The History of Barnsley’s Jewish Community
The JHSE were invited to attend the unveiling of a Civic Trust Plaque to mark the building that once housed the Barnsley Synagogue. Nigel Grizzard produced a small pamphlet for the occasion which we replicate below. Unfortunately the ceremony was postponed but will be resheduled.
UPDATE: The ceremony will now take place on Sunday 18th March at 11.30am.
Barnsley had a small Jewish Community with a synagogue at 82 Castlereagh Street that was in use from 1903 -1946.
The blue plaque erected by the Barnsley Civic Trust records the use of the building and the involvement of Jews in Barnsley life.
The Jewish Chronicle reported on 12th June 1903,
“The Jewish families of Barnsley have formed themselves into a congregation, and held a minyan for Pentecost. The officers of the New Briggate Synagogue, Leeds, lent the Sepher”.
A month later on 17th July 1903 the Jewish Chronicle noted:
“At a meeting of the congregation, held at 82 Castlereagh Street, the following officers were elected: President, Mr B. Prosser: Treasurer, Mr. M Glass: Secretary, Mr M. Fieldman: Auditors the Rev.I. Dobkin and Mr A. Abelson: Committee, Messrs Finkelstone, Smulawich, Cohen, Berenstine, Diamond and Lewis”.
For its first years the small community perhaps at most numbering 100 people had Reverend Israel Dobkin as their Minister. Born in Russia in 1864 he lived at 56 Doncaster Road in the town and as well as being the Jewish Community’s Minister he was a picture framer.
Another well known member was Max Krakauer born in Germany who opened a Jewellery Shop in Barnsley at 3 Church Street. His goods were highly prized and clocks and silver with the ‘Krakauer of Barnsley’ imprint are still found in Yorkshire auctions. The Krakauers had a son and a daughter. The four Barnsley Krakauer’s are buried in the United Hebrew Congregation Jewish Cemetery in Gildersome, Leeds.
Through the years the Jewish Chronicle reports a variety of aspects of Jewish life in Barnsley.
In 1905, Mr P Verbelofsky and family of 45 Shambles Street, Barnsley thanked Reverend Dobkin, Messrs Ryder, Bernstein, Nelson and Harris and also to the Barnsley congregation for sympathy in their recent bereavement.
In 1913, Jacob Weichell Fisch otherwise known as Jacob Fish, formerly of Warsaw but who had lived for the last 20 years at Fishers Lodging House, Doncaster Road, Barnsley had died and the Guardians of the Barnsley Union were looking for relatives who would hear something to their advantage.
Mr and Mrs Pearl of Dodworth Road, Barnsley, sent Jewish New Year Greetings in September 1918.
Irving Leigh is appointed Honorary Dental Surgeon to the Barnsley Beckett Hospital, March 1933.
Horace Goldin, an American Jewish Magician makes many appearances in Barnsley. In 1935 he comes to the town to present for the first time on any stage his famous illusion of ‘cutting a woman in half’ with a circular saw.
Barnsley helps Jewish Refugees
With the rise of the Nazis in Germany, Barnsley helps Jewish Refugees. From Kristallnacht on the 9th and 10th November 1938 when the situation becomes much more desperate for Jews, refugees come to Barnsley.
One of the refugees was Berlin born chemist Joachim Memel. He came to Barnsley to work for CEAG, a company that developed lights for the mining industry in 1939. He stayed in the town until 1940 when he was interned on the Isle of Man along with thousands of other German and Austrian Jews.
In March 1939, Neville Laski KC, the head of the Board of Deputies of British Jews in London, Anglo-Jewry’s communal lay leader comes to Barnsley to address a packed meeting at the Hoyland Miner’s Welfare Hall on the subject of the persecution of the Jews by the Nazis.
All over Barnsley, there are efforts to fundraise for Earl Baldwin’s Fund for Jewish Refugees. The Barnsley Chronicle in January 1939 reports how after a Nativity Play at St John’s Church Barnsley a collection was taken for Earl Baldwin’s Fund.
In 1946, the Barnsley Jewish Community closed its doors for the last time. Although there was no synagogue Jews continued to live and work in the town.
Many shop owners and market traders commuted from Leeds and Sheffield.
Peter Wolff, a German Jewish refugee established SR Gent, a clothing manufacturing company in Barnsley that supplied Marks and Spencer and at its height employed 4,500 people.
Now with renewed interest in the past there is a need to comb the files of the Barnsley Chronicle to write a full history of Barnsley and its Jews.
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