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Disgrifiad

“Here in Cardiff, … the authorities … also agreed that Jewish students should not be forced to take exams on Saturdays and Jewish Holy days. “ (Rabbi Asher Grunis letter to Editor dated 27th Sivan 1935) This effort is documented in these replies to Rabbi Grunis.

The sequence is as follows:
• The City of Cardiff Education Committee advised on 29 June 1927 that the Headmaster of the Day Preparatory Technical & Commercial School will arrange for students to be excused attending for the oral test on Saturday, and that arrangements will be made to take the test on another day of the week.
• The Technical College Principal wrote on 20 June 1928 to advise that “I am making arrangements which will avoid the difficulty you mention.” He wrote again on 29 May 1929, “I am making arrangements for the candidates you mention to take the Second Stage of the examination on Friday afternoon in order to avoid the difficulty.”
• The Registrar of the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire advised on 16 May 1930 that “after considerably upsetting the first issue of the timetable it has been found possible to avoid Saturdays and June 2 and 3 in so far as the Jewish students have reported to me examinations previously fixed for those dates.” [That year the festival of Shavuot fell on 2 and 3 June.] He must write again about Final examinations, after “communicating with the University”. He added, “With reference to University examinations which fall on Saturdays, I would inform you that the Vice-Chancellor of the University is empowered to arrange that a special paper be set on another day, on payment of an additional fee of 10/- for each paper by each candidate.”
• The Registrar of University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire advised on 13 October 1931 advised that “every effort is made to meet the convenience of Jewish students in the matter of examinations at this College, and special notices are placed on the College notice boards every year inviting the Jewish students to inform me of the dates of the Jewish Festivals, etc.” He added, “I am forwarding a copy of your letter to the Registrar of the University of Wales. The University itself conducts the Final and Honours examinations.”
• The Registrar of the University of Wales advised on 19 October 1931 that “the special circumstances in which Jewish students are placed will be borne in mind when the Time-table of examinations is being prepared. You will, I am sure understand, however, that, in view of the large number of subjects and sittings of examinations involved, it may not be possible to avoid placing examination sittings on days which may be inconvenient to certain Jewish students.”
• The Hon Secretary of the University of Wales Jewish Students’ Union on 16 November 1931 wrote “It is my pleasure to inform you that you have been unanimously elected as Hon. Vice-President of the University Jewish Students’ Union.” They also “wished to express their appreciation of your effort in securing exemption of Jewish Students from sitting examinations on the Sabbath.”
• The Director of Education advised on 27 January 1936 that the ‘Examination for the Award of “Special Places”: High Schools, 1936’ would now be held on Thursday and Friday mornings.

Rabbi Asher Grunis was born in Pietrokov in Poland in 1877. A child prodigy, at the age of nineteen he was appointed Rabbi of Wilczyn in Poland. He married Hannah Baila in 1896 and they had seven sons and one daughter. In 1921 he was appointed the first communal Rav of Cardiff, overseeing the correct application of Jewish religious dietary laws. Five of the sons and one daughter came with their parents to Cardiff and one son, Hirsch, was a minister to the Bangor and Bettws-y-Coed communities before the war. Rabbi Grunis successfully campaigned to permit Jewish children to leave school early in winter on the Sabbath, and prevent Jewish students being forced to take examinations on Saturdays and Jewish Holy days. He also unsuccessfully tried to have kosher food available to Cardiff prisoners throughout the year. He died in July 1937 and he and his wife are buried in Highfields Jewish cemetery. His major work, a commentary titled P’ri Asher (Fruits of Asher), was published posthumously. [Sources: Page 43 of Bimah issue 18 (Pesach 5759 - 1999) and Introduction to the Fruits of Asher by Rabbi Asher Grunis and his son Iyeleg Grunis]

From the Grunis family archives, which are to be deposited in the National Library (Edward J. Safra Campus) at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem.

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