Attempt to explore history of Sheffield’s Jewish population

Wilson Road Synagogue, service for Christian and Jewish worshippers in 1967

Wilson Road Synagogue, service for Christian and Jewish worshippers in 1967

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Sheffield’s Jewish community are being asked to come forward and share their stories as part of a new project to chart their history in the Steel City.

History students at the University of Sheffield are being asked to find out what it was like for Jewish people growing up in the city during the 20th Century - and they are looking for volunteers to come forward and tell them their stories.

A Holocaust Memorial Day Candlelit Vgil took place at the Winter Garden, Sheffield on Monday (28 January, 2013). Our picture shows Rabbi Golomb (right), Lord Mayor of Sheffield, John Campbell (fifth left), Trevaen Anderson (second left), aged 15, who spoke at the event, and Lord Mayor's chaplain Reverend Louise Collins (fourth left), light candles at the vigil.

A Holocaust Memorial Day Candlelit Vgil took place at the Winter Garden, Sheffield on Monday (28 January, 2013). Our picture shows Rabbi Golomb (right), Lord Mayor of Sheffield, John Campbell (fifth left), Trevaen Anderson (second left), aged 15, who spoke at the event, and Lord Mayor's chaplain Reverend Louise Collins (fourth left), light candles at the vigil.

History lecturer Dr Daniel Lee is organising the project and believes there will be many people in Sheffield with fascinating stories to tell - particularly those who moved to the UK around the time of the Second World War.

Dr Lee said: “In the UK, Sheffield is still the fifth biggest community of Jewish people. You have got London, Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow and then Sheffield.

“Especially in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, Sheffield did have a very significant Jewish population.

“I know that from previous years when we have done similar projects how much students get out of this. It is getting out of the classroom into people’s homes.

“Older people really want to respond to these questions.

“Often they haven’t been asked these questions by their children or their grandchildren about growing up in Sheffield, questions about how Sheffield has changed over the years.

“There are definitely people in Sheffield who do remember the Nazis. People have responded very positively saying I would love to be interviewed by your students.”

He said one lady in the city came to the UK after leaving Austria in the 1930s as Nazi persecution of the Jews spread fear throughout Europe.

Dr Lee added: “We would like to speak to people who aren’t Jewish but perhaps lived next door to a family.

“It is open to everyone to share their experiences.”

Students will conduct interviews using dictaphones, with the interviews being stored on a database at the university for the use of future historians.

According to the United Synagogue of Sheffield, although there is historical evidence that Jewish travellers and businessman visited Sheffield from the 1650s to buy silverware and cutley, it was not until the late 18th Century that it can be proved Jewish people started living in South Yorkshire.

In 1851, the first synagogue opened on Figtree Lane in the city centre.

During the inter-war years, a new synagogue was opened in Wilson Road in Ecclesall, but during the Second World War the Central Synagogue was destroyed by German bombing of the city.

Anyone interested in taking part in the project can contact Dr Lee by emailing d.l.lee@sheffield.ac.uk or calling 0114 2222557.

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