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Jack Sklan's Memories

The First Gathering (Kinus) of BA in 1940 over Christmas holidays at Gwrych Castle, Abergele, N Wales – Arieh Handler spoke for 3 hours! Jack was in the British army then but had a free weekend so caught a train on Motzei Shabbat.
Arieh got married in Gwrych and was 3hrs late for his own wedding after going to a BA meeting (Veida?). Arieh also missed the birth of his 1st child.
British law was that refugees 16+ could get a visa to UK if they worked in agriculture, which suited BA/Bachad.
At Gwrych they would help local farmers, learn agriculture and Ivrit
After 18 months in Gwrych, the local Marquis walked past with his agent and asked what the sound of singing was (it was zemirot). When he found out they were Jews, he said “Get them out of here! I didn’t know they were Jews”.
(Marquis was presumably Thomas Cochrane, 13th Earl of Dundonald (1886-1958) , who was also 4th Marquess of Maranh㯬 the latter being a Brazilian title.  However, as Gwrych had been requisitioned by the Government, did Dundonald have a say in what it was used for?)
Harold Sklan set up Bet Chalutz at 1 High Road, Tottenham. Chaverim from abroad stayed there until they got a permanent place. Harold was conscripted and phoned Jack the day war broke out to ask him to run BC. Jack did and married the secretary! She later ran Gan Chovah in Emek Refaim, to do with Emunah GB
Jack’s son David was BANGO and youngest professor in Israel (in milk); daughter Judith in charge of svivot south of Thames! (Croydon etc). Eldest daughter Naomi not so active but was lecturer in St Thomas Hospital, v unusual for a girl.
Svivot post-war included Wembley (post-war machers were Jerrold and Murray Roston, Herbert Kaufman), Kenton, Stanmore, Golders, Cricklewood, Willesden, Hendon, Edgware, Manchester. Had specific person in charge of NE London.
The Sklans only spoke Ivrit on Friday night (had dictionary on table).
Arieh Handler worked before WW2 in 1937-38 as manager of an agricultural centre for Bachad – allowed to travel. After Kristallnacht he was told to leave Germany and was sent to UK to start Bachad.
Arieh realised that BA was only source of supply to Bachad so took over BA and made it focussed on agricultural aliyah – real need in Israel for agricultural labourers
During war, Bachad bought Thaxted
Every 2 years there was an agricultural show – one year a cow called Devorah won 2nd Prize – an Earl won 1st prize and the Queen came 3rd! Bachad made lots of money by this and brains behind it, Akiva (Kuli) Landau was later in charge of strategic planning in Israel’s Ministry of Agriculture
BA/Bachad leader Herbert Laster died towards end of war when his RAF plane shot down by Bulgarian friendly fire
Jack helped Bachad more than BA; Bachad preceded Arieh Handler
Jack got first donations to Friends of Bachad (such as gabbai funds from his dad’s Rosh Hashanah wartime minyan)
Founders of Bachad in 1937 were Abba Bornstein, Persoff, Ezelbaum. Had difficulties in 1938, Arieh got kids over from Europe on the day of the war to Gwrych (lucky that was there, was a lifesaver)
David Intralegater, a Shaliach, told Jack to strengthen BA and sent Arieh Handler to do it
Intralegater came in 1936 and said that Habonim, which was started by Gilbert and fairly frum/traditional, wasn’t enough – there is a need for BA
R’ Cherrick from New Synagogue, Egerton Road, eventually agreed to have BA and Habo share the premises at different times.
First BA meetings at Sklan house, 32 Woodberry Down, near Manor House station. Met in the large nursery downstairs (8 Sklan kids so lots of room)
First meeting was in 1936 (after Succot?) started by Cecil Sklan and Benny Pollak.
At first BA was ages 8-16, Bachad 16+
Mizrachi started in 1919 – Shlomo Eliezer Sklan (Jack’s dad) one of founding members.
1st Sklan child was Betty/Rivka – 1st chair of women’s Mizrachi and married a man with surname of Boxer
2nd – Jack/Yitzchak Yaakov – started Kinneret with Myer Silverstone (see below), became exec in charge of fundraising for Bachad after war
3rd – Cecil – started BA, called to up to army in 1939, was POW in Stalag 7B next to Auschwitz for 4 and a half years, was camp interpreter, after war moved to Westcliff, set up BA there, died 1973
4th – Harold – started Bet Chalutz, after war went to USA
Jack started youth service in Wembley shul after war – many grew from this, one even became head of a BA Yeshiva in Beersheva
Jack’s son in law is Stuart West
Kinneret for 16-18 year olds not political/religious rather fundraising/propaganda for Israel – everyone would support it. Included Ivrit classes, lectures from Israelis – had 40-50 members, met in New Synagogue classrooms. It started in 1932 and was successful but by 1934 it split: Mizrachi persuaded Myer to change it to Young Mizrachi, thus forcing the less religious to join General Zionists.
Jack visited Israel in 1933 then became chair of North London Young Zionists AND chair of East London Young Mizrachi – i.e. he tried to stay in both camps. He said to people “They’re all Jews, what’s the matter with you…I’m open to all Jews”.
BA after starting in Stamford Hill moved to Brondesbury, Cricklewood, Hendon, Edgware
Intrelegater had an office – the Mizrachi one – where there was a meeting to persuade BA to allow Arieh Handler to be Head; Jack was in favour, as Arieh would be full time – others less keen for German to arrive and take over – but they said yes
Supporters of BA in Manchester – Rabbi Rosen, Kaper, Louis Jacobs! Sidney Hamburger, Grosskopf, Pfeffer all encouraged BA
After war Gubby Haffner (Yehuda Avner), Herbert Lester, Asher Cailingold ran BA. Shaliach – Yitzchak Meir, later ambassador to Belgium and Switzerland.
After Gwrych Bachad went to Bromsgrove, Buckingham then Thaxted which became biggest place. Jack got funds to build a house in name of CR’s wife, Lady Brodie.
BA ran from Cazenove Rd, Stamford Hill at a bigger Bet Chalutz

Asher Caillingold's History of Bnei Akiva

In the year 2000 Asher Cailingold wrote a chapter on the history of Bnei Akiva and Bachad in the book titled ‘The Jewish Emigrant from Britain, 1700-2000’

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Key Events

1936 – First sviva meeting

1938 – Arieh Handler arrives in UK

1939 – Gwrych Castle used to house Kindertransport children

Images from the era