A history
Editor: Derek Fraser

The book is a comprehensive and definitive history of the Leeds Jewish community, which was – and remains – the third largest in Britain. It is organised in three parts: Context (history, urban, demography); Chronology (covering the period from the mid-nineteenth century to the 1940s); and Contours (analysing themes and aspects of the history up to the present time). The book shows how a small community was affected by mass immigration, and through economic progress and social mobility achieved integration into the host society. It is a story of entrepreneurial success which transformed a proletarian community into a middle-class society. Its members contributed extensively to the economic, social, political and cultural life of Leeds, which provided a supportive environment for Jews to pursue their religion, generally free from persecution. The Leeds Jewish community lived predominantly in three locations which changed over time as they moved in a northerly direction to suburbia.

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Leeds in the age of great cities

This chapter explores Leeds as one of the shock cities of the Industrial Revolution, which experienced massive population growth in the nineteenth century. The new industrial classes challenged the old merchant elite and sought political power. The 1832 election, the first time Leeds gained parliamentary representation, was an important statement about the new urban society. The building of the Town Hall was an expression of civic pride and Queen Victoria opened it.

in Leeds and its Jewish Community
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Jews in Britain – a historical overview

This chapter provides the national context, tracing the history of Jewry from medieval England to modern Britain. It stresses the importance of immigration, of different sorts in different period and from different countries. The emergence of the office of Chief Rabbi and of the United Hebrew congregation is an important feature of contemporary British Jewry.

in Leeds and its Jewish Community
Leeds Jewish tailors and Leeds Jewish tailoring trade unions, 1876–1915

This chapter provides a detailed and comprehensive account of the workers and masters in the Leeds tailoring industry. Many of the new immigrants worked in sweatshops and in the outsourced workshops, which were in many ways an updated form of the domestic system in which all members of the family worked in the home. The workers soon found common cause and combined together to form the first and largest tailoring trade union. Their leader was the socialist Moses Sclare, who was a nationally important figure in the labour movement. Many of the Jewish masters exploited their fellow Jews but an exception was David Lubelski, who supported higher wages and shorter hours.

in Leeds and its Jewish Community

This chapter discusses the Jewish community during the difficult wartime years, when many families suffered the tensions of absent fathers in the armed services and children removed through evacuation. The latter was in the event relatively short-lived and children returned to their schools which were soon reopened. The remarkable story of the Kindertransport is reviewed and life stories given of successful relocation to Leeds. The reception given to those fleeing from Nazi persecution was not always wholly welcoming. The impact of rationing is discussed and the difficulties both housewives and servicemen had in keeping to their kosher dietary rules.

in Leeds and its Jewish Community

In contrast to much of the previous analysis, this chapter argues that modern Leeds has a united and more coherent character than in past times. It is argued again that the question of identity is a complex one, with Jews able to feel multiple identities. The analysis relies on a number of attitudinal surveys which explore particularly young peoples’ attitudes to current issues. For example, it asked whether people would support Israel or England when they were drawn together in a European football competition. It is argued that young Jews in Leeds are confident and comfortable to display their allegiance publicly, such as lighting Chanukah candles at the Lubavitch centre.

in Leeds and its Jewish Community
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Mobility and anti-Semitism in the interwar period

The chapter covers the first phase of social mobility when large numbers move from the Leylands to Chapeltown, exemplified in the opening of the splendid New Synagogue in 1932. There was insidious anti-Semitism in the barriers placed in the professions of medicine and law and it was a tribute to the determination and talent of many Jews that they were able to surmount them. The Battle of Holbeck Moor is cited as an important statement of Jewish resistance to the Fascism of Oswald Mosley. The chapter identifies the retail and other businesses which developed, including the crucially important factory of Montague Burton.

in Leeds and its Jewish Community

The chapter traces the development of Zionism among Leeds Jewry, taking inspiration from the work of Theodore Herzl. In many ways, Zionism acted as a unifying influence in what was often a fragmented community, particularly since support did not depend on the degree of religious orthodoxy. Zionism in Leeds received a great stimulus from the arrival of Selig Brodetsky, who became the main organiser and leader. The city also was inspired by the visits of Chaim Weizmann.

in Leeds and its Jewish Community
Open Access (free)

The concluding chapter brings together the preceding themes and links them to show how the British vaccination programme changed from the 1940s to the 2010s. It examines how these changes can give an insight into the deeper relationship between the public and the public health authorities that purport to act on their behalf. It argues that the relationship between the two was not entirely top-down. Public action – either directly expressed or inferred through various surveillance and governance structures – was a key driving force behind policy changes and initiatives. The longer view of vaccination policy, including periods of relative calm as well as crisis, shows how this relationship changed over time and was inextricably linked to wider political concerns. The chapter argues that twenty-first-century crises such as the measles outbreaks in North America and Europe in the 2010s are also historically contingent. Whether disease or vaccination rates are “too high” or “too low” is based on contemporary conceptions of risk, health citizenship and our relationship to public health authorities.

in Vaccinating Britain
Open Access (free)

This chapter uses the diphtheria programme of the 1950s to explore the theme of apathy in British vaccination policy. Following the success of the war-time immunisation campaign in reducing morbidity and mortality from diphtheria, there was a sharp decline in take-up at the end of the 1940s. The Ministry of Health attributed this to apathy among the public – particularly mothers who no longer feared diphtheria because it was no longer common. However, this interpretation required a view of the public as both ignorant of health risks and amenable to education. Furthermore, it made assumptions about the responsibility of parents to protect their children even though vaccination was not compulsory. Diphtheria immunisation recovered, and the disease was virtually eliminated by the early 1960s – but not necessarily because of the Ministry’s centralised propaganda. Local medical officers made significant efforts to make immunisation more convenient, including through the provision of multi-dose vaccines to reduce clinic visits and offer protection against diseases that parents were more fearful of.

in Vaccinating Britain