Merseyside Jewish Community     Merseyside Jewish Community
18th January 2017    /    20 Tevet 5777             
Home Education Community
Jewish Life
Contact Us

History of Merseyside Jewry

The Second Generation 1920-1945

Although the movement of people from Eastern Europe recommenced after the end of the war, only a very small proportion of it was targeted on Liverpool. A Transmigrants Aid Committee was formed in 1920 to ease the majority on their way to the United States, Canada and Australia, negotiating preferential rates with shipping companies, responding to cases of urgent distress and ensuring the shipboard provision of kosher food, until new immigration restrictions served to stem the tide in 1929. In inter-war Liverpool, emphasis shifts from the dramatic impact of immigration to the slower and less spectacular processes of internal consolidation, acculturation and shifts in the patterrn of Jewish residence, as the immigrants of an earlier period made their way up the social scale. Liverpool's settled Jewish population probably varied in size only, between 8,000 and 10,000.

During the early 1920s more acute observers became aware of a gradual movement of better-off families from the old Jewish Quarter on Brownlow Hill and Islington along the line of Smithdown Road towards the better housing and rather more spacious settings of Wavertree, Sefton Park and Mossley Hill. Already by November 1926 settlement in these areas was on a scale sufficient for the opening of classes in religion and Hebrew in Sefton Park. In February 1928 the Hyman and Freda Graff Institute was established on Smithdown Road both as a home for these classes and as the first Jewish place of worship in the area, the Sefton Park Hebrew Congregation. It became, according to Bertram Benas, 'an outpost for further communal development in the Sefton Park district'. This development took further synagogal shape in 1937 when the New Hebrew Congregation abandoned Hope Place for a new building on Greenbank Drive, on the periphery of Sefton Park, where it amalgamated with the older Sefton Park Congregation to become the first purpose-built synagogue since the opening of Princes Road in 1873. The Tiferet Israel (Pride of Israel) Congregation moved from Walnut Street, in the Brownlow Hill district, to Arundel Avenue, Sefton Park, at about the same time. For aspiring families pushing even further from the city along the same route, the Childwall. Synagogue opened in 1938 on Dunbabin Road.

These shifts in population and provision proved decisive in determining the new centre of gravity of Liverpool's Jewish population. The minyan which came together in Bootle in the early l920s and the Fairfield Congregation, established in an adapted house in Laurel Road in May 1925 to become the first synagogue in East Liverpool, proved in the long run to be too far from the mainstream for permanent survival. But although perhaps half the Jewish population had left Brownlow Hill for Sefton Park and Childwall by 1935, the older Jewish Quarter remained a vibrant centre of Jewish life until well after the Second World War. Most of the older synagogues flourished there in the inter-war years. In 1925 an expanding Great Synagogue moved from Russell Street to larger premises, again in a disused nonconformist chapel, in Grove Street, leaving its former premises to yet another Chassidic grouping, Nusach Sfard. In 1927 the Yeshiva moved to new and more spacious accommodation in 160 Chatham Street.

Toxteth, too remained a focus of Jewish institutional life as the old elite at Princes Road was joined by Eastern European alrightniks to aggregate 350 members in 1939. In 1926 the JLB and the Jewish Boys Club moved into a house in Upper Parliament Street acquire for them by Alderman Louis Samuel Cohen and named after his son, Harold House. Three years later Harold House found a more suitable location in Chatham Street, where it became also the headquarters of the 11th Toxteth Jewish Boy Scouts. Princes Road, linking the older and the newer areas of Jewish settlement, was still in 1939 the hub of a network of Jewish social, charitable and cultural organisations.

It was to Princes Road that the Zionist Central Council moved its headquarters in 1935, when Lord Melchett opened Number 8 as Zion House, a social, cultural and political centre with a library donated by Moses Greenberg, who presided at the opening ceremony. It was in the 1930s that Zion House became the focus of that intense cultural work and fund-raising which made Liverpool into the most active provincial centre of Zionism. In some recognition of this role, the biennial conference of the Jewish National Fund of Great Britain was held in Liverpool in 1931. At the Old Hebrew Congregation, long since converted, Frampton preached sermons in support of the Keren Hayesod which were printed and circulated by Zion House. Liverpool Habonim was founded in 1928, a young Israel Society joined the JLB in Harold House. By 1939 the ZCC co-ordinated the activities of 9 major Zionist bodies and many more support groups.

In 1924 members of some of the oldest-established Jewish families in Liverpool, including Montague Solomon Yates, Edward Behrend and Samuel Gluckstein, petitioned the elders of the Old Hebrew Congregation for modifications in the synagogue constitution and alterations in the liturgy which they saw as essential to 'progressive' Judaism. A letter circulated by the dissenters claimed that 'services were mainly in Hebrew; that they were too long; that they should be held on Sunday instead of Saturday; that the prayers stressed too much the sacrifice of animals; that the oriental custom of keeping the sexes separate during the service was ... repellent.' Dissatisfied with the response from the elders, the petitioners went on to form the first provincial congregation of the Jewish Religious Union, the co-ordination authority of Liverpool Judaism. Officially inaugurated in November 1928, the Liberal congregation held its first service on 1 December at the Royal Institution, Colquitt Street. By 1939 it was firmly established in the Hope Place building (former home of the New Hebrew Congregation) where it was to remain until 1960.

From the early 1930s, in the face of Fascism in Europe and Blackshirt activity in Liverpool, communal leaders gave an increasingly high priority to the work of defence. In 1933 a Liverpool branch of the Central British Fund for German Jewry was set up to channel support to the victims of Nazi rule. A German Refugee Committee found employment, housing and guarantors for fugitives From Hitler's Germany until the outbreak of war, when Liverpool's designation as a 'special area' placed it out of bounds to 'enemy aliens'. As the Second World War drew to an end and the full scale of the Holocaust became known, the Jewish Board of Deputies put pressure on its Liverpool delegates to form an effective organisation to co-ordinate and protect Jewish communal life in the city. The 76 representatives of local Jewish organisations who met with seven members of the Board of Deputies in December 1944 responded by inaugurating the Merseyside Jewish Representative Council under the presidency of the veteran communal leader, Bertram Benas. One of its first acts was to establish a Defence Committee to promote goodwill between Jew and non-Jew, disseminate information about Jewry and Judaism and, in close association with the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women (AJEX), to monitor the incidence of anti-semitism. Moving in 1947 to offices at 5 Oxford Street, the headquarters of the Jewish Board of Guardians, the Council was to become a central motivating force in the evolution of Liverpool Jewry.

<The Impact of the War 1914-1919 Liverpool Jewry Today>

   Privacy statement    Website Disclaimer     Terms and Conditions    Site Map