TheJewishFlorenceNightin­gale,the WW1NurseFlorenceOp­pen­heimer

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMENT -

For a time af­ter Can­ter­bury, she was work­ing in a Lon­don hos­pi­tal in charge of an of­fi­cers’ ward, but when she be­came rest­less she was trans­ferred to Cairo. There were ri­ots to face and she was in Egypt at the time of the Armistice. Florence signed on for another six months and trans­ferred to Pales­tine. It was not un­til De­cem­ber, 1919 that she felt ready to go home.

Soon af­ter her re­turn to Eng­land Florence Op­pen­heimer was in­tro­duced to the edi­tor of the Jewish Chron­i­cle and the Jewish World, Leopold J. Green­berg.

Green­berg, a bril­liant edi­tor, was a 58-year-old wid­ower, but de­spite the dis­par­ity in their ages, Florence and Leopold mar­ried at the West Lon­don Sy­n­a­gogue, Up­per Berke­ley Street on May 6, 1920.

Af­ter a few weeks, he sug­gested that she should write a cook­ery col­umn for the Jewish Chron­i­cle, but when she protested that she had no lit­er­ary abil­ity, Leopold said it re­ally did not mat­ter as she was an ex­cel­lent cook. In an al­most un­prece­dented con­tri­bu­tion run, Florence wrote her weekly col­umn in the pa­per from 1920 un­til 1962.

Leopold died in 1931. His suc­ces­sor in the edi­tor’s chair at the Jewish Chron­i­cle, J M Rich, aware of the de­vo­tion of her read­ers, asked Florence to write a Jewish cook­ery book and so the first edi­tion of Florence Green­berg’s Cook­ery Book, the bi­ble of pre-war An­gloJewish kitchens, came into ex­is­tence.

FIVE THOU­SAND copies were pub­lished in 1934 and the book sold for three shillings and six­pence. There have been many edi­tions since, some util­is­ing wartime ra­tions; Pen­guin pub­lished a paperback in 1967 and it has been tran­scribed in Braille. A glossy, up­dated hard­cover edi­tion from the Ham­lyn Pub­lish­ing Group be­came avail­able in 1980 with colour plates at the price of £6.95. Each recipe was tested by a home econ­o­mist.

Florence had a spe­cial in­ter­est in di­etet­ics, dur­ing the Sec­ond World War lec­tur­ing ex­ten­sively for the Min­istry of Food and giv­ing talks to Jewish women on how to make the best use of food dur­ing ra­tioning.

She then be­came a reg­u­lar broad­caster for the BBC pro­gramme On the Kitchen Front, wrote a sec­tion on Jewish cook­ery for a new edi­tion of Mrs Bee­ton, and wrote ex­ten­sively for the jour­nal “Newnes Home Man­age­ment”.

She was a founder mem­ber of the Lon­don Jewish Hos­pi­tal and when a nurses’ home an­nexe was added to Step­ney Green Hos­pi­tal, she was able to use her ex­pe­ri­ence in the fur­nish­ing of the nurses’ bed­rooms and recre­ation rooms from the view­point of some­one who had been a nurse her­self. She was an ac­tive mem­ber of the ladies’ aid so­ci­ety of the hos­pi­tal and dur­ing the Sec­ond World War worked at a can­teen in a busy Lon­don ter­mi­nus on sev­eral days each week as a mem­ber of the Women’s Vol­un­tary Ser­vice.

Florence Green­berg died aged 98 at Ham­mer­son House in Lon­don on De­cem­ber 4, 1980 and was sur­vived by her daugh­ter and two grand­chil­dren.

When she was 90, she told a reporter that the in­gre­di­ents for her recipe for longevity were har­mo­nious fam­ily re­la­tion­ships, a worth­while ca­reer and never, never to moan.

In a 1955 as­sess­ment of her epony­mous cook­book, an (anony­mous) writer ob­served that if some of Florence’s recipes were thought to be a mite bland, it was be­cause “the nurse in her was afraid of up­set­ting the pa­tient’s tummy.” Nev­er­the­less, the same writer noted, the ma­jor dif­fer­ence be­tween a Florence Green­berg recipe and that of other cook­books was sim­ple. “They work.” Doreen Berger is chair­man of the Jewish Ge­nealog­i­cal So­ci­ety of Great Bri­tain and au­thor of two ref­er­ence books based on news­pa­per re­search in mid-Vic­to­rian Eng­land.

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