Ruth Weyl – Rut bat Peretz
We have made many connections over Shavuot and today between the Biblical Ruth and ‘our’ Ruth: Quite rightly so because both have been role models. We deeply admire the Biblical Ruth, her loyalty, her determination, her desire only to use the past to create a better future and the incredibly special relationship that she enjoyed with women living within a patriarchal society to negotiate and create that future life, a life that would ultimately produce important descendants.
All this could be said of ‘our’ Ruth and yet as my father spoke about in his eulogy to Ruth this afternoon soon to be found on our Synagogue website, the book of her incredible life is yet to be written. Fortunately, we who are here can all participate in writing and compiling it and perhaps a beginning will be found in the video interview that Ruth gave to our member and Ruth’s dear friend, Judi Herman.
A little research of my archived e mails found a few thoughts of Ruth that might also be of use. Two Rabbis Goldstein were blessed to have been her Rabbi and as with Dad, Ruth would write on a nearly weekly basis up until very recently, commenting on sermons and study sessions that she had heard first hand or read after the event.
Dad mentioned that we do not know so much about Ruth’s belief in God but one short sentence does speak volumes. Only commenting after the fact concerning a BBC researcher wishing to speak to congregants about our beliefs she wrote:
“I only saw this today upon return from a visit to my daughter Maya in Washington. Sorry to have missed it, not least because I am not at all sure about God's intervention.” In a subsequent conversation about God, Ruth commented to me about how she always appreciated the blessings that God had bestowed on her - even if she did not know whether she believed that it was indeed God that had bestowed them, how or why - and blamed the problems in the world on the human condition. Many were her comments on that issue. Whilst always seeking the good in and for people – a stronger social conscience able to communicate with all generations you will struggle to find – Ruth was also a realist regarding God and human nature.
In commenting on a sermon relating to Israel, she wrote: “I find your words particularly important because I heard voices from within the congregation that continue to state that everything that is done in Israel is acceptable, because.... etc. That is not Zionism, that is a distortion of all we lived through, or rather all that I lived through since 1938 and all the more than 80 Israeli members of my family in Israel stand for.”
Ruth loved her incredible experiences with people of different faiths and backgrounds and loved her Hillingdon branch of the CCJ (HCCJ) especially the fact that they did not shirk from tackling difficult issues. On welcoming a forthcoming session on mixed faith relationships, she wrote: “After our recent excellent HCCJ "The meaning of Jerusalem for Judaism and Christianity" - which also included some controversial moments - we have all come to realize the importance of addressing issues of genuine relevance to our daily lives.”
After the session on mixed-faith relationships she wrote, showing her appreciation of character traits without boundaries: “Wasn't it interesting that your friend the Imam only latish in the discussion revealed that his Hungarian wife had been a Muslim before he met her! And his careful distinguishing between "inter-cultural" and "inter-faith. He reminded me of some Yekkes in Israel who considered marriage between a Western European and a Sephardi as shockingly ‘inter-cultural.’”
Finally, Ruth maintained throughout her life and the difficulties that beset her and the world – again sharing this trait with the Biblical Ruth – a hope and a belief in the future. One Chanukah she wrote: “After all...having learned to hum and then sing "lo yissah goy el goy cherev..(Nation shall not lift up a sword against another, no longer shall they train for war);" we also have to speak about matters that may, admittedly probably only in messianic times - be part of the basis for this expectation.”
And Ruth concluded, “I wish you, Tammy and the children a very happy Chanukkah. And may the dreidel always fall with the best side up!"
And so we are gathered to mark the end of the fixed canon of the life of Ruth Weyl. This we must compile for Ruth’s life was far too vital, too interesting and meaningful in a wonderfully normal, humble way, to remain unwritten. I hope from all the different walks of life that we represent in this, one of Ruth’s homes, we will each resolve to write a chapter. We do not need to rely on mythology to write ‘our’ Ruth’s story, only our very real personal experiences and relationships.
Maya, Celia and Michel, Jessica, Clare and Annick, when you finally return to your homes, may you have found over these difficult days, love, strength, comfort and support. God has blessed us all and so many around the world with Ruth’s presence in our lives but none more so than for you. May that blessing of Ruth always remain in your lives and may her blessing for you be realised: “May the driedel always fall with the best side up.”