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Additional Press Report about the Hanley (Stoke) Jewish
© Jewish Chronicle reproduced with their consent
The Jewish Chronicle, 8 April 1960, page 10
By Barnett Stross
Celebrations to mark the golden jubilee of the merger of the six pottery
townships - Stoke, Tunstall, Hanley, Burslem, Longton, and Fenton - began last
week, the date of their amalgamation. The townships - five of them, Fenton
excluded - have been made famous in literature by Arnold Bennett, and the
products of their proud inhabitants have won a world-wide reputation.
For some 90 years and more a small Jewish community, today numbering 200 out of
a population of 272,000, has resided in this North Staffordshire area, and had
made a noteworthy contribution to its development. It is interesting to note
that Mr. J. M. Rich, a former editor of THE JEWISH CHRONICLE, was born in
Though early Jewish settlement is shrouded in uncertainty, an entry in THE
JEWISH CHRONICLE of 1872 speaks of 26 Jews, some with families, residing in
Hanley. They found the purchase of kosher meat from Manchester rather expensive,
and therefore asked the Chief Rabbi, Dr. Adler, to send them a shochet. Their
request was granted, and the community were also indebted to Sir Moses
Montefiore, who presented them with a Sefer Torah of ‘extraordinary beauty’
wrought by a Vilna rabbi of the day.
In 1873 a Methodist chapel in Hanley was bought and converted into a synagogue,
but because of the community’s exiguous resources, formal consecration was
deferred for some two years. The debt, financial and otherwise, which the infant
community owed to Manchester and London, was remarked upon at the dedication
banquet. Tribute was paid to the officiants, the Rev. Professor D.M. Isaacs, of
Manchester, and the Rev. B. Hast, of Birmingham, and to Mr. Phillip Falk, of
Manchester, through whose exertion the synagogue project was brought to
fruition. The toast of Sir Moses Montefiore was proposed by the President, Mr.
In 1930 the old synagogue was demolished and the land on which it stood in
Hanover Street used to extend what was then the Port Vale football ground. The
present synagogue, also in Hanley, was consecrated in 1923.
Petition to M.P.s
The growth of the community in the late 1870s necessitated the purchase of a
local burial ground, interments previously having taken place in Manchester. At
first, the Hanley Council opposed the community’s request to set aside part of
the borough cemetery for Jewish purposes and in 1881 several petitions were made
to the local M.P.s as well as the town council. The Board of Deputies joined in
the suit on the community’s behalf. At the height of the struggle, the Duke of
Sutherland, principal land-owner of the area, offered to sell the community an
acre of land for burial purposes on liberal terms, and notwithstanding the
Hanley Council’s decision to accede to the community’s request, it was decided
to take advantage of the Duke’s offer. Out of the total £600 expenditure for the
erection of the cemetery, Messrs. Rothschild contributed £200.
Although some of North Staffordshire’s 60 Jewish families are third generation
citizens, quite a few have settled in the area as refugees from Nazism. The
Hitler terror brought into the city a number of Czech, Austrian, and German
families, including a group of Czech children rescued in the last hour. They
were cared for by a Refugee Committee composed of Jews and Gentiles, and
assisted by almost every organisation in the city.
The late Mr. Colman Sumberg was recognised by everyone as the lay head of the
community for over 50 years. He was the driving force that helped to create the
new synagogue. I first met him in 1925, when he was widely respected for his
work as a prominent freemason, and admired for his scholarship as a Hebraist and
for his fluency as an orator. His son, Mr. Joshu Sumberg has also held every
major office in the community. He is Hon. Secretary of the Stoke-on-Trent
Repertory Players, the oldest dramatic organisation in the city.
The senior member of the community is Mr. J. Kay, who held office in one way or
another for 40 years. The President is now Mr. Saul Simon, a city magistrate and
an enthusiastic supporter of the Council for Social Service and innumerable
other welfare organisations. For 30 years he was the Secretary of the Doctor
Landau Lodge of the O.A.B. Jewish Friendly Society.
Recently the community lost by death M. John Jordan, the ear, nose, and throat
surgeon, who had originally fled from Czechoslovakia. The eminent gynæcologist,
Mr. Harold Burton, has worked in the city for some 30 years.
Role of Women
Members of the community are in the main engaged in business activities of
varied types. Many of them have been established for more than half-a-century.
The Law is represented by one solicitor and there are four general practitioners
Jewish women have played their part in the life of the congregation and of the
city. Miss Bertha Solomon, whose flaming red hair easily distinguishes her, is
as popular with the world of commerce. The late Clara David, whose son, Ralph,
is now Treasurer, built by her own exertions a large enterprise in the gown
trade. She endeared herself to all who knew her by her kindness and generosity.
The Jewish community in Stoke-on-Trent has taken its colour and its attitudes
from the citizens they live with. The people of the Potteries are generous and
warm-hearted. The 200 Jewish men, women, and children who live in the city or
outside it in North Staffs do not in any way feel separate or apart from their
neighbours. They retain their own religious faith and observances but
participate in every activity and accept every obligation of citizenship. They
do not feel that they live among strangers but among friends.
Dr. Stross, who is a physician and surgeon, has been M.P. for Stoke-on-Trent
(Central) since 1945. He is a former Alderman of the city.
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