Pro­fes­sor Asher Tropp

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - SHARON LEVY


ED­U­CA­TION IN the de­vel­op­ing world was a par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est of Pro­fes­sor Asher Tropp, Emer­i­tus Pro­fes­sor of So­ci­ol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Sur­rey, who lec­tured widely on the sub­ject in uni­ver­si­ties around the world.

The youngest child and only son of Sam and Esta (née Good­man), his fa­ther was a woollen merchant and his mother had been a suf­fragette be­fore and in the early days of her mar­riage. In South Africa she was home­sick and soon af­ter Asher’s birth, the fam­ily, in­clud­ing his two older sis­ters, Netta and Lil­ian, re­turned to Eng­land.

He at­tended Hack­ney Downs School (for­merly the Gro­cers’ Com­pany’s School), and then the Univer­sity of Read­ing, where he ob­tained his BSc and met Lyn (Eluned) Mor­gan, who be­came his wife.

Af­ter Na­tional Ser­vice in The Royal Navy, he at­tended the Lon­don School of Eco­nomics, where he ob­tained his PhD. While there he won a Ful­bright schol­ar­ship to Prince­ton Univer­sity where he stud­ied for a year. He re­turned to lec­ture in so­ci­ol­ogy at LSE, then went to Bat­tersea Col­lege of Ad­vanced Tech­nol­ogy, which be­came the Univer­sity

Pro­fes­sor Asher Tropp: keen stu­dent of the world’s ed­u­ca­tional sys­tems of Sur­rey, where he es­tab­lished the Depart­ment of So­ci­ol­ogy, and also pur­sued his main in­ter­est, ed­u­ca­tion, es­pe­cially in the de­vel­op­ing world. He lec­tured at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, the Univer­sity of Texas (Hous­ton), and the Univer­sity of the West Indies in Kingston, Ja­maica. He also spent a year based in Puerto Rico, be­fore trav­el­ling around South and Cen­tral Amer­ica to study their ed­u­ca­tion sys­tems.

Pro­fes­sor Tropp al­ways took a keen in­ter­est in the ed­u­ca­tion of younger fam­ily mem­bers, tak­ing plea­sure in our aca­demic achieve­ments.

In or­der to ob­tain a pass­port to take up his schol­ar­ship, he had to es­tab­lish that his fa­ther, born in Kol­bushova, East­ern Europe, had ob­tained Bri­tish na­tion­al­ity. This re­search led to a life­time’s fas­ci­na­tion with his fam­ily history and wher­ever he trav­elled he would look up “Tropp” in the lo­cal phone book and call to ask if they might be re­lated. He found Tropps in many parts of the world, in­clud­ing the UK, and dis­cov­ered many fas­ci­nat­ing facts about the fam­ily.

Al­though all his grand­par­ents had left East­ern Europe for Eng­land dur­ing the 1880s, this re­search led to the tragic dis­cov­ery that the re­main­ing fam­ily had per­ished in the Holo­caust.

Through­out his life, Asher Tropp turned to tra­di­tional Jewish texts dur­ing times of per­sonal dif­fi­culty, such as be­reave­ment or ill­ness, and he gained com­fort and clar­i­fi­ca­tion from study­ing To­rah and Tal­mud.

Af­ter his re­tire­ment from Sur­rey he con­tin­ued his in­ter­est in Jewish sub­jects and at­tended Univer­sity Col­lege Lon­don where he ob­tained his MA, his (un­pub­lished) dis­ser­ta­tion be­ing on the sub­ject of Rus­sian Jews in Bri­tain dur­ing the First World War. He was the au­thor of sev­eral books and pa­pers in­clud­ing School­teach­ers: the Growth of the Teach­ing Pro­fes­sion in Eng­land and Wales from 1800 to the Present Day (pub­lished 1957), and Jews in the Pro­fes­sions in Great Bri­tain 1881–1981 (pub­lished 1991), writ­ten to mark the cen­te­nary of the Mac­cabeans. In his fore­word, Lord Jus­tice Bal­combe, Pres­i­dent of the Mac­cabeans, writes that his pre­de­ces­sor, Sir Alan Marre KCB, to­gether with Dr Vi­vian Lip­man CVO, con­ceived the idea and chose Pro­fes­sor Tropp to be the au­thor of the study. He con­tin­ued: “The wis­dom of their choice will at once be ap­par­ent to the reader of this mono­graph.”

Fam­ily Seder ser­vices were al­ways both amus­ing and en­light­en­ing as he would not only an­swer the Four Ques­tions but an­swer all our other ques­tions; for ex­am­ple the com­pli­cated maths be­hind the num­ber of plagues with which the an­cient Egyp­tians were smit­ten. If there were in­suf­fi­cient ques­tions, he would sim­ply tell us what lay be­hind the texts any­way.

Our last mem­ory of him be­fore he was se­verely com­pro­mised by his ill­ness was at Passover 2013, when at the age of 88 he was on top form with anec­dotes and in­for­ma­tion that kept us all en­thralled.

Hav­ing reached 88, his am­bi­tion was to live to 90, and he achieved this mile­stone this year. He is sur­vived by his son, Sam, and neph­ews and nieces.

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