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Saturday, June 17, 2006

Notable Jews Post #1

I have given these posts # as no doubt there will be several as more names come to light.

The Jewish Encyclopedia, p 567 - facsimile online @ http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com identifies albeit briefly Baron Solomon Benedict De Worms, an English Financier (1801 - 1882). Baron Solomon and his brothers (Maurice and Gabriel) purchased a large estate which became known as the Rothschild Estate in 1841. When they sold their estate in 1865 they had no less than 2,000 acres under cultivation. Both brothers are recognised as major contributors to the Ceylonese economy at the time and as generous benefactors to Jewish Charities.

More Contemporary names:

Wikipedia: Names of S/L Jews

Sidney Abrahams

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sidney_Abrahams

Sir Sidney Solomon Abrahams (11 February 1885 - 14 May 1957), nicknamed Solly, was a British Olympic athlete and Chief Justice of Ceylon (Sri Lanka). He was the older brother of famed Olympian Harold Abrahams.Born in Birmingham, England, Abrahams competed for Cambridge University from 1904 to 1906. At the un-official Olympiad, the 1906 'Intercalated Games' held in Athens, he finished fifth in the long jump with 6.21 metres. At the 1912 Stockholm Olympics he finished in eleventh place in the same event with 6.72 metres. At the 1913 Amateur Athletic Association Championships in London, he won the long jump with 6.86 metres.[1] Abrahams served as Chief Justice of Ceylon from 1936-1939. The most celebrated case he presided over was that of the Australian Mark Anthony Bracegirdle, whom the British Colonial Governor Sir Reginald Stubbs was attempting to have deported illegally; the court ruled against the Governor. He was founder-president of the Medico-Legal Society of Ceylon. Sidney Abrahams chaired a Committee on the Administration of Justice in Nigeria. He was later Senior Legal Assistant to the Commonwealth Relations Office, and played a major role in the suspension of the People's Progressive Party Government of Cheddi Jagan in British Guiana (Guyana) in 1953. He was elected president of Britain's oldest athletic club, the London Athletic Club founded in 1863. Abrahams was the first Jew to hold the post. Abrahams married Rebecca (Betty) Berkon (1913 - 2003) in 1937. They had two children, David and Sandra.

References: T. Perera, 'The Bracegirdle Saga: 60 Years After', What Next, No 5 1997; Abrahams, Sidney 'Solly', Jews in Sport Online; American Involvement in Guyana in 1953, History of Guyana.

Hedi Stadlen

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hedi_Stadlen

Hedi Stadlen, (6 January 191621 January 2004), better known in Sri Lanka as Hedi Keuneman, was an Austrian Jewish philosopher, political activist and musicologist. She was one of the handful of European Radicals in Sri Lanka. She was born Hedwig Magdalena Simon in Vienna to Else Reis and Hans Simon, an eminent economist and banker. She was one of those whose life was deeply affected by the spread of virulent Fascism in Europe in the 1930s. Both her parents were assimilated, non-observant Jews, her father had her both baptised to make sure that she would have anti-Semitic shopkeepers during the starvation caused by the First World War. She was sent to a progressive school in Vienna founded by the Polish-Jewish feminist Eugenia Schwarzwald, at whose home Hedi met such figures as the painter Oskar Kokoschka and the architect Adolph Loos. When she was 14, as an atheist she elected under the Austrian Constitution to register as Konfessionslos (religionless). She studied philosophy at the University of Vienna. One of her lecturers, Professor Moritz Schlick was shot by a deranged student. The student was later paroled, acclaimed as a 'heroic Aryan' and, became a member of the Austrian Nazi party after the Anschluss. Incidents such as this caused Dr Simon to leave Vienna and take his family to Switzerland and later to the USA.

Through contacts in Whitehall, Dr Simon sent his daughter to Newnham College, Cambridge University, where she continued her studies, but switched to Moral Sciences (philosophy) under Ludwig Wittgenstein.She spent her weekends in London working for the cause of Indian freedom in Krishna Menon's India League - with Indira Gandhi among others. She later explained that 'the racial discrimination suffered by the Jews in Austria made me feel sympathetic to the victims of colonial rule and strengthened my determination to identify with the fight for the freedom and independence of colonial peoples.' The capitalist crisis, fascism and the Spanish Civil War attracted her to the Communist Party of Great Britain. The historian Eric Hobsbawm fell in love with Hedi Simon, but she, in turn fell in love with another Communist undergraduate, Pieter Keuneman who was President of the Cambridge Union and editor of the student magazine Granta. He was the son of a Dutch Burgher Supreme Court Justice in Sri Lanka. Hedi Simon graduated with First Class Honours in 1939, but as a woman, was excluded under university rules from the award of her degree. She married Pieter Keuneman in Switzerland in September 1939. The next year they went to Sri Lanka.

In Sri Lanka, the Left had split in 1940, when the Trotskyists in the Lanka Sama Samaja Party expelled the pro-Moscow faction, which formed the United Socialist Party (USP). The Keunemans joined the USP, which was fiercely anti-colonial until the invasion by Hitler of the Soviet Union, thereafter advocating co-operation with the colonial regime against the common enemy, Fascism. Hedi Keuneman was elected president of one of the co-operative societies were formed to distribute affordable food, following the outbreak of war. She monitored food stocks and prices in central Colombo, popularising cheaper, local food cereals such as bajiri, a locally grown sticky grain, earning herself the nickname bajiri nona ('Bajiri Lady').Between 1940 and 1942, Hedi Keuneman taught at University College, Colombo and at the Modern School initiated by another Communist emigrant and India League veteran, Doreen Young Wickremasinghe. She was active in the 'Friends of the Soviet Union' and, with shoulder-length black hair and sometimes, barefoot in a red sari, distributed pro-Communist literature, and addressed meetings among English-speaking supporters. She also wrote a pamphlet publicising Hitler's tyranny, Under Nazi Rule. In 1943 when the USP was dissolved and became the Communist Party of Ceylon, Pieter became its first general secretary. He and Hedi subsisted on boiled breadfruit and sambol, living modestly near the CP office in Borella. Following end of the war in 1945, Hedi Keuneman returned to Europe to meet her mother – as a Communist, she was barred from entering the United States (where her father had died in 1942). In London in 1946 she met an old friend from Vienna, Peter Stadlen a distinguished concert pianist who had premiered the Webern Opus 27 Variations. She chose not to return to Sri Lanka, and divorced Pieter. While Hedi Stadlen never rejoined the Communist Party, she never renounced her socialist convictions. She subsequently married Stadlen, with whom she lived in Hampstead.

References: B. Skanthakumar, 'Hedi Stadlen (Keuneman) 1916-2004: Indefatigable political activist', Sunday Observer, 11 July 2004; Alan Rusbridger, 'Hedi Stadlen: From political activism in Colombo to new insights on Beethoven' The Guardian, 29 January 2004.

1 comment:

Fazli said...

My F's Place blog containing interesting information about the people, places, homes and events of the many towns of Colombo should be useful for investigating any Jewish links and connections that may have been present in Sri Lanka during the Colonial era.