Leeds puts its history on show

Under the chupah for the mock wedding ceremony - a highlight of Sunday’s celebration of 150 years of Leeds Jewish history

Under the chupah for the mock wedding ceremony - a highlight of Sunday’s celebration of 150 years of Leeds Jewish history

An exhibition celebrating the history of Leeds Jewry is being heralded as a major success after attracting well over 1,000 extra visitors to the Leeds City Museum on Sunday.

Around 1,800 people, including 300 children, attended the Jewish Heritage Day display. It was arranged as part of a two-year community project to document the Jewish contribution to the city since the founding of its first purpose-built synagogue 150 years ago.

One-hundred volunteers from the community helped to produce 30 stalls to tell the story. They also distributed traditional black bread, challah and matzah. Retired milliner Lynda Ross taught people buttoning needlework and the grand finale saw the circular exhibition hall full to capacity for a mock wedding under a white chupah.

The exhibition reflected that Marks & Spencer and Burton were among high street names founded by Leeds Jews, as were kosher food firm Rakusen's and tailors Berwin & Berwin. Children from Brodetsky Jewish Primary created life-size figurines depicting a barmitzvah, a wedding and brit milah.

Helen Frais from educational charity Makor, which co-ordinated the project, said the exhibition was partly planned to coincide with Interfaith Week as an experience for the wider community.

"The whole room was full during the day and many non-Jewish people visited. We have also planned to make the exhibition mobile and go to churches, synagogues and community centres. We're happy to do outreach."

Raina Sheaf and Simon Harris from The Zone centre try a new look

Raina Sheaf and Simon Harris from The Zone centre try a new look

Visitors included Malcolm Babbin from Jerusalem, who made aliyah from Leeds 25 years ago. He found the exhibition "moving and humorous".

Clutching boxes of matzot, non-Jew Joy Ratcliffe said the exhibition brought back childhood memories of growing up among the Jewish community during the 1950s.

"I remember all the Jewish places. We used to go to buy Jewish bread near to where we lived on Meanwood Road and rented our property from a Jewish man called Mr Skolnik.

"They always had very nice bread and bagels. Other shops sell bagels now but you can't beat the ones from the Jewish shops."

Muslim student Inam Attari, 21, attended to help with his religion and education studies at Huddersfield University. He said the event had been "welcoming and interesting" and hoped it would be repeated.

    Last updated: 10:11am, December 3 2010