The Jewish Chronicle

Edith Weisz

- EMMA KLEIN

BORN VIENNA, SEPTEMBER 12, 1932. DIED CAMBRIDGE, MARCH 1, 2016, AGED 83

ALADY of many talents, Edith Ruth Weisz taught French and German, then English as a foreign language and later practised as a psychother­apist . Growing up in Vienna, her Jewish father Dr Alexander Teich specialise­d in infectious diseases and worked at a small hospital outside the city. He had taken on the task of looking after Orthodox Jewish students at university, particular­ly the Ostjuden, (East European Jews). He had met James Parkes in Cambridge at a conference of the Internatio­nal Student Service during the 1920s and was also keen to start a dialogue between Christians and Jews in view of the antisemiti­sm in Vienna.

Dr Teich was imprisoned at the start of the Anschluss in March 1938, but his friendship with a number of influentia­l Christians helped him get out of prison and at the urging of Parkes, he came alone to England and stayed with him in the village of Barley, near Cambridge. Shortly after arriving in England, he was interned on the Isle of Man as an enemy alien and then returned to Barley before the outbreak of war. Among his friends on the Isle of Man were a group of musicians who Edith Weisz: gifted linguist, psychother­apist and Cambridge doyenne later became the Amadeus Quartet. In the meantime, Edith remained with her Catholic mother in Vienna. They left for England in August 1939, ostensibly just for a visit, shortly before war was declared.

In Cambridge Edith attended St Mary’s School, the only one with vacancies. Although there was not much religious practice in the family household, the Jewish connection was palpable; they were invited to Passover seders and Dr Teich fasted on Yom Kippur. He was also a great Zionist and had many, mainly Zionist, Jewish friends. Indeed Edith recalled that prominent Israelis or pro-Zionist figures including Chaim Weizmann and Theodor Herzl, stayed with Parkes when visiting England.

After school, Edith read French and German at Bedford College, London, and on graduating returned to Cambridge where she taught both languages at a local girls’ school.

For a brief period she taught English as a foreign language in Italy but then returned to Cambridge, where her father was gravely ill, and continued teaching EFL at the Davis School.

By this time she had joined the Humanists in Cambridge and at a party in 1962 met a woman, also from a refugee family, who invited her for a Friday night dinner where she was introduced to the hostess’s brother, George Weisz.

In order to marry George she had to convert to Judaism and on the advice of his Orthodox cousin, Solomon Schonfeld, went back to Vienna for the conversion process.

After her marriage, she lived in Hampstead Garden Suburb and her daughters, the Oscar winning actress Rachel, and Minnie, renowned photograph­er and artist, were born. She trained at the London Centre for Psychother­apy and then practised as a psychother­apist.

George, an engineer, later invented a handbag-size resuscitat­or which is used worldwide for emergencie­s. The marriage, however, broke down in 1986 and Edith returned to live in Cambridge, where she became a popular figure within the Cambridge Jewish Residents Associatio­n and hosted many community events.

I became friendly with Edith after I interviewe­d her for my biography of her former husband’s cousin, Sir Sigmund Sternberg, The Knight with Many Hats, and spoke to her frequently on the phone until shortly before her death from cancer. She will be sadly missed by myself and her many friends.

She is survived by her daughters and by her grandson, Rachel’s son Henry Aronofsky, who always referred to Edith with great affection as “Grandma Cambridge”.

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