Recollections of JS Goller

Wearing a bowler hat and speaking excellent English, JS Goller was a Zionist intellectual who taught Hebrew privately at the same time as studying medicine at Manchester University. After reputedly failing his finals nine times, he went on to run a very successful slimming clinic in London. His cheder, according to a former pupil, Sir Sidney Hamburger, was for "the sons of gentlemen."

By Harry Marks

To me, the outstanding thing about Rebbe Goller was the fact that with black spiky hair he had such a flaming ginger moustache... Like all his former pupils, I well recall how he used to be able to feint with one hand and give you a "lander" with the other. I was one of those who were regular receivers. I remember on one occasion when he was particularly irate, and for once I was not guilty (it was either the boy in front or the one behind me), he dragged me to the front of he class and despite my protestations, gave me what can only be described as a "real four-penny one". The wallop having relieved his feelings, he then listened to what I had to say, agreed he was at fault and put me "in credit" for the next clout I was going to receive. That one would be coming my way in the near future was, of course, inevitable. As expected, a short time later I was dragged out of my desk to the front of the class to receive my just deserts. As he was preparing himself to give me the wallop, and I may tell you with some pleasure, because he was very angry, I kept screaming, "Rebbe, I’m in credit, I’m in credit!" But his ire knew no bounds. He was determined to clout me, and as I was shouting "I’m in credit", he was shouting back, "Next time! Next time!"


By Monty Dobkin

...My Rebbe, JS Goller, had new ideas of teaching. First, he used English instead of Yiddish, and secondly he concentrated the lessons into no more than forty minutes each evening and the same period on Sunday mornings... The fees of 3s a week paid to him by each of his 80 pupils kept him, his wife and family and paid for his fees through university as well as covering a small rent for the room. The cheder was in Rydal Mount, near to Waterloo Road... The classroom at Goller’s had originally been two bedrooms knocked into one, approached by a wooden staircase... The system was that as we arrived at our given time, say five o’clock, we took the desks in the first room, where we were required to prepare our lesson, while another class received their 20 minute tuition with Rebbe’s full attention. They departed at 5.20 and we moved into the desks they had vacated to be tested on what we had prepared and to receive a further lesson... I think there were six classes corresponding to the age groups 7 to 12, with perhaps a dozen boys in each class, and there was always a Barmitzvah class of half a dozen or so... In the comparatively short time allotted, our Rebbe managed to impart a good basic knowledge in Siddur and Chumash to most of us, but he also had ideas to hold our interest... [One] of his ideas was to compile and set us a crossword puzzle, based, I think, on the story of Purim. In those days crossword puzzles were a new craze imported from America... I remember a visit to the Empire Cinema on Great Cheetham Street to see ‘The Ten Commandments’ – the silent version.


Monty Dobkin, Tales of Manchester Jewry and Manchester in the Thirties (Manchester: Neil Richardson, 1986)


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