Kehilat Middlesbrough Newsletter No 17 July 2003 page 2
I recently received a letter from a Mr Tyler. He had seen a piece from me in Menorah and wrote to Malcolm Weisman, the Editor. Malcolm referred him to me. Mr Tyler writes about his grandfather who was the first Minister that Middlesbrough Jews ever had. This was before the Synagogue proper. The existence of the grandfather is something that no member today had known of. No History of the Congregation refers to him. I enclose a copy of the relevant letter [Ed note: See below] so that you can use any part of it at your discretion. David Simon Stokesley, England
I was very interested in the article on the Middlesbrough Hebrew Congregation in Menorah which I received yesterday.
I note that the first Jews arrived there about 1862, and I wonder what drew them there. I am particularly interested in their earliest records as they involved my great grandfather Benjamin Levinsohn.
Benjamin was a tailor living in Spitalfields when my grandmother Amelia was born in 1861, but three and a half years later in April 1865 was Minister of the Merthyr Tydfil Hebrew Congregation when his youngest child was born there. I traced his death to 46 Garden Street, Middlesbrough on 30th January 1868 aged 38, registered under the occupation of 'Rabbi' and the name of Benjamin Livingstone, registered by a Joseph Davison who was illiterate and signed with a mark. I presume he was a Yiddish speaking member of the community, possibly a pharmacist as he was 'in attendance' with an address 42 Sussex Street. Since he could probably not speak much English, Levinsohn could well have been anglicised into Livingstone by the Registrar, and I am indebted to the current Cleveland Superintendent Registrar for finding the registration for me.
The Jewish Chronicle of 21st February 1868 carried an appeal for the assistance of the benevolent for the widow and seven children left 'utterly destitute' by 'the deceased B Levinshon, a Schochet and Chazan, died of consumption, after a lingering illness, at Middlesboro'. Among the donations later acknowledged was £2.15.0 from the Sunderland Congregation (burial fees of the late Mr Levinsohn) so I am not clear if he was Minister of Sunderland over 20 miles away, which seems unlikely, or first minister of the new small community in Middlesbrough who were too poor even to bury him.
Benjamin left his wife and family behind in Merthyr Tydfil where his widow's siblings lived as he obviously could not afford to move them but it seems almost certain that he only moved to Middlesbrough to serve the infant community. I imagine that Middlesbrough did not yet have a Jewish cemetery and used Sunderland who kindly paid his burial fees. Alan Tyler Surbiton, England
[From the Newcastle Jewish Recorder, February 2003]
I was in Middlesbrough recently. I went up to address the Guisborough Women's Luncheon Club in response to an invitation arising from my articles in the Evening Gazette. I recognised neither Middlesbrough nor, to a lesser degree Guisborough – so great have been the changes recently.
I saw David Simon, who now lives in Stokesley. As you may know, there were some instances of desecration at the Cemetery though when I went these all seem to have been cleared up.
Incidentally, my wife has accepted an invitation as a visiting professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem for next Spring (2004) and we should be there for nine weeks. Freddy Fishburn England
[Ed note: Freddy has offered to let us have extracts from his autobiography for posting on to our website]
I have just read the May 2003 Newsletter especially the piece you (Donald) wrote. What memories it brought back. Thank you! Matthew Bookey England
I enjoy reading the Newsletter, and will send you something more about Simon Sandeman my great-grandfather. The one who went to prison. He was a rascal it seems! Miriam Margolyes California, USA
Good to hear from you again! Also good to see that the website is back online again. I have just finished putting together the Newsletter for those who (luckily for them) are not electronically blessed and will post copies out over the next day or so.
Keep up the good work! David Niman London, England
[Ed note: Once again we are very grateful to David for undertaking the printing and distribution of printed copies of the Newsletters for those of our readers who do not have access to the internet. Many thanks, David!]
I just wanted to let you know I enjoyed looking at the history of the Middlesbrough Jewish community. I have never been to Middlesbrough but I do have a family connection in that Rabbi L Miller was my great-uncle. I would be very interested if you have any more materials relating to him or pictures since my family have very little. Bathsheba Frais firstname.lastname@example.org