By Linda Davidson
KENNY’S levaya took place in Jerusalem on our 47th wedding anniversary (July 9).
After the first day/night of shiva in our Jerusalem home, we returned to London for Shabbat and Sunday morning Shacharit service at Gail’s home where it was standing room only and which was attended by no fewer than five rabbis, including our own former ministers: Rabbi Pinchas Hackenbroch, Rabbi Jeffrey Cohen and Rabbi Alan Plancey as well as Rabbis Chaim Kanterowitz and Bodilowsky of Borehamwood after which we returned to our Glasgow home to complete the shiva week.
Kenny and I had shared our love of Israel, Judaism, family and community.
From his teen years, Kenny had been actively working for Israel and the Glasgow Jewish community, spending his first year after graduating from the College of Science and Technology (now Strathclyde University) in Israel where not only did he have work experience in textiles but he also attended ulpan in order to improve his Hebrew in which he became fluent.
Raised within a strongly religious and Zionist family, Kenny’s two eldest brothers, Shamai and Terry, both emigrated to Israel at a very early stage in their careers and continued to excel in their respective medical careers, both becoming professors, as did his third brother, Julian, who also made aliya and later became a professor at Stanford University in California.
Kenny became a member of Glasgow Young Poale Zion and then, together with Stanley Lovatt, formed the first Younger JNF committee which became a household word amongst the twenty-somethings of the 1960s, at the same time bringing in much needed funds for Israel, as well as producing spectacular events that were the talk of the town.
In 1968, the year we were getting married, Kenny was invited to become joint secretary of the Glasgow Jewish Representative Council and it was no surprise that, some years later, he became president and, thus, head of the Glasgow Jewish community.
During the Sabra/Shatila debacle, when Kenny was asked by the Glasgow Peace Now Group and its supporters to make a statement on behalf of the GJRC denouncing Israel’s involvement, he refused, causing tremendous dissension in the community and for weeks after, letters and reports appeared in the Jewish Echo.
So dramatic and emotive was this period, that the Editor, Dr Ezra Golombok, used to call Kenny on a Thursday evening, as the paper was going to press, to alert him to what to expect in that week’s edition.
Chairman of Newton Mearns Hebrew Congregation, chairman of the Zionist Federation, Glasgow Israel Committee, chairman of the Yom Ha’atzmaut committee as well as being on the national executive of the Zionist Federation, Kenny had a standing ovation in May when we attended the annual ZF dinner in London with guest of honour Shimon Peres.
He enjoyed being part of NMHC and davened annually on Rosh Hashana, as well as reciting Shacharit every Yom Kippur, the least attended part of the day.
He was so dedicated to his Yiddishkeit that, at a moment’s notice, could be asked to do Maftir which he read faultlessly and without any previous preparation.
So steeped in his Judaism that, on his last Friday, when I saw how poorly Kenny was becoming and was sleeping a lot, I called our London neighbour, Glaswegian, Rabbi Alan Plancey, to visit him, not having previously had any visitors apart from immediate family.
Rabbi Plancey started to recite the Shema and Kenny, in his weakened state, opened his eyes fully and recited the whole of the Shema.
My daughters, sons-in-law and I were so overcome with emotion. It was a miracle, but Kenny, who recited the Shema twice daily, had to fulfil this very special mitzva.
Yet,with all his involvement in all these organisations, he was always modest about it all; a good listener, energetic, empathetic but, most of all, a loving, adoring and adored husband,dad and grandpa. Our dream of spending more time together in his beloved Israel, in the apartment we have owned for more than 30 years, will now be only partially achieved but happy he must be to overlook the hills of Jerusalem and know that, in a way, he has made his aliya.