Hugo Gryn Archive

About the Hugo Gryn Archive

The Hugo Gryn Archive comprises over eight hundred folders of documents and correspondence concerning the career of Rabbi Hugo Gryn. The principal value of the archive is that it documents Hugo Grynís central role in shaping post-war Anglo-Jewry. It contains significant amounts of documentation and correspondence relating to his high level of involvement with the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain (RSGB), especially its Assembly of Rabbis and Beth Din, Leo Baeck College and other institutions such as the Anglo-Jewish Association, the Joint Council of Reform and Liberal Rabbis and the Jewish Memorial Council.

Hugo Grynís contributions to the wider Jewish world comes to the fore in a complete set of files on the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) for the years 1958 to 1984, allowing unprecedented access to the minutes and internal correspondence of this important organisation.

The contribution of the archive to the history of inter-religious dialogue in the UK is extremely significant. Rabbi Gryn served as the Chairman of the World Council of Faithís Standing Conference on Interfaith Dialogue in Education in 1972 and as co-chairman in 1975 of the Rainbow Group. He was also heavily involved in the Council of Christians and Jews and many other organisations. The archiveís holdings on the subject of interfaith alone amount to some fifty folders.

As a Holocaust survivor, Hugo Gryn was particularly active in the struggle for postwar reparations and raising awareness among Jews and the general public through Holocaust Education. This is well documented through his involvement with the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture and the Conference for Jewish Material Claims against Germany. Rabbi Grynís writings and broadcasts on radio and television about his experiences, along with his concern for Holocaust Education, are well known and form a substantial part of the archive.

Almost one third of the archive is devoted to Hugo Grynís personal correspondence with dignitaries and congregants, colleagues and personal friends - more than fifteen thousand pieces of correspondence in total. Luminaries such as the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Robert Runcie and the Chief Rabbi Lord Jacobovits, scholars such as Rabbi Solomon Freehof and Sir Martin Gilbert, and celebrities such as Mel Brooks, Tom Stoppard, Felicity Kendal and Maureen Lipman feature in the collection. Throughout, the personality of Rabbi Hugo Gryn emerges, full of warmth and sensitivity, energy and enthusiasm.

A database of the entire archive is available online and is fully searchable. The online searches also present brief historical sketches of the organisation or body to which a folder pertains, which sets each document in its proper historical context. In order to make the folders of personal correspondence more accessible, the correspondents and organisations, relevant to every one of the fifteen thousand letters, have been recorded in the database. Searchable online the Hugo Gryn Archive is a unique and unparalleled historical resource and a fitting tribute to a formative figure in post-war Anglo-Jewry.

 

Hugo Gryn's Biography

Rabbi Hugo Gryn was born in the Carpathian town of Berehovo in 1930, deported to Auschwitz at the age of thirteen and came to Britain with a group of child survivors after the War. He later went to America to train for the rabbinate and served first in Bombay (1957-60) and from 1964 at the West London Synagogue, a post he held for thirty-two years until his death in 1996.

Hugo Gryn was committed not only to his own congregation, but to the wider Jewish community, to which he contributed in various ways. In 1960 he became the Executive Director of the World Union for Progressive Judaism and, in 1962, a Senior Executive for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, taking on difficult assignments in Prague and in Budapest. In 1980 he became Chairman of the European Board of the World Union for Progressive Judaism. Over a long period he also taught practical rabbinics at Leo Baeck College, the rabbinical training centre for Progressive Judaism, and during his association with the College helped shape more than 100 rabbis.

Hugo Gryn also engaged intensively in inter-religious dialogue, serving as Chairman of the Standing Committee of Interfaith Dialogue in Education in 1972 and as co-chairman in 1975 of the Rainbow Group founded by the Revd Peter Schneider. In 1987 he founded and was first chairman of the Interfaith Network UK.

He was perhaps most widely known as a broadcaster, and appeared regularly on the panel of The Moral Maze, on BBC Radio 4. He was interviewed on television particularly when issues of concern to the Jewish community were discussed, and participated in many panel discussions and religious programmes on radio and television. In letters and articles in the national press he was an eloquent spokesman for a religious vision of our time.

 

Back to top