Jews of Dewsbury
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Dewsbury is a town in the woollen district of Yorkshire, located near Leeds and Bradford. Those two towns were the locations of the largest Jewish settlements in that area but there were other small, nearby, communities, of which Dewsbury was one.
The number of Jews living in Dewsbury was always very small, although there were Jewish businesses in the town run by people living in Leeds. Table I is based on the Census and the 1939 Register. Jews are identified in these documents Census by inference, from country of birth, by name, and occupation, and also by appearance in such newspapers as the Jewish Chronicle. This may mean that one may omit people with anglicised names or those born in Britain. However, that last category – occupation - is not particularly useful given the specialist nature of Dewsbury’s industrial structure, the sorting and selection of rags and similar material.
Jewish Population of Dewsbury 1851-1911
The community came into existence in the last decade of the 19th century but, as was often the case, there were some transient Jews much earlier. At the 1851 Census there were seven Jewish travellers, i.e pedlars, living together in a strange household. It was headed by a man employed as a wool sorter but somehow he and his wife had room for 17 lodgers, which included the seven Jews, the remaining ten being non-Jews. Five were tailors, two weavers, one carpenter, one shoemaker, and one, solitary, female, piecer in a mill.
All the Jewish travellers had gone by the time of the next Census but there is a reference in a letter to the Jewish Chronicle in 1908 from the President of the Dewsbury Hebrew Congregation (signed ‘F’, the President being Jacobi Wronker Faltow), that he had lived in the town for 33 years, ie since 1875, and this must have been when his whole family arrived. They were headed by Leopold Flatow, from Stettin (according to his naturalisation documents, although Berlin in the Census), including three unmarried sons; Jacobi (surprisingly named Facow Faltow in the 1881 Census), Adolf and Max. Their full name was, eg, Jacobi Wronker Faltow. The father, Leopold, was a Merchant and Importer of rags; the sons, although in their twenties, had no employment recorded against their names. Later they were recorded in the same trade and may well have been in it already.
Otherwise there was the odd case of Lewis Goldman, an unmarried 41-year old Glazier (following a typical Jewish immigrant trade), from Poland. He was a boarder in a household in Middle Road, headed by May Smith, a 33-year old ‘Chair’ woman (sc charwoman), a widow, with three children. The youngest, a nine-month-old boy was named Lewis Goldman Smith. I take it he was the illegitimate son of Lewis Goldman and May Smith.(i) To some extent the situation was clarified when Lewis Goldman married Mary (sic) Smith in the summer of 1888, but she died three years later. In the meantime, at the 1891 Census the married couple now had four children, three of them named Goldman: Lewis, who had been in the previous Census, and two others born before the marriage: Flora (aged 9) and Albert (aged 4). The fourth was an older girl, described correctly as Goldman’s step-daughter (she had appeared in the 1881 Census as May Smith’s daughter.) To complete this story, at the 1901 Census Lewis Goldman is shown as a widower, still a Glazier, three children are with him, but this time all named Smith. The enumerator must have wondered why a man called Goldman had three children named Smith, as there was a question mark after each of the three entries. The children were all employed. Lewis as an underground coal-miner, Albert as a piecer in a factory, and Florence a rag sorter. There five others in the household, four boarders and a 13-year old boy named John W. Griffin, described, curiously, as a step-son of Goldman. His birth certificate gives his address as 47 Middle Road, his mother was Annie Griffin, a Rag Picker, but no father is shown. It is plausible to suggest that Lewis Goldman may have been the father.
There was one more Jew in Dewsbury in 1881; German-born Solomon Levia was described as a Clerk and Foreign Correspondent. No more is heard of him
At the 1891 Census there were in practice five Jewish families. One was there temporarily and was otherwise based in Leeds. This was a family headed by 56-year old Abraham Rosenbaum, a Polish-born Tailor with a 25-year old wife, presumably a second marriage. Their name was spelled Rosenbom in other records. They were back in Leeds in 1901 where the father died soon after the Census of that year. The second and third families were Flatows, the father, 61-year old Leopold and his wife, and the oldest son Jacobi Flatow, recently married. Both were described as ‘Merchant (Rags)’. The fourth family was that of Louis Salinsky, a 24-year old Polish-born Tailor, his wife Annie, also Polish-born, and a 6 months old Dewsbury born son. The fifth was another rag merchant, German-born Frederick Witow, probably a relation of Jacobi Flatow (see later.)
But three families had a Jewish connection. However, two sons of Leopold Flatow, Max and Adolf, had married non-Jewish wives (sisters) from Birstall, Yorkshire, both the men being Rag Merchants. And there was the family, mentioned above, headed by Lewis Goldman. While it may be permissible to include Max and Adolf Flatow and Lewis Goldman in the statistics of Jews, their families are not, and it is unlikely that they had anything to do with the Jewish community. They are for that reason shown separately in Table I. That was unlike the oldest of the brothers Flatow, Jacobi, who – as we shall see – was very active in the congregation.
In fact the Flatows integrated quickly into the general community although their early efforts were not, it seems successful. We know this from the dissolution of two partnerships, the first in 1888, between Adolphus(sic) Flatow and Samuel Lumb, who had been carrying on business as Shoddy and Mungo Merchants.(ii) In future the business was to be carried on by ‘A. Flatow alone’. Three years later there was a similar dissolution ‘by mutual consent’ of a partnership of Adolf Flatow, Max Wronker Flatow and Henri Coupe.(iii) However, by the late 1890s the business became L. Flatow and Sons, rag merchants as well as Flatow Brothers and Co.(iv) Meanwhile they had become naturalised: Max in April 1891, Adolf in January 1892, Jacobi in July 1893 and the father, Leopold Isidor, in December 1893.(v)
One transient family was that headed by Jacob Cohen, a Russian-born master tailor, to whom a son. Samuel, was born at 40 Cobden Street, Batley, on 24 September 1891, the mother being Rebecca nee Solomon(s). They left soon afterwards and in 1901 were in Soho, central London.
The Jewish population grew in the first decade of the twentieth century. At the 1901 Census the newcomers included the family of German-born Tailor Myer Watssman, and that of Ephraim Mossan, Russian-born Watchmaker and Jeweller. In addition there were three German-born single men, named Weiss, all in the rag trade as employees and Max Cohen, another German, who was a financial agent. He had been in Dewsbury for a few years, being recorded as having assisted in the High Holyday services at Preston ‘gratuitously’ for the third year, in 1897.(vi) There was also a Leeds-born Hyman Cohen who was described as a Musical Instrument (Agent). In the meantime most of the Flatows had left, the father, Leopold, dying in 1894, only Jacobi and his family remaining as residents. One family, who were to be important in the business life of the town, was headed by Samuel Stross. He was temporarily resident there, from at least 1907 when he was elected to the Committee of the newly-formed congregation and appearing in a 1908 Directory, living at West Park Street.(vii) He died on 11 April 1910, his death being registered in Dewsbury, but his family were in Leeds by the time of the 1911 Census.(viii)
There were other temporary residents. One was J.S. Hyams, living at 9 Blenheim Terrace in 1907 and others appeared in connection with the formally-organised community. The first printed reference was in the Jewish Year Book of 1904-5 which stated that there was a minyan at 16 Albion Street. This was repeated the following year, 1905-6, which however seemed to conflict with a report, in September 1905, in the Jewish Chronicle.(ix):
Perhaps the second Albion Street notice was a copy of the earlier one and the JC report may have come from a different source.
A few months later there was a synagogue. ‘(T)he first Jewish place of worship in Dewsbury’ was opened on 1 April 1906 by Alderman J. Moser JP of Bradford. There was, it seems, a Visiting Minister, Rev M. Abrahams, who conducted the service, accompanied by three other ministers. The synagogue was in Grove Street, the rooms having been structurally altered and adapted. There was already an executive in position: the President was L. Salinski(sic), but apart from the Treasurer, K. Weiss (who is in the 1911 Census), the other men mentioned cannot be identified as local residents – they were the Vice-President, B. Freidman and the Hon. Sec. M. Phillips. Another untraceable name, who presented a mantle was that of Krupans (unless this was a mis-print for Isaac Krupeney, a Leeds tailor whose household in 1911 included the family of Samuel Tisser, for whom see later. ) Incidentally, other people gave items to the synagogue on this occasion: curtains and drapery by Mrs B. Freidman and a silver and ivory pointer by Mr S. Isaacs of Leeds.(x)
In the ensuing years a few events were reported, showing a slight degree of consolidation by the congregation. Towards the end of 1906 Mr B. Witow of Berlin, presented a Sepher Torah with mantle and a silver yod. It was actually presented to the congregation by Jacobi Wronker Flatow, who was Witow’s brother-in-law, and subscribed £5 ‘towards the establishment of a Benevolent Society to help poor co-religionists in Dewsbury’. All the members of the congregation inscribed a letter in the Sepher Torah, their offerings being added to the Benevolent Society. More gifts to the synagogue were reported in the same month (1906). A Ner Tamid was presented by L. Salinsky, a clock by a newcomer, Myer Watssman, and a table-cover by an unknown I. Flowers.(xi) One temporary family was that headed by Samuel Tisser, an Austrian-born confectioner, who was elected to the committee in 1907, the same year his son David was born in Dewsbury. His wife Minnie died in 1910 and Samuel re-married in 1911, having moved to Leeds. Two other unknowns mentioned in connection with the congregation were L. Knowels(sic) and -. Hyman, in 1907 and 1908.
There were possibly other unknowns. In the early twentieth century a Jewish Dispersion Committee aimed to move Jews from the congested East End of London to what were thought to be more salubrious places. In 1910 it was reported that one of the towns which had received such families was Dewsbury, but it was not known how many had remained in the various reception districts.(xii)
Moreover there was now a resident minister, Israel Dobkin. He was first reported as having officiated and preaching two sermons in 1906. He made a string appeal to the congregants to attend punctually and regularly and to work for peace and harmony. Later in the year he conducted a service at Yom Kippur, together with a choir.(xiii) He was still there in the following year, reported as Secretary of the Hebrew Benevolent Fund, and when a son, Israel, was born, but by 1911 he was in Barnsley. (xiv) There is no reference to a minister thereafter, and indeed there are no mentions of Dewsbury in the Jewish Year book after 1909, for many years. This may have meant that the congregation was in abeyance from 1909 or, more likely, that no local person was available to send information to the Jewish Year Book.
However, there are some scraps of information about Jews in Dewsbury in the local newspapers, the first being in 1909 and involving Joseph Stross of the firm of Messrs S. Stross and Sons Ltd of Bradford Road, Dewsbury, rag and shoddy merchants, who charged Robert John Weiss of Heckmondwyke and two travellers with assaulting him. Weiss charged Stross with assaulting him. Stross appeared with two black eyes, Weiss with his right hand in bandages. The charges were dismissed. A mention was made that Stross’s ’ firm had a warehouse at the Great Northern Railway’s depot in Dewsbury.(xv)
Four years later Joseph Stross was in serious trouble, charged with committing willful and corrupt perjury and with suborning one of his employees, Arthur Booth. Stross had travelled from Leeds to Dewsbury with a 3rd class ticket but was seen alighting from a 1st class carriage. He wanted Booth to appear as a witness for him but he refused. Stross refused to pay the 1s 4d excess. He was sentenced to six months’ hard labour.(xvi)
His oldest brother, Maurice, was married in January 1911 to Rosie, daughter of Mr and Mrs Myer Thomas but at the end of the year was in court, summoned for assaulting a policeman and a tram conductor, who were both summoned for assaulting him.(xvii)
Four other items made the newspapers. First, Miss Rose Salinsky of Dewsbury was appointed to fill a vacancy in one of the schools; second, Ernest Wronker Flatow, rag merchant, driving a car was in fatal collision with a cyclist. The jury at the inquest decided that the car was driven recklessly but it was not criminal; third, S. Stross and Sons Ltd was registered as a private company, with a capital of £15,000, the first directors being Mr M. Stross and Mrs J. Stross.(xviii) The fourth news item referred to an aircraft accident in 1911 which took the lives of two men, Hubert Oxley, a qualified pilot, and Robert Weiss of Dewsbury, a brother of Mrs Jacobi Flatow, who had come to Britain some six years before. He was a partner in the Anglo-Russian Trading Company.(xix)
The Jewish Chronicle announced, in July 1922,(xx)
Mark Salont wrote a letter to the JC the following year about the existence of a Jewish golf club in Leeds which, he reported, played on Saturdays. His address was given as Municipal Technical College and School of Art Dewsbury. I take it he was a member of the teaching staff.(xxi) But the sources are quiet about this proposed re-formed congregation and the first news of such a new congregation had to wait until after the Second World War.
The newspapers are devoid of reports of the congregation in years immediately before the war and during it so the fact of its abandonment or the reasons for it were not publicised. However, one can suggest one plausible reason. It was a small community but it supplied a number of young men for the armed forces. Their absence meant that it would have been difficult to maintain religious services.
The following served in the forces:
The small congregation had lost some families even before the war. The Stross family had gone to Leeds as had that of Samuel Tisser. On the other hand there were accessions – the family of Wolf Kalinski (aka Willie Kalinsky) left Leeds for Dewsbury where a daughter was born in 1913. He became a rag merchant and was long resident in Dewsbury along with his son Adolf (later Arthur). Another newcomer was Walter Hyman (born 1891 as Moses Hyman) and lived in the East End of London. He was there in 1911 but three years later he married Leah Levy in Swansea in 1914 when his address was Ossett as a Rag Merchant. His first daughter Margaret was born in 1915, registered in Swansea, although the announcement in the Jewish Chronicle gave an address in Ossett and he continued to live there for many years. He became a County Councillor. Alderman and chairman of the County Education Committee.
From various sources one can list Jews associated with the town, in the inter-war period. There was of course the rag merchant firm of Stross (the title of which changed over the years.) Its managing director Jack Stross was sued for libel by a Leeds cloth merchant, Isaac Goldsobel. The verdict went in favour of Goldsobel being awarded £1,000 and costs. The newspaper report was headed ‘Dealings of Two Jewish Firms’.(xxvi) In 1927, as Jack Stross Ltd, Carr Dyke Mills, it was large enough to purchase the whole stock of rags held by the Russian Government and Arcos Ltd, amounting to 2,000 tons for £11,000.(xxvii) Two years later M. Stross contributed two guineas to the Chief Rabbi’s appeal to provide Matzot for famine sufferers in Russia and Bessarabia, and in 1937 the firm of M. J. and G. Stross contributed to a Memorial Fund for children and, particularly interesting, in 1938 £80 for ‘Persecuted Children’ was raised by workpeople of the same firm.(xxviii)
During the inter-war period there are no reports of congregational activity but, in addition to what has been said so far, there was a continued Jewish interest in the town. We can see this by going through items, chronologically, in the newspapers.
Solomon Hurwitz, who was in Dewsbury in 1911 as a Watch repairer and jeweller, was married in Leeds in 1918, had a daughter in Dewsbury in 1919 but by 1927 was in Leeds. In 1920 Harry Ark, who had been head of the Chemical Department at Dewsbury Technical College, left for the headship of the Chemical Department of the Coventry Technical Institute. In 1920 too the marriage took place of Rose Salinsky (daughter of Louis Salinsky, tailor) and Abraham Woodman who had served with the American forces in France during the war. Interestingly the marriage took place in the Mayor’s Reception Room at the Town Hall in the presence of the Mayor and Mayoress, The bride was a teacher at the Purwell Boys’ School, Batley.(xxix)
Solomon Krakauer, a watchmaker and jeweller, presented a set of the Jewish Encyclopaedia to the Leeds ‘Rabbi M. Abrahams Memorial Library’ in 1922. The newspaper report stated that Krakauer was of Dewsbury although in fact he resided in Barnsley most of his life, apart from visiting New York twice; first in 1925 travelling on the ‘Adriatic’, and in 1933 acompanied by his son Max.(xxx)
There was evidence of Jews participating in the general life of Dewsbury. After the war E. W. Flatow continued with his army commission and was reported in 1924 playing tennis in a competition at Dewsbury. Earlier, Ruth Kalinsky performed in an opera and a Kalinsky (presumably Arthur) was in the 100 yards Old Boys’ race at Dewsbury Grammar School sports. Richard Camrass was a solicitor in Dewsbury in 1935.(xxxi)
In the 1930s there was news of Celia Hyman of Leeds who had a ladies outfitters in Dewsbury. The news was of her insolvency from 1929 to her public examination in 1933. The decade ended with the first mention of Bernard Silver of Dewsbury becoming engaged in August 1939 and the news of the arrival in Halifax of refugees from Europe. Their mother was a nurse at Dewsbury hospital. She appears in the 1939 Register from which one can produce a list of Jews living in Dewsbury.(xxxii)
List of Jews in the 1939 Register
The Register was taken on 29 September 1939 and was used to produce up-to-date population statistics and identification cards and to facilitate the introduction of ration cards in January 1940. It was used also to administer conscription. It was important as being the only such information available between the Censuses of 1921 and 1951, the 1931 Census having been destroyed by fire in the Second World War and no Census was taken in 1941.
This is probably an incomplete list.
The second World War threw up very little information, although one can assume that the three men in the list continued in the ARP organisation. Bernard I. Silver married Henrietta Siroko of Liverpool in Liverpool in 1940 and at some point joined the armed forces. Arnold Joseph Salinsky was bar mitzvah at the Higher Crumpsall Synagogue, Manchester, in April 1941, and in September of that year a son was born at the Moorlands Maternity Home to Miriam Ostrin nee Siroko of Liverpool, possibly in Dewsbury as an evacuee. In 1942 there was a contribution of £100 to the Leeds RAF Fund from M. J. and G. Stross of Dewsbury.(xxxiii)
The name of Stross came into the news after the war. In 1946 the partnership between George Stross and Walter Morley Hyman, haulage contractors, at Chancery Lane, Ossett, was dissolved. Henceforth there would be two separate concerns: Walter Morley Hyman, the Relay Motor Company, Ossett, and George Stross, the Relay Motor Company, Dewsbury, at 27 Wellington Road, Dewsbury. Three years later, in another role, George Stross, director, Providence Mills, Dewsbury, was fined £20 in each of two cases for using a vehicle for carrying goods without a proper licence. The company, George Stross Ltd, rag merchants, was fined £12 in each of two cases for aiding and abetting.(xxxiv)
More interestingly, the JC in 1947 reported the inauguration of a new congregation at the home of B.Diamond, the hon Secretary being Nelson Berkoff. When the latter left for Israel he was described as the founder and hon Secretary of the congregation. Perhaps he and Diamond may be considered as the founders. Diamond took over as hon secretary according to the Jewish Year Book in 1949 and 1950.(xxxv) Nothing more is known of this, apparently revitalised, community but it probably did not last long. In any case Silver was involved as a witness in a court martial in 1951. The accused was a regular officer of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, Major Ralph Herbert Thomas Newman, who faced a general court martial being alleged to have been paid about £16,000 at Dewsbury for the sale of arms and ammunition to a Jewish organisation in Palestine, knowing them to have been stolen from an ordnance depot in Palestine in May 1948.
Bernard Silver entered the story in this way. A £1 note was cut in half and one of the halves was given to Newman who was told that when he handed the half note to a person in England he would receive the money. In February Newman handed the note to Bernard Silver and a suitcase containing £16,000-£18,000 was handed to him.
Newman was found guilty of scandalous conduct and was cashiered. At a further court martial – of Colonel Gore – on the same circumstances, Silver was asked from whom he had received the money and the half £1 note. ‘You have a brother called Bob who carries on business in Haifa?’ ‘Yes’.
That was the end of the story as far as Silver was concerned and he moved to Leeds soon afterwards.(xxxvi)
The Last Fifty Years
While there is no evidence of a formal congregation in the last half century – at a time when the town became well-known as a residence of Muslim immigrants and their descendants – there was a continuing Jewish presence. A handful of Jews lived there and other Jews worked there but lived elsewhere, mostly in Leeds. A sort of community was established when a number of such people used to meet regularly for lunch at Bickers Department Store. This information has been supplied by Peter Brostoff , who worked as a Solicitor in Dewsbury from 1967 to 2007. They included Bernard Silver, David Stross, two dentists, Melvyn Shaw and Howard Senior, a chemist, Jeffrey Caplan, Bernard Cohen, Clerk in Dewsbury County court and stallholders in Dewsbury Market. The numbers at these lunches varied from 2 or 3 to up to 10.
Other names worth recording include Leslie Silver, based in Leeds, who established the Paint and Lacquer Company, which expanded into Batley. He was well known as Chairman of Leeds United Football Club. In a sporting connection, Darren Coen played rugby league football for Castlrford and Dewsbury in the 1980s.
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© Harold Pollins
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