Kehilat Middlesbrough Newsletter No 25 September 2008 page 2 (of 5)
Jewish Telegraph Thursday March 20, 2008
by Doreen Wachmann
We are told that when the Messiah comes all Diaspora synagogues will be relocated in Jerusalem.
This has virtually happened to Middlesbrough Hebrew Congregation.
Towards the end of 1998 the shrinking community closed its synagogue doors for the last time.
But that was by no means the end of the story for the community which began way back in 1862.
Within a month of the shul's closing ceremony, 40 Middlesbrough expats assembled at the Jerusalem home of Anne, nee Goldberg, and Stuart Dove and virtually resurrected the community on the website. Regular newsletters attracted correspondence from expats all over the world, including Mancunians Dr Gerald Feingold, Gillian Hush, Betty Ellman, Susan and Dennis Broady, Trevor Kletz and Harold Stock and Leodensians Ruth Sherwin, Ruth Hurwitz, Kitty Howard, nee Taylor, Jonathan Rose, Michael Rose and Shirley Holton, Liverpudlians Lorraine Coleman, nee Solomon and Fred Levy and Ronnie Goodman of Edinburgh.
Also reprinted are Jewish Telegraph stories about Middlesbrough. And now editor Donald Wiseman has reproduced the newsletters in book form.
Middlesbrough- born Donald, now living in Jerusalem, decided to publish Kehilat Middlesbrough - Past, Present and Future. He said: "I didn't think our website would grow to its present size and certainly did not expect it to be around for such a long time. "Judging by my in-box, there is no slackening of interest. Indeed, after nine years the opposite is the case. "I thought the time was right to put an edited selection on to paper. Despite the growth of the Internet, it is still far easier to read a printed page than a computer screen."
Dr Feingold of Prestwich said: "We have all got the Middlesbrough touch. People had a connection to Middlesbrough." The first Jew to settle in Middlesbrough was Maurice Levy, in 1862. He was followed a year later by his son-in-law Isaac Alston who became a Middlesbrough councillor as well a Jewish community leader.
By 1985 The Middlesbrough Weekly News and Cleveland Advertiser reported the advent of "a large number of Jews into the town" who had obtained premises for worship.
Mr Alston junior, who left for Australia in 1905 recalled: "Gradually as the first Jews began to arrive in Middlesbrough, either from Poland or Russia, we were able to form a minyan, the services being held either at my grandfather's or father's home.
"Each of these gentlemen possessed a Sefer Torah. My grandfather brought his from Poland.
"A year or two later, my father engaged rooms which were fitted with divisions for males and females. I was the first boy barmitzvah in this temporary synagogue." A permanent synagogue was eventually built in 1874 at the cost of £2,500.
Early synagogue minutes record that two men were fined a shilling each for leaving shul before Aleinu, two others fined the princely sum of 7/6d (37p) for creating a disturbance, another a shilling (5p) for non-attendance, another five shillings (25p) for refusing a mitzvah. The sum of 7/6d was paid to employ someone to keep order on Yom Kippur.Among Middlesbrough's ministers was the renowned scholar and author Rabbi Dr Isadore Epstein who later became principal of Jews' College.
After 60 years, the original synagogue in Brentnall Street was deemed too small and too far from the suburbs to which congregants had moved.
A larger one was built in Park Road South in 1938, but the community did not then realise that it had numerically reached its peak. Jewish Telegraph Thursday March 20, 2008
Teesside Topics no 24
It is rare for Middlesbrough to have a visiting speaker on a Jewish subject, so Deanna van der Velde was extremely welcome when she came into the uncharted waters of Middlesbrough to talk on "The Practices and Values of Jews". Her talk was part of a series on different religions, organised by The Middlesbrough Council of Faiths and The Cleveland & Tees Valley Interfaith Group . And what a talk it was, informative and comprehensive yet sparkling as well. At the outset she explained that her task was difficult, having only a limited time in which to deal with a vast subject. Nevertheless, she coped manfully (for want of a better word) even when straying into the masculine preserve of Tephillin with exhibits.
That reminds me, I must tell you a story about Tephillin - just be patient.
Now back to the talk. It was followed by questions and they came fast and furious from all angles from Muslims, Christian clergy , Quakers and others . They came at her a la Paxman , Sugar and Michael Mansfield QC. I was so glad that the barrage was directed at her and not at me The questions were religious, social , philosophical, political and raised many issues such as the After Life, problems in Israel, the dietary laws, the Sabbath, the decline of local congregations and so on . Snippets of further information emerged, sometimes most surprising . For instance, at the last census Durham had 300 Jews. This to me was as remarkable as the fact I rediscovered last month, that Barnard Castle had a Jewish community . The speaker was recently at a prison - as a speaker I hasten to add. Was that more gruelling or less?
Did I tell you about my visits to Durham Prison, to talk on Judaism ? After one talk there came the question: "Mr Simon, could you recommend a good Solicitor ?"
Ah yes, back to Tephillin . One day I was phoned by the Northern Echo and was told that phylacteries had been stolen in Stockton . This puzzled me as I could not think of anybody in Stockton who laid Tephillin. It emerged that the theft had been from a caravan. I asked if it had happened on Market day and I was right. I explained that it was probly the property of a market trader from Leeds who was on his travels and would be wanting to lay Tephillin as he moved round. The Gazette reported the theft as "Theft of religious jewellery".
I hope everybody had a good Pesach. Mark Turnbull on the local Radio Station wished us a Happy Passover. I responded with a box of guess what! David Simon Stokesley, May 2008