web analytics
August 5, 2015 / 20 Av, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


My Father, Dayan Grunfeld


Dayan Grunfeld

Dayan Grunfeld

God does not command belief. He demands the observance of the mitzvot.

“Do you believe in God?” I once asked my father, during tortured years of adolescent doubt.

“No,” said my father, and my heart skipped a beat.

“I know God,” he said.

Perhaps he was conveying to me his life’s motto of “Know God in all that you do.”

As a follower of Rabbi Hirsch, he believed in the formula of “Torah im Derech Eretz,” which he defined as steadfast loyalty to Torah and tradition combined with participation in the social, economic and cultural life of the country where the Jew has been welcomed as a citizen.

My father passed on his teachings to his five children, Ann, Naomi, Joseph, Shemaya and Raphael.

Ann, a columnist for the Anglo Jewish press, is a psychiatrist. Naomi, whose remarkable classes on Torah topics are renowned, is fluent in multiple languages. She was a gifted lecturer in colleges in the UK and the U.S. Joseph spent his working life at the London Board of Shechita for many years. His passing left an irreparable void. He was loved and respected by all who knew him. Shemaya, a brilliant Talmud scholar, received semicha from former chief rabbi of Israel Rabbi Isser Unterman, studied with Rabbi Yechiel Weinberg (the Seridei Eish) and Rabbi Chaim Schmulevitch, the rosh yeshiva of Mir, and is a successful securities trader.

* * * * * My father slipped out of Germany late one night in 1933, after members of the National Socialist Party, many of whom my father had prosecuted as a young member of the Wurzburg Bar, made threats on his life. He was tipped off by a prominent Nazi official whom he had helped many years before during the German bar exam by allowing this man to copy some of his answers.

Newly arrived in the UK after a short stay in Israel, where he studied law at Hebrew University but was advised to go to England and qualify as a barrister, my father studied English and joined one of the Inns of Court where he read for the bar. But as the clouds of World War II gathered and the London Beth Din needed a qualified lawyer to interface with the British government, my father was asked by Chief Rabbi Herz to study for semicha and in 1939 was appointed a full-time dayan of Rabbi Yecheskel Abrambsky’s London Beth Din.

Alone in London after his wife, Dr. Judith Grunfeld, headmistress of the Jewish Secondary schools, had evacuated the Jewish children of London to the safety of the English countryside in Shefford, my father braved the blitz day in day out as he adjudicated cases of missing soldiers, agunot and other wrenching wartime issues at the Beth Din. Many years later he showed us his Shulchan Aruch, which was perforated with shrapnel, and the shredded kippah he wore as the Beth Din was bombed during a hearing.

After the war, the London Beth Din was the only one left in Europe and became a Jewish consulate for the whole continent. There were Jewish children to be rescued, relatives to be traced and a multitude of people seeking Jewish guidance.

It was during this time that my parents were asked by the British Colonial Office to travel to the internment camps in Cyprus to dissuade Jewish survivors, who had been pulled off boats sailing from Europe to Eretz Yisrael, from following through on their threat to commit suicide if they were not permitted to leave immediately for the Holy Land.

The rabbi referred to in Leon Uris’s novel Exodus who was involved in the Cyprus crisis was none other than my father.

An account of my father’s Kol Nidrei night sermon in the makeshift tent shul in which he persuaded the inmates to postpone their desperate plan as he negotiated with Ernest Bevin, the British foreign secretary, was related to me some fifty years later in New York by a survivor who, as a teenager, had attended the sermon, which saved his life. After much negotiation, my father was able to persuade the British government to allow the inmates safe passage to Israel.

From Cyprus my father went on to visit camps housing children who had been brought over to the UK by an inter-denominational hospitality committee from the liberated countries of Europe for a short stay of recuperation. The Catholic and Protestant authorities sent ministers of religion to the camp to tend to the religious needs of the 1,000 children who had arrived.

About the Author: Raphael Grunfeld’s book, “Ner Eyal on Seder Moed” (distributed by Mesorah) is available at OU.org and your local Jewish bookstore. His new book, “Ner Eyal on Seder Nashim & Nezikin,” will be available shortly.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

3 Responses to “My Father, Dayan Grunfeld”

  1. Janet Rosenbaum-Joshua says:

    I just noticed that there is no Wikipedia page for Dayan Grunfeld. Someone should change this. I put in the bare bones info here, but someone who knows more should fill it in and submit for consideration. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia_talk:Articles_for_creation/Isidore_Grunfeld

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
US Secy of State John Kerry announcing nuclear agreement with Iran from Vienna.
Israel Law Center Files Motion to Block IranDeal in NY Federal Court
Latest Indepth Stories
The Quran

Islamists spoke of “Love and Justice in a World of Suffering,” skipping the horrors caused by Islam

President  Barack Obama.

How and when is it appropriate for pulpit rabbis to comment publicly on the Iran issue?

David Menachem Gordon

David was many things: Brother, son, grandson, nephew, uncle, cousin, talmid, comrade, AND a WARRIOR

Graffiti at Duma home that was torched in Samara.

Some Israelis seem to have forgotten no one has yet tracked down the murderers of Ali Bawabsheh.

Aside from my own 485-page tome on the subject, Red Army, I think Jamie Glazov did an excellent job at framing things in United in Hate: The Left’s Romance with Tyranny and Terror.

“Isn’t it enough that the whole world hates us? WHy do we have to hate each other?”

Who said Kerry won no concessions from Iran? He secured pistachios and Beluga caviar for America!

In 2015, Israel’s fertility rate (3+ births per woman) is higher than all Arab countries except 3

The New Israel Fund, as usual, condemns the State of Israel rather than condemning a horrible act.

I sought a Muslim group that claims to preach a peaceful and accepting posture of Islam, Ahmadiyya

While Orthodox men are encouraged to achieve and celebrated for it, Orthodox women too often are not

Jonathan remember, as long as you’re denied your right to come home to Israel you’re still in prison

Reports of a dead baby, a devastated family, and indications of a gloating attacker.

“The fear of being exposed publicly is the only thing that will stop people,” observed Seewald.

“Yesha” and Binyamin Regional Council leaders said the attack “is not the path of Jews in Judea and Samaria.”

The occasion? The rarely performed mitzvah of pidyon peter chamor: Redemption of a firstborn donkey.

More Articles from Raphael Grunfeld
Grunfeld-Raphael-logo

Because the words of Torah gladden the heart, studying Torah is forbidden when Tisha B’Av is on a weekday, except for passages in Scripture that deal with the destruction of the Temple and other calamities.

Grunfeld-Raphael-logo

On Shabbat during the nine days, one may don freshly laundered clothes, eat meat and drink wine, including Havdalah wine.

The combination of the severity of the punishment and the ease with which the prohibition may be forgotten require that the smallest amount of chametz – chametz bemashehu – be prohibited.

If the sick person is thrust into a situation where he is compelled to face his sickness head on, we who are not yet sick can encourage him by facing it with him.

Less clear, however, is whether the concept applies to the area of civil law such as the law of transfer of property.

Conversely, no part of the Land within the boundaries delineated in Numbers 34 may be relinquished for any purpose whatsoever.

Although it is true that the Final Redemption will be accelerated when all Jews repent and accept the rule of Torah, there is also another scenario for the Final Redemption.

Should just a few communities settle the Land of Israel? Should there be a mass emigration of all Jews worldwide to Israel?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/halacha-hashkafa/my-father-dayan-grunfeld/2012/09/12/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: