Hopes for friendly ties between the Leeds Jewish and Muslim communities were expressed on Sunday at the unveiling of a Leeds Civic Trust blue plaque commemorating the establishment of the Ort Technical Engineering School.
Representatives of the trust and both communities were among 100 guests at the Chapeltown Road site, now home to New Horizons, an independent school for Muslim girls aged 11-16.
The Ort school’s origins were in Nazi Berlin, the authorities allowing it to operate on the understanding that its pupils, excluded from state schools, would be better equipped to leave Germany once qualified. Pupils and staff relocated to Leeds in 1939 and workshops opened the following January. Six houses in Chapeltown were rented to provide student accommodation.
Ninety-two-year-old Sydney Sadler, the oldest Ort school survivor in Leeds, unveiled the plaque. Mr Sadler had arrived with his brother Joe. “We were the lucky ones,” he said. “We came to England five days before war was declared. It was only through the lobbying of [British Ort’s] Colonel Joseph Levey that lives were saved.”
The Leeds school closed at the end of 1942. Some of the boys found jobs, others were interned on the Isle of Man. Several served in the British Army.
At the ceremony, Ort historian Simon Phillips praised Leeds as a city of sanctuary and said he “was bowled over” by the generosity of the Muslim school in allowing the plaque to be erected.
School governor Hanif Malik pointed out: “Our fathers were also migrants and Leeds extended its hospitality to our families. There is so much focus on the conflict and disparity between the two communities. If this commemoration plays a very small part in enhancing the bond between us, the outcome can only be positive.”