My parents remembered the Laibovitch family from the Lithuanian community in the East End. They had moved, like my parents, to the Elephant & Castle.
They changed their name to Lawson.
Their son Stuart and I went to the same secondary school: Strand grammar school in Brixton. In the beginning I had little contact with him as he was in a parallel class.
I remember him as quiet, nondescript, almost invisible. Most of the Jewish kids were like that.

There was the usual anti-Semitism at the school. The word “Jew” was an insult. Being Jewish was seen as an impediment. Like being black or Asian or having something wrong with you physically. These were all reasons for bullying.
So, if you were almost invisible like Stuart, there was less chance you would be bullied.



I saw him more when we were in the 6th form together. But even then there was not much contact. We had different interests. He was into maths and sciences, I was all history and literature.
There was also a difference with regard to politics. I was part of a trio of political agitators who were trying to “improve” the world. We used to get into trouble with the school authorities.
Stuart would never stick his neck out for something like politics.

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When I was eighteen, I left England. I never saw Stuart after that.
Simon, an old friend of mine, remained in touch with him for the rest of his life. The sister of another friend, Vivian, had intermittent contact with him.
Simon told me his story.




After university, Stuart started in actuary. He did not like it, so he switched to an academic career. He took his PhD and then became a lecturer at Warwick University.
He married Christine, who was a devout Christian. They had no children.
He progressed up the university ladder and eventually was given the title of “reader”, which in the UK, “denotes an appointment for a senior academic with a distinguished international reputation in research or scholarship”.
He died at the age of 59 from a heart attack.
Simon and Vivian received an invitation for the burial service - in a church.

Simon was surprised. He knew Stuart as a secular Jew, an atheist. He had never talked about becoming a Christian.
Vivian was angry and did not go. But then, Vivian is different. She is the pesky in-your-face Jew. Proud of her heritage and an ardent Zionist as well.
Simon went. He said the service started with the singing of hymns and speeches. Then the microphone was passed around and many of Stuart’s friends and colleagues said a few kind words about him.
What struck Simon was the fact that nobody mentioned his early life. Nobody mentioned his ethnic background, that he was a Jew, the grandson of immigrants from Lithuania.

As a teenager, Stuart had started his attempt to become invisible as a Jew. He had succeeded so well that he was now being buried in a Christian graveyard.


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