Leeds celebrates the old and the New

By John Fisher, October 18, 2012
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Fabian Hamilton, MP, Lynda Kitching, Judge Ian Dobkin and Paul Berwin at the unveiling

Fabian Hamilton, MP, Lynda Kitching, Judge Ian Dobkin and Paul Berwin at the unveiling

The contribution of Leeds Jewry to the cultural and economic life of the city was recognised at the unveiling of a blue plaque at the former New Synagogue in Chapeltown Road.

Officials from Leeds Civic Trust, the Jewish community and the Chapeltown Heritage Advisory Group were among the 150 guests at the ceremony at the Grade ll-listed building, now home to the Northern School of Contemporary Dance.

Prior to the New’s opening in 1932, the community had two city centre synagogues, the New Briggate and the Great Synagogue, accommodating the large Jewish community in the Leylands area at the end of the 19th century.
The Byzantine-style New Synagogue marked the migration of Leeds Jewry to the Chapeltown district two miles north and it served the United Hebrew Congregation until its closure in 1985.

Former UHC president Judge Ian Dobkin, who unveiled the plaque, said the site had once been the focal point of Leeds Jewish life. “When we eventually sold the building, I said that we loved this place but we had to move on.

“Well we did move on but we have come back here today in gratitude for the shul and for its atmosphere.”
Current UHC president Paul Berwin added: “This place is in our blood.”

Congregants are reminded of its history as religious artefacts were transferred to UHC’s Moortown premises.
Mr Berwin hoped there would be further opportunities to return to the Chapeltown building “to remind ourselves of this glorious chapter in the Leeds Jewish community”.

Elsewhere, a blue plaque is to be erected in Manchester outside the home of the late Benny Rothman, the open spaces activist jailed for his role in the 1932 Kinder Scout trespass, a turning point in the campaign to give people the right to roam across the English countryside.

Trafford Council will unveil the plaque at the house in Timperley in the next few weeks.

Last updated: 12:30pm, October 18 2012