• Categories: 20th Century, 21st Century

SAMS Roots: personal histories honouring the diverse heritage of St Albans Masorti Synagogue (SAMS) members.

By Helen Singer

The SAMS Roots project was supported by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund which enabled us to share the memories and experiences of a selection of our members, including what brought them to SAMS.

The funding allowed us to employ a professional biographer, Caroline Pearce, to interview 12 members of SAMS, 6 men and 6 women, so that we could store and display their stories to ensure that they are available for future generations.

The stories provide a rich insight into Jewish life and experience across time and place, ensuring that these unique memories are preserved in the wider community of St Albans and beyond.

The women’s stories in particular show examples of asylum, resilience and endurance and a love of community:

· Beryl Caplan describes her wartime childhood and her South African father’s GP practice in Brixton.

· Beverly Cohen recalls her family’s department store in Nova Scotia, Canada and her Russian heritage.

· Kitty Hart-Moxon talks about escaping a death sentence, and why she wanted her tattooed Auschwitz concentration camp number removed and preserved.

· Debbie Hougie relates how her love of maps led her to trace her Lithuanian heritage via South Shields and how she came by her maiden name.

· Sylvia Schloss honours her mother’s determination to tell the story of her father and brother who perished in Auschwitz as well as her fond memories of her step-grandfather Otto Frank.

· Jenny Taylor grew up in St Albans and remembers her family’s gown shop below the Peahen pub.

The SAMS Roots website includes interview summaries with audio clips, a Photo Gallery, and Roots photos and map on Historypin. There is also a link to the full interviews, transcripts and a glossary at the University of Hertfordshire’s Heritage Hub with an introduction by Dr Anne Murphy.

Hear them at http://www.e-sams.org/roots/