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Bella Kerridge - Adir Hu

Adir Hu
L’shanah Haba’ah Birushalayim

Bella Kerridge“I was born in 1921 in a town called Cetatea Alba, not far from Odessa. It had become part of Rumania three years earlier in 1918 but we all called it Ackerman because we spoke Russian and it had been in Russia. My parents spoke Yiddish amongst themselves.

My mother was a teacher, an amateur actress and an amateur singer and all these songs are the ones I remember my mother singing. She probably learned them from her father. She was also born in Ackerman, in her mother’s house which had been in her family for generations. Her father was born in Odessa and was a chazzan. Chazzanim never had money so he married a woman with a house! In those days you had to have schadchanim.

Bella's parents - Eliezer and Zina Zukerman

My maternal grandfather’s original surname was Millman. Great-grandfather Millman had two sons and he was afraid they would have to go into the army. If you had two sons they had to go, if you had only one son he didn’t have to. So another person fictitiously adopted my grandfather and his name was changed to Yaakov Gottleib. He became a chazzan in Ackerman and used to travel with his choir on a cart and horse from village to village bringing liturgical music to the villages.

Bella's maternal grandfather, Yaacov Gottleib, and his choir

I was very privileged. My mother spoke very good Yiddish, theatrical Yiddish, different to that which most people spoke. And she put me on the stage; I used to sing a lot of songs. I left Rumania in 1939, six months before the war. I was seventeen and a half. My mother’s brother got me out. He was chazzan here - I had two uncles who were chazzanim, one was in Newcastle-on-Tyne but he died before I came to the UK, and one was in the East End of London, in Dalston. My mother’s family were all chazzanim and my father’s family were all rabbonim.

Bella as a child, with her twin brother and elder brotherI left all my family behind, including my twin brother. The Russians walked in to Rumania in 1940 or 41 and my brother went into the Red Army. Then the Germans walked in. My parents managed to run as far as Odessa where my mother had another brother, David, but my parents, my mother’s brother and his wife were all murdered. Their names are written on the wall in the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Tel Aviv.

I lived in England all during the war. I did war work; I was in a factory and then I married. I lived all over England - Shropshire, Wolverhampton, Wales, Chelsea, all sorts of places! I have four children, twelve grand-children and three great grandchildren. I don’t see them very often because two of my children live in Wales, one in the Isle of Man and one near Hemel Hempstead, in Bourne End.

I don’t know if you know this Yom Zeh M’chubad? My older brother started a kibbutz in Israel and every Oneg Shabbat on Friday night they used to sing this song. He lived on the kibbutz all his life - Kibbutz Nir Am, near Gaza - there are rockets all the time. He had five children and eighteen grandchildren! If you are in Israel you can go to the Negev desert and you’ll see a silhouette of horse and rider with a dog in front. His children did it - it’s wonderful, really interesting.

My twin brother died last year. He was 86 when he died - on his birthday. He went from Russia to Israel as an Oleh Chadash. He had a very serious car accident - a car ran him over, but he survived. He’d been in Israel for twelve years and his daughter and her husband and their two daughters live there now.

I have a version of Haneirot Halalu - it’s choral. I used to sing it in a choir and I remember it all. I sing at the [Holocaust] Survivors’ Centre sometimes - you know it’s very good for people who are ill, people who are paralysed, to sing or hear singing.

I can also sing some Seder melodies. This Adir Hu is from my grandfather - it’s a chazzanisch tune, different to tunes from Europe. And then we’ve got L’shanah Haba’ah Birushalayim. People used to learn from the rebbe a new niggun and bring it home and perpetuate this niggun. In Jewish tradition people always used to make fun of rebbes but not rabbonim in a synagogue. My mother used to say ‘he catches angels’.”

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