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Bishop Auckland Jewish Community

County Durham

 

              

         
 


Page created: 13 December 2012
Latest revision or update: 14 February 2013
 

The Early History of Jews in Bishop Auckland

by Harold Pollins
(24 April 2012)

In his study of The Jewish Communities of North-East-England, Lewis Olsover has a chapter on Bishop Auckland.  It is about the community that existed there mainly in the 1940s. The Jewish Chronicle, 9 May, 1941 recorded its wartime origin:

"The Rev. S. P. Toperoff, of Sunderland, addressed the Jewish residents of Bishop Auckland (Durham) and neighbouring districts recently and, following his address, working committees for social and religious activities were organised.  Services are going to be held regularly on Saturday morning.  Mr Lewin is Honorary Life President of the congregation: Mr A. Friede, President: Mr A. Snipper, Treasurer: Mr K. Lewin, Trustee: and Mr P. King, Secretary (11, John Street, Eldon Lane, where all communication should be addressed)."

Olsover, however, refers to some Jews who, apparently, arrived in the town in the 1930s.  His first was H. R. Rollman from Germany who came to Britain in 1932, although it is not clear from his text when he settled in Bishop Auckland but he uses that date to assert (page 299) that 'no Jew had lived there prior to 1932'.  He was wrong.  I show below that a handful of Jews lived in the town from the 1870s.  It was not unusual for stray Jews to live in various towns before a congregation was formed.  Olsover is not to be blamed for his error.  He did not have the advantage of the internet where one can read the past copies of the Jewish Chronicle, the Births, Marriages and Deaths, the Censuses 1841-2011 and other material.  These are the sources which provide evidence of earlier Jewish settlement, but with no organised community.

The first reference I have found in the Jewish Chronicle is the announcement of the marriage, in December 1893, of Barnett Laventhal [sic] of Bishop Auckland to Annie, 2nd daughter of Mr and Mrs S Laventhal [sic] of Middlesbrough.  Their marriage was registered in Middlesbrough, the surname of the groom being written as Leventhal, that of the bride as Laventhall.  They settled in Bishop Auckland where their daughter Betsy Rosetta Laventhall [sic] was registered in the March quarter of 1895, but they soon went to Newcastle upon Tyne where their daughter Cissy was born in 1896.

But they were not the first Jews in Bishop Auckland, nor was Betsy Rosetta the first Jewish child born there.  That was Hirsch Berger, born in 1877 to Selig, a German-born jeweller.  He was followed by four other children in the next ten years after which the family went to Sunderland.  At the 1881 Census, where the Berger family is first recorded, there were also two young Russian-born Jews in Bishop Auckland, Jacob Lerman and Wolf Rosenberg, both of whose occupations were 'cartman'.  Lerman is still there in the next three Censuses, to 1911.  He married in 1881, a local woman Elizabeth Clifford and, by 1911, had four children, in the meantime changing his occupation to fish merchant.

As it happened another Jew, William Stainsburg, who was in Bishop Auckland in 1891, was also a 'Cartman' and he also married a local woman, having two boys in Bishop Auckland before moving to Sunderland and adopting the more traditional Jewish immigrant trade of glazier.

The above is enough to demonstrate that a number of Jews lived in Bishop Auckland before the 1930s.

Just to round it off, in the Censuses there were a few more as follows:

1901 Aaron Lerman, a jeweller and draper who soon married a Middlesbrough-born woman, to which town he moved.

In 1901, in Bishop Auckland, two other single men lived as boarders in the same house as Aaron Lerman.  They were Isaac Teef who dealt in gold and Louis Epstein a draper's assistant.  Another man in 1901 was Abraham Turner, a house furnisher (whose birthplace was recorded as 'Poland Jew).  By 1911 he was married and living in Gateshead.  The last man recorded in 1901 was Julius Goldberg, a traveller in drapery.  He was aged 18 and was said to be a naturalised British subject, a most unlikely claim at that age.

Finally in 1911 there were three families headed as follows:  Isaac Cohen, a general dealer; Joseph Alexander, a picture frame dealer and Nathan Wilson, a travelling draper, all familiar immigrant Jewish trades.
 

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