MANCHESTER DIARY
Michael had to catch Friday night dinner

SIMCHA: Michael Marks and wife Sonia

WITH determination and faith, Michael Marks and his family made it through his wartime barmitzvah.

For the young lad would do anything in order to keep a kosher home and lifestyle during the Second World War.

And 83-year-old Michael will celebrate his second barmitzvah tomorrow at Yeshurun Hebrew Congregation, Gatley.

"It is a way of remembering keeping my Yiddishkeit alive during my first barmitzvah," said former shul president Michael, who lives in Cheadle.

His first took place on February 24, 1945, at the Salvation Army hall in Thame, Oxfordshire.

Michael recalled: "When my barmitzvah finally arrived, my father brought a Sefer Torah from London on the train the Friday before.

"I remember proudly taking it from him and carrying it to our home.

"As I recited my piece, I heard the 150 Flying Fortresses, Lancasters and Wellington Bombers fully laden with bombs, flying overhead as they did every day."

Michael's family were evacuated to Oxford from London in 1945 after their house was bombed, while they were in their air raid shelter.

"Myself, together with my parents and three sisters - June, Phyllis and Doreen - set off on what seemed a long and tiring journey and we stopped in Thame for a rest.

"We decided to stay there as we came across a little terraced house for sale opposite where we had stopped.

"We rented the house and, for some time, were the only Jewish family in Thame.

"Our home was strictly kosher and non-Jewish neighbours would help in any way they could."

Every Friday, for Shabbat dinner, Michael had to catch the chicken in their garden which was bought the day before from the local farm.

He continued: "I would put it in a sack and take it to the shochet in Oxford on the 5.30am bus and return in time for school.

"Living in Thame, there was no Jewish education.

"My father, Harry Marks, was worried about our Jewish education so my uncle Ferdie decided to teach us.

"My father travelled to London each day and davened at the Machzikei Hadass Synagogue in Brick Lane.

"He became friendly with the rabbi and invited him to my barmitzvah.

"The rabbi realised that the parsha I had been learning, Teshuva, was incorrect and should have been Parsha Zachor.

He continued: "So the rabbi spoke to Rabbi Kibbel in Oxford, who agreed to teach me the correct maftir twice a week, for six weeks.

"This meant I had to catch an early bus to Oxford to make it back in time for school."

After the war, his family made a new home in Brighton.

Michael married Sheffield-raised Sonia (nee Spier) in 1964 after meeting on a JNF trip to Israel.

The couple, who have three grown-up children, lived in Sheffield for a year after marriage, but moved to Cheadle as they heard about its growing Jewish community.

Michael added: "I don't think youngsters today could cope with such difficulties.

"My sisters and I will never forget our experiences."



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