Obituary:Rabbi Hugo Gryn

Click to follow
Rabbi Hugo Gryn had the gift of humorous encapsulation, something which could be very funny indeed while carrying a little reminder of the valley of the shadow through which he had walked, writes Edward Pearce [further to the obituary by Albert H. Friedlander on 20 August].

He would tell the story of the chicken and the pig who escaped from a farm in the western Ukraine. They came to a village stricken by famine. "Listen" said the chicken (most of Hugo's stories had someone saying "Listen").

"Listen. Between us we could keep these people in ham and eggs for a week."

"Be quiet will you" said the pig. "For you that would be the big gesture. For me it would be a total sacrifice."

No one who worked with Hugo will forget the jokes, the hospitality and the generosity of spirit. He seemed in religion to be pre-eminently liberal, outgoing and inclusive asking non-religious Jews only to touch base without inquisition as to faith.

He was particularly fond of a circle of Anglican, Catholic, non-Conformist, and characteristically, Muslim friends.

He had spent time in Scotland as a young man and said that on entering Cambridge was asked where he came from; he replied in a Glasgow accent "Czechoslovakia".

As a young rabbi he was seized upon in Scotland by a community of Free Presbyterians who detained him for a week, delighted to entertain a rabbi and have their biblical Hebrew improved from the horse's mouth. But Hugo was that sort of horse.

Touched at different points in his life by Czechoslovakia, Scotland, Cambridge, the American south, India, metropolitan London and the Auschwitz which he remembered every day of his life, he was a dear and delightful man whom no one having known will ever forget.