David Gryn blog

Three Minutes of Hope. Hugo Gryn on the God Slot

In Book, Continuum, David Gryn, Erich Segal, Hugo Gryn, Michael Buerk, Moral Maze, Naomi Gryn, On the God Slot, Rabbi, Three Minutes of Hope, Tom Stoppard on 14/09/2010 at 8:09 am


Hugo Gryn - Three Minutes of Hope - Edited by Naomi Gryn


Published by Continuum and available from all good book shops.
Includes tributes from:
Lionel Blue, Martin Gilbert, Maureen Lipman, Oliver McTernan, Al Matthews, Julia Neuberger, Roger Royle and Erich Segal
Jacket photographs by Sharon Chazan
Jacket design by Tony Chung
ISBN 978-1-4411-4035-7


Hugo with David Gryn


Hugo Gryn‘s death triggered a huge outpouring of grief, not just from the congregation at the West London Synagogue where he was rabbi for 32 years, but for the much wider audience who had come to know him as a regular panelist on The Moral Maze and through the nuggets of wisdom he used to broadcast on various ‘God slots’ for the BBC and Capital Radio.
With just a couple of minutes to inject a dose of spirituality into the daily lives of believers and non-believers alike, Hugo’s gentle humour, his warmth and compassion, his deep spirituality and his unquenchable faith in humanity made a lasting impression on listeners and he is remembered with affection by millions. This collection of his best radio scripts, arranged by theme (ranging from the Holocaust to Mahatma Gandhi) and given a personal and historical context by Hugo Gryn’s daughter, Naomi, will delight his existing admirers and bring his wit and wisdom to a new generation. It provides a fitting memorial in what would have been his 80th birthday year.
Rabbi Hugo Gryn was born in the Carpathian town of Berehovo in 1930 and deported to Auschwitz at the age of thirteen. He was rabbi at the West London Synagogue for thirty-two years, but was perhaps best known for his ‘ministry of the airwaves’, particularly as a regular panellist on the BBC’s Moral Maze.
NAOMI GRYN is a writer and documentary filmmaker. She co-authored and edited her father’s posthumous memoir, Chasing Shadows (Viking, 2000).


Hugo with Naomi Gryn


‘Hugo’s reputation preceded him in my life, and it was a reputation not easy to match in the first meeting. But I saw instantly that it was all true: Hugo’s integrity and warmth made him an immediate friend, and a nudge to one’s moral sense; someone whom one would not want to disappoint in one’s own standards. And a wise man, too; someone to whom one would want to come for advice. Could so much have registered at a first encounter? – in Hugo’s case, yes. He is irreplaceable.’  TOM STOPPARD


Hugo and Jackie Gryn



From the Foreward by Michael Buerk
My last memory of Hugo is his final appearance on the Moral Maze, the programme I chaired, and he adorned, from the start. He was very ill, desperately weak. We were worried that he might not make much sense, or be very coherent, so great a toll had the disease and his treatment had upon him. Yet, when the red light came on, it was the old Hugo, sharp, a little mischievous, very warm, connecting with everybody involved, trying to draw out what was best about them, rather than, as sometimes happens with other contributors, ridiculing that with which they do not agree. The gravelly voice, only slightly dimmed, had its unmistakable sound of wisdom and humanity. A week or so later, he was gone.
He was a child, a victim, and a triumph of the twentieth century. More than a decade into the twenty-fi rst he is still a presence in the room when we gather to do the Moral Maze. I can see him now, bustling on his little legs into the studio, often with an onion-sellers beret over one eye, full of banter and purpose. ‘You know, what we really must do today . . . ’
Morality was not an abstract academic theory for Hugo, though he had been an academic. He saw it as one who had stood among those who were being murdered, in Auschwitz, in Sachsenhausen. He, himself, had killed, he told us once, and felt the emotional vacuum of vengeance. Good and evil were realities to him, not theories. He had been there, suffered, and not just survived, but won a personal victory for the human spirit.
He was almost obsessed by reconciliation. So many times, sitting just next to me around that table, he would cut across the questioning of a witness about how bad things were to ask how they could be made better. He was warm without being soft. He could be angry but never hurtful. He hated only two things – prejudice and bigotry – though, truth to tell, he was not fond of the drivers of white vans. He would drop me off on the way home. He was not a good driver and as fearless about the breathalyser as he was about everything else.
How I loved having him to myself. He made me feel important and valuable; his special friend. Since he died, I have met a hundred people, maybe more, who felt exactly the same way. No matter that a discussion about the hereafter in the car with Hugo driving might easily turn from theory to reality. No matter that some of his wonderful stories and rabbinical homilies were so good we heard them more than once. He was always funny, touching, human and wise. His death left a Hugo-shaped hole in our lives that nobody else can fi ll.  The memories are marvelous, but we miss him still.
Continuum International Publishing Group
The Tower Building
11 York Road
London SE1 7NX

  1. I still miss him daily, David. Irreplaceable. Irresistible. Unforgettable. Losing Hugo was and always will be like losing a vital sense or a limb. I remember sitting alone outside Intensive Care at St Mary’s where my husband lay dying for six weeks. It was New year’s Eve, about 10pm and I was just about as low as one could be. Suddenly I was aware that someone had come and sat next to me. it was Hugo.
    “What are you doing here? It’s New year’s Eve?, I said. “I couldn’t leave you alone, lady”, he replied. “I have slipped out to spend an hour with you.” And he took my prayer book. He took a sheet of medical graph paper and tore it into strips and made little book marks and slipped them into my prayer book to mark some passages that might comfort me. That was almost 16 years ago. I still have them there in the leaves of my prayer book. Tucked in – just as Hugo is for ever tucked in the leaves of my life. Ann

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