My mother gave birth to four daughters and then entered her fifth pregnancy and my father out of frustration at not having a son, chose Sarah as my name. Then December 8th, 1947 I was born and clearly I was no Sarah. I was named Leon Daniel Norman; Leon in honour of my grandfather Leibish, and Daniel because my father wanted me to be like Daniel of “Daniel and the Lions”; wishing me to be as strong as a lion and yet able to live unharmed amongst them.
Being Jewish in London, I experienced Anti-Semitism from an early age. For example at age 13, I well remember our music teacher calling on the five Jewish boys in the class, to come to the front of the classroom to face 32 fellow pupils and try and make us sing Christmas carols! I soon felt like part of a “minority” and in turn I identified with the other “minorities” of the world. I especially connected with the Jewish people and in particular with Israel.
At age 14, after reading the book Exodus, by Leon Uris but, more importantly coming to terms with being the only son of a man who lost his father in Auschwitz and whose family lost over 600 members to the Nazis, I swore to myself to never be “a good little Jewish boy” – I would be strong, stand tall and fight despite the odds. Thus I changed my name Leon to its Hebrew equivalent Ari, which translates literally to lion.
It was at this time that my strong sense of justice, independence and rebellion were born.
When I review the pervading symbolism of the lion in my life I detect the hand of fate. I can imagine the face of fate grinning down on me some forty years ago, at a youth bearing the name of the king of the jungle trekking through the hills of Mexico and discovering a creative passion for silver.
I can imagine the grin of fate turning into a big smile as my passion led to the development of a vast collection of sterling silver jewellery and gifts which I passionately displayed at over eight hundred international exhibitions. Whilst rushing round the world I am greatly aided by my British passport with the English lion proudly blazoned on its cover which at all times I carry close to my heart.
Then I hear faint chuckling as the big smile of fate erupts into laughter as the energetic youth strongly advocates the British hallmarking system with its definitive lion stamp symbolising British silver across the four corners of the world. It seems there was no escaping fate; the ethos of the lion was and still is inextricably interwoven with my destiny.
Chairman & Managing Director
Ari D Norman Ltd
London NW10 0AZ