Kehilat Middlesbrough Newsletter No 6 April 2000 page 2
I was born during the First World War and vividly remember Brentnall St shul, my father Louis Stock, holding my hand very tightly, walking to shul on every Yom Tov, then sitting quietly with my mother. I remember the concerts in the Brentnall St Hall; Bert Silverston, a dentist, and Anita Levenstein, in fine voice, singing "One Fine Day" from Madame Butterfly; and Freda Cannon, whose brother Nat became a doctor, and brother Myer now lives in Petach Tikva, Israel. The youngsters put on plays. To me, it was all wonderful. But I suppose, for a youngster, the yearly highlight was the Chanukah Party, which concluded with each child being given a bag of sweets by Mr Pinto. I went to cheder there; our teacher was Miss Jenkins, a nice kindly person, who collected the pennies donated by her pupils for the Jewish poor of the Ukraine.
In 1927 I went to the girls High School. The Jewish pupils were Freda and Lena Silverston, Bessie and Mabel Marks, Freda Wilson, Lily and Dolly Breckner, Esther Segerman, Esther Doberman, Ray and Kay Niman. One year Bessie Marks was elected Head Girl and we were very proud that one of "ours" had been chosen.
The Zionist Society was very strong. Speakers would come from the Zionist Federation in London, and appeal for funds for the future national Home for the Jews. There was much poverty in M’bro at the time, but amazingly people pledged monthly sums of one or two shillings, or even half a crown. When I became a teenager, I was prevailed upon to collect those pledges. I mention this to many people today, because it is so worthy and not to be forgotten. In every case, even where I felt embarrassed to take the money, it was handed to me with such sincerity, which displayed the fervour that, one day, it would come to pass.
Blanche (Stock) Roland I think that I may have been the first Jew to be born in Redcar. My parents Netta Levenstein (born in M’bro) and Aubrey Feingold (from Manchester) were married in 1925. My mother was one of the first women drivers in Teesside and often drove a Morris Oxford in the days before a driving test was required for a license.
In August 1926, the Levenstein family had rented a cottage for the month of August in Redcar at 11 Dundas Street and my parents went to stay with them, not thinking that I would be born early, and not, as scheduled, in M’bro. Rev Silverston came down to do the Brit and together with other M’bro holiday-makers made up the required minyan. My brother Leslie was born in M’bro in 1930.
My grandfather Michael Levenstein (from Dubno, Ukraine) was introduced to Rebecca Gillis (of Sunderland). His original family name was Baruchovchick—they were Cohanim. On the train journey through Germany, they had passed a large factory with the word Levenstein emblazoned on the side, and thought it would be an impressive name with which to start their new life in England.
My mother Netta won a scholarship to Kirby High School, but being the eldest child, she had to forgo her ambition of becoming a schoolteacher and go to work in the family shop. My parents set up home at 30 Princess Road and my father joined the Levenstein business in Corporation Road, close to Isaac Hush’s pawnbroker’s shop. Anita Levenstein my mother’s sister, (a gifted pianist) ran this as a gown shop, next door to my father’s shop (a gents outfitter). Rose (another sister of my mother’s) managed the drapery shop on Newport Road, and Norman and Maurice together ran a Merchant Navy outfitters and Ships Chandler in South Street. Maurice was a scholarly and pious man with a love of acting and story writing. When the economy collapsed in the 1930s the family moved to Manchester.
I spent many of my summer holidays in M’bro. I was taken for long walks around the beautiful country villages. We went for long rides on the red and white United Buses. I spent some time at the home of Rabbi Miller playing games with his son Alan. His younger brother David usually got in the way, because he was too young to join in and not old enough to play on his own.
I was frequently taken to the country golf club by Uncle Norman, and acted as his ball boy. Sometimes, I was taken on trips to Redcar or Saltburn. I was often left to fish from the pier whilst the family took a leisurely walk on the promenade. When they returned, I was always so excited to show them the few little fish that I had caught. Occasionally my grandmother accompanied by her sister Fanny Goodman took me to Redcar. Their large handbags were filled with delicious heimishe food. They sat themselves down in a promenade hut which they called a "butka" (Lithuanian), protected from the wind and we ate a most wonderful picnic lunch. They would give me a few pennies to buy a large ice cream from Pacitto’s.
Over the years, most of the Levensteins came to Manchester for long visits, bringing their Teesside charm. I am grateful for the many happy memories I have of my family and the time I spent in M’bro.
Dr Gerald M Feingold
The newsletters make interesting reading, specially as, being now more or less retired, I am in the course of writing my own memoirs and they not only evoke fresh memories but correct some of my own.
I was interested to read about the girls’ hostel at 5 The Avenue, which I remember, and also the letter from Ruth Israel. Her father was our doctor. Many of the writers speak of times after I left M’bro, which was in 1951 effectively, when I went to University. My mother died in 1955 and my father in 1970 since when I have been back only once when the synagogue was closed. I spent only 14 years in the town but I have always thought of it as home.
My own links to M’bro are very tenuous as I never lived there, though my sister Brenda (Posnansky) Richardson and mother are buried there. Your newsletter is a great idea—I wish they had one for my old home town of Bolton. Most of our family lived in small communities like Bolton, Hanley, Preston, all of which have now disappeared.
Someone I knew as a student at Nottingham University was Diana Lazarus, a gifted singer, who had the lead soprano part in many Gilbert and Sullivan productions. Her father Sidney Lazarus was in a quartet with my brother-in-law Theo Richardson. M’bro seems to have had a very gifted musical Jewish community. The last time I heard of Diana was in Ipswich in 1974 when she was a school teacher, specializing in Drama. Do any of your readers have her present address?
Encino, CA, USA