The final entry in a four-part series exploring the history of the Jewish community in Leeds. See our dedicated page for all entries in this series, plus other articles on related subjects. This part focuses on the important people and places for the community over a 150-year period…
In his 1964 book Leeds Jewry, Ernest Krausz provides a map that perfectly illustrates the narrative of Jewish settlement in Leeds – from the Leylands area in the late 19th-century, to Chapeltown in the first half of the 20th-century, and then on further north to the Moortown and Alwoodley suburbs. Other maps tell the story in more detail, offering a street-by-street view of the areas important to the community.
Maps are one of the primary methods of getting close to the texture of daily life in the past – another being images. Traces of Jewish Leeds can be explored throughout www.leodis.net, the historical photographic archive managed by Leeds Libraries – the early 20th-century Leylands, in particular, being richly-represented.
The Central Library collections include other images not found on Leodis. A special publication of Picture Post from 1955 includes a photographic essay capturing the daily life of Leeds’ Jewish community, while Douglas Charing’s Glimpses of Jewish Leeds (1988) covers a six decade period from the 1880s.
The earliest photographs in the Charing volume make a good comparison with eyewitness descriptions of Jewish life in 19th-century Leeds, such as those in the 1889 Report from the Select Committee on Emigration and Immigration, and the often-desperate living and working conditions recorded in sources such as R.H. Sherard’s ‘The Slipper-Makers and Tailors of Leeds’ (1898).
Many members of the Jewish community in Leeds have told their story in their own words, including Louis Teeman in his Footprints in the Sand (1986) and Geoffrey Raisman in The Undark Sky: A Story of Four Brothers (2002). Their autobiographies speak for many thousands more Jewish settlers in Leeds, those whose voices are now forever lost to history.
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My mother’s boss arrived in Leeds with his elder brother and parents from Russia just after the 1914 18 war. Like many Jewish families they settled in Chapeltown. As the brothers prospered in the upholstery trade they were able to move. The younger brother
with his widowed mother to Moortown and the older brother to Alwoodley. Old Mrs Cohen complained every day about her new surroundings. She missed the friends and neighbours she had made in the ” Old end”. The gardens and big house meant nothing to her. ” Why have you brought me here to die Yukkles ? She continued to speak in Yiddish until she died. Apparently she was a warm and friendly lady according to my mother. The first thing she enquired on visiting was whether you needed something to eat or drink .
The benefits that Leeds Jews brought to the city are underestimated in my opinion. From sponsorship of hospital beds to public service in politics and vision in education the arts and sport this goyim knows we owe the Jewish community a great deal.