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Book Notes: Leicester Hebrew Congregation, A Centenary Record, 1874-1974, Aubrey Newman

John M. Shaftesley

<plain_text><page sequence="1">LEICESTER JEWRY Leicester Hebrew Congregation. A Cen? tenary Record, 1874-1974. By Aubrey New? man. (Published by the Congregation.) Pp. 28. In 1950 Cecil Roth, introducing his collected pieces from Presidential addresses (1941 and 1942) to the Jewish Historical Society of England and from the Jewish Monthly, vols. ii and iii, as a small book, The Rise of Provincial Jewry, 1740-1840, remarked that 'the historio? graphy of the Jews in England has hitherto shewn little interest in what went on outside the capital'. His book covers 39 communities, each in miniature, but unfortunately not going beyond 1840 as the point of foundation. Thus several towns are not dealt with.</page><page sequence="2">Book Notes 221 It is an interesting coincidence that what might be called the regular Jewish newspaper press of today began a year later, 1841, and the pages of these journals provide?as, indeed, Roth noted?quite a lot of material for those who wish to look, with regular reports from a large number of provincial towns. (I must declare a particular interest in this, for I acted as the Manchester and district corre? spondent of the Jewish Chronicle for the five years 1932 to 1936 and also, at the request of the then editor, J. M. Rich, who is one of our Hon. Members, visited all the smaller communi? ties in the county?except Liverpool, which had its own correspondent?my tour resulting in a feature under the title of 'A Lancashire Journey'.) The problem is still to find the re? searchers willing and able to rediscover such material and weave it with the even more valuable information in local and congrega? tional records. The Jewish Historical Society has played an important part in the encouragement of research, and recent work under its sponsor? ship has included a paper on Newcastle upon Tyne by the late G. D. Guttentag, one on Brighton by David Spector (Transactions XXII), one on Falmouth by Alex Jacob (Transactions XVII), and the book on The Jews of Ireland, by Louis Hyman; in addition, the Society distributed the centenary history of Coventry Jewry by Harry Levine. Now Dr. Aubrey Newman, Reader in His? tory at the University of Leicester, has helped forward progress by this pleasantly produced booklet, the centenary history of the Leicester Hebrew Congregation. Nowadays the Leicester Jewish community comprises about 250 families, who take a full part not only in Jewish affairs but also in the affairs of the city and district. The date 1874, as Dr. Newman shows, is quite formal?that was when the Orthodox congregation was officially founded?but there are records of Jewish traders and residents at* least from 1849, with connections with Man? chester and Canterbury. The first Jew to become Mayor of Leicester, Sir Israel Hart (he was four times the 'first citizen'), came to Leicester about 1859 from Canterbury, where he was born. The local Directory mentioned a 'Jew's Synagogue' in 1861. But the first Marriage Register dates from 1875. The 'strong civic sense' of the community noted by Dr. Newman is further evidenced by, among other things, the fact that since Sir Israel Hart two other Jews have been Lord Mayor, Cecil Herbert ('Ben') Harris, in 1954, and Sir Mark Henig, in 1967. Sir Mark is also well known as Chairman of the English Tourist Board. The Leicester Jewish community, in much of its activities and composition, parallels the shaping and history of other small provincial communities, but the author of this booklet, within the space at his disposal, in narrative and tabular form, has clearly managed to extract those differences in personality and experience which give each congregation its individual aura. John M. Shaftesley</page></plain_text>