Bradford's hidden history

By John Fisher, October 7, 2013
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Benjamin Dunn (left) and Nigel Grizzard with their history of Jewish life in Bradford

Benjamin Dunn (left) and Nigel Grizzard with their history of Jewish life in Bradford

Bradford’s hidden Jewish history is celebrated in a new booklet that was 18 months in the making.

Compiled by historians Nigel Grizzard and Benjamin Dunn, The Bradford Jewish Heritage Trail celebrates 140 years of Jewish life.

“The fortunes of Bradford Jews rose and fell in line with the city’s general prosperity and its part in the textile trade, especially the woollen and worsted industries,” Mr Grizzard explained.

“Bradford was once a thriving and vibrant community but there has been a gradual decline since the 70s.” The city’s Orthodox synagogue closed last year.

This year marks the 140th anniversary of the establishment of the community after Rabbi Dr Joseph Strauss, the city’s first rabbi, arrived from Berlin in 1873. Jewish families had been drawn to the area by the prospering woollen trade.

Since the 1980s, the Heritage Lottery-funded Making Their Mark project has been holding tours of the Bradford Reform Synagogue, a Grade II-listed building which opened in 1881. The tour also took in adjacent parts of Manningham, known as the local Jewish quarter.

The current tour includes parts of the city centre with a strong Jewish connection and concludes in the Little Germany area where German-Jewish merchants ran thriving businesses.

Apart from articles on Bradford’s Jewish accomplishments, including its world renowned wool industry, the booklet highlights Jewish mayors, artists, actors, benefactors, even sportspeople.

The booklet was launched at the Reform synagogue in Bowland Street before a crowd of 100-plus as part of European Day of Jewish Culture and Heritage activities. It was followed by a tour of the synagogue and the wider Jewish quarter, including Rabbi Strauss’s first lodgings and the site of the last local kosher butcher’s shop.

Last updated: 10:45am, October 7 2013