Voice of the Jewish News: The Boys done good
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Voice of the Jewish News: The Boys done good

We should take a lesson from the Grand Old Boys of Loughton and beyond. Not being discouraged by having to make their lives anew, but creating a new legacy

(l to r) Sir Ben Helfgott, Jan Goldberger and Harry Spiro pictured at a lunch inside Holmehurst, the original Loughton hostel, now a privately owned residence owned by Wendy and Richard Higgins, who opened up their home to a group of 80 members of the '45 Aid Society, including the 3 Loughton Boys and their families as well as other Boys and local dignitaries (credit: Melissa Page)
(l to r) Sir Ben Helfgott, Jan Goldberger and Harry Spiro pictured at a lunch inside Holmehurst, the original Loughton hostel, now a privately owned residence owned by Wendy and Richard Higgins, who opened up their home to a group of 80 members of the '45 Aid Society, including the 3 Loughton Boys and their families as well as other Boys and local dignitaries (credit: Melissa Page)

Two years ago, Angela Cohen MBE, chair of the ’45 Aid Society, was contacted by Epping Forest District Museum with a request for help: Would the 45s assist with the application for a National Lottery grant to fund an exhibition about The Boys and their stay
in the area after the war?

Her answer was an emphatic “of course”, and that assent led to a magnificent event last Sunday, when the three surviving members of the original 26 Loughton Boys – and their extended families and friends – returned to the leafy Essex neighbourhood where they had begun to rebuild their lives.

Looking at the men, all now in their 90s, it was easy to picture them as they were when they had arrived in Loughton – as part of the education material that accompanied the exhibition reminded people. “These young people were Polish Jews who had survived the Holocaust. Most of them were the only members of their family to survive.”

What they had in common, it was plain to see, was an optimistic nature and an ability to create deep and abiding friendships that have engaged succeeding generations. 

As Angela observed: “We have a responsibility to learn from the past.” But perhaps we also should take a lesson from the Grand Old Boys of Loughton and beyond, not discouraged by having to make their lives anew. They got on with it – while extending the hand of goodwill to others. 

Thank you, 45s.

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