Professor Ronald Frankenberg
BORN OCTOBER 20, 1929. DIED NEWCASTLE-UNDER-LYME, NOVEMBER 20, 2015, AGED 86
NO LOVER of teachers, whether at Limmud or as sermongivers in synagogue, Professor Ronald Frankenberg disliked any approach based on the conception that the tutor had all the answers prior to the start of the teaching session. Nor did he like presentations based on step-by-step revelations leading to their predetermined conclusions.
In his view, having all the answers in advance of an educational situation prevented students from listening to and learning from one another. He felt that approach inhibited the chance of learning from wider experiences and risked not connecting with the real concerns of participants, who might then be reduced to a mere audience, unable to connect.
This conviction led Frankenberg to promote the workshop seminar
Professor Ronald Frankenberg: anthropologist seeking gender equality system at Keele University, where students and lecturers jointly thrashed out the curriculum so that the participants arrived at understandings they would never have gained working alone. And this is why, after his first two books were published — Village on the Border (1957) and Communities in Britain (1969) — Frankenberg’s extensive writings took the form of editorial services, or papers which contributed to collaborative publications.
Despite his playful style of interaction Frankenberg disliked lack of sincerity. Seeking truth mattered, as it did to the Communists, Jews, Catholics, women and those considered outsiders with whom he engaged. He stressed the need for gender equality.
Frankenberg was approachable and available for those students, colleagues and visitors who sought him out. Like the novelist Elizabeth Gaskell who kept her door open to all children and visitors who called upon her time –– he was ready to receive and learn from all encounters. For an anthropologist seeped in Judaism there are no interruptions to real work, because every encounter is gist to the mill.
As well as teaching for most of his career at Keele University, Frankenberg also taught at Brunel University. He held visiting professorships at the University of California at Berkeley and in Italy.
He was married three times: to Ali- son Sherratt in 1953 ,with whom he had two daughters, Ruth, also an anthropologist who died in 2007, and RoseAnna. In 1964 he married Joyce Leeson and had a daughter, Helen. In 1977 he married Pauline Hunt with whom he lived until his death; they had two children, Adam and Rebecca.
Judaism always played a major role in Frankenberg’s life. His father Louis was a businessman, and his wife Sarah, née Zaions, was involved with her family in the Yiddish theatre in London. Educated at Highgate School, he went to Cambridge where he worked with the Jewish Society as treasurer and secretary as well as serving on the chevrah kaddisha of the local community. Before that he had been involved with the Jewish Circle society at Highgate.
For 25 years of his life Frankenberg was an active member of Menorah Synagogue in Manchester.
He is survived by his wife Pauline and his children Rose Anna, Helen, Adam and Rebecca.