Featured Writer: Howard Singerman

We are delighted to welcome Howard Singermanas our Featured Writer and Committee Member this month. Howard is the FWS Committee Minutes Secretary. He has a legal background and extensive experience with charity work and his views on how the work of the FWS might be furthered by joining Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisations (SCIO) point us towards a new way of consolidating our organisation. Howard is the son of a Holocaust survivor and active in the Gathering the Voices Association, which was founded by Angela Shapiro and Howard’s wife Claire. You can read Howard’s poignant and thought-provoking poem for his mother, Bashert, below.

Howard Singerman is a retired lawyer who has written over 250 poems since January 2015. He is a member of the Gathering the Voices Associationand helped create their website www.gatheringthevoices.com, which contains interviews with over 50 Holocaust refugees who settled in Scotland, including Howard’s late mother, Susan Singerman, a survivor of Auschwitz. Howard regularly gives talks in schools and elsewhere about his mother’s life, and reads some of his poems about the Holocaust and his family. He intends to publish a collection of some of his poems in the near future.

Howard writes of his role in the FWS and on the Committee:

I am the new boy on the committee, having joined at the March 2018 AGM. Moments before the AGM started I was asked if I would become Minutes Secretary. I agreed and the rest is history. I must thank Jenifer Harley for her continuing help and support.

I am just starting to learn about FWS and all the work it does, but I must say that I have been very impressed by the knowledge, energy and commitment of my fellow committee members. As I learn more, I hope to be able to make a bigger contribution, subject to my commitments re family, writing and publishing my own poetry and giving talks about the Holocaust for the Gathering the Voices Association (GtV).

One area I can contribute at present is to make available to FWS my knowledge and experience as a former solicitor. In particular since my retiral I have turned the Gathering the Voices Association and the Glasgow Jewish Representative Council into Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisations (SCIO).

A SCIO is a new form of Scottish charity, which is much easier to set up and run than previous forms. It gives the benefits of limited liability without the administrative burdens of being a limited company. In FWS’s present form as an unincorporated association, its committee members run the risk of being sued as individuals. That risk would not exist if FWS became a SCIO. Another benefit is that some funding bodies will only give grants to charities, so becoming a charity could assist fundraising.

If a decision was taken to become a SCIO, I would be happy to guide FWS through the application process.

I will prepare a detailed paper setting out the pros and cons of FWS becoming a SCIO shortly.

I have done a lot of work in schools with GtV, including taking classes re writing Holocaust poetry and the poetry of resistance and encouraging pupils to write. Perhaps FWS and GtV can do some joint work in schools along these lines in the future.

BASHERT[1]

For my mother, Susan Singerman, died Glasgow, 17thJanuary, 2011

They say our fates are written, in the Books of Life and Death,
Dear mother, your fate was written, to go through Hell and worse.
Sent to Auschwitz, chosen to live by the Angel of Death[2],
You survived it all, while your family perished.

That’s destiny, that’s fate,
It’s bashert, bashert, bashert.

For out of the deepest darkness, there can come light,
Out of pain and suffering, can come truth and right.
This you knew, dear mother, and you spoke it plain and clear,
You denied the lies, and told the truth, for everyone to hear.

That’s destiny, that’s fate,
It’s bashert, bashert, bashert.

So you told your story, and you told it well,
And the many who heard you, their tears would fall.
But that’s not what you wanted, you wished no hurt or harm,
All you ever wanted, was that the truth be known.

That’s destiny, that’s fate,
It’s bashert, bashert, bashert.

And now I’m left here lonely, now that you are gone,
Left with a broken legacy, and full of guilt and thorns.
I’m left here to carry on, though I don’t know what I’m doing,
I who was never there, what can I tell the children?

That’s destiny, that’s fate,
It’s bashert, bashert, bashert.

That’s my fate and destiny, that’s what I must do,
Tell the truth and hope it helps, wherever I may go,
For death and evil still abound, the world’s still full of lies,
You only have one life to live, just do your best, dear mother says.

That’s destiny, that’s fate,
It’s bashert, bashert, bashert.
That’s fate, that’s destiny,
It’s bashert, bashert, bashert.
Bashert, bashert, bashert.

© Howard Singerman 2019
[1]  A Yiddish word meaning preordained or fated.
[2]  Dr Josef Mengele, who carried out selections for the gas chambers at Auschwitz, was known as the Angel of Death.

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