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Stoke-on-Trent & North Staffordshire Jewish Community

 

              

         
 


Page created: 10 January 2012
Latest revision or update: 18 February 2013
 

Additional Press Report about the Hanley (Stoke) Jewish Community

© Jewish Chronicle reproduced with their consent

 

The Jewish Chronicle, 8 April 1960, page 10


STOKE-ON-TRENT JUBILEE

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 Longton.

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.

Chapel Converted

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. S. Solomon.

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.

Driving Force

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 of medicine.

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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