From Three categories to The luthier’s art
I was delighted by the review by Reg Naulty (19 February) of Danny Orbach’s book The Plots Against Hitler. This is a subject with which Quakers should be much better informed. The Quakers were the only organisation that organised anything to save the Jews of Nazi Europe.
There were three categories for getting away from the Nazis. Category one: the Quakers were completely responsible for Kindertransport, which saved 10,000 Jewish children. Category two: the UK government was worried that Jews coming from Nazi Europe could be a financial problem for Great Britain. Parliament agreed that if someone gave £50 in the name of a person who wanted to enter Great Britain, that person had a good chance of getting a visa. This was called a guarantee. In those days £50 was equivalent to £3,000 in today’s money. Quakers guaranteed for 7,000 Jews. Seven of my family were saved by Quaker guarantees. Category three: the third category that gave a chance of escaping Hitler was if a person was prepared to take on unpopular work. Maid, butler, cook and the like. The Quakers put advertisements in the Manchester Guardian newspaper asking if anyone was looking for such a work person. They sent the replies to Europe and saved 6,000 Jews.
So, while the Quakers did not to try to kill Hitler, their organisation saved 23,000 Jews. The world has still to explain why no other organisation organised anything for the Jews of Nazi Europe, except The Society of Friends.
At a discussion about Black Lives Matter at our Area Meeting Social Justice Group, the use of the term ‘overseer’ came up. I thought it was relatively trivial compared with the economic aspects of racism, and raised the issue outside the meeting with the Friend who felt strongly that we should cease to use the term.
He said he knew of one person who had felt upset and unwelcome at Meeting for Worship because of the use of the word ‘overseer’ and that was enough for him. I decided to do a bit of research for myself.
I asked a young African friend to ask the following question to some of his Caribbean friends. ‘If you went to a church and they had “elders” and “overseers”, what would you think?’ He knew what I was getting at – that the question related to slavery – and he said he didn’t think people of his generation would mind, but he thought that their parents might. He later texted me: ‘I asked six people and all said what I thought they would say, which is “no they wouldn’t be offended” but four of their parents said they wouldn’t go to a church with such a thing.’ I do think we need to make the change and move on to other important issues that relate to Black Lives Matter. Clearly some people are upset by the term ‘overseer’, so there is no reason to cling to it.
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