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.
Bill Williams, the historian of Manchester Jewry, once observed that their history is like ‘a walk up Cheetham Hill Road’. Likewise, the history of Leeds Jewry may be compared to a walk up Chapeltown Road, from the slums of the Leylands, the ‘East End’ of Leeds, through Chapeltown and Moortown Corner to Alwoodley (‘Alyidly’) and beyond. The settlement pattern of the Jewish community, whose presence in Leeds was built largely on the nineteenth-century textile industry, can be traced simply by a tour of the synagogues that they erected
vicious police-instigated pogroms spread throughout the west and south of the Empire, notably in Kiev, Warsaw and Odessa. In total, it has been estimated that there were over 200 attacks on Jewish communities between 1881 and 1884, provoking a massive exodus of Jews particularly to America, but also to places like London, Manchester and Leeds.
The other landmark event of 1881 was the publication in Germany of Eugen Duhring’s ‘The Parties and the Jewish Question’, which laid the foundation for scientific anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism had
Leeds was one of the ‘shock cities’ of the nineteenth century, always cited along with Manchester and Birmingham as among the earliest examples of the modern industrial city, in the first country to have an industrial revolution. Yet Leeds was not an ‘instant city’ like, for example, Middlesbrough, which grew from a small hamlet to an industrial town in one generation. Leeds in fact had a long history and its medieval field patterns are still identifiable in the yards and alleys off the main street of Briggate. Leeds is mentioned in the
In June 1888, The Lancet medical journal published a report by its Special Sanitary Commission which gave an eye-witness account of life in Leeds’ predominantly Jewish quarter, the Leylands. For several years The Lancet had reported on the risks to the health of the general population posed by unsanitary conditions in the tailoring industry, particularly in the many hundreds of small, reeking, unventilated workshops, where ‘Jew sweaters’ toiled for 16 hours or more and, in the breaks between, snacked on bread and weak tea or
This is a question that has been asked not just in Leeds but in Jewish communities worldwide. Is the Jewish community growing, declining or staying numerically static and what are the future projections? Will there still be a Jewish community in ten, twenty or fifty years’ time?
Counting Jews in the United Kingdom has always been difficult. The figures obtained are often regarded as ‘best estimates’.
Over time, researchers have used techniques such as the Frequency of Distinctive Jews Names, where the frequency of names such as Cohen and
recreation generally is limited and not readily associated with the Jewish community. 1 Dee’s book looks at Jewish involvement in sport on a national basis through the prism of ‘Integration, ethnicity and anti-Semitism’ between 1890 and 1970, but what he does not cover to any significant degree is the growth in involvement in those provincial cities with a major Jewish population: Leeds is one such city.
The involvement of the Leeds Jewish community in Leeds sport, both from a professional and amateur perspective, is far more extensive than David
Leeds Jewry on the eve of the Second World War
By 1939, Jews had been living and working in Leeds for almost a century, with the largest influx between 1880 and 1914. There was still an older generation that remembered the move from Russia and Poland and spoke Yiddish, together with younger generations that had been born, educated and worked in Leeds. The Jewish population had spread from the Leylands to Chapeltown and Harehills, following the northern route from town up North Street, Chapeltown Road and
were in receipt of poor relief. Once a community need identified itself, the collective identity spawned a self-help approach in which the Jewish poor bound themselves together for mutual aid. This might be little more than a collecting club in which a few pence were contributed weekly to provide for some possible eventuality, such as bereavement, and one of the distinctive features of Jewish friendly societies was the payment of ‘shiva money’ during the traditional week of mourning. To facilitate the burials of poorer citizens, the Leeds Jewish Workers Cooperative
This period saw the transformation of Leeds Jewry from a migrant community to a community of Englishmen of the Jewish persuasion. The impact of the Aliens Act of 1905 on the community, the slowdown of immigration and the rising proportion of English-born children all changed the face of the community.
The outbreak of the First World War put the Jewish community in the political firing line, with discussions about Jewish loyalty in the local press. The period 1914–18 was one