John Kasmir z”l

John Kasmir who was an Honorary Life President of the Bournemouth Hebrew Congregation passed away on 7 Shevat 5779 (Motzei Shabbat on 12 January 2019). The whole Congregation is saddened by John’s passing and remember with gratitude his decades of service to Bournemouth Jewry. We send John’s daughters Mandy and Susan, sons-in-law, grandchildren and great-grandchildren our sincere condolences.

Below please find the Hespeds for John Kasmir z”l.

Hesped by Craig Sherrard (Read during the Funeral in Throop Cemetery)

It seems surreal that we are all here at Saba’s funeral.  None of us thought when Saba walked into hospital on Wednesday morning that he would not be coming out.

As you will all know, Saba was a fighter and the most resilient man I know; both emotionally and physically.  He lived a remarkably full life which, whilst full of good fortune and happiness, was in some ways, bookended by two significant losses in his life.

When Saba was 14 he was called into his house master’s office to be told his father had died, “Now get back to class”!  It was from then that Saba took on the role of patriarch of his family; a role that he carried out superbly well until yesterday.

At the other end of his life, unbelievably nearly a decade ago, his life partner (in the true sense of the word), passed away.  Savta was a remarkable woman, the matriarch to his patriarch, and we all wondered how a man who couldn’t boil an egg would be able to survive physically as well as emotionally.  Showing the resilience he has always displayed, he coped remarkably well, showing us how we should never have doubted him. Travelling independently to the US, Italy and his beloved Israel; thriving, not surviving.

Physically Saba was also well versed in confounding doctors with his will to live and resilience in the face of medical opinion.  When Saba had his heart operation the doctors said he would be lucky to see 80.  Then, nearly 7 years ago, we all came to visit Saba to say “goodbye”, only for him to stage a remarkable recovery.  This is probably why, when we heard Saba was seriously ill again, we thought he would fight through it again.  It’s human nature to almost take for granted the presence of people close to you and that’s why we are all focused on our loss and are sad, rather than think we should be so grateful that we had these extra years with Saba.  In these last 7 years he has seen 6 great grandchildren be born and his eldest grandchild’s Bat mitzvah.

The meant a lot to Saba as he lived for family.  He was always happiest at family occasions, and this reflected in our love of being together as a family.  Saba’s success in business, and later in retirement as a stock market investor, meant he was able to dote on his family, and we remember fondly the ski trips and Eilat holidays.  As a child, however, my enduring memories tended to be laughing at Saba on these holidays.

For Saba was a man who knew what he liked, and he liked his food very hot and cooked very well done.  Unfortunately these requests were frequently not met and nearly every meal his food would be sent back.

I remember one occasion when he ordered a steak to be well done.  The waiter came back and said the chef would only cook it medium as otherwise the steak would be too tough.  After Saba reminded the waiter that he was the customer, and the customer was always right, he was brought a well cooked steak; which he complained was too tough!

For one of Saba and Savta’s anniversaries we were going to be having a family lunch, and Savta told Saba under no circumstance was he to complain as she didn’t want another meal ruined by his fussing.  It was halfway through lunch when Savta asked Saba where his meal was.  Saba said “I haven’t been served”.  Savta responded “Why haven’t you spoken to someone about this?”  “Because you told me not to complain under any circumstance!”

Such comments were typical of Saba, usually accompanied by his leg jigging up and down at his delight of telling a joke no-one else laughed at.  Only yesterday morning, when the doctor asked Saba how he was feeling, he responded “with my hands”.

When I think of Saba, I think of him as a Macher in the true sense of the word.  He couldn’t help but organise and make things happen; he wanted to make things better for other people.  It is for this reason that he often found himself in leadership positions, for Saba was not an obvious leadership candidate.  He was not a great speaker and he did not have great charisma, in fact, he had next to no charisma.  What he did have, was an ability to get things done.  He didn’t talk the talk, but he certainly walked the walk.  In Jewish youth groups, when you are taught hadracha (leadership) you are taught the key concept in hadracha is dugma ishit, which is leadership by example.  It is not surprising that Saba’s grandchildren grasped this concept so quickly, as in Saba we had the ultimate embodiment.

It is also no surprise that his daughters and grandchildren have taken on communal roles, to some degree or another, within their Jewish community.

Saba gave so much of his life to Bournemouth shul.  He was one of the first Jews born in Bournemouth, he had his brit in the shul, was bar mitzvah’d there, was married there and saw two of his grandchildren bar mitvah’d there.  He gave years of his life as a Treasurer and then as President together with numerous years on the Board.  His dedication was recognised by being appointed Honorary life President and Trustee.  Even in his later years Saba volunteered in the shul shop.

As well as giving his time, Saba gave his money too.  Tzedakah (both time and money) was second nature to Saba.  His generosity to the Shul and the Hannah Levy Home in Bournemouth and the numerous causes in Israel are a great example to us, but I must single out the donation of an ambulance to Magen David Adom.

For Saba his community was not just his beloved Bournemouth, but also the whole Jewish people, and the Jewish homeland was therefore a natural place for his affection.  Saba and Savta were early lovers of Israel and spent large amounts of time there.  They sent their daughters for summers with family.  Then their grandchildren spent their summer holidays in their flats in Herzliya, fostering a love of Israel in all our hearts.

It was not just the shul that Saba was dedicated to, but also to his beloved Cheries, even if he refused to accept the name change from Boscombe to Bournemouth.  My favourite story of Saba was when, in his 80s, he woke Savta when he fell out of bed flat on his back.  John, are you alright she said.  Did it go in replied Saba!  It transpired that Saba had been dreaming of playing for Bournemouth in the FA Cup Final when he went for an overhead kick to score the winner, and in doing so, fell out of bed and wok himself up agonisingly before he found out if he had won.

Saba was a great man.  Successful, generous, inspiring through deeds and full of love.  His legacy will live on well after today.

Not just through the plaques bearing his name for the generosity during his life, but more importantly through the actions of those that he inspired.  Whether through his daughters and grandchildren and the values we are living our lives by, and which we in turn inspire our children and others to live their lives by, or by those that met him and were inspired by him.

We were lucky to have known Saba, loved Saba and be loved by him.

We will miss him, but I take comfort that he will be reunited with Savta.

Bye Saba – I love you.

Hesped by Stephen H. White (Read in Shul during the service – 13 January 2019)

It is the custom of this Kehillah that Trustees, Life Presidents and Presidents start their final journey here in Shul. I don’t know when this custom started, but I’m sure that the rationale was to enable congregants to pay tribute to servants of the congregation who had given so much of their lives in devoted service.

I think there is a second reason. It will be true for all of them that THEY would have wanted one last opportunity to say goodbye to the building they spent so much time in and the congregation they had devoted so much care for.

And however much that sentiment will have applied to other officers of the shul it is overwhelmingly true about John Kasmir. John loved this shul. I dare say that apart from his devotion to his darling Betty zichronah livracha, his daughters, and sons-in-law, and his grandchildren and great grandchildren, Bournemouth Hebrew Congregation was his abiding love. John was born in Bournemouth; he had his Barmitzvah in this building, he got married in this building, he celebrated s’machot in the Menorah Suite downstairs, and I cannot even begin to speculate how many thousands of hours he spent sitting in the Executive office upstairs managing the affairs of the Congregation.

He served on the Board of Management for over 50 years, as Treasurer for 3 years, as President for a total of 8 years, he became a Trustee in 1976 and served in that capacity for 23 years, and then was Honorary Life President for a further 19 years.

And he loved the Congregation passionately. He was a part of the fabric of this building, and it was a part of him. There was not a nook or cranny that he did not know, indeed he had been involved in designing or building or raising money for their upkeep. He was instrumental in the development of and the fundraising for the Murray Muscat Centre, and it was absolutely deserved that the foyer of the complex downstairs is named for Betty and himself. Nothing will have pleased him more than that the first function in the newly built Menorah Suite was his own Silver Wedding celebration. In recent years, when the subject of relocation to the East Cliff was on the agenda, John’s love of this building made him a vociferous opponent of that idea, and he will have been very satisfied that Wootton Gardens remained as he treasured it until the end of his time here.

But he was also passionate about the main purpose of this building; to provide a centre of traditional Orthodox Judaism for the community. He was a staunch member of the minyan, and he was always encouraging members to attend and make sure that there was a minyan at every service, 3 times a day, seven days a week. He did not do this because it was his job to do it, he did it because he had a fundamental belief and faith and he wanted others to share in it.

John was the last of those senior members who managed the kehillah in the glory days after the Second World War. For most of his time as Trustee he served alongside Harry Ellis and Sam Marks alav hashalom, and to the whippersnappers who came up behind them, people like myself, and Ivor, and Larry, and David Son and others, these were the titans whom we aspired to be. We stand on their shoulders, and John’s dedication and outstanding energy was a beacon for all of us.

Our Congregation has been blessed to have had the benefit of John Kasmir. Communal workers as devoted and capable as him are rarities, and we have been lucky to have received his wisdom and endeavour.  And I hope that I can say that John was blessed to have had us and our best interest in his heart. It enhanced his life, we were his hobby and his passion and we made him an even bigger and better person than he would otherwise have been. With his passing we are both diminished and inspired. He will stay in our hearts for a long time to come.

Hesped by Aaron Kaye (14 January 2019)

Whenever I came to visit Saba or saw him in London, the first words he would ever say to me were, “so, when are you going to shave?!” – Well Saba…..tomorrow morning – don’t worry!

Craig and Eliot, together with Rabbi Jesner, Rabbi Alperovitz, Stephen, Ivor and Mahir, yesterday alluded so beautifully to Saba’s many, many qualities.  His sense of commitment and duty, his unassuming devotion to the Bournemouth Jewish community, his strong endless Zionism and his utter love for his family.  To me, he was all of those, but above all my grandfather and has left me with a lifetime of memories, which I will treasure for ever.

Saba was a wind up merchant – as a child, I would often quake in fear as Saba always tricked me into believing that I was down to do Anim Zemirot in shul every Shabbat – always telling me that any football game that I was due to attend was called off for bad weather and or that my clothes did not match – all of which I knew were a wind up, once I turned to look at him, that infectious smile and knee jigging.  I guess I know where I get that trait from.

Saba could also be incredibly stubborn – on one of our wonderful family holidays in Switzerland, he would not accept, whilst playing the word game boggle, that “crod” was not a word – we let him have it – who were we to argue?

Saba, as Craig mentioned yesterday, was exceptionally specific when it came to food – hot and well done were the major headlines of course – but making the wrong choice would more often than not come to the fore – even as recently as last week, whilst visiting him in the Hannah Levy Home, the carer came round with Lunch options – Chicken, Cottage Pie or Salmon – Salmon he replied as the carer walked away – I didn’t think you liked Salmon I said – to which he replied “I don’t”.

My relationship with Saba often surrounded sport – He would often take me to watch Bournemouth (or Boscombe as he would refer to them) and along with Dad and Poppa was responsible for my many years of devotion to the Cherries.  Zach and Joshua always looked forward to their regular pre match visits, where Saba, true to form, would ask why we were doing do badly, having lost to Tottenham and Manchester United – ignoring the fact that this was in the premier league!  It was wonderful that I was able to take him to a game in the Premier League – a special time with 4 generations all together.

Saba’s wonderful charitable work has already been spoken about, but Saba was also incredibly generous to his family. He and Savta worked tirelessly to give his children, grandchildren and now great grandchildren the best possible life he could.  Wonderful family holidays to Switzerland, Eilat and a remarkable cruise allowed us to spend such quality time together – special memories that will last a lifetime and Eliot, Susie, Craig Kerri, Daniel Debbie and I, will be forever grateful for the wonderfully generous support that Saba has given us over the years.  He got such huge joy from spending time with his 9 great children, together with the nachas schepped from the birth of his latest and 10th – Moshe.

Saba represented the last of his generation of the great leaders of the Bournemouth Hebrew Congregation and for all of us here, family and friends, it very much feels like the end of an era.  We will all miss him terribly, but are comforted that he was living life fully to the end as much as he could be, and is now reunited with our darling Savta.  Since her passing nearly 10 years ago, I think we have all been astonished and how well Saba coped – he was determined to live life to the full, as Savta would have wanted and remained our role model and patriarch to just a few days ago.  I am sure they are looking down on all of us today, together with their friends and family with whom they are reunited with once again – sharing pride in the legacies that they have all left behind.

Saba was not outwardly affectionate – but we all know deep down how much he loved us, how proud he was of us and boy were we proud of him.

Hesped by Daniel Sherrard (15 January 2019)

Over the past few days, my Saba has been described by family, religious leaders and friends as a gentle man. A respectful man. A kind man. A quiet leader. A role model. A patriarch. A mentor. And an inspiration. I had always been proud of my Grandfather, but seeing and hearing the depth of respect that he has garnered from so many, it’s fair to say that I am prouder of him now than I have ever been before.

I had always known that the Bournemouth Jewish Community had meant the world to Saba, but being surrounded by that community over the past few days, I feel that only now I’m coming to realise the full extent of the quite remarkable commitment and loyalty Saba had shown to build such a strong community throughout his life. For example, I had known that Saba had served in office at the synagogue – something his whole family are all immensely proud of. What I had not fully understood is that he had held positions in office at the synagogue across three different decades, and mentored those in office when he was not.

I had known of his charitable donations to the community such as to the refurbishment of the menorah sweet and to the Hanna Levy Home. But as I stood reading at his Levoya from prayer books bearing his name, and as I washed my hands after the burial itself in a fountain also bearing his name, I came to more fully appreciate the extent of his commitment and loyalty to the community.

These values of commitment and loyalty also applied to his family. Saba adored his wife, Betty, my Savta  – and they had a relationship so wonderful that it’s only as I get older, I can fully appreciate the true magic and rarity of. Alongside Savta, he built a template  for his children and grandchildren to follow, and instilled in all of us the values and behaviours that bind us together.

I’m blessed with a truly wonderful family, with incredibly strong bonds. And it’s the strength of these bonds, that makes it so painful when one breaks. Saba’s passing has left us heartbroken, but the family he leaves behind is tightly bound.

Saba loved providing for and treating his family, and on countless occasions Saba genuinely stunned us with his generosity. I’m aware of just how many of the opportunities and privileges he provided have helped me to have and enjoy the life that I’ve made for myself today, and I’m eternally grateful to Saba for that. I’m also endlessly grateful for the fantastic holidays he took us all on. So many of my fondest childhood memories are from our holidays together, and one of my most enduring memories of Saba will always be of him sat on the balcony of his flat in his beloved Israel, Jerusalem Post newspaper in hand, hat on backwards, Campari resting on the side as the sun sets.

I am deeply grateful to my Saba for those magical evenings. I’m proud of him for everything he achieved.

And I will miss him.