The Liverpool Jewish community might only number 2,000 people but it is alive, active and vibrant. JLife takes a look at the city’s Jewish history as well as its upcoming events.
Fleeing persecution and poverty in central and Eastern Europe, particularly Russia, Austria and Romania, thousands of Jewish people migrated to Liverpool during the late 19th Century. The city was back then recognised as a key immigration route for those heading to America and Canada. However, records prove that Jewish communities existed in the city as late back as the 1700s, including the first recorded Jewish birth in 1765.
The first mention of a synagogue in Liverpool was in 1753 on the site which is now the Metquarter. Today there are four active synagogues in the city – Allerton Hebrew Congregation, Childwall Synagogue, Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation (Princes Road) and Liverpool Reform Synagogue.
In 1854 the Hebrew School was established in Hope Place and many thousands of Jewish children passed through its doors until 1964 – it is now in Childwall as King David School. In 1956, King David School became the first Jewish secondary school to be opened under the provisions of the 1944 Education Act.
The King David Campus on Childwall Road is at the heart of the community, encompassing the high school, primary school and kindergarten in addition to the foundation, lettings service and community sector. The high school attracts about 90 per cent of the potential Jewish pupils in the area. At present, less than 16 per cent of the students are Jewish.
The most famous benefactor in the Jewish community was David Levy, otherwise known as David Lewis, the founder of Lewis’, who left his entire fortune to the poor people of Liverpool and Manchester. He first worked as an apprentice for the Lord Street tailoring firm of Hyam and Company and at 32 chose a premises on Ranelagh Street to set up his boys clothing shop. With the popularity of Lewis’ came much larger premises, he also bought Bon Marche in Church Street which later became George Henry Lee and opened his second, a major retail department store, in Manchester 1880. Lewis’ was the first department store in the world to install a grotto and use full size mannequins in its shop windows.
Harold Cohen, the chairman of Lewis’ department store and the son of a former Lord Mayor of Liverpool, donated £100,000 to build The Harold Cohen Library. The Grade II listed building is the University of Liverpool’s main library on the north part of the city centre campus, housing the main collections in Dentistry, Engineering, Science, Medicine, Veterinary Science and Mathematics.
The entertainment industry is synonymous with Jewish influences, and Liverpool-born Jews have had successful careers in the industry. After first discovering the Beatles in 1961 during a lunchtime Cavern Club performance, music entrepreneur Brian Epstein went on to manage the group. Brian was part of a Jewish business family in the city. Another musical star includes Frankie Vaughan, CBE – he was a traditional pop music singer, who issued more than 80 singles in his lifetime. Born in Liverpool as Frank Ableson be became known as ‘Mr Moonlight’ after one of his early hits.
Despite diminishing numbers, the community remains active with members loyally cherishing the city’s Jewish heritage and harbouring Liverpool’s future Jewish connection.
Sara Radivan, Liverpool Jewish community activities co-ordinator, is the guest speaker at the WIZO luncheon group on 14thJanuary 2015. On 18th Davis Lewis from the Henry Jackson Society will address the community at 12pm over a bagel brunch. The CCJ hold their annual quiz on 24th and on 25th Allerton Shul are holding a whisky tasting evening.
The 27th January is National Holocaust Memorial Day. The Town Hall is currently involved in the 70 candles for 70 years project, where someone is asked to light a candle every day for 70 days representing the 70 years since the liberation of Auschwitz.
To commemorate National Holocaust Memorial Day Movie Lovers/ Film Club will show the film Sarah’s Key.
Shabbat Across the Mersey IV will take place on 24th April which will incorporate Yom Ha’atzmaut celebrations as well as being rolled over into Shabbat itself.
Information on these and other events can be found on the Liverpool Jewish website Liverpooljewish.co.uk. The communal diary is now on the website or you can contact Sara Radivan on 0151 235 1587/ 07885 673 firstname.lastname@example.org.