Mixing of faiths is tribute to Shimon

Shimon Ben Yehuda
Shimon Ben Yehuda

A SERVICE of thanksgiving is being organised for the life of retired Sheffield journalist Shimon Ben Yehuda who eventually settled in the city after fleeing persecution in Germany.

It will be held in St John’s Church at Ranmoor where his wife, Patricia, is part of the congregation. Conducted by the Anglican vicar, there will be reading in Hebrew and members of the local Jewish community are expected to attend.

“From when we first met, we tried to share as much as we could of our respective faiths,” said Patricia. “I would occasionally go to the synagogue and he would come to St John’s. We were respected by each other’s congregations, and it was very special.”

Shimon - known as ‘Shim’ by his colleagues at the former Sheffield Morning Telegraph and The Star where he worked until retirement in 1991 - died at the age of 86 after being diagnosed with a bone disease. He was buried at the orthodox Jewish cemetery in Parson Cross.

Born in Cologne into a liberal German Jewish family, his parents decided to get him out of Germany as violence against the Jews escalated before the War.

On one occasion, he was cycling to school with his father when they passed the main Cologne synagogue which had been set on fire. They had to keep looking ahead in case of arousing suspicion.

As a 12-year-old, he was in one of three classes from his school that left Germany on trains organised by the British Government thanks to the efforts of the headteacher.

Shimon had vivid memories of his parting at the railway station from his parents, brothers and maternal grandparents, not knowing why.

The headteacher, his family and two other classes were later shot.

Shimon was billeted with a family in Manchester, then worked on a Kibbutz for 25 years where he met a Jewish woman, Mimi. They came to England to marry, and settled in Sheffield where he worked as a features editor and book editor on the Morning Telegraph.

After Mimi’s death from cancer, he was to marry Patricia Fish, who, with her husband Ken, was a longstanding friend.

After Ken died of leukaemia, a relationship developed as they supported each other.

Shimon wanted to read a lesson at Ken’s funeral - a significant step for him since he had been conscious all his life of pockets of crude Christian anti-semitism.

Shimon was a member of the reformed Jewish congregation, which met at Ranmoor Parish Centre, although he also went to the orthodox synagogue in Brincliffe. Patricia showed her support for his faith, and Shimon reciprocated.

“He was very gentle, loving and wise,” said Patricia, who lives in Endcliffe Grove.

“He had an understanding of mankind irrespective of their faith, race or colour, and he had a lovely sense of humour.

“What a great privilege it has been to share 21 years of my life with Shimon. He was remarkable.”

All but three of Shimon’s extended family of 27 perished during the War - his mother died in Auschwitz - and he temporary lost his faith at discovering the full horrors of the Holocaust.

A nephew from Lille in France attended the civil wedding at Fischer’s restaurant in Baslow on Shimon’s 80th birthday six years ago.

A date for the thanksgiving service at St John’s has yet to be fixed.