Records of the Hull Jewish Community



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The existence of a Jewish Community in Hull can be dated at least to the 18th century. More solid evidence can be found from the early 19th century and census estimates provided by the chief Rabbi suggest that in 1851 the Jewish population in Hull numbered 200. According to the Jewish Yearbook almost half a century later in 1898 the community was 1500 members strong. By 1900, just two years later, this figure had risen to 2000 and by 1910 stood at 2500, at which level it remained on the eve of WWII in 1935. At the close of the war in 1946, the Jewish community is believed to have numbered 2000, at which level it again remained in 1955. The following ten years saw the population rise to 2500 by 1965, again achieving its highest recorded levels. However, since the 1960s the Jewish community in Hull has seen a dramatic decline, and in 1990 stood at just 1120, with numbers falling even further to just 670 in 2004.

This 300 year history is documented by the records of a host of Jewish organisations and governing boards, in the records of individual congregations and synagogues that have existed at various times throughout this period, and in the records of societies, charities and clubs established by the community to provide for its leisure and social life. It is these records that constitute the Records of the Hull Jewish Community.

Congregations and Synagogues

The beginnings of a Jewish community in Hull can be traced to the late 18th century. The earliest concrete evidence dates from 1766 when an Isaac Levy was known to be occupying a property in Church Lane. Following the Gordon Riots of 1780, the community acquired a former Catholic Chapel in Posterngate, ruined during the riots, and restored it for use as a synagogue, practicing the Ashkenazi Orthodox ritual. This is the earliest known synagogue in Hull. Disagreement amongst the community in 1809 led to a rival synagogue being established at property in Parade Row, Princes Dock, under the leadership of Joseph Lyon.

The congregations of the two synagogues were re-united in 1826 with the building of the Hull Hebrew Congregation synagogue in Robinson Row. The first foundation stones were laid by Solomon Meyer (of the Posterngate Synagogue) and by Israel Jacobs (of the Parade Row Synagogue) on 27 February 1826. The synagogue opened 18 June 1827, was rebuilt and re-consecrated 26 September 1852.

Tensions amongst the Hull Hebrew Congregation at Robinson Row again arose in 1902, leading to the establishment of the Western Synagogue in Linnaeus Street by a break-away group of families. In September 1902 Mr O.E. D'Avigdor Goldsmid laid the foundation stone at Linnaeus Street, and the synagogue was consecrated by Chief Rabbi Reverend Dr Adler in May 1903. The Western Synagogue remained at this location until its closure in 1994, and continued to practice the Ashkenazi Orthodox ritual.

The remaining community at Robinson Row synagogue renamed themselves the Hull Old Hebrew Congregation and established a new synagogue in Osborne Street, where the community continued to worship in accordance with the Ashkenazi Orthodox ritual until 1993. The foundation of the synagogue at Osborne Street was laid in 1902. The synagogue opened on 10 September 1903 at which point the Robinson Row synagogue closed. The Osborne Street synagogue was enlarged in 1932, destroyed by German air raid in 1941, and reopened in 1955.

In addition to the Hull Old Hebrew Congregation and Hull Western Synagogues, a third Orthodox congregation, which came to be known as the Hull Central Synagogue, was established in 1886 at Waltham Street aka School Street. This congregation accommodated an expanding Jewish population in Hull resulting from eastern European immigration. In 1914 the synagogue moved from its initial location in Waltham Street to new premises in Cogan Street where it remained until destroyed during an air raid in 1940. A large house in West Parade was used for worship 1940-1951, and from 1951 the congregation worshipped at Synagogue premises in Park Street. The Hull Central Synagogue remained open until 1976 when it closed and congregants joined either the Western or Old Hebrew Congregations.

In 1992, following decades of discussions, the Western Synagogue and Old Hebrew Congregations officially amalgamated to become the Hull Hebrew Congregation. The old synagogues were subsequently sold and a new building was constructed at Pryme Street, Anlaby, Hull, to accommodate the new united congregation. The Pryme Street Synagogue was consecrated on 2 April 1995 by the Chief Rabbi and remains the home of the active Hull Hebrew Congregation.

Currently, Hull is home to two active Jewish groups: The Hull Hebrew Congregation at the Pryme Street synagogue, practicing the Ashkenazi Orthodox ritual; and the Ne've Shalom Synagogue, established 1964 at Great Gutter Lane, practicing the Reform ritual.

Further synagogues, also practicing the Ashkenazi Orthodox ritual, are known to have been located at Dagger Lane aka Ten Faith Lane (founded 17th century and demolished around 1700), Prince Street (founded 19th century), and Nile Street (founded 1878). Former Missions, also practicing the Ashkenazi Orthodox ritual, are known to have been located at Great Thornton Street Synagogue (founded 1885 and closed 1900), Great Passage Street Synagogue (founded 1914), and Adelaide Street Synagogue (founded 1926). This collection does not contain records relating to any of these synagogues. References can also be found to a 'New Hebrew Congregation', formerly the New Hebrew Burial Society, (closed 1964), founded 1916, practicing the Ashkanazi Orthodox ritual, at Lower Union Street Synagogue, and formerly at 4 Beadle Terrace, Goodwin Street, Hull. Some passing references to this congregation are to be found within this collection.

Jewish Organisations

Over the centuries the Hull Jewish Community has been served by a vast number of voluntary societies and clubs, communal committees, boards and councils. Notable organisations governing the spiritual life of the community included the Communal Chevra Kadisha, a Jewish burial society founded in the early 20th century to oversee the correct burial of deceased members of the community. They have also included the Hull Board of Shechita which was established in the 1930s to oversee the provision of kosher food for the community and was composed of representative members of each of the congregations in Hull. In addition the Communal Chedar, or Talmud Torah, has provided for the spiritual education and preparation of Jewish children for participation in the Jewish way of life.

Organisations have also been founded to protect and represent the interests of the community in wider Hull Society. Such bodies have included the Hull Jewish Representative Council which was established in the early 20th century to speak on behalf of the Jewish population of Hull and was responsible for keeping the community up to date with matters affecting them through the publication of the Hull Jewish Watchman newsletter. They have also included the Hull Public Relations Committee and the Hull Trades Advisory Council established in the mid 20th century.

Numerous organisations have been established to promote the welfare of the community, most notably the Hull Hebrew Board of Guardians, which was established in 1880 to co-ordinate and oversee charity efforts on behalf of the Jewish poor, sick and elderly in Hull. These organisations have also included the Hull Hebrew Ladies Benevolent Society, a late 19th century society providing financial aid and support to poor Jews, the Hull Jewish Friendship Club established in the mid 20th century , the Hull Jewish Blind Society, the Hull Orphan Aid Society, the Hull Jewish Effort for Mentally Handicapped Children and the Hull B'nai B'rith mens and women's lodges and youth organisation.

The community was active in aiding immigrant Jews coming to Hull from eastern Europe and significantly aided the welfare of these people through the establishement of the Hull Hebrew Transmigration Aid Society and the Hull Jewish Association for the Protection of Girls and Women which sought to ensure the safe passage of Jewish females through the port whilst awaiting transport to onward destinations.

The Hull community has also been very active in participating in national and international issued through the establishment of various regional branches of wider associations. Such branches have included the Labour Friends of Israel, a political party aiming to promote co-operation between Labour parties in Britain and Israel, and the Women's International Zionist Organisation, a voluntary organsation aiming to improve the social welfare and education of people living in Israel.

In addition to these organisations various societies have been established to provide for the social life of the Jewish Community in Hull. Such societies notably include the Hull Judeans Maccabi, a dramatic and sporting society incorporating cricket, football, rugby, table tennis and drama clubs amongst others. Other societies include the Hull Jewish Institute, Hull University JSOC, the Parkfield Centre, Hull Jewish Luncheon Club and the Hull Jewish Drama Club.

This collection contains the papers of the Hull Jewish Community and include the following groups of papers: Records relating to various Hull based Jewish Organisations responsible for regulating and overseeing the lives and wellbeing of the community's members, 1860-2021 [C DJC/1]; Records relating to the administration and activities of individual Congregations and Synagogues in Hull, 1852-2019 [C DJC/2]; Printed material providing secondary source evidence relating to the Hull Jewish Community and including biographical works relating to some members of the community, 1767-2016 [C DJC/3]; Research papers collated by individual members within and associated with the community, 20th-21st century [C DJC/4]. Grace After Meal (Birkat Hazamon) cards from various occasions, 1950-2016 [C DJC/5].