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Legacy Lives on in Son’s Teachings

Aubrey Isaacs at the Alexander Muss High School in Israel situated in Hod Hasharon

Although he has lived in Israel for many years, educator Aubrey Isaacs has maintained a pronounced Scottish accent – immaterial of whether he is speaking English or Hebrew.

The native Glaswegian made aliyah to the Negev town of Arad in 1980 but returned to the city of his birth for a three-year stint (1989-1992) when he was the Director of Jewish Education for the Jewish community in the city.

Glasgow was, by the way, appointed the 1990 European Capital of Culture. Being a very modest Scot, Aubrey will probably deny he had anything to do with that honor!

Aubrey's mother Dorothy was born in the city of Sunderland in the northeast of England but was mostly brought up in Glasgow, the city of which his father Bernard was a native.

In 1947, aged 20, Dorothy (whose maiden name was Berman) set sail for Palestine, having been chosen by the Zionist Federation, together with fifteen other Jews, to train as a youth leader for diaspora communities.

Son Aubrey, the father of four and grandfather of three, a veteran educator at the Alexander Muss High School, is continuing with his mother's legacy as AMHSI prepares Jewish youth from around the world to develop a richer Jewish identity and deep connection to Israel in tailor-made programs of 6 to 18 weeks duration.

The extensive AMHSI campus is based in Hod Hasharon but the students spend a great deal of their programs out and about on in-depth tours and seminars all over the country – many of which are led by Aubrey, permeated with his infectious love of Israel and rich Scottish humor.

"When my mother arrived in Jerusalem she found herself witness to historical events of unprecedented drama and importance. She kept a diary in which she wrote every day, as well as writing long and detailed letters home. She also took many photographs and saved mementos of the events going on around her," explains Aubrey, who compiled and edited a collection of his mother's writings entitled A Voice From Jerusalem a year after her death in that city in 2010.

"She became trapped in a besieged Jerusalem and joined the Hagana where she performed guard duties, built roadblocks and worked as a hospital assistant. She wrote very upbeat letters home to her parents and sisters in Scotland so that they wouldn't worry too much, but wrote in her diary about extremely difficult experiences and her fears in Jerusalem at the same time."

When the War of Independence broke out, Dorothy was trapped for seven months as the city she so loved came under siege. She eventually made a hazardous escape on the makeshift bypass road constructed between Kibbutz Hulda and Jerusalem (under the supervision of General Mickey Marcus) that became known as the Burma Road. The against all odds construction of the escape route was featured in the 1966 film Cast A Giant Shadow with Kirk Douglas as General Marcus. 

Kirk Douglas and Yul Brynner during a break filming Cast a Giant Shadow (Photo: Wikipedia)

 "My mother's memories of the War of Independence were part of my childhood. Although she left Israel in late 1948 to fulfill her commitment to Zionist youth work, she promised herself to return. However, the trauma she experienced contributed to her delaying her eventual aliyah until retirement but, together with my father Bernard, she brought up four sons with a strong Jewish and Zionist identity, all of whom have settled in Israel."

After returning to Scotland, Dorothy trained as a teacher, specialized in the Hebrew language and Jewish education, married Bernard in 1957. When they retired they made aliyah, in 1990, to settle in Jerusalem.

"Being physically in Jerusalem in 1948, my mother keenly felt the dangers of the war that overtook her life and yet deeply appreciated and celebrated the miracle to which she was witness – the rise of the independent Jewish state," says Aubrey proudly.

"The anthology of my mother's diary entries, letters, photographs and documents from 1947-8 is, for those who knew her personally, a fitting memorial to a wonderful person and for all other readers, a touching and personal view of the events surrounding Israel's dramatic struggle for Independence."

Aubrey is married to Israeli born Ruti, but their first child Naomi (30) was born in Glasgow. Today Naomi is a social worker in Arad, sister Shalva (27) an occupational therapist in Jerusalem and their brother – also Glasgow born - Shimon (25), a student of special education and multiple disabilities. A younger sister, Tahir (20), was born in Israel and is presently serving a second year of National Service.



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Tuesday, 28 March 2023

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