A 90th birthday with Max Glassman
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Friday 16th January 2015

Max Glasman has just celebrated his 90th birthday with his wide family and also with his community at Northwood, Middlesex. In fact Max recited the Haftorah last Shabbat (Shemoth) and during last week the shacharit minyanim group at Northwood United Synagogue presented Max, at the conclusion of shacharit on Thursday with a birthday gift in celebration of his 90th birthday. It’s fair to say that Max was overwhelmed by all the fuss about him – a gentler, more modest man would be hard to find but the community’s recognition and feeling for Max and his contribution bubbled over in quite a sense of celebration.

Max, with his hat on, receiving his 90th birthday gift from the shacharit minyan group and Rabbi Freedman at Northwood last Thursday morning

Max’s grandparents came to the UK around 1900’s from Russia. Max’s mother’s parents came from Balta (just north of Odessa in Ukraine) – they were forced to flee when the Cossacks came.    Thus did the now penniless Meyer & Leah Weitzman and their six children (including a very young Fanny – who was to become Max’s mother) travel and were supported on their way from one Jewish community to another, walked & rode on carts, some 1,500 miles right across Europe to London.    

In London the wedding of Max’s parents (Fanny married Hyman Glasman) took place in the East End in 1921. Max was born in 1925 in “Mother Levy’s nursing home” as were many children of Jewish émigrés who fled to the UK – sadly this historic building was burned down in 2012. Aged 11 Max went to Coopers Company School in Bow and then on to Challoners Grammar School in Amersham.   Sadly he lost his mother, Fanny, to illness in 1940.    

Max’s Jewish education came from the cheder next to Baythorne Street shul in Limehouse (later to be destroyed by German bombs during the war) and then, after his barmitvah in 1938 (when leining all the sedra was expected as the norm). Max continued his learning at Yeshiva Etz Chaim until the war broke out in 1939.

The war had a big effect on Max’s young life in many ways – not exactly like the previous generation’s suffering at the hands of the Cossacks but nevertheless quite related in many aspects. Max’s family sat shiva for his mother in a house with no windows (blown out by bomb blasts). Also, the bombing destroyed his father’s toy factory in Plaistow. Max’s home in the East End was bombed out on a Wednesday and then, after the family relocated, bombed again on Friday of the same week! Despite the family eventually moving “out” to Ickenham the effect of German air raids is still clearly etched on Max’s mind even today.

Despite his education being interrupted by the war, the gifted Max passed his Matriculation (aged 15) in 1940 and then the Higher School Certificate in 1942. He went to Durham University to read Physics with Maths, graduating with an Honours Degree in 1944. At that time holders of Physics degrees were directed to government work or the armed forces – in actual fact Max was selected to work in a factory producing radio valves for the government.   

Max was “released” from his wartime effort in 1947 and then set up a business with his brother-in-law Lou selling pre-fabricated poultry houses. The well managed business became successful, a model for others and grew into producing pre-fabricated garages and sheds of steel or wooden construction. Unfortunately Max’s brother-in-law Lou died in 1985 and the business was sold in 1986 to Wernicks Ltd one of the big trade producers in the sector, Max became a director at Wernicks and he retired 4 years later at age 65.

Max had married Rayner (nee Isaacs) in 1949 and they had two daughters Frances and Hilary. Sadly Rayner died in 1993. Max has 7 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren. Max is happily married now to Sheila Kempner whom he married in 1999.   

Anyone who knows Max will be struck by his quiet humility, his deep knowledge of yiddishkeit and observance of Judaism plus his deep sense of family and community.    

We all wish Max and his family many more years of good health and happiness.