin, polio shots, frozen food, Xerox, cotantact lenses, videos, DVD's, frisbees, freebies and the pill. We lived before radar, credit cards, split atoms, laser beams and the ball-point pens, before dishwashers, tumble dryers, electric blankets, air conditioners, drip-dry clothes and before man walked on the moon.

We got married first and then lived together. We thought a "Big Mac" was an oversized raincoat and crumpet we had for tea. We existed before house husbands, computer dating and dual careers; when a meaningful relationship meant getting along with your cousins and sheltered accommodation was where you waited for a bus.

We were before day care centres, group homes and disposable nappies. We had never heard of FM radio, electric typewriters, electric typewriters, word processors or computers. Nor artificial hearts or yoghourt and young men wearring earings. For us "time sharing" meant togetherness, a chip was a piece of wood or a fried potato, hardware meant nuts and bolts, and software  wasn't a word.

Before 1940 "Made in Japan" meant junk, the term "making out" referred to how you did in your exams, a stud was something that fastened a collar to a shirt, and "going all the way" meant staying on the double decker bus until it reached the depot. Pizza, McDonalds and instant coffee were unheard of. In our day cigarette smoking was fashionable, grass was mown, coke was kept in the coal house, a joint was a piece of meat and a pot was something you cooked it in.A gay person was the life and soul of the party and nothing more, and aids just meant beauty treatment or help for someone in trouble.

We who were born before 1940 must be a hardy bunch when you think of the ways in which the world has changed and the adjustments we have had to make. No wonder we are so confused and there is a generation gap.

But we have survived.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

On this day – 4th June

In 1861 Sarah Betan (Bittan) was born in Whitechapel to Joshua Betan (Bittan) and Phoebe Martin (Nunes Martinez). She was the youngest of 11 children and was the sister of Benjamin Bittan who is my wife Diane’s maternal great grandfather.

She married Abraham (Alfred) Levy on 9th March 1880 at the Princes Street Synagogue, London. They had 7 children

In the 1891 & 1901 census’s she is shown as living with husband and children at 84 Oxford Street, Whitechapel and in 1911 living at 20 Alderney Road, Mile End. London.

Sarah died on 15th January 1912, aged 51, in London. 
Jewish Chronicle Announcements on her death-

Levy -- In ever loving memory of our darling wife and mother Sarah Levy who departed this life on Jan 15th 1912. Gone but not forgotten. G-d rest her dear soul in peace. Amen. From her ever loving husband, Abraham, daughter and son, Fanny and Sam 20 Alderney road, Mile End E.

Levy - in ever loving and lasting memory of my darling mother Sarah Levy who passed away on Jan 15th 1912. Sadly missed by her son, daughter in law and grandchildren. May G-d rest her dear soul in peace. Amen - Mr. Ralph Levy 77 Harford street, Mile End, E.

Levy - In ever loving memory of my dearly beloved mother Sarah Levy who departed this life on Jan 15th 1912, Sadly missed by her daughter, son in law and grandchildren. May G-d rest her dear soul in peace amen - Mrs. N. Crabb 44 Great Queen St. Kingsway WC.

Levy - in ever loving memory of my dearly beloved mother Sarah Levy who departed this life on Jan 15th 1912. Sadly missed by her daughter Dinah. May G-d rest her dear soul in peace Amen, Mrs. G. Cohn 148 W. 143rd street NYC USA. American papers please copy.

Levy - in ever loving memory of my darling mother Sarah Levy who passed away Jan 15th 1912, Deeply mourned by her loving daughter and son in law, Mr. and Mrs, Lawrence Lazarus, 35 British Street, Bow

With many thanks to Brian Whipp and his family history website which can be found at