In November 2017 I was awarded an MRes (Master of Research) with Distinction at the Institute of Historical Research, London University. The subject of my final dissertation was the Jewish youth movement, Brit Chalutzim Dati'im (acronym Bachad). In March I accepted the offer of a PhD place at Southampton University to develop this exciting project. How, you might justifiably ask, did a non-Jewish violinist and pianist from Essex (now not so young!) end up being interested in this history in the first instance?
In 1987, my music - and a desire to learn about Israel at first hand - led me to accept a position as a violinist in the Kibbutz Chamber Orchestra for the best part of a year. On the way back from a rehearsal one dark December night, I accepted a lift from a complete stranger - only to find that he had been a regular visitor to a Jewish farm just a few fields away from my childhood home near Thaxted in Essex! The driver, a gentleman by the name of Yitzhak Sharon (ז"ל) proceeded to relate how the farm had been purchased in 1944 for the purpose of training young Jewish men and women (many of them refugees from Nazi Europe) in agriculture with a view to them making Aliyah to Palestine / Israel. I was incredulous. He then asked me if I knew the name Stanley Tatum - and yes, I did! Stan had been employed by the farm as head cowman and had the singular responsibility for ensuring that the cows were milked on Shabbat and on Jewish holidays! I was now convinced!
Since this remarkable incident, life's twists and turns, along with further 'coincidences' (?), have led to opportunity and privilege of further academic study under the supervision of Professors Tony Kushner and Joachim Schloer. Bachad's ideological development will be a particular focus - from its beginnings in Germany in 1928 through to the period when its members settled in Israel. The movement's influence extended far and wide - from Scandinavia to Morocco, from Northern Ireland to Roumania with many other places in between! In piecing together an account of this small, but significant movement, I hope to shed light on many aspects of Jewish history and Jewish-non-Jewish relations during what was undoubtedly a truly momentous period in world history.
If you have any information to offer, or if you or family members were involved in Bachad (either at Thaxted or elsewhere), I would be delighted to hear from you.