top of page
< Back

Izak Goller (1891-1939): Zionist poet, playwright and preacher

Gabriel Sivan

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Jewish Historical Studies, volume 41, 2007 Izak Goller (i891-1939): Zionist poet, playwright and preacher GABRIEL A. SIVAN The aim of this paper is to restore the reputation of a figure unique in Anglo-Jewry and to rescue him from an undeserved oblivion. Aged less than fifty when he died, just two months before the outbreak of the Second World War, Izak Goller had managed to pack three separate careers and nearly a dozen literary works into his short lifetime.1 The fact that he was an influential teacher as well as a writer was shown by the presence, when this paper was delivered, of individuals who remember him with enduring affection. Information about Izak Goller's childhood and upbringing is sparse.2 His family, which came from Plunge (Plungyany), Lithuania, brought him to England as a child. His parents, Harris (Shlomoh Tsevi) and Dora Goller, settled in the Manchester 'ghetto', where Harris ? generally known as Shaya - earned his living as a vendor of sweets that Dora made at home. According to the iqoi census, Harris was forty-eight and his wife forty. Their two sons were listed as Simon (aged ten) and Isaac (aged nine). It was the latter (Eliezer Yitshak) who won fame as Izak Goller the poet, play? wright and preacher. Simon Qudah Simon), his elder brother, who ran 'Goller's heder* (religion classes), later studied medicine and qualified as a physician, eventually moving to London and becoming a Harley Street diet specialist. He and his wife Annie (nee Cohen) had a son and a daughter whose upbringing was affected by the parents' unhappy relationship. Elie is thought to have committed suicide in the 1930s; Leila (born in 1918) 1 This is a revised version of a lecture presented to the Israel branch of the Society in Jerusalem on 20 March 2006. S. D. Temkin's obituary for the Jewish Chronicle (hereafter JC) 30 June 1939 appears to have been the source of a brief entry in the Universal Jewish Encyclopedia V (New York 1941) 48. Other sources used here were 'Izak Goller: A Forgotten Genius', Liverpool Jewish Gazette 24 June i960, and a short survey in 'Three Lovers of Zion', Niv Hamidrashia (Tel Aviv) Spring 1970, English section 79-81. Published under the present author's original name, Godfrey E. Silverman, they were the basis of an entry in the Encyclopaedia Judaica VII, 762. See also A. Lewis, chairman of the Society's Liverpool branch, 'Izak Goller: The Not Quite Forgotten Man', Mersey side Jewish Representative Council Year Book 2003/4,49_53 2 The following details are partly based on information from Jonny Berkley of Bet Shemesh, Israel, whose great-grandmother Sarah Goldman was Izak's first cousin on his father's side. 145</page><page sequence="2">Gabriel Sivan Plate i Izak Goller. (Uncredited photograph.) despised her father, became an ardent Communist and married a non-Jew. She wrote popular children's books under the name Leila Berg as well as a volume of memoirs in which she often mentions her Jewish family connec? tions. Referring to her grandparents in 1925, for example, she writes: 'Zaidie Goller used to be a toffee-man outside the railings [of the school], but I was very little then. He sold the sweets Bobbie Goller made to the children through the railings.'3 According to the Jewish Chronicle obituary of 1 June 1928, Harris Goller was seventy-three when he died, although a statement of 1901 implies that he was more probably seventy-six. Such discrepancies were not uncommon in registrations made by Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, who had become used to falsifying their age to avoid conscription in the Tsarist army. Dr J. S. Goller remarried late in life and died at the age of eighty nine, outliving his younger brother by exactly forty years.4 Izak attended the local 'Jews' School' and then gained a scholarship to the Manchester Central School. He had probably studied at lyeshivah and may 3 L. Berg, Flickerbook (London 1997) 45. 4 JC 24 July 1959; 22 June 1979. 146</page><page sequence="3">Izak Goller (i 891-1939): Zionist poet, playwright and preacher even have obtained semikhah, a rabbinical diploma,5 more than sufficient to prepare him for the Anglo-Jewish ministry. His command of English indi? cates that a secondary-school education in the early 1900s provided a better training in literacy than many a liberal-arts degree in recent times. After leaving school Goller found employment as a book-keeper and Hebrew teacher. He seems to have married young, but his wife Malkah, a fine embroiderer, to whom some of his poems are dedicated, remained childless. His first ministerial appointment was at the Kovno Synagogue in Manchester, and he later became headmaster of the Jewish Educational Institute (probably the Talmud Torah) in Leeds. From there he moved to London and served between 1922 and 1925 as minister of the Walthamstow and Leyton Synagogue. During this time he was invited to join the literary circle of Anglo-Jewry's outstanding novelist, Israel Zangwill, where he first met Leopold J. Greenberg, the keenly Zionist editor of the Jewish Chronicle (1907-31). Greenberg understood that this young man was not the conven? tional type of Anglo-Jewish minister (even his first name was capriciously misspelt) and that he had poetic gifts. Sefton Temkin, in paying tribute to the writer Maurice Samuel, observed that he was 'the last of a trio - the other two being Louis Golding and Izak Goller - who grew up together in Manchester and each in his different way made his contribution to Jewish literature'.6 Greenberg wisely fostered Goller's talent and most probably gave financial backing to his early verse collections, The Passionate Jew (i923)andv4 Jew Speaks!(1926). In 1925 Izak Goller became minister of the New Hebrew Congregation's Hope Place Synagogue, Liverpool, in succession to Rabbi Dr Isaiah Raffalovich, who had been appointed Chief Rabbi of Brazil in 1924.7 One motivation for his return to the Provinces was his lack of a ministerial diploma from Jews' College and of a university degree, without which Goller stood little chance of promotion in London's United Synagogue framework. But Liverpool had attracted some notable East European rabbis in recent times and was the birthplace and alma mater of the three Swift brothers (Harris, Isaac and Morris), each destined to make a mark in the Anglo-Jewish and overseas rabbinate. Other 'local boys' would eventually include Shalom Coleman, Chaim Pearl and Oscar Werner. In addition, Zionism was firmly implanted on Merseyside: a Mr Ginsburg was Liverpool's delegate to the First Zionist Congress in Basle (1897) and Dr Jacob Samuel Fox established his Hebrew Higher Grade School in 1902, 5 See the end of this article for the gravestone inscription which implies that he may not have had such a diploma. For additional information I am grateful to Arnold Lewis and to Yoel Varod of Ramat ha-Sharon, Israel, who (as Gerald Pink) was one of Goller's young disciples and admirers. 6 JC26 May 1972. 7 Sivan (see n. 1) 77-9, and Encyclopaedia Judaica XIII, 1511-12. 147</page><page sequence="4">Gabriel Sivan AM A HEBREW - MASTER. ~jf of Judaism Is Coo fundamental to form anything less than a Ufa* "it ll my life-vocation. In 1919 I was then recognised as an educationist kdmaster of the Leeds Jewish Educational Institute. In all my activities, _I or lecture, in art or literature I am always the Hebrew-master, the r of Judaism. Best of all, however, I teach Judaism to the Children tn my _, Our studies range from aleph-beth to Talmud according to the capacity of the pupil; and our subjects include Prayers, the Law and the Prophets, Kashrut, History, Zionism, Practical Hebrew Conversation, Barmttzvah Preparation etc. Palestinian Hebrew is used throughout ; our Religion is acquired without superstition, our sacred Laws and Customs are frankly and honestly related to facts of modern life, and every boy and girl is inspired with .an Intelligent pride In, and the understanding of, Jewish ideals. ? Need I say more? SOLVE THE PROBLEM OF YOUR CHILDREN'S COMPLETE RELIGIOUS AND NATIONAL EDUCATION. " BRING THEH TO ME AND LET ME TEACH THEM. tsv. Dr. Gollkk's IIkhwkw Classks, 25, GROVE PARK, Sefton Park, and, for the greater convenience of Calderstones residents, 256, WOOLTON ROAD, near Water Works. r any question and advise on any special difficulty regarding My phone, WAVERTREE 2749 is at your service. Entrust your i training to ma. You will be happy with the results. Faithfully yours, Plate 2 Goller's teaching advertisement. pioneering the Ivrit be-Ivrit, 'Hebrew in Hebrew', teaching method.8 A comprehensive history of the Jews in Liverpool still needs to be written; for many years the only such works were by members of the Benas family.9 Lastly, Goller had parents and close relatives in Manchester. Nevertheless, it was an unhappy and short-lived appointment: Izak Goller acquired a reputation as a fiery, non-conformist preacher ready to criticize the establishment in general and families running his own synagogue in particu? lar. This led to friction and to his dismissal from several posts. Dr Shalom Coleman, rabbi emeritus of the Perth Hebrew Congregation, Western Australia, describes Goller as an eccentric genius with a disposition that 'led to his undoing in every pulpit he served'.10 Although Liverpool's one-time 8 See Encyclopaedia Judaic a VI, 1451. 9 Baron L. Benas, Records of the Jews in Liverpool: A Paper (1900); Bertram B. Benas, Later Records of the Jews in Liverpool (1929), and the survey in Trans JHSE XVII (1953) 23-7. See also C. Roth in Encyclopaedia Judaica XI, 409-10 (with bibliography); M. Goodman in Bi Tefutzot ha-Golah: In the Dispersion 5-6 (Jerusalem 1966) 52-67; G. A. Sivan,4 A Yankee's View of Liverpool Jewry', Judaism 37/3 (New York, Summer 1988) 307-14; idem 'The Leaving of Liverpool', Jewish Affairs 45/2 (Johannesburg, March-April 1990) 28-32. An exhibition enti? tled 'Liverpool Jewry: A Pictorial History' was mounted in 1987. 10 For his otherwise positive assessment of Goller, see S. Coleman, Life is a Corridor. An Autobiography (Perth 1992) 122. 148</page><page sequence="5">Izak Goller (i 891-1939): Zionist poet, playwright and preacher 'foreign' Rav, the rabbinical scholar and Zionist leader Samuel Jacob Rabinowitz,11 was also a critic of Anglo-Jewry's social and religious failings, he expressed his views only in Hebrew or Yiddish, whereas Goller spoke his mind in plain English. The New Hebrew Congregation's historian records that 'Mr. Goller's association with the synagogue terminated in 1926'.12 Undismayed, he made his home, 25 Grove Park, a kind of spiritual powerhouse, establishing his own Young Israel Synagogue, the first of its kind in Britain. Young Israel was the name given to a periodical for Jewish youth which L. J. Greenberg had helped to establish in 1897. Goller's serv? ices attracted a large group of teenage followers to his basement, where he had decorated the whole floor with a map of Palestine, on which the territo? ries of the Twelve Tribes were marked out in coloured cement. Leila Berg wrote in 1925: 'Last Sunday we went to Liverpool to see Uncle Izak's new house. All over the floor is a huge map of Palestine. I mean the floor is a map.'13 He taught bar mitsvah pupils and gave instruction in everything from Bible and Talmud to Zionism and 'Palestinian' Hebrew. His Liverpool teaching advertisement, 'I Am a Hebrew-Master', also produced as a business card, is undated and evidently appeared a couple of years after his Useful Tables for Elementary Hebrew Class Work (London, 1924). The 'Rev. Dr Goller', as he styled himself, was a tall, rather gaunt man with a goatee beard, who made use of dramatic gestures and intonations when speaking in public. It must have been around the time of his departure from Hope Place that he wrote this manifesto: A Jewish Minister is, in the spirit, directly descended from the ancient Jewish Prophets. He is the expounder of the spirit of the Torah, the genius of Israel. He is not the expounder of the letter of the Law. He is the spiritual guide of his congregation. He must lead and direct Jewish reaction to external influences. He must not degenerate into a 'tame cat at tea parties'. He must utilise his little leisure for spiritual research ... Like the Prophets of old, he must seek communion with God, whose inspira? tion must be the driving force behind his sermons. From his pulpit the Jewish spirit shall speak clearly upon any question, local, political, or international, directly or indirectly affecting his people. His pulpit utterance shall vocalise the Jewish conscience. As our Prophets of old, fearless for their lives, spoke God's truth to king and 11 G. A. Sivan, 'A Spiritual Giant', Jewish Review (London, 31 May 1961); idem (see n. 1) 75-7; Encyclopaedia Judaica XIII, 1478. 12 P. Ettinger, 'Hope Place' in Liverpool Jewry (Liverpool 1930) 85. 13 Berg (see n. 3) 47. 149</page><page sequence="6">Gabriel Sivan commoner, so must a Jewish Minister, fearless for his bread, speak God's truth to warden and congregant. In all things external to his office he may be just an ordinary Jew and just an ordinary man. He cannot be perfect; he dare not be a coward.14 While serving as a minister in London, Goller had published his first collec? tion of verse, The Passionate Jew, which bore witness to his militantly Jewish and Zionist outlook.15 Whether he ever received a training in graphics is uncertain, but the book was illustrated with his own stark 'cartoons', a form of artistry that characterized most of his later works. Employing various types of metre and rhyme schemes, the poetry in this volume covered a range of topics, from the joyful celebration of life to bitter denunciation of the pogroms in Eastern Europe, and includes pieces entitled 'A Drinking Song', 'The Poet's Prayer' and 'Christianity Christless'. Goller also included rhymed English versions of liturgical hymns (Maoz Tsur and Lekhah Dodi), Zionist anthems (Isaac Feld's Dort wo die Zeder and Naftali Herz Imber's Hatikvah) and a popular Yiddish roundelay (Got un Zayn Mishpot iz Gerekht). 'A Drinking Song', one of the original poems that he set to music, is a merry Zionist ballad that invokes ancient, medieval and modern Jewish heroes, with a generous sprinkling of Hebrew and Yiddish phraseology: Bring me a measure of Carmel wine, Carmel wine of the hills of mine! Rich with the treasure of Palestine, Palestine, dear land of mine! Carmel wine, thou liquor so fine, Of Palestine thou ichor divine, In my cup come bubble, In my cup come bubble, In my cup come bubble and shine! Avrohom ovinu, lechayyim! lechayyim! Yitzchok ovinu, lechayyim! Yaakov ovinu who lodged in Mitzrayim, Lechayyim! lechayyim! lechayyim! 14 A Jew Speaks! A New Book of Verse and Prose Written and Illustrated by Izak Goller (London 1926) 7-8. 15 The Passionate Jew and Cobbles ofthe God-Road: A Book ofPoems Written and Illustrated by Izak Goller (London 1923). This volume may have run to more than one edition, as its publisher, originally Whitehead Morris, was subsequently listed as the Merton Press, Victoria Street, SWi. A copy in the Jewish National and University Library, Jerusalem (S 28 V 7270) has an undated inscription: 'Presented to the Hebrew University by Mrs. Greenberg in memory of her husband, Leopold J. Greenberg'. i5o</page><page sequence="7">Izak Goller (i891-1939): Zionist poet, playwright and preacher Who bearded the Pharaoh and dared to defy him, Leader gigantic, lechayyim! Who pleaded to hear El erech appayyim, Moshe rabbenu, lechayyim! ... Herzl, Wolfsohn, Nordau and Sokolov, lechayyim! Leaders and chiefs all, lechayyim! Lechayyim Weizmann! gam Balfour lechayyim! Unto all the good goyyim, lechayyim! Amenu, artzenu - lechayyim! lechayyim! Veiber un kinder, lechayyim! Fill up the goblets and fling high the rhyme, Lechayyim! lechayyim! lechayyim!16 Like his 'Maoz Tzury and 'Lechah Dodi!\11 Goller's English version of Hatikvah fits the metre and melody of the original: While within our inmost heart We retain a sigh to breathe, And to Zion's utmost part Dying glances we bequeath, We our hope shall ne'er betray, Ancient hope of ancient right: To retrace our fathers' way, Tread the land of David's might!18 Less familiar nowadays is the Yiddish song telling of the defiant Jewish trust that justice will eventually triumph. To the old words Goller added an optimistic Envoi ('All nations shall fear/ The God we hold dear/ When back to our Zion we throng'), concluding with the traditional refrain - which can be appreciated only when sung: The Lord and His judgment must be right. Let none despairing cry 'God's doom is spite!' The Lord knows how and why Got un Zayn mishpot iz gerekht. Man tor nit keynmol zogn az Got iz shlekht! Got veys vos Er tut, 16 Ibid. 24-5, first published JC 26 Aug. 1921, with 'Palestine (To My Scholars)' and 'The Jew Eternal'. 17 Goller (see n. 15) 26-7, 30-1. 18 Ibid. 32. This preserves the former wording and reappeared, with slight modifications, in Modin Women: The Story of the Revolt of the Maccabees, in Rhythm, Rhyme and Melodrama, Written and Cartooned by Izak Goller (London 1931). i5i</page><page sequence="8">Gabriel Sivan Right and wrong their warfare ply, The Lord and His judgment must be right.19 Umzonst shtroft Er keynmol nit. Got un Zayn mishpot iz gerekht. One poem in this collection strikes a bitter, personal note, obviously reflecting Goller's disdain for the lay leaders and ba'alei-battim (synagogue members) with whom he had to contend: Oh God, help me! For I have fallen into the hands of the righteous And the sons of the pious have encompassed me... Oh God, help me! Have I not sacrificed to You my youth and strength? Have I not searched for You along this road? Have I not prayed unto You morning, noon and eve? Oh God, help me! Help me and I shall give to You a noble gift; For I will bind the pious and the righteous, And I shall slay their God-enfeebling thoughts And raise their cleansed souls a gift to Thee!20 Considering that Izak Goller was still little-known, reviews of The Passionate Jew (quoted later at the end of A Jew Speaks!) were unusually enthusiastic. Not only did the Jewish Chronicle hail him as 'an authentic poet' and the Jewish Guardian call his verse 'strong meat on rough platters', but he drew the attention of the national press. 'Mr. Goller is defiant, but the reality of his emotions is altogether beyond doubt', wrote the Daily News; 'these poems are an exciting experience', the Birmingham Post declared, and the Glasgow Heraldbelieved that 'good things may come from him once his genuine force is harnessed, for he has deep feeling and courage, and can on occasion give a clean, sure hammer-stroke'. Similar praise came from the New York Herald, which spoke of Goller's 'vehement prophetic declamation [and] illustrations in keeping with the poems', although the Montreal Gazette commented that 'this work has considerable merit, but the substance of many [of the poems] is distasteful and objection? able to Christians'. That opinion is understandable, for Goller hurled scathing rebukes at the Gentile world. Goller's invective is, however, counterbalanced by more optimistic views of a future in which Judaism will be vindicated and humankind will acknowledge the One Creator. A poem entitled 'So the Goyyim Still Hate 19 Goller (see n. 15) 37-8. His own spelling of the title ('Gott und Sein Mishpot is Gerecht') was strangely Germanic. 20 Ibid. 'The Pious Men of-', 60. 152</page><page sequence="9">Izak Goller (i 891-1939): Zionist poet, playwright and preacher JSO THE GOYYIM STILL HATE YOU? SO THE GOYYIM STILL HATE YOU. JcWl Ihc world o?n grrrliiigf Shalom! ti* ? Jrw that girrt? j.m How fare ymi tit ttw wml.1? ' Here a *nrrr~ihrrr a jm? A pogrom hrrr?a xnil ?laiii tlietc? Ii that how you fare in ihc world* Shalom I So tru* irojrvi* Mill hale you? No tnattcr. a IIkjumuvI of yran Or *u will |wm and thri ll t,.vr )(nj. l'or Cod if in u?, my jrw\ And at bit thrjr mu?l r'mte in Cod When Bett?chern ?ufiplanted Olympus. Then loitered the 'joyyim in Hod, True, over a dead Jew they Mumbled; YH ?incr?give ihr goyyim their du?1? Thejr'vr been giopina; - wilh Mind irritation -- Hating OUT rock liVv wrttiity. Hating our vrt* dinmilv. Hating u*. hailing u\ iitaiing i? - Yet croping ?ith Umd irritation. Yet nevertheliia coming nurrr? Nearer to us and God. Jews, the wortd over-- greeting! Shalom I Ti* a Jew that greet* you Have courage. Coil wortci ihrougli hi* y&lt;\Ar Pram their cul-de mc* and il Out oa the highway of God. Plate 3 'So the Goyyim Still Hate You?' from A Jew Speaks! (1926). You?' blends universalism with the particularistic Zionist vision of the ingathering of the exiles: Jews the world over - greeting! Shalom! 'Tis a Jew that greets you. How fare you in the world? Here a sneer - there a jeer? A pogrom here - a soul slain there? Is that how you fare in the world? Shalom! So the goyyim still hate you? No matter, a thousand years Or so will pass and they'll love you. For God is in us, my Jews, And at last they must come to God... Have courage. God works through His people. Like a magnet we are drawing the goyyim From their cul-de-sacs and their blindways Out on the highway of God. The goyyim, they hate us? No matter, Come, Jews, on Zion's hill 153</page><page sequence="10">Gabriel Sivan A school let us make for the goyyim. Jews the world over: Shalom! Mankind the world over: Shalom! 'Tis a Jew that greets you.21 Several of the poems, including 'Back to the Synagogue', 'And So They Died', 'Understanding' (a meditation for Yom Kippur Eve), 'Shofar Voices' and 'Ode to the Law', originally appeared in the Jewish Chronicle. 'The Little Ones Sing' is a biblical ballad for children and 'Praise', a rhymed versification of Halle I (Psalms 113-18), was later reprinted in booklet form.22 PRAISE kto English from sm Hsbrjsw by KING DAVID. Sincf.r's Dmuy Pray?r Book, p.? 219?2254, O blest be Thou, O Lord our Cod, of all the world the King, Who hallowed us with His command, His joyous praise to singl psax,m m. PRAISE yc the Lord! O praise Him ye * Who serve the Lord?O praise His name! The name of the Lord O Messed he From now on to eternal fame! From rise of sun to setting ray Praised be the name of the Lord each day! High is the Lord o'er the nations all; Behold o'er the heavens His glory fall. With the Lord our God who dare compare? ?Who dwells bcyood our herc-and-there f Who boweth low His boundless girth To gaze on Heaven as on our earth? Who lifts the poor from lowest rung, Exalts the needy f rom the dung, To set him in the princely place Among the princes of his race? Who makes the childless woman well, Glad mother of sons at home to dwell? Praise ye God! Plate 4 Rhymed English version of 'Hallel' from^^zp Speaks!. 21 A Jew Speaks! 49-50. 22 Ibid. 79, 80-6. i54</page><page sequence="11">Izak Goller (i 891-1939): Zionist poet, playwright and preacher This extract from 'Back to the Synagogue', a verse-sermon denouncing the way most London Jews spent their weekend, helps explain why Goller never stayed long in any one pulpit: Back! Back to the place Where the God of your race Waits - Waits like a father deserted and left Bitterly brooding on nachas bereft - Longing, Waiting in vain For His children again To come as they once used to come in their pain... Back! The streets of London are filled with us, And our Father's house knows us not. Each Sabbath our Father waits for us And we, His children Whirl with reeking souls round the gods of the shops and the warehouses - Hollow papier-mache imitations of the Golden Calf of our ancestors! - Or follow the snaring swish made by the mire-bedizened skirts of the palsied hag Dissipation - daughter of Twentieth Century's marriage with dead Aphrodite's putrid ghost; The Regent Hotels, the Corner Houses, the music-halls, the cafes, the cinema-palaces, and the palais de danse - They know us well, While our Father sits lonely in His house And waits... Back! But come not back like those that come, Bringing their idol with them to God's house; A fetish Kaddish named for whose dear sake, Jews still are Jews, having no other boon For which to praise the Lord, than that Their fathers died.. P 23 Ibid. 'Spoken at the Walthamstow and Leyton Associate Synagogue on Sh'mini Atzereth, 5685', 33-4 155</page><page sequence="12">Gabriel Sivan Goller's anti-war poem 'And So They Died', which castigates religious hypocrisy as well as the senseless slaughter of the trenches in the Great War, is worth quoting in full: And so they died! Men, both young and middle-aged, With the surge and the frolic of the red blood through their bodies, With a monotone of'wife' and 'parent' and 'child' beating a devil's tattoo on the tight-stretched drums of their brains; Puzzled; Puzzled and resigned to the Thing whose gore-splutt'ring maw had become their world, their atmosphere, Omnipresent, unheeded! Swearing, Jesting, Uneasily spurred to heroism by the prick of pagan patriotisms And rum: Maddened by the sight of a dirty mess suddenly evolved from a comrade of the Hell-hour; Moaning furtively remembered scraps of latent prayer; And so - And so they died! One pigmy said Yea, And another said Nay, And newspapers lied. And so - And so they died! Englishman and Frenchman, and Austrian and German, and Russian and Belgian and Turk, And men from far-off lands across the sea, White and Black and Yellow, Gentile and Jew Screamed once or twice to the God of their children, And so - And so they died! And Prussian killed Russian, And Briton killed Turk, And Jew killed Jew And so they died! On either side of those trenches armies knelt, - And the Heavens of God looked down - And Christian priests prayed humbly to their Prince of Peace: 156</page><page sequence="13">Izak Goller (i 891-1939): Zionist poet, playwright and preacher Lord! We are Thy favourites - they are Thy foes. Kill them! Killtheml kill them! Rabbis, too, in every land Prayed to Isaiah's God: Lord, may all the king's enemies fall before him! And so - And so - And so they died! And Prussian killed Russian, And Briton killed Turk. And Jew killed Jew - And so they died! Lord, Lord, what fools Thy humans are! And sorriest fool of all: -Thy fool-Jew!24 Reviewing this second book of verse, the Liverpool Post noted that 'Hebraic anger at the wrong bursts out again and again ... undeniably clever, amaz? ingly daring and singularly unconventional, [this is] a live book by a live writer - like a live wire it startles, but it gives light and warmth'. The presti? gious Times Literary Supplement (also quoted at the end of Modin Women) observed: Tn his verse, his prose and cartoons Mr. Goller compels atten? tion. His passionate invective, defiant candour and sarcastic declaration are rooted in an intense sincerity. His appeal is, like that of the prophets, as applicable to the Gentile as to the Jew - a call to the religious spirit in man scathingly genuine.' Goller's major prose work, The Five Books of Mr Moses,15 dealing with Jewish family life in the East End of London, returned to the theme of'And So They Died'. It received rave reviews in the national, provincial and overseas press. 'A work of art', wrote the Evening Standard, while the Manchester Guardian called it 'a Jewish novel, passionately loyal to religion, race and tradition'. The Times Literary Supplement hailed its 'power and vividness'; the Daily Telegraph referred to its 'mordant subtlety'; and Punch had 'nothing but praise for its quaint and eloquent Anglo-Yiddish'. The Liverpool Mercury felt the novel's characters to be 'real Jews - not the Children of the Ghetto\ while the Liverpool Evening Express considered the work 'fit to rank among the classics of Jewry'. Other glowing reviews (printed at the end of Modin Women) appeared, for example, in Country Life, the Sydney Bulletin, the North China Herald (Shanghai), The Englishman (Calcutta) and two South African papers, the Cape Argus and 24 Ibid. 4o-i. 25 The Five Books ofMr Moses: A New Novel of Anglo-Jewry (London 1929). 157</page><page sequence="14">Gabriel Sivan Plate 5 Cohen and Son (1932): title page and Jacob Kramer's portrait of the author. the Zionist Record. 'This book thrills', the Jewish Chronicle declared. '[It] gives us reason to hope Mr. Goller will solve that most teasing of all prob? lems - the production of a vital literature for Anglo-Jewry.' Cohen and Son, a dramatized version of the novel,26 was first staged in a shortened form at London's Regent Theatre in October 1932. The title page of the printed text calls it 'the play on which the author based his famous novel, The Five Books ofMrMoses\ inexplicably reversing the order of their appearance. Facing this title page is a portrait of Goller drawn by the Leeds artist Jacob Kramer (1892-1962), who also provided the illustra? tions for Israel Cohen's A Ghetto Gallery of 1931. The production featured Victor Lewisohn, Selma Vas Diaz and Alexander Sarna, among others, and its success led to further productions, including one at the Royal Court in Liverpool. According to reviews quoted in the printed book, The Times declared that the play 'compels attention', the London Evening News called it 'brilliant', the Observer hailed this 'warm-hearted comedy-drama' and the News Chronicle believed that its characters were 'funnier and more real than Potash or Perlmutter'. Goller dealt here with some of his favourite topics - the conflict of Church and Synagogue, the horrors of war and the revival of Jewish nationhood. One minor role was played by a young South African 26 Cohen and Son: A Jewish Mystery Play in 3 Acts, 10 Scenes and a Melody (London 1932). i58</page><page sequence="15">Izak Goller (i891-1939): Zionist poet, playwright and preacher born Jew, Leonard Sachs, who eventually became famous on stage, screen and television. Goller's productivity had accelerated by the time Cohen and Son was staged. Three new plays made their appearance in a single year -Jfudah and Tamar, Modin Women and A Purim-Nighfs Dream. Their title pages indi? cate that Goller had now become his own publisher, with a distinctive logo and an address at 6 Little Russell Street, London WCi. Jfudah and Tamar,27 inspired by the twice-widowed Tamar's deception of her father-in-law, gained highly favourable reviews. 'Mr. Goller has essayed a difficult task', the Times Literary Supplement declared. 'He has taken one of the most dramatic episodes in the Pentateuch and tried to reconstruct it as a three-act play, and one is inevitably forced to compare such a reconstruction with the terse biblical version. He has certainly produced a tense drama.' The following letter, dated 1 October 1931 (and also quoted at the end of Modin Women), was written by an eminent British actress from the King's Theatre in Edinburgh: 'Dear Isak Goller, I have read Jfudah and Tamar again, and find it - as I did when I read it first - most colourful, and the characteriza? tion extraordinarily good and alive. It is a play which certainly ought to be done, if we had a real "live" experimental theatre. Yours sincerely, Sybil Thorndyke.' Reviewing this play in xhzjfemsh Chronicle (11 December 1931, p. 12), Hugh Harris gave a notable assessment of the way Izak Goller handled the biblical episode. Goller, he observed, 'has detected and made the fullest use of its dramatic possibilities... In the telling of this story of passion he is direct and outspoken, and the characters are certainly forthright in deed and word. The diction is slightly archaic and conveys the right atmosphere for the theme. In certain respects this play reminds one of the Irish dramas of Synge. There is a like interest in the elemental passions of a semi-primi? tive community, and a similar kind of poetic approach. The bold and origi? nal qualities which Mr Goller has already shown as a poet and novelist are equally evident in his work as a playwright. It would be interesting to spec? ulate in which of these spheres his artistic powers are likely to find their completest expression.' Unlike Judah and Tamar, the two other biblical plays were written for Jewish youngsters. In his foreword to Modin Women, Goller emphasized the clash of civilizations - between Hellenism and Judaism - recalled by the Hanukkah festival. Even after two millennia ancient threats can reappear, and Jews must 'emulate the stubborn spirit of their forefathers in resisting with equal strength of arm and head and heart the present-day forces of assimilation, less blatant than of old, subtler and therefore perhaps more 27 Jfudah and Tamar: A Novel in Drama, Reconstructing Genesis 38:11-26 (London 1931). 159</page><page sequence="16">Gabriel Sivan Judah and Tamar f A NOVEL IN DRAMA RECONSTRUCTING GENE9I5 SS, II.if. I2AK IgOIXER, CH1TTO HJIflBI FUSS JU UTTLI UMM ?TlttT. LOMDOM, ?? 1. Plate 6 Judah and Tamar (1931): frontispiece and title page. MODIN WOMEN THI 5T01T Of THI tSTOLT OT TfU MACCAB1U IN THS LAND Or JODU AOAINJT THB OlAICO. niUM OOMMATMM IZAK GOLLER, SIX UTTU ADASBU. ?TUET, LONOCM. WJC t. Plate 7 Modin Women (1931): frontispiece and title page. 160</page><page sequence="17">Izak Goller (i891-1939): Zionist poet, playwright and preacher dangerous to the monotheistic and monohumanistic world religion which it is the Jew's life-business solidly to establish on this earth'.28 The playwright's conclusion to this foreword mentions the grim aspect of that conflict, underlining his educational philosophy: Tn this story of Chanukah for the Anglo-Jewish child, no humour or farce can therefore be. The women of Modin, hostages to the foe, wail bitterly their chains. Stabbed in the back is the terrified renegade; the wise elder also dies... "War!" cries the Graeco-Syrian captain. "War!" flings back Judas of the Jews. Children's heads thud from the executioner's block, and mad Hannah moans her terrible lullaby ... Stark, undiluted melodrama, naive as but proper in a book for children, is therefore the sole offering of the author in the following scenes and cartoons.'29 At the end of his foreword, Goller states that he is 'much indebted to Bertram B. Benas, Esq., B.A., LL.B., of Liverpool [a chancery lawyer, communal leader and lifelong Zionist] for the arrangement on pages 72 and 86 of the melodies'. Benas had written an orchestral score of Hatikvah for a Jewish charity concert in Liverpool, in 1915, and this arrangement, later performed by an orchestra conducted by Sir Adrian Boult, was the basis of further orchestrations. A strongly national spirit, including Hebrew phrases, runs through this drama, and it is little wonder that renderings of both Maoz Tsur and Hatikvah, together with their musical notations, appear in the book. By contrast, the third of these plays, A Purim-Nighfs Dream,30 is a droll fantasy woven around the Book of Esther. Goller maintained that the feel? ing of relief experienced after an escape from disaster can often turn near tragedy into comedy: 'So it is among the English with the tradition of the Gunpowder Plot; so, too, might it have been among us Jews with the tradi? tion of Purim, but that Esther and Mordecai initiated ... the annual reading in public of the scroll containing the true historic version of the occurrence. Yet the humorous and farcical have crept in and cannot now be dislodged. Therefore, in A Purim-Nighfs Dream, the author could not but yield: the great Emperor of the Medes and Persians is presented to the two sleeping kids by the Angel of Dreams as a good-natured, sottish ogre. His golden crown is paper, his royal purple a red flannel dressing-gown, his ermine a non-inflammable substitute for cotton-wool. Haman is utterly villainous from the beginning and a confounded villain at the conclusion. Mordecai is but the background to Esther sweet and simple and altogether heroic.'31 28 Modin Women (see n. 18) 8-9. 29 Ibid. 9. 30 A Purim-Nighfs Dream: A Phantasy of Esther, Queen ofMede and Persia, in Rhythm, Rhyme and Fourteen Winks, Written and Cartooned by Izak Goller (London 1931). 31 Modin Women (see n. 18) 8. i6i</page><page sequence="18">Gabriel Sivan A PURIM-NIGHT'S DREAM A FHAMTAAT Of UIHIt, OVIIN OP NIM AND rUJU, MMB MM TUU AGO, IN ATTHM, IZAK 1GOLLER, ?m t? m -Jrw hou o? mi. mom u um? ADjanx mm. londom, wx. t. Plate 8 A Purim-Night's Dream (1931): frontispiece and title page. A PURIM NIGHTS DREAM Hk tooth with tage I You tMnk you're ? boo? Thon 111 be the rOUn I IH off to the king ? boosin a MWJT NUMBER FIVE Do ?leint* Kdnerkenine Iw WHHiCin 1^ Und trinken tone braofen Frei und frtflecht* A plot to km the Ung AidcodMAmthingT Plate 9 A Purim-Night's Dream: extract from the play. 162</page><page sequence="19">Izak Goller (1891-1939): Zionist poet, playwright and preacher Goller declared his play, 'Written in a style reminiscent of the Ingoldsby Legends', to be 'suitable for children's theatricals' and 'a source of chuckling enjoyment for children of all ages'. Richly illustrated and full of comic dialogue, this modern equivalent of the traditional Purim-Shpil was regu? larly staged in Liverpool during the 1930s and as recently as 1977 in South Africa. With the death of Leopold Greenberg, editor of xht Jewish Chronicle, in 1931, Goller lost his most constant supporter. This may well be reflected in 'Plain Speech from Ghetto Press to Its Public', a notice printed at the end of Modin Women: 'We cannot afford to advertise in the general press. It is all we can do to advertise in the premier Anglo-Jewish weekly, the Jewish Chronicle. But send us a post card with your name and address, and we shall retaliate with our Ghetto Press list, illustrated with Izak Goller's original book-cover cartoons: then place your order with your local bookseller. But please buy quickly so that we can get back some of our capital outlay ... With your co-operation we shall endeavour to provide a modern Anglo Jewish literature worthy of modern Anglo-Jewry.' Also of interest are the prices quoted here for Goller's works: The Passionate Jew and A Jew Speaks! both cost 10s 6d, autographed and post free; The Five Books of Mr Moses, 7s 6d; Judah and Tamar, 6s; Modin Women and a Purim-Nighfs Dream, 3s 6d (postage extra). Having transferred the Ghetto Press from London to his Grove Park home in Liverpool, Goller maintained his output with a biblical verse drama in three acts. Entitled The Scroll of Lot's Wife, it has been described as 'a unique event in publishing' because it resembled a Purim Megillah (Scroll of Esther), bound in leather and mounted on rollers, with twenty eight columns of text and illustrations.32 The price, one guinea, was not excessive for such an unusual item. Goller also advertised The Corpse that Walked, a thriller set in London at the end of 1918, which he promoted as a sequel to The Five Books of Mr Moses, costing 7s 6d net. An extract from this 'novel in manuscript' is quoted at the beginning of First Chapter,33 but it was never published (Yoel Varod recently discovered the 164-page type? script in his archives). First Chapter, a concise outline of Jewish history written from his Zionist viewpoint, was an expanded, updated version of'A Chapter in the Romance of Israel', which had appeared ten years earlier in A Jew Speaks!3* It sold for is, Cohen and Son for half-a-crown and the two verse collections for 5s 6d each (without the autograph, one presumes). 32 The Scroll of L?fs Wife (Liverpool 1935). 33 First Chapter: A Summary of the History ofMy People from Abraham ofUrto Herzl of Budapest (Liverpool 1936). 34 A Jew Speaks! (see n. 14) 9-31. 163</page><page sequence="20">Gabriel Sivan GHETTO PRESS CONTENTS FnabBtocfc-nrff BUNDED SODOMITE, c Cohna a-Tille-platt. H 4-Iairadnetkn-Fkw ?w other ?d of tht &amp;?PORTRAIT OF A JEWISH STUDENT, 7-Hcre btfiiu the first act in THE SCROLL OF LOTS WIFE. U-THE TWO STRANGERS. 17?Hoi baffne the second act ta THE SCROLL OF LOTS WIFE. 20?LOTS WIFE, cartoon. 94?Her? bcgfatt the third act In THE SCROLL OF LOTS WIFE. n-LQT, Plate io The Scroll of Lot's Wife (1935): title page and signed dedication. First Chapter, a statement of Izak Goller's faith as a Jew and, as its title expresses, his vision of Jewish history, contained the following passages: Our chief sects were three: the monastic and useless Essenes, the diehard and reactionary Sadducees, and the progressive, tradition-bearing Pharisees. The last, loyal to the Torah's spirit and supple in interpreting its letter, have preserved to this day our faith, our race and our nation. ... Yavne unified Israel and made our people deathless ... Nations rose and fell, empires waxed and waned: the soul of Israel slept, [but] influences were at work to wake the world's sleeper.... In Germany and in France our philosophers and writers, finding their brilliance appreciated, were tempted to buy political status at the expense of their Judaism. Many 164</page><page sequence="21">Izak Goller (i891-1939): Zionist poet, playwright and preacher fell or compromised. Mendelssohn, a good Jew and a better philosopher, compromised for himself and fell in his children. ... Of Mendelssohn's followers, some tried to make a bargain whereby they might enter the Christian church but not adopt Christianity. Others founded Reform or convenient Judaism which, since, has led to Liberal Judaism, a backboneless, jellyfish kind of something ... Against Jews Russia had an old grudge ever since the conversion of its ancient enemies, the Chazars, to Judaism. ... Christian priests helped to spread the blood libel and every Easter saw horrible massacres of whole Jewish towns and townlets perpetrated by the ignorant, priest-maddened peasants. Jews fled openly or secretly. ... We drifted to London, Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, introduced various trades and businesses, brought over relatives and friends from the Pale, established communities, and learned at last the meaning of worldly happiness. In America the story of Anglo-Jewry repeated itself on a larger scale. We gained legal equality, assumed full citi? zenship and gradually associated ourselves with the general culture. [Yet] being newcomers, our behaviour, our alien appearance and accent jarred upon native nerves. ... All this formed a complex in the Gentile mind, wherein the weed of anti-semitism could and did and does flourish. The revolution [in Russia] only shifted the shadow of death from the Jewish people to the Jewish soul. ... In Germany, after a period of rampant assimilation, the Jews have been de-emancipated and made the scapegoat for all the sins of Europe. Hitlerist Germany has tortured and murdered us in the old mediaeval style ... With the present century came the realization that neither safe nor dignified for us was the state of toleration (even to the extent of emancipation) in which we had hoped to find security, equality and friend? ship and respect. From Russian Jewry first issued that whisper which was so swiftly to become the cry of practical (as it had always been, since the dispersion, of reli? gious) Israel. Back to Zion! And so we turn to the reawakening of Jewish nationhood. But no. To tell of those early Lovers of Zion, of Herzl, Nordau, Wolffsohn, Zangwill, of Zionist congresses ... Weizmann and Sokolow and the Balfour Declaration - to tell of new Jewish life in Eretz Yisrael and new Jewish death in Germany, to tell - to tell - no. This is not my task. It will be the privilege of some teacher in Israel thou? sands of years hence to take up the thread of our tale and from History's skein disentangle for his disciples a second chapter in the strange romance of my people.35 35 First Chapter (see n. 33) 32-3, 50-1, 54-60. i65</page><page sequence="22">Gabriel Sivan With First Chapter, Izak Goller's creative years as a poet, playwright and preacher of Zionism came to an end. Was he unique in Anglo-Jewish letters? In Britain he was undoubtedly one of a kind. The first and only other Anglo-Jewish poet of stature in the pre-Holocaust era was Isaac Rosenberg (i 890-1918) who - like Rupert Brooke - died in the Great War. But English-language writing in the wider sphere offers a remarkable parallel, the Canadian Jewish poet Abraham Moses Klein (1909-72). Born in Poland and taken to Montreal in 1910, he grew up in a religiously observant home, the influence of which - and of the close-knit Montreal Jewish community in which he grew to adulthood - was reinforced by biblical and talmudic studies. Klein was active in Young Judea, a Zionist youth movement, and edited its magazine, in which many of his early works were published. He became one of the most original writers in Canada. '[Klein's] deep roots in Judaism, together with his command of languages, impart something unique to his books of poetry: Hath Not a Jew ... (1940), the Hitleriad (1944) and The Rocking Chair (1947). His poems are suffused with the Jewish ethic, Talmudic erudition, and the richness and warm humor of Yiddish folklore. ... In addition, Klein wrote essays and made numerous translations of Hebrew and Yiddish poems, most of which appeared in the Canadian Jewish Chronicle, &amp; Montreal weekly which he edited from 1939 until 1953. His only novel, The Second Scroll (1951), was an allegory of the theme of the Wandering Jew, whose last journey the author traces from the European Holocaust to the State of Israel. Klein fell ill in 1954, was compelled to give up writing, [but] his literary reputation continued to grow.'36 After the First World War, when the troops of Denikin and Petlyura launched pogroms in which vast numbers of Jews were massacred through? out Russia, Goller cast himself in the role of a latterday Rabbi Levi-Yitshak of Berdichev, vehemently arraigning the Almighty Himself: Lord, Hear! In years far gone You strove with us like father with his child, Thundered subtle argument, plied the lash of fear; You the caring Vintner - we the vintage wild; Holy! Holy! Holy! You And we - defiled! ... Once again And yet again 36 Encyclopaedia Judaica X, 1097, entry by Miriam Waddington. See her A. M. Klein (Vancouver 1970), and G. K. Fischer, In Search of Jerusalem: Religion and Ethics in the Writings of A. M. Klein (New York 1976). i66</page><page sequence="23">Izak Goller (i891-1939): Zionist poet, playwright and preacher ADONAI SHEMA! (An Ukranian Rabbi ?peak?.) Lord, Hear! In years far gone You strove with us like father with his child, Thundered subtle argument, plied the lash of fear ; You the caring Vintner?we the vintage wild ; Holy ! Holy ! Holy 1 You And wo?denied ! Never for one moment hare we twain been in accord; Flung You in our strivings still the despot's final word Lord I We sinned! We sinned I?and for our sinning scourged are we so well There's nought in all Your universe to vie with the Jew's Hell! Lord, Hear! Long enough You mastered us with argument and blood? Moaning " Good " ! On our knees we blessed Your doom, proudly graced our God-willed bier? Hear! Greek and Roman, Spanish, Russian, though to other men but men, Well we knew them for Your angels, dealers of Your holy wrath, Stretched our necks we to their griping, clung our bodies to their racks; Left our limbs to feed their hatchets?daughters, wives to sate their lust? Once again And yet again Plate 11 'Adonai Shema!' from The Passionate Jew (1923). Death and shame unrolled our path: Bowed our heads we, hunched our backs, Groping midst the storm and blood-rain to regain a father's trust... Lord, Hear! One of two - We or You - Stand in need of much forgiving: Say then, Lord! 'Twixt us two, Who the one - We or You?211 As a journalist during the Shoah and the struggle for the State of Israel, Klein became the pre-eminent spokesman of Canadian Jewry. As a man of letters, in the poem entitled 'Job Reviles', he challenged Divine justice at a time when the Nazis were already perpetrating the mass murder of our kinsfolk in Eastern Europe. 37 The Passionate Jew (see n. 15) 'Adonai Shema! (An Ukranian Rabbi speaks)', 8-9. 167</page><page sequence="24">Gabriel Sivan Both writers also tackled the problem of assimilation. Goller, who believed that Nazism had 'intensified Judaism among backsliding German Jews',38 included a sardonic poem with a characteristically Zionist message at the end of First Chapter, perhaps in response to the Nuremberg Laws of 1935. Goller's use of the terms 'Service and Law', 'Law and Labour' in the following extracts points to the religious-Zionist ideal of Torah va-Avodah, (literally 'Torah and Work'). I was a German loyal and true, All that I had and all I knew Into my country's lap I threw; Law of God and man's thoughts divine, The Book I brought from Palestine I taught their Luther line by line. In service to the fatherland I placed my head, my heart, my hand; I gave to Germany all I could; My science and art, my very blood ... Russian and Polish Jew I eyed With all a German's arrogant pride; For I was a German, loyal and true, 0 far more German was I than Jew ... Now the louts in Germany reign supreme, Rant and reech and belch and spew Their foetid vomit's bloody brew In one overwhelming, endless stream O'er all of God man ever knew ... Their hate has broke my German yoke, 1 turn - too late? - to my own folk ... I shriek our Sh 'ma Yisrael, invoke God's grace - and Heaven defers its frown And grants me a vision ere my head goes down ... I see a vision of might-have-been, Might-^, if yet God's grace I glean. I see a vision of Palestine Where the Sun of Righteousness doth shine With Healing in its Wings. I stand A man once more on my own land, From shame I'm clean, from torture healed, I'm Jew and free on my own field. Service and Law are the tools I wield; 38 First Chapter (see n. 33) 58. 168</page><page sequence="25">Izak Goller (i 891?1939): Zionist poet, playwright and preacher To Law and Labour alone I yield. I fear no gang will smash my face, I am at one with all my race, I am at home in my own place ... Save me, O brothers - but if too late, Let not my children share my fate .. .39 Klein dealt with the assimilated Jew in a North American context, satirizing his efforts to shed outward signs of Jewishness and emphasizing the fact that Christians would still regard him as an alien: Now we will suffer loss of memory; We will forget the tongue our mothers knew; We will munch ham, and guzzle milk thereto, And this on hallowed fast-days, purposely ... Abe will elude his base-nativity. The kike will be a phantom; we will rue Our bearded ancestry, my nasal cue, And like the Gentiles we will strive to be. Our recompense - emancipation-day. We will have friend where once we had a foe. Impugning epithets will glance astray. To gentile parties we will proudly go; And Christians, anecdoting us, will say: 'Mr and Mrs Klein - the Jews, you know .. .'40 Clearly, unlike Abraham Klein, Goller was no longer alive when the Holocaust destroyed most of European Jewry; and his poetry has neither attracted scholarly attention nor figured in modern verse anthologies. Yet it would be fair to say that his role in Anglo-Jewish letters was comparable with that of Klein in American Jewish literature. Izak Goller was no respecter of persons and his mordant, often earthy, style shocked smug, strait-laced contemporaries. The Chief Rabbi, Dr J. H. Hertz, who was not immune to the poet's wit, is said to have called him 'the rough diamond of the Anglo-Jewish ministry'. Through his work as a teacher, orator, poet and playwright, Goller exerted a powerful influence on young Jews of his time, galvanizing their Zionism and inspiring visits to Palestine before the outbreak of the Second World War. His influence was not confined to Merseyside. Rabbi Shalom Coleman recalls a young Dublin Jew named Henry Solomons who carried a number of Goller's books 39 Ibid. 'Resurrection. The Vision of a German Jew', 60-3. 40 A. M. Klein, Hath Not a Jew ... (New York 1940), 'Sonnets Semitic', 70-1. ? Behrman House, Inc., reprinted with permission 169</page><page sequence="26">Gabriel Sivan around with him in a suitcase 'with a view to earning a commission on sales, or so I assumed'.41 One of the writer's numerous admirers, that young man (who was Rabbi Kopul Rosen's elder brother) eventually changed his name to Henry Shaw and became a successful Hillel Foundation director in both London and Melbourne. The Jewish Chronicle obituary mentions Goller's principal foible: 'How often would he thrill his listeners or readers with a wonderful flow of language and a beautiful moulding of phrase, only to shatter the vision he had created with some unnecessary and possibly vulgar expression.' Tastes and standards have changed since the 1930s. The obituary nevertheless concludes that 'his faults were the faults of his prophetic qualities. If he was guilty of excessive bluntness, it was due to his unconquerable, passionate sincerity.'42 The author of that tribute, Sefton D. Temkin, who had joined Goller's circle in Liverpool, later became an honorary officer of the West London Synagogue, the Jewish Chronicle's 'Ben Azai' columnist and a professor of Jewish history at the State University of New York. As so many positive reviews of Goller's works appeared in the national press, one might have expected obituary notices not to be confined to the Jewish Chronicle, but no others can be located. Nor does Goller's name appear in the Dictionary of National Biography or in Who Was Who. Some people in Liverpool still retain vivid, if not always fond, memories of Izak Goller condemning social and religious offenders from the pulpit or cutting an eccentric figure as he drove around in his rickety open two-seater - a tall man perched in a small car next to his diminutive wife. Goller's last years were clouded with loneliness, financial insecurity and the illness that brought about his untimely death. His tombstone, consecrated on 24 November 1940 (and rediscovered and photographed by Arnold Lewis at Long Lane cemetery, Liverpool, in April 2006), records his death on 5 Tammuz 5699 (22 June 1939) 'at the age of 47', suggesting, incorrectly, that he was born in 1892. The elaborate Hebrew inscription styles him He-haver Eliezer Yitshak ben Reb Shelomoh Tsevi, the initial haver title indicating that Izak Goller was learned, but probably not an ordained rabbi. It is pointless to speculate what might have been had Goller not died in 1939, before the Second World War and the Shoah, and had he witnessed the State of Israel's establishment. Yet he undoubtedly promoted immigra? tion to Israel from a community of fewer than 8000 Jews, which has given Israel a Chief Rabbi (Isser Yehudah Unterman), a Vice-President of the Hebrew University (Bernard Cherrick), a deputy editor-in-chief of the Encyclopaedia Judaica (Rabbi Dr Raphael Posner), a translator of the 41 Coleman (see n. 10) 120-2. 42 JC(seen. 1). 170</page><page sequence="27">Izak Goller (i 891-1939): Zionist poet, playwright and preacher Plate 12 Izak Goller's tombstone at Long Lane cemetery, Liverpool, April 2006. Photograph by Arnold Lewis. Talmud (Rabbi Barukh Elitzur-Epstein), an Hadassah Hospital orthopaedist (Professor Myer Makin), a Tel Aviv University archaeologist (Professor Shim'on Applebaum), a director of the Jewish Agency's Youth and Hechalutz Department (Yehudah Goodman), Israel's first ambassador to China (Dr Zev Sufott) and many others. There are more Jews of Liverpool descent in Israel today than there are Jews on the whole of Merseyside. 171</page></plain_text>

bottom of page